Skip to main content

Does your cat bite when you pet them? Do these things immediately

Petting your cat can be a great way to bond with him, but it’s important that your cat is comfortable with the attention and touch. Some cats love to be pet and fussed over, while others would be happier with less attention. If your cat bites you when you’re petting him, there could be a couple of causes behind the behavior, and it’s important that you take the right steps to protect yourself and help your cat to feel comfortable again. Understanding how to stop a cat from biting when you’re petting him can ensure that he’s secure and comfy in your home and that you find a way to give him the attention that you both enjoy.

Start with a trip to the vet

A cat’s biting you when you’re petting him could be a reaction to pain that you’re unaware of, so it’s a good idea to start with a trip to the vet. Your vet can examine your cat and look for issues, like a back injury, arthritis, or other condition that could cause your cat pain when you’re patting him. If your cat is in pain, your vet might be able to recommend treatments or medication to help make your cat more comfortable. Simply being aware of which areas are painful for your cat can help you to pet him without causing him discomfort, which may make him less defensive.

Relaxed cat lying on its side while being pet
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Watch your cat’s body language

If you’ve ruled out any sort of pain, then your cat is likely biting you in an effort to get you to stop petting him. Some cats can become overstimulated from petting, and they may get so anxious or uncomfortable that they feel they need to bite you to get you to stop.

If your cat tends to bite you, watch his body language carefully. Chances are he isn’t relying on just biting to convey his message, and he’s likely sending you signals with his body language before he resorts to biting. Look for signs that your cat is getting uncomfortable, like a flicking tail, a hardened gaze, tension in the neck and face, and a crouched, tense body. You may need to look carefully before you notice these signs, but if you can spot them, you can determine when you need to leave your cat alone before he feels like he needs to bite you to signal his discomfort.

Determine your cat’s limits

It also may be possible to determine where your cat’s limits are with being pet. You might find that your cat can tolerate five or six strokes, then he gets upset. Pay attention when you’re petting your cat and experiment with different amounts of pressure and different stroke speeds to see if you can find what works for your cat and just where his limits are. If you’re aware that your cat is sensitive about being pet, try to focus on the areas of his body where you know he likes the attention. The back of the head and neck tend to be safe zones but avoid your cat’s lower back and tail, which are often more sensitive.

Grey and white cat playing with a wand toy
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Respect your cat’s boundaries

Once you know your cat’s limits for petting, it’s up to you to respect those limits. You might be able to gradually get your cat more comfortable with being pet, but it’s also possible that your cat’s boundaries are going to remain as they are. You can try little by little to add in one or two strokes more than your cat typically tolerates, but this may not work. Some cats remain adamant about their limits, while others might gradually start to accept more attention.

Final thoughts on cat biting

Regardless of how your cat reacts to your attempts to get him more comfortable with being pet, it’s important to respect and honor your cat’s boundaries. Some cats just don’t like the amount of attention that you might be able to give to other cats. If your cat is frequently biting you, he’s conveying the fact that he’s unhappy and he needs you to back off. By listening to him, you can help to make him comfortable and also build his trust in you. Your cat might enjoy getting attention in other ways, like play sessions and simply spending time near you without having you physically touch him. If you pay attention to what your cat is trying to communicate, you can help him to live comfortably and securely in your home.

Editors' Recommendations

Paige Cerulli
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Paige's work has appeared in American Veterinarian, Business Insider, Healthline, and more. When she's not writing, Paige…
Can cats have autism? Here’s what to know about unusual behavior in cats
Learn about special needs and autism in cats
Cat with blue eyes staring into the distance

Can cats have autism? This is a question that might have crossed your mind as you try to decipher your cat's behavior patterns. Even though the diagnosis is centered on human behavior, many pet lovers and experts have discovered similarities between special-needs cats and people with autism. Still, cats are typically only labeled as special needs if they have a diagnosed physical or mental disability.

There are several behaviors in cats that are similar to those found in humans on the autism spectrum. These include:

Read more
Lap time, nap time: Why your lap cat chooses to sit on you
Find out the real reasons your cat lies in your lap
Cat sitting in a lap

As a pet parent, nothing is better than when your cat decides to curl up for a nap on your lap. Sometimes it can be slightly irritating when you need to get some work done, attempt to move your fur baby, and they look at you like you've not only offended them, but also the entire domestic cat species. But it's impossible to say no to their adorable noses and whiskers, so you let them stay. Have you ever wondered why so many of our feline family members become lap cats? We'll tell you everything you need to know about why cats love to sit on you.

Reasons your cat loves to sit on you
Wonder why your lap is your cat's favorite place to sleep? Here are some of the most common reasons.
Cats sit on you because they seek connection and attention
Despite their reputation for being aloof, most cats crave attention, especially from their favorite people. Cats get lonely when you’re not around and will beg for attention when you are. One way they do this is by sitting on your lap; it’s hard to ignore them when they’re right on top of you! They also come to you for connection and love. Usually, a cat on the lap gets affection, so your cat may come to you when they want to be petted and feel loved.
Cats get on your lap because you’re warm
Whether it’s by the radiator or in a sunbeam, kitties love napping in warm spots. One of the coziest places in your home happens to be wherever you are because of the heat your body emits. This could be why your cat likes sitting with you. They may choose to sit on your lap because they want to soak up all your body heat. Luckily, it’s not a one-way street; your cat’s body heat and fur can help keep you warm, too. With your lap cat, you’ll both stay nice and cozy.
Cats sit on you because they trust you
Sitting on top of you is a cat's ultimate sign of trust. Cats only sit in the laps of people they really feel safe with. This is especially true if they nap on you. Your cat is essentially saying they trust you to protect them from any predators while they're napping. To build even more trust with your pet, make sure you’re not forcing them to sit on your lap, and you’re giving them the option to walk away when they want. By acknowledging their freedom and leaving your lap open to your kitty, you're encouraging them to trust you even more.
Cats like the way you smell and sound
Your body is like a white-noise machine for cats. They find the noises human beings naturally make, like breathing and heartbeats, to be very soothing. It helps them relax into an easy slumber. Your cat may also be attracted to your unique scent. Smelling you may make your cat feel safer, making it easier for them to fall asleep. This can also explain why your cat always seems to love sleeping on your clothes, bed, and other possessions.

Read more
Video: We’ve seen some weird cat sleeping spots, but this feline’s is the strangest
Ever wondered why cats sleep in strange positions? We have the answer
Cat curled up in a ball while sleeping in grass

Cats sleep in the weirdest positions — this fundamental fact of feline life takes over the internet on a regular basis. We've seen kitties in boxes, baby bouncers, and sinks, but we may have found the new best cat-napping spot. Ever spotted a cat sleeping inside a pot? You're in for a treat with this viral video.

sephera._ posted this hilarious recounting titled "Orange cat behavior," and it went well beyond the hilarity of the usual antics we see from mousers. It opens with an orange kitty sitting in a pot on a counter in the kitchen. But that's just the beginning. We get to see him try out just about every cat sleeping position while staying inside his snug hidey hole. The text says, "When your cat's favorite spot is inside a pot," and takes us through the favored resting contortions, including curled up with his head poking out, squished all the way in, and with head in and butt up. It doesn't look particularly comfy to us, but we don't have this cat's flexibility.

Read more