It’s no secret that cats are some of the most aloof creatures around. However, if they are in a particularly affectionate or playful mood, they won’t hesitate to approach and initiate interaction with their owners. Every cat owner knows that felines can be quite clingy and expressive if the mood is right, but why do cats rub against you then bite?
As a general rule, cats rub themselves against their owners and then bite when they are happy or overstimulated. In some instances, it’s a bad habit they acquired when they were just kittens. Cats can sometimes bite while rubbing due to aggression caused by either frustration or pain.
There are many traits that make cats some of the best pets on the planet, from curious to friendly.
One trait of theirs that can leave their owners both captivated and guarded is unpredictability, evidenced mostly by cats biting their owners out of the blue. If you would like to know why your cat likes to bite while it’s rubbing itself against you or doing any other cute thing, such as purring or kneading, read on.
But before anything else, let’s answer this question…
Why do cats rub against you?
Cats rub against their owners to transfer their scent onto them. This act makes cat owners the possession of the cats they own. Cats rub against their owners to make them feel safe and protected, too. If their owners have picked up scents outside, cats erase those by rubbing themselves against them.
Refrain from assuming that your cat is rubbing itself against you because it wants to clean itself.
Cats clean themselves by licking themselves. And when your cat licks you, it wants to either clean you or say to you that it loves you. It’s for the same reason why a mommy cat licks its kittens. Unfortunately, just like when rubbing itself against you, a cat may also suddenly bite while it’s grooming you.
Now that we have established the reason why cats rub against their owners, it’s time to answer why then they bite.
People show their affection for one another in different ways — kissing, holding hands, hugging, etc. Cats may not be able to lock lips or wrap their arms around their owners alright, but they have their own ways of expressing their affection. Biting is one of them, which is what humans fondly refer to as a “love bite”.
It may sound like it’s painful and bloody. However, a love bite is a gentle bite that usually does not break the skin.
That’s because cats deliver a love bite when they are happy and relaxed. It’s nothing like a bite felines make while they are hissing, spitting and growling or with dilated pupils, arched backs and bushy tails.
If you are a new cat owner and you have never experienced a feline love bite before, the first time may leave you surprised and terrified, too. This is especially true if you have yet to completely get to know your furry pet’s personality and its full range of emotions. But worry not because a love bite, like the name suggests, is a sign that it loves you.
When a cat gives you a love bite, remember the following things:
- Do not pull your hand away. Because a love bite rarely leads to an open wound, refrain from yanking your finger or hand out of your cat’s mouth. This may cause your skin to end up scratched, and your cat’s teeth to wind up loose or knocked out. Be still and allow the cat to quit giving you a love bite.
- Do not reprimand your cat. A love bite comes from a good place, and it will break your cat’s heart if you will respond by yelling or hitting or spraying it with water. If you don’t want to receive any more love bites from it, what you can do is walk away from your cat for it to realize that you don’t like it.
Getting a nibble from a cat could mean a few other things, too, which is why we should answer this…
Why do cats bite gently?
First and foremost, cats bite gently to show their affection. It’s more common in cats that have had a litter as gently biting their little ones is a way to make them feel comfortable. Sometimes, cats bite gently to invite their owners to play. It’s also a way of telling they have had enough play.
To minimize being gently bitten by your cat, offer it toys — we will talk more about cat toys below.
Like kids, kittens love to play a lot. They play by chasing, stalking, pouncing, clawing, scratching and biting one another. To humans, it may seem extremely violent and dangerous. But to little cats, it’s absolute fun.
Playtime among kittens is like hitting two birds with one stone — it gives them the opportunity to have some fun and excitement while teaching them hunting skills that will come in very handy when they’re older. One very important skill that they need to develop is biting. Alas, when they’re older and playing with people, they may still bite, too.
Needless to say, one reason why your cat suddenly bites you during playtime is that it’s an acquired habit that it finds difficult to let go of. It’s kind of fine when your cat is just a tiny kitten. It’s a different story if it’s already old and big and its fangs are massive and sharp. Biting during play can sometimes break your skin.
Luckily, there’s no need to stop playing with your cat just to keep your hands free of wounds and scabs.
All you have to do is get your hands on some cat toys, many of which your feline will find more delightful to bite than your different body parts. When shopping for toys for your pet, opt for those that mimic some of the qualities of prey animals, such as those with fur, feathers and noisemakers.
What’s really nice about most cat toys is that your cat can play with them without your involvement. So, in other words, you can have some peace and quiet while your whiskered chum is having a blast.
Kneading is another habit from kittenhood that cats do, which brings us to this question…
Why do cats knead?
Cats knead to make themselves feel relaxed and comfortable, such as before taking a nap. It’s a leftover behavior while they were mere kittens, which they carried out while breastfeeding from their mother cats to stimulate milk flow. Adult cats knead their owners to display their love and affection.
Your cat kneading you can make you go “awww!” However, at times, it can also make you go “ouch!”
Cats rarely extend their claws when kneading. Unfortunately, some felines knead with their claws extended, which can leave whoever they are kneading in a great deal of pain — the happier cats are, the harder they knead. This is when the importance of keeping your four-legged pet’s claws trimmed, which is good for your skin and furniture, too.
Too much of a good thing is bad, and this applies to cats when in a playful mood. If their owners make the mistake of making them feel too excited, it could cause the cats to scratch and bite.
It’s because of this exactly why you should do your best to know when your feline pet is already overstimulated. Usually, it will exhibit the following when it’s time for you to stop tickling it: twitching fur, flickering or flattening ears, swinging tail, enlarging pupils, increasing vocalization.
Keep your peepers peeled when playing with your cat for several minutes. When it seems to be getting overstimulated, stop and then get away. Otherwise, your cat might introduce you to its claws and fangs.
This may leave you thinking that you are causing your cat to feel frustrated for abruptly stopping playtime. Because of this, you may be tempted to resume petting and tickling your cat. Keep in mind that you should avoid this at all costs. Since your cat’s adrenaline levels are still high, playtime could easily lead to wartime.
What you need to do instead is wait for your kitty cat to calm down for a few minutes. Some cats bounce back from overstimulation faster than others. Similarly, some cats become overstimulated quicker than the rest. Before approaching your pet again, check that the various signs of overstimulation that we mentioned earlier are already gone.
And this takes us to a critical question that needs an answer…
Why does my cat bite me when I pet her belly?
The abdomen houses numerous vital organs, making it a vulnerable part. Cats know this, which is why they will do everything necessary to protect it, especially in the presence of a predator. Rubbing a cat’s belly area activates a protective response that could cause the feline to scratch and bite.
Needless to say, you should refrain from rubbing your cat’s belly. This is true even if it’s lying on its back, which felines tend to do each time someone they trust is around.
Besides the abdominal area, you should avoid rubbing your pet’s paws and tails, too. You should also steer clear of touching their whiskers. On the other hand, your cat absolutely loves being petted on the top of the head, around the ears, cheeks and chin. They also love it when you rub the base of its tail.
Since cats are excellent hunters and extremely curious by nature, it doesn’t come as a big surprise why there are many stimuli in the environment that can fire them up. Unfortunately, it’s not always that felines can get what they want, which is why it can be quite easy for them to wind up frustrated or enraged.
This is when a cat may redirect its aggression toward something or someone else, such as its owner.
Cats and humans share more things in common than you think, and one of them is the penchant for redirecting their aggression if they cannot direct it toward the trigger.
It’s not uncommon for a person, especially one who’s terrible at expressing his or her anger in a healthy and acceptable manner, to yell at innocent people, smash things against the wall and slam doors. One may even resort to self-harm or alcohol or drug abuse to deal with his or her aggression.
Well, cats are like humans in that sense. However, the majority of felines choose to redirect their aggression by biting just about anything that’s within their easy access, such as the leg or hand of their owners.
Reducing aggression in your cat is essential if you no longer want to end up with scratches and bites due to its aggression redirected toward you. For instance, if you have several cats and some cannot seem to get along, it’s a good idea to separate your cats that act aggressively toward each other.
In some instances, seeking the help of a cat behavior consultant or specialist makes perfect sense.
Besides aggression redirected toward you, your cat may bite you out of the blue for different reasons. And this is why this question needs to be answered…
Why does my cat bite me unprovoked?
Cats bite unprovoked when they want something from their owners or feel that their owners are not giving them enough attention. In some instances, cats bite all of a sudden due to having an extreme startling reflex. Cats that hate surprises or being spooked can bite their owners unprovoked.
There is one more very common reason behind a cat biting unexpectedly, and we’ll talk about it next.
Cats are known to be affectionate and expressive. Well, except during those times when they prefer to be left alone. It’s also their nature to deal with pain on their own, which is embedded in their DNA makeup — if their ancestors, wild cats, showed they’re in pain, their enemies would take the opportunity to attack and kill them.
Because of this, it’s very rare for domestic cats to let their owners know that they are experiencing pain.
And when the pain is too much for them to bear, they will inform their owners without delay. In many instances, felines will express their pain through a bite.
Immediately check your cat for the presence of injuries, such as cuts, wounds, bruises and swollen joints. If there is no physical evidence that your pet is in some type of pain, the problem could be coming from within. For this, it’s a must that you take your pawed pal to the vet for a thorough assessment.
Was your cat diagnosed by a vet with a health problem in the past? There is a possibility that it has come back or worsened, and it’s causing your cat pain. Felines are vulnerable to an assortment of chronic diseases, or diseases that last for a long time, which require ongoing medical attention and can affect one’s quality of life.
In cats, some of the most common chronic diseases are skin conditions. Others include liver disease, endocrine disorders, cancer and obesity, which can cause many serious complications if not managed.
Besides biting you when in pain, a cat may also vocalize. And this brings us to this question…
Why do cats purr?
Cats purr when they are in a positive and relaxing mood. They purr when they are chilling out, nursing and grooming themselves or their kittens. Cats purr, too, when their owners stroke them. However, cats may also purr when they are stressed or experiencing something unfavorable, such as pain.
Because different cats tend to purr for different reasons, it’s important to understand your own cat.
When cats are in pain, it’s not just biting and purring that they do. These furry creatures also exhibit reduced appetite, decreased interest in playing and socializing, lethargy and hiding away.
Just Before You Play With Your Cat
The so-called love bites rarely break the skin. But from time to time, depending on the mood of cats, love bites can draw blood, too, which can potentially lead to a secondary infection.
When your cat rubs against you, avoid simulating it excessively to keep it from biting you. Needless to say, it’s a must to know some of the telltale signs that your feline pal is already overstimulated. And if it seems like biting while rubbing against you is a habit acquired from an earlier age, it’s a good idea to use toys during playtime.
In some instances, cats rub against you and then bite as a result of aggression. If the cause is frustration, allow your cat to realize that taking it out on you is wrong. Similarly, give it time to cool off.
Take your cat to the veterinary clinic if it seems like its aggression is the result of pain or discomfort from a physical injury or an undiagnosed health problem. Allowing your trusted vet to give your four-legged friend a thorough assessment is necessary for diagnosis and treatment, which can help put an end to unprovoked biting.
Observing your cat’s body language and the sounds it makes can help you understand it better.
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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of The Pet Rescue.