Cats get a bad reputation sometimes. It’s uncertain where it all began but cats seemed to be viewed in a negative light since the Old World times.
For instance, black cats were seen to be a source of bad luck back in the olden times. They were also associated with witchcraft and dark magic!
If you think about it… cats weren’t domesticated like other animals were. While dogs were crossbred and genetically altered through the course of history… cats were, for the most part, left alone.
You could say that Humans and Cats are still forging a bond! I know there are many people that seem to treat their cats as an “unusual” dog and overlook that cats have very different needs.
Cats are also known to be quite destructive. You probably have heard the horror stories of scratched furniture or maybe you’ve experienced some yourself.
You might have even seen some of the hellish experiences as depicted on Jackson Galaxy’s show, “My Cat From Hell!”
After watching this video clip, you’re probably thinking to yourself… “ho ho ho, why would anyone ever want such a beast in their house?!”
Cats scratch me! Cats sneers at me! Cats hiss at me! And cats bite me!
But here’s the thing… there is always a good reason why a cat starts to act out. Cats don’t just start scratching and biting you for no reason. There is always an explanation.
Cats get a bad reputation sometimes… and it’s kind of unfair for them. When we humans are able to understand the cat’s behavior and needs, cats become the sweetest little furballs.
That is why I wanted to take a moment to share some of the reasons why a cat may scratch and bite you. By doing so, I hope to help smooth out any sticky situations you may have encountered. By taking the time to learn about a cat’s behavior, you will find that it is very simple to curb their actions and aggression.
A Cat’s Need For Familiarity And Consistency
We first need to discuss some of the natural cat behaviors and what really drives the cat before getting into why cats scratch and bite for what appears to be “no reason at all.”
Much likes humans, one of the cat’s greatest fear is the fear of the unknown. Cats are very territorial creatures, you see, and they love familiarity and routine.
As Jackson Galaxy states, “Cats need to take ownership of their environment. They do this, by having stuff on which to climb and spread their scent. When they don’t have this… bad stuff happens.”
For example, my cat Diba always knows that I wake up at around 6:00 AM every morning for work. This means breakfast for her. Diba also knows that she’s going to get fed after I clean the litter box at night.
It’s these patterns that cats love and appreciate. Cats love familiar smells, patterns, places, and sounds. The very fact that something is well known or familiar to a cat makes it dear to the heart of the cat.
This makes us think of the word: consistency. A cat needs consistency in its surrounds and with everything and all that you do.
Now you’re probably thinking… “what the heck does this have to do with my cat biting me?”
Consistency has to do with everything.
How you behave, train, and assert your boundaries with your cat teaches your cat what’s allowed and what is not. You also can’t train your cat the way you would your dog or your own child.
A dog will love to learn new tricks in order to please you and for those delicious treats. Children, on the other hand, are able to communicate with us. Therefore we are able to explain, instruct, and guide our children.
But cats… they do what they want and they do it when they want to.
However, if we engineer our tactics to match our cat’s need for consistency, we will be able to make our cat do what we want them to do. Oh yes, we have to manipulate our cats! Muhaha!
This brings us to the one golden rule of training cats: be consistent.
If there is something that you don’t want the cat to do, such as jumping on a table when there is food on it, then don’t ever invite the cat up onto the table. Never. Not for any reason; not even if there is no food there.
If you see your cat on the table, immediately remove your cat with a word of disappointment. Don’t make it complex and make sure you assert the rules. This way, your cat will understand never to go on the table.
Play Biting And Scratching
Now that we know why consistency is important, this now brings us to our next point of play biting and scratching.
The need for consistency also applies when you’re teaching your cat not to use teeth or claws on human flesh or clothing. This also applies to everyone else who may come in contact with your cat or kitten.
This is crucial if you want your cat to understand that scratching human flesh is unacceptable. Your cat won’t understand the difference between your hands or those of an infant’s or your great grandmother’s fragile fingertips!
Scratching, biting, and a little bit of roughhousing is all perfectly normal to a cat and it is also necessary for them to do so. It is natural for a kitten to begin practicing these skills at an early age in order to survive in the wild. This instinct is deeply engraved into all cats.
To a cat, all forms of play are a means of strengthening and improving survival traits. How cats play can fall into one of two categories: the “catch and kill” games, which helps prepare the kitten to feed themselves and survive, and the “fight and win” games, which prepares them to defend themselves and survive.
The kittens will begin to play these games with each other at around the age of 3 weeks, and by the time they are 8 weeks old, every kitten should have learned how to safely play with each other without hurting one another.
If a kitten happens to play too roughly, the mother will discipline the young cat by holding her down and asserting dominations and rules. The mother cat may hold the kitten down by the scruff of her neck and growl.
You can learn more about why cats need to scratch by reading my article here.
Yet if you begin to rough play with your newly adopted kitten with your hands and fingers, you are doing the exact opposite of what the mother cat was so carefully trying to instill into her young kittens not to do. You are teaching the kitten that biting and scratching is okay.
While it may be really cute to play with kittens with your hands and fingers, just remember that they will grow up with those habits. Kittens may not be able to do much damage while they are young, but they can become rather deadly once they are grown up.
That is why it is recommended that you use cat toys such as wands and tunnels to help your cat play and frolic without getting your hands and fingers involved.
It is best that both you and your cat learn that hands are for petting, grooming, feeding, and what have you. Never use your hands for playing or roughhousing!
Few people know how to break this patter once they inadvertently established it. Some begin by hitting their cats, which only reinforces the feeling of roughness and brutality.
Some cat owners even go so far as to mutilate their cats with a declawing operation. In this case, the cat usually becomes a biter.
You can read more about why declawing a cat is bad in my article here.
In both of these cases, the situation becomes progressively worse instead of better. What was once a past time of fun and playing now becomes experiences of pain and anguish. Avoid this by not using your hands and fingers when playing with your cat. Very simple solution.
Remember, use your hands for stroking, petting, grooming, transportation, sometimes medicating, but never for play. To cats, play means teeth and claws- to catch and kill.
If they are not scratching, pouncing, and biting, it’s not really playing; it’s love and cuddles. Show them from the start that hands and fingers are for love and cuddles; toys are for play.
Most cats do not bite for no reason. Your cats may be biting because you have been training them to do so!
The next thing I’d like to discuss is the concept of fear biting. Fear biting is defensive. It is sometimes but not always preceded by a hiss of warning. It happens when a cat wants to get away but can’t
Your cat may want to get away from being held or some other physical restraint, or from a threat, a pain, noise or smell that is so strong it’s painful, or a scary unknown.
Cats have a need to feel free to run away at any time. If we anticipate that our cat will be under stressful situations, we will be able to act accordingly so accidental fear biting does not happen.
If your cat is spooked and her tail is a puffed up, it may be best to leave your cat alone for the time being. If you begin petting her, your cat may bite you from being overly scared of the situation.
Another type of biting is the one that is caused by over stimulation. Every cat has what is called a sensitivity threshold, or a cat’s tolerance level towards any form of stimulation. It works similarly to an individual’s pain threshold.
If you stimulate a cat beyond what she can tolerate, you cause a sort of short-circuit in her mind. Her conscience control clicks off and automatic instinct takes over.
It doesn’t matter whether the stimulus is pain or pleasure. All that matters is that it is too much. If you pet some cats for too long, the pleasure may build up past her sensitivity threshold. At this point, instincts will take over and your cat will try and make you stop doing whatever stimuli are present.
Just know that what is overstimulation to one cat may be very pleasant to another. One of my cats, Cornelius, loves being petted anywhere and everywhere! So petting his belly is most certainly allowed.
However, my other two cats, Diba and Baby, are very sensitive and don’t like being petted in the stomach area. With most cats, stroking the belly even once or twice is a sure way to experience a firsthand demonstration of overstimulation biting.
I’m sure you’ve tried petting your cat’s belly before and was quickly bitten! Ouch!
What Are Some Signs Of An Overstimulated Cat?
- Cat’s ears swivel out to the sides
- cat ears are then pulled closer to her head
- Cat’s eye pupils dilate and her tail would begin to whip tensely from side to side
The best way to resolve this is to distract your cat with a toy. By tossing a toy or playing with a toy wand, the overstimulation energy can be spent constructively.
By playing with your cat when she is stressed, you will prevent accidental biting from overstimulation and you will also effectively be developing a deeper bond between you and your cat by playing together.
The last type of biting that I’d like to cover is the anger biting. Know that if your cat bites you out of anger, you most likely deserved it.
You see, cats are very communicative and the telegraph their thoughts and feelings well through the use of vocals and body language. Chances are, your cat has told you several times that you’re doing something to annoy her. This ultimately results in your cat biting you!
Cats don’t speak English but they are very good at telling you what’s on their mind. A cat will usually bop you with her paws without any claws first if you’re doing something to bother your cat… such as poking her repeatedly.
Your cat will then scratch you, which is a strong statement for you to not keep pushing. Then your cat will bite you if all else fails.
If you see the warning signs that you’re bothering your cat right now. Give your cat some space and stop doing what you are doing.
Here are some tips to help you with preventing cat bites:
- Leave kittens with their mothers for ten weeks; eight weeks at minimum. This will help ensure that your kitten learns proper scratching and biting etiquettes.
- Provide a cat companion if possible. Cats learn more from each other about how to roughhouse than from humans.
- Never play with a cat or kitten with your hands. Throw a toy or pull on a toy. Just be sure to use safe cat toys and not your hands or fingers.
- Keep your cat’s claws trimmed and clipped.
- Carry small toys and balls with you throughout the house. Throw them as needed when you see your cat with flattening ears or a slashing tail. Help them relieve that energy!
- Provide loose toys, interactive toys, and mechanical toys so your cat can play by herself.
- Provide a large stuffed toy about the cat’s size or slightly smaller for your cat to wrestle with as needed.
- Provide a scratching post.
- A cat is more likely to bite when he is tense and more relaxed after a meal. Be sure to groom your cat within an hour or so after mealtimes.
- If cat biting persists, have your cat checked up by a veterinarian for any medical causes.
As you can see, a cat does not bite for no reason. There is always a cause and by taking some time to learn cat behavior, we cat owners can have a much easier time caring for our beloved cats.
One of the most common reasons why cats bite for “no apparent reason” is that we have trained them from kittenhood that biting and scratching on human flesh is okay. Prevent this by always using cat toys to play with your cats.
Other types of biting such as fear biting, overstimulation biting, and anger biting, can all be avoided if we look out for the signs.
By understanding how cats behave and what their needs are, we can adjust our own actions to prevent biting from ever happening. Take this from me, as someone who adopted a feral cat that has never bitten me! Cats will not bite you if you know what to do.
I wish you and your felines all the best! Be safe!