You were just normally lazing around with your cat and there is the usual stroking but then suddenly, your cat nips at your hand. This is probably a common occurrence to cat owners – a cat biting softly out of the blue. But why do your own cat bites you?
Pet owners call this a cat love bite. It usually occurs during a smooth-sailing petting session that turns into a light bite at your skin without any deep marks. Aside from petting, the regular handling, grooming or bathing can also cause cat love bites.
Veterinarian behaviorists have defined this as petting-induced aggression. It is one of the aggression types that has been identified as a common behavior in cats.
This behavior is actually still a mystery to researchers. There have been various theories regarding the cause of this aggression.
Reasons Why Cat Love Bites Occur
It could be quite confusing especially for first-time feline owners if their pets suddenly bite them after they gave them affection. There are even times that cats seek this on their own but then eventually marking their owners. So why do cats seem to do this out of nowhere?
Experts say that it may be because of overexcitement or overstimulation. Cats are not usually and even historically, very social. They may enjoy petting at first, but there comes a point when they already get irritated by the repetitiveness. This is what they call a sensitivity threshold and it means “I’ve had enough!”
Felines may associate the repetitive stroking to an uncomfortable feeling because of static electricity that may possibly occur. They relate it to a painful, negative feeling. If it was you, it would elicit the same reaction as cats do.
It can also be unintentional. Some cats like to groom the people they love so they may lick you and use their front teeth. This can also be considered as a cat love nip.
Another theory is also improper socialization at a young age. Cats that have been in human contact until 7 weeks of age will have the tendency to be more trusting to people.
Sometimes, it can really be a painful experience, especially for old cats that have arthritis. Or there may be underlying health conditions that cause pain during petting sessions. You may have petted the wrong way.
A comforting stroke may lead to a sleeping cat on your lap, but then they wake up suddenly and the bite happens. This could be because it hasn’t recognized the affectionate petting as is. Your cat could have correlated it to a confinement. In this situation, it usually runs away after the nipping.
The control theory, meanwhile, describes a cat’s need to control the situation. Cats could be affirming their dominance. For example, they still want more petting but then it stops. A situation like this could also induce a love bite. They want to tell everyone that cats rule the world.
Managing Cat Love Bites
You should be able to distinguish between a cat’s love bite and a real bite aggression. There are actually signs before it occurs. Deciphering your cat’s action is one way to avoid any more annoyance.
Every cat is different but you will usually see the swishing of tails before the intent of biting. If you will be able to look into its eyes, it will be dilated right before. Some cats also flatten their ears to show their irritation. If you see any of these signs, immediately stop the petting session.
It will also help pet parents to determine the sensitivity threshold of your cats. There are some parts of the body that is extra sensitive in cats like their whiskers and the part near their tails so avoid touching them. If you also noticed that they only wanted to be stroked ten times, then that’s it. No more 11th petting for you.
Try to also not react harshly if a cat nibble on you. This could be a bit challenging as a cat love bite can surprise a human, but any form of aggressive movement on your part may frighten your cat. This can cause it to bite deeper or extend its claws at you.
Desensitization is also recommended by behaviorists to modify your cats’ actions. Try to associate their favorite things to your petting sessions. Interact with your cat just near enough to its trigger point, then giving voice commands to settle down plus a cat treat at the end of the session will help. This needs patience as it does not change your cat’s personality in just a week.
Try a hands-free approach to playing with your cat. The use of toy wands or feathers will definitely lessen the bites.
Never ever hit your cat if this occurs. Physical punishment will just send the wrong motive to your cat. They may become more aggressive than ever.
If the petting-induced aggression worsens, it is best to go to your veterinarian and have your cat checked. There could be an underlying medical condition that initiates the biting because of pain. It can be arthritis in the hip or neck, a sore tooth or an ear infection.
If no medical conditions are seen, your veterinarian may refer you to a veterinarian behaviorist. This specialist would be in the best position to help you with this particular problem. You may also contact the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists if you need more information.
It would be better to accept early on if your cat doesn’t want to be excessively petted. You can still do other bonding activities aside from petting anyway. A bit of perseverance and becoming observant may come a long way to developing a more agreeable relationship with your cat.