Does your cat often bite you when you’re cuddling them? If so, you’re not alone.
I’ve had my cat bite my face while purring before, which is not a pleasant experience! It can also be confusing, as these two behaviors seemingly contradict each other. So, why does my cat bite me gently while purring?
There are various reasons why this seemingly unusual behavior is such a universal experience among cat parents. The most common cause is overstimulation, but it may also be that your kitty is feeling anxious, wants you to play with them, or is expressing territorial aggression.
In this article, I explain all these reasons in more detail so that you can understand what your kitty is trying to communicate. I also cover the four things I do to stop my cat from biting me. Hopefully, they will help you to prevent this unwanted behavior as well.
Why Does My Cat Bite Me Gently While Purring?
Have you ever been in a situation where your furry friend is curled up in your lap, purring and relaxed, when it suddenly turns around and bites you? This is a common experience among cat moms, and it is also one that is commonly misunderstood. My cat bites me when I pet her, and I didn’t understand why for years!
It turns out that although biting and purring may seem like contradictory behaviors, there are many scenarios in which it is normal for them to exist together. I have gone into each of these reasons in detail, so read on for all you need to know!
One of the main reasons why your cat wants attention and then bites you is overstimulation. When stroking a cat, it can be hard not to rub the same area repeatedly. While this feels pleasurable to your kitty initially, the repetitive motion soon becomes uncomfortable due to the nerves in that area becoming overstimulated.
This uncomfortable feeling causes your kitty to go from purring to biting. You may also find that your cat growls but still wants to be petted. Both of these actions may come across as an aggressive attack, but they are merely how felines communicate that your cuddles have become irritating.
I would try switching the area you’re currently petting; hopefully, your cat will calm down and relax again. It is also wise to learn your cat’s limits. All cats can handle different amounts of petting. One of my cats happily lets me pet her for hours, but my other kitty is overstimulated after a few minutes!
2. Anxiety or Stress
It is well-known among cat owners that our furry friends purr when feeling happy and content. Whenever I hear my cat purring, I see it as a sign that she wants a hug and comply as quickly as possible. However, it turns out there is another cause of purring that I only recently learned about: anxiety and stress.
The calming vibrations from purring help to reassure and relax your cat when they’re feeling these negative emotions. You may also notice that your cat is trembling while purring, which is another common sign of anxiety. It’s also worth noting that cats do purr when they are in pain as well, so you may want to keep an eye out for signs of injury that could be causing stress.
Unfortunately, most cats want to be alone when stressed, so if you get too close, your kitty may bite you. As long as you are not the thing causing your cat’s anxiety, the bite shouldn’t be more than a gentle nip. It is meant to act as a warning rather than an attempt at an attack.
3. Request for Playtime
Cats also rub against you and then bite when they want you to play with them. If you don’t teach your furry friend not to bite your fingers when it is a kitten, you’ll end up with an older cat that still sees your fingers as toys. I made this mistake myself, and my cat bites me all the time as a way of initiating play.
Don’t be surprised by the fact that your kitty is purring, either. I used to be confused about why my cat was attacking me all of a sudden when I thought she wanted a cuddle. As it turns out, many cats also purr during playtime because they are enjoying themselves so much!
If you’re unsure whether your feline friend wants to play or not, look out for other signs that it is in a playful mood. Typical behaviors include stalking, chasing, and grabbing toys. Try using these toys as a replacement for your fingers to help teach your cat that your hands are not for biting.
4. Territorial Aggression
Territorial aggression is the last reason your feline may be biting you while purring. Is your cat suddenly so aggressive after a new pet is brought into the home? If so, territorial aggression is the most probable cause for your cat to bite while purring. Cats love to have a hierarchy; to be at the top, they need to show dominance over the other animals in your home.
Showing aggressive behaviors such as biting, growling, and hissing is their way of doing this; it warns the other animal that your home and you belong to them. This territorial aggression is most likely towards a new or existing pet, but it can sometimes spread to inanimate objects if your kitty feels overly fearful or stressed.
The biting caused by territorial aggression is usually gentle to begin with, but it can become more vicious if you don’t rectify the situation. I suggest you make sure your feline has its own space to retreat to and that you introduce any new house members gradually.
How To Stop Your Cat from Biting You, Even Gently?
Now that I’ve established why your feline friend may be biting you, we come to the next obvious question: how can you stop it? I have gone through this myself, so I will share with you the four things I did to stamp out this unwanted behavior.
Follow these tips, and you’ll hopefully never have to deal with your kitty biting you again!
1. Understand the Warning Signs
First off, you need to understand the warning signs that show your kitty is going to bite you. Although it often seems like my cat bites me gently out of nowhere, I’ve found several signs that she displays that indicate I’m about to be bitten. These include:
- Upright ears
- Dilated pupils
- Raised hackles
- Unsheathed claws
- An alert stance
- An arched back
- A stiff, lowered tail
- Aggressive vocalizations, e.g., growling
If you keep an eye out for these changes, you can usually move away from your feline before the biting happens. For example, if my cat starts hissing at me all of a sudden, I am very quick to move away from her. This has helped me avoid numerous kitty bites!
2. Learn Your Cat’s Likes & Dislikes
When your cat regularly bites you during cuddle time, it can be tempting to stop petting them altogether. However, I would highly recommend that you don’t do this. The time you spend petting your kitty is enjoyable for you both and helps strengthen the bond between you.
One of the best ways to ensure your cuddles don’t turn aggressive is by learning what your cat likes and dislikes. Some of the things that may clue you into this are:
- At what point your cat starts to bite: If your kitty always turns aggressive a short time into your cuddle, try stroking them for a shorter amount of time and see if this helps. Your cat will soon nudge your hand with her head if it wants you to continue.
- Where it enjoys being stroked: Most cats enjoy being petted on their face, but some are not so keen when it comes to their tummy, back, or tail. Avoid stroking any areas if your cat makes it clear they are unhappy with it; stick to the places they like instead.
- What time of day your cat asks for cuddles: Your kitty may have a specific time of day in which it prefers to be petted. If this is so, try setting this time aside to show it some love rather than forcing it to sit on your lap when you give control back to your cat!
Once you notice these things, you can tailor your cat’s petting experience to suit them. Try to let your kitty take the lead, and the amount of biting you experience should significantly reduce. Also, remember that repetitive stroking motions can cause overstimulation, so avoid this where possible.
3. Create A Calm Environment
As I covered earlier, cats sometimes bite due to stress or territorial aggression. Making sure your home is a relaxing place where your feline feels safe can help reduce the biting that results from these causes. Some things that I use to create a calm environment for my kitty include:
- A calming collar or other pheromone products
- Introducing changes to the home gradually
- Avoiding sudden noises where possible
- Providing plenty of hiding places
- Ensuring that all my cat’s needs are met
- Providing access to windows
Try implementing a few of these around your home to see if they impact your cat’s behavior.
My last way of reducing a cat’s biting behavior is using counter-conditioning. This is where you reward your furry friend when it doesn’t bite you rather than punishing it when it does. Physical punishment may cause your feline to become more aggressive and weaken the bond between the two of you, so I would always avoid this.
If you want to try out counter-conditioning, all you need to do is follow three simple steps:
- Find a food that your cat loves, e.g., chicken.
- Each time you stroke your cat, offer them a small piece of that food as a reward for not biting you. This will help them form positive associations with being petted.
- Repeat a few times each day, making sure you only do a few strokes so you don’t pass your kitty’s tolerance threshold. Keep rewarding your cat if they’re well-behaved, leaving longer between rewards each time.
That’s all there is to it! I’ve found this method very effective in teaching my cat not to bite; she now associates my cuddles with an enjoyable experience and seems to get more pleasure out of it as a result. Remember, if your cat starts growling, biting, or hissing, don’t reward them. They need to earn that this behavior isn’t tolerated.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS
In this article, I hope to answer the age-old question, “Why does my cat bite me gently while purring?”.
Believe it or not, these two seemingly opposite behaviors occur together in many situations. One of the most common causes is overstimulation, but your cat may also be feeling stressed, in a playful mood, or displaying territorial aggression.
To stop your furry friend from biting you, it’s vital that you know the warning signs that it is about to attack and the things it likes and dislikes when being petted. This should allow you to avoid any aggressive behavior. More active ways of discouraging this behavior are by creating a calming environment for your cat and using counter-conditioning.
The latter should teach your cat that petting is an enjoyable experience rather than one that warrants aggression. With a bit of time and patience, it can become an activity you both enjoy!