Cats are often seen as mysterious creatures with dozens of unfathomable habits. For example, they are prone to purr and then bite you seemingly for no reason at all.
Why do cats do this? Are they truly secretly as evil as some would have us believe, or are they actually showing affection with these tender bites?
What should you do if your cat’s love bites are anything but gentle? Is your cat exhibiting behavior that should actually make you worried?
Why Do Cats Purr and Then Bite You?
Experts believe cats suddenly bite you for no apparent reason while you are stroking them because they are overstimulated. However, they may also just be playful or even be showing you their own brand of affection.
Given the fact that cats bite each other in a variety of situations, their bite will naturally mean different things, depending on its intensity and context.
Mother cats will bite their offspring to call their attention to something, or even give them a gentle nip while cleaning them. Two kittens will playfully bite at each other during play. Adult males will bite females during mating. And of course, cats will bite each other when they are in a fight.
If your cat gives you a gentle bite while purring and being stroked, they may just want you to stop and give them some space. If after the bite they relax and go to sleep, this is the most likely case.
If they however gently bite you but would clearly like you to keep petting them, you can consider it a love bite.
A cat that bites you harder is a cat in distress, so you will need to determine what it is that has caused it. They may be in pain, irritated, scared or anxious. Monitor their body language and the signals they are sending you further.
They Are Overstimulated
Cats may be overstimulated by the constant petting and stroking, and would just like to be left alone for a while. You will usually be able to tell this is the case by their overall behavior. They may start to push your hand away with their hind legs, and give you a gentle bite.
Don’t take any offense when this happens. After all, you wouldn’t want someone to keep waking you up just as you were about to fall asleep, no matter how pleasant the cuddles.
Worry not: cats don’t hold grudges, so your furry feline won’t mind the overstimulation, and they will be back for more cuddles later.
They Are Getting Shocked
There is also a theory that the repetitive stroking creates static electricity in a cat’s fur, which leads to little electric shocks. This will naturally not be the most pleasant of sensations, so your cat will definitely want you to stop. Biting you may just be their way of telling you.
They Don’t Like What You’re Doing
As you may already know, purring is not always a sign of pleasure. Cats can also purr to calm themselves down, or even when they are not feeling well. Purring can also be territorial.
The mere fact your cat is purring and then suddenly biting you does not mean they have gone from pleased and relaxed to aggressive and ruffled. They may not be enjoying the activity as much as you imagine, and may just want you to stop whatever you are doing. You may be stroking them in a way they don’t like, or simply bothering them when they would rather be left alone.
They Want You to Stop
If your cat is sitting on your lap and enjoying some cuddles, purring away, you may notice they are also giving you subtle signs they want you to stop petting them. Their tail may start to wag, they may be giving you “the look”, or they may even try to move.
If this is the case, let your cat be and let them do what they want to do. If you insist on petting them, they may need to resort to a gentle bite to get their message across.
If your cat is in the habit of purring then biting, watch out for any signs of displeasure before the actual bite, and you may begin to understand them better.
They Are Being Playful
Kittens will often playfully bite their playmates, and will not hesitate to nip at your hands and fingers either. When playing with a kitten, or even when they are asleep on your lap, you can always expect to get a bit of teeth action.
Adult cats may exhibit the exact same behavior, so a playful and gentle bite shouldn’t be cause for concern. If your cat is generally being playful and goes for your hand, they are just leaning into their natural hunting instincts.
They Are Showing You Affection
A cat’s bite can also be a sign of affection, especially if it’s just a gentle little nip at your fingers. If your cat is clearly relaxed and showing you other signs of appreciation (like blinking at you slowly, for example), you can rest assured the bite is nothing more than a little loving nuzzle.
How to Recognize Petting Aggression
Some cats may have a low tolerance for petting, and can quickly become overstimulated. While they may ask you to be pet, they can quickly start biting or even scratching you as a sign of displeasure.
This behavior is called petting aggression. It is common in young cats that are left alone for long periods of time, but can occur in any cat. It can be particularly dangerous if you have young children.
If a cat bites you after purring, you don’t immediately need to jump to the conclusion that they suffer from petting aggression. These are the other signs you should watch out for:
- Tense muscles
- Alert tail and ears
- Upright ears
- Hunting posture and arched back
- Vocalization: growling, yowling or howling
- Stiff and tail lowered close to the ground
If your cat bites you every time you pet them, or if they display any of the above signs, try to identify the cause of their displeasure. A trip to the vet might be indicated, to rule out any medical conditions that may be causing their petting aggression.
Bear in mind that some cats are also just cuddlier than others, and your cat may only like to be pet for short periods of time.
Why Does My Cat Bite Me When She’s Being Affectionate?
Cats bite each other when they are being affectionate, so they will adopt the same behavior towards humans too. It’s just their way of bonding with you and letting you know they like you.
If a cat bites you and then licks the same spot, it’s definitely a sign of affection and tenderness. It’s just your cat using the communication methods available to them to let you know they care.
What Does it Mean When a Cat Bites You Gently?
A cat’s gentle bite means they like you and want to express their affection towards you. Unlike a hard, more forceful bite, it should be considered endearing behavior.
Cats can often be seen biting each other even when they are not being aggressive. While humans have long ago stopped biting each other as much as cats do (well, except in certain situations), we can still understand the underlying instinct behind the action.
A gentle nibble is always a sign of love and trust, so your cat’s just trying to communicate their affection.
Wrapping It Up
A cat’s bite can mean a number of different things. As long as it is a gentle one, you should consider it a sign of affection, and do your best to communicate the same feelings to your cat.
If a bite is harder or less playful, your cat is feeling displeased or threatened, in which case you need to reconsider your behavior, and determine what it is you have done wrong.