Cats Biting Humans – Pet tip 187
Although when we normally think about aggression in pets we tend to think about dogs, some cats can also exhibit aggressive tendencies. Cats exhibit this aggression primarily through hissing, scratching and biting. Scratching and biting are particularly concerning as cat scratches and bites leave harmful bacteria under the skin and both require medical attention (usually antibiotics) as soon as possible. As responsible pet owners, the best thing we can do is figure out what is going on and try to deal with this issue as quickly as possible.
Cats exhibit aggression for many reasons and the most common reason is play aggression. This usually happens when owners play roughly with their kittens and the kitten gives them cute bites. This is a HUGE mistake as kittens quickly become cats and cats like to hunt and bite for fun. Do not play this way with your kitten or your cat. Let your cat/kitten hunt a feather off a pole but don’t let it bite you or your body even if it is protected with a glove. If you do, you are reinforcing that it’s okay for the cat to play with you by biting.
Petting aggression happens when cats bite you when you pet them. To humans it seems counter-intuitive but this is a very common behaviour. It’s not well understood why they do this but normally they give you warning signs. Normally the cat starts off calm, but after a certain period of petting time, the cat’s tail may start to twitch or it may start to look at you intensely. This means it’s time to stop the activity immediately. Normally cats won’t break the skin with bites like these, but you still need to discourage it if it happens. A loud “NO” and walking away and ignoring the cat are good punishments but being keenly aware of the cat’s body language and stopping before the bite happens is the best solution. Cats don’t do this to harm their owners on purpose.
True aggression that escalates to biting or scratching humans is fairly rare for cats. Most times this type of aggression results from aggression that is actually redirected. A common example is a cat that sees another cat through the window and gets all riled up and attacks whatever is closest. Sometimes what is closest is the owner or another family member. If you’re around to witness this, you’ll often notice hissing, unusual vocalizations and possibly even low growling noises. If your cat approaches you in this type of manner a loud “NO!” or dropping a heavy book on the floor will usually send the cat running in a different direction.
Cats are smart creatures and they won’t normally bite the hand that feeds it except for the situations mentioned above. If you feel your cat is exhibiting aggressive tendencies completely out of the blue, then contact your veterinarian as there may be an underlying medical condition. If there isn’t one, then your vet may well have a behavioural explanation, or he/she can refer you to a behaviour specialist.