Owww My cat bit me! What do I do?

By Frania Shelley-Grielen. All rights reserved.

“My cat bit me, what do I do?" Cats bite as part of a normal set of behaviors, whether it is in play or defensively. These behaviors do not happen in a vacuum, they are responses to another’s action or interactions. When it comes to cats biting other cats, the messages being sent are often loud and clear but when it comes to cats biting humans, we need to first look more closely to what is happening in order to address it for both the cats and the humans.

Along with other four legged animals, cats and dogs do not have hands to hold or touch things with and use their mouths. Mouths when used to touch things may be used to explore, groom (oneself or others), and communicate. (The mouth is also used to eat, vocalize, sniff-taste or “flehmen”.) When a cat uses the mouth to communicate through biting the question is what is this cat saying and in response to what?

Animal Behavior experts Daniela Ramos and Daniel Simon Mills studied cat aggression directed at humans in the Sao Paulo region of Brazil and found that the top two reasons for owners reporting aggression were after some cats were “petted or put on to the lap” followed by “when playing.” While it is important to know when to pay greater attention to what humans are doing with cats to avoid biting, the difficulty with this study and others, is that “aggression” is not defined so we may be talking about distance increasing behaviors as preliminary as hissing up to and including last ditch efforts such as biting.

A separate study published in May of 2017 by the Journal of Feline Medical Surgery compared the behaviors, including inappropriate elimination, excessive grooming and aggression, of cats that had been de-clawed compared to cats that not been de-clawed. The de-clawed cats significantly demonstrated more of these behaviors. 63% of the de-clawed cats were found to have bone fragments left in their digits, these cats were more likely to have back pain, inappropriate elimination, biting and aggression. De-clawed cats without retained bone fragments, were found to have increased biting and inappropriate elimination.

We do know that cats like all animals will use a host of behaviors to communicate what they are feeling including positive and negative emotions along with intent. Paying attention to what your cat is saying along with what you are doing will lessen negative experiences for you both. More on what to do when petting and playing and what to do when it goes wrong: (Continue Reading Below)