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Why does my cat bite me? What can I do to stop them? What you need to know.

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 1/9/2023 Liam Gravvat, USA TODAY

Cats are the second most popular pet in the U.S., trailing only dogs, with 31 million households owning a cat, according to With sharp teeth and intimidating claws, cats can be a pleasure to own, but they may also confuse their owners if their behaviors aren’t adequately recognized and addressed.

Taking proper care of your house cat can allow it to practice its natural instincts, without harming you in the process. Your pet’s supposedly random mood switches actually have tell-tale signs to look out for, Purina says.

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Why does my cat bite me?

Cats bite to send messages, Purina says. They may be telling you to stop petting them or they could be biting you out of playfulness.

Unexpected biting while your cat is being petted is a very common occurrence. It can be avoided by recognizing the behaviors that lead to unwanted biting.

What to really watch out for is “aggressive cat biting” from your feline friend, says Purina's website. This will often be paired with other aggressive behaviors, such as hissing, “spitting” and a “defensive” posture, according to Purina. Since these tendencies can come from past abuse and territorialism, it’s crucial to teach your cat aggression isn’t acceptable or necessary.

Cats also bite when playing with their owners, along with pouncing and grabbing, according to Purina. This behavior is entirely normal. Your cat is playfully using its innate hunting instincts. You can discourage this by rewarding them with affection or treats for playing nicely and gently.

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How to stop my cat from biting me

Purina recommends redirecting your cat’s biting away from yourself and, instead, to cat toys.

Your cat will continue to release its energy, without you coming into harm’s way. Encourage and praise positive, gentle behavior in your cat without doing the same for violent behavior. This will help shift your pet’s actions away from being violent and possibly doing damage.

Kittens are naturally playful and tend to bite and pounce regularly. They may even bite you gently while purring, which is an example of playful instinctual nature. This is normal and, again, can be dissuaded through cat toys, plus positive, praising teaching.

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Cat behaviors to recognize

There are several behaviors cat owners should strive to keep their pets from displaying. Purina points out that anger, anxiety, fear and frustration in cats are concerning, yet easily recognizable. A cat that is alert and on edge may be anxious or fearful, which can lead to aggressive biting.

Target cat behaviors are neutrality, focus, happiness and relaxation, says Purina. These are the perfect times to bond and play with your furry family member without fear of dangerous biting or scratching.

Purina emphasizes the importance of understanding and responding to your cat’s behaviors. More details can be found here.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Why does my cat bite me? What can I do to stop them? What you need to know.



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