What does my cat bite me when I pet her?

Updated at 18 Sep 2022

This situation is so common that it's almost a joke: The cat you can only pet three times before "chomping"!

Cat showing teeth

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Petting Aggression

White cat with blue eyes and a disgruntled muzzle

We call this "petting aggression" and "overstimulation." Cats that go from loving petting to biting or swatting quickly are called "petting aggression" (or "overstimulation). This behavior is not common in cats with a love/hate relationship with petting.

One cat may avoid being touched because she is simply afraid, while another may bite during play and be considered "playful-aggressive." Both examples are separate issues that we will not deal with here.

Petting aggression may seem like an unplanned act of aggression. It can appear that the cat suddenly and without reason has changed their mind. Most cats will give some warning signs that they don't like the attention. They may have initially loved being petted but now find it annoying or uncomfortable.

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Consider two human examples

Example 1: When things are going well, you like your colleague. Sometimes hugs can last too long, and sometimes it happens in front of customers. You may not appreciate hugs and decide to avoid contact. Your colleague wonders why you can be so "hot and cool" at the same time.

Example 2: Lightly rub a small area on your arm with your finger for a minute. While it may not bother you at first, it soon becomes very uncomfortable.

It follows from the examples that certain factors can cause you to react "randomly." These include your relationship with a colleague or the duration of the hug, as well as the presence of clients.

The second example shows how the same physical sensation can change over time from pleasant to unpleasant. These two reasons can lead to aggressive behavior in your cat.

Why is my cat like this?

A kitten is held by a human hand

Petting aggression can be unpleasant for owners. At the same time, a cat that is not accustomed to petting can also experience discomfort when it is stroked. However, there are cats that love to be petted until they get bored and cut off contact with you the only way they know how.

Every living being, be it human or animal, has a set of preferences. These preferences may be the result of past experience, recent experience, or simply an integral part of one's core structure. Each person, just like each animal, has its level of tolerance for what he does not like.

Some diseases can cause a cat to react negatively to touch. Sensitivity can be caused by illness or pain. Make an appointment with the veterinarian to check on your cat if you realize that at some point, the cat's behavior has changed and the current habits are not typical for your pet.

I have good news for you. Cats can still get used to petting and learn to express their dissatisfaction in a more acceptable way for you.

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A Sensitive Cat

Petting aggression is a way for your cat to communicate with you that they are unhappy with what you do. Learn to recognize their subtle signals before you get scratched or bitten.

You can look out for many body language cues:

  • Turning their heads toward you
  • Swinging or flicking tail.
  • Back rippling.
  • Vocalizing (other than purring).
  • Escape attempts.
  • Grooming.
  • Raising a paw.

You can avoid petting aggression by considering factors other than your pet's body language. Consider if any of these factors are associated with an increased reaction.

  • Time of day.
  • Location in your home.
  • Other pets and people.
  • Noise and activity around you.
  • What was your cat doing before you got started with petting.

You can reduce aggression by observing your cat's body language and considering potential triggers.

Petting Minus Aggression

British cat sitting on hands

You can reduce aggression by changing the way you touch your cat.

Cats love to be petted around their faces by most. Cats will often initiate petting by touching their faces on their skin. Touching the bottom of the tail, along its length, or on the belly are more likely to trigger a reaction.

Each cat is unique, so be aware of what your cat likes and doesn't tolerate.


The most pleasant caresses for cats are calm, measured touches and gentle pressure. Hard, fast scratches can be taken aggressively.

How Long

Start limiting the time you spend petting your cat to reduce aggression. You should pay attention to how your cat reacts to petting and keep it that way for as long as possible.

First, you will only be able to pet the cat a few times before taking a break. Gradually, slowly, you will be able to increase the petting time and collect your set of techniques that your animal will like. why does my cat bite me when i pet her

Gently nudge the cat if you notice any signs of aggression. If your cat isn't moving away from you or rubbing against you, she's probably ready to take a break.

You can give the cat something to do if she's not the type to "walk away." You need to "listen" to your cat's needs and give her time to calm down. This will teach your cat to listen to you and not bite.

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Many cats that are "overaggressive" are understimulated by their environment. A cat that is bored or has too much energy may become more reactive and aggressive, which can lead to a larger reaction when hugged or petted.

You can stimulate the cat's mind with an interactive game or special "cooking puzzle" toys. Your cat will be more tolerant and peaceful if you allow her to use her brain and expend a little more energy. Over time, she will understand that the time for petting is the time when she can relax and unwind.

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Give it time

Human hand stroking a cat

Be prepared to give your cat enough time and space to get to know you and your family, especially if it's her first time in your home. Even social cats may have less tolerance for people they don't trust. Let the cat determine the pace of rapprochement with you.

It's okay if your cat prefers to explore the house rather than sit on your lap. She will soon get comfortable, relax, and will come to you for entertainment and petting.

Start interacting with your cat once she gets used to you and gets to know you enough. Interactive play is great for building trust and can be a great way to get to know your cat. You can also take a treat and teach her some tricks.

Punishment - Part of the Problem

Although you can certainly punish a cat for biting, believe me, this is not the best solution. Your cat will not learn to communicate its needs gently by being punished (for example, if you flick, slap, or splash water).

You can end up having the exact opposite effect with endless punishments, and instead of learning to show displeasure gently, your cat will become even more aggressive and uncontrollable. She will eventually avoid you and your interactions.

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Problem Solved?

You will soon find that your cat enjoys petting her anytime and as often as you like. Sounds very unlikely. Every cat is unique and may not enjoy long hugs. You can still love your cat by learning to meet its activity needs and by teaching it how to stroke it the way it likes.

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