How To Stop My Cat From Biting and Attacking Me

While it may be cute as a tiny kitten, once your cat grows up, it’s no longer fun to have them bite and attack you. Oftentimes, this behavior comes out during playtime and when your cat is excited.

But what can you do about it when this is all they’ve known? Just because your cat currently has a bad habit doesn’t mean you need to be stuck with this habit for life.

Below I’ll go over some easy steps you can take to train away the biting behavior from your cat. It can be done in as little as 15 minutes a day but will take consistency from everyone in your household so you don’t send your cat mixed messages.

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Solve Your Cat’s Behavior Problems in 15 Minutes a Day!

How To Stop A Cat From Biting When Petting

Your cat likely bites your hands because they were used like a plaything as a kitten. You may have wiggled your fingers around and let them attack.

As a kitten, those bites don’t hurt, but as an adult cat, it can become a painful problem. For the best success, everyone in your household should be in agreement to not let your cat play with anyone’s bare hands, including visitors.

If you’re new to clicker training, read about what positive reinforcement is, easy clicker training basics, and the tools I recommend before starting.

Supplies:

Training Steps:

  1. Every time you play with your cat, use a toy. Starting out, use a cat toy on a stick to keep your hands farther from their mouth.
  2. If your cat attacks your hand when playing, remove your hand and put a toy in front of them. Click and reward them with a treat when they start playing with the toy instead of going after your hand.
  3. Continue repeating this process to ensure you never play with your cat using your hands.

Until this behavior is trained, hold off on trying to pet your cat immediately after playing with them to avoid them instinctively biting your hands.

Once your cat stops associating your hands during playtime, you’ll be able to pet them without them grabbing and biting you.

book excerpt about how to train your cat to stop biting your hands

This training came from my book, How To Clicker Train Your Cat. If you want more training tips for good kitty behavior, you can check out the book here.

Why Does My Cat Bite Me When I Pet Them?

When your cat goes from perfectly calm to chomping your hand, it’s likely due to overstimulation. This is a common problem often known as “petting aggression.”

If your cat suddenly attacks or bites your hand when you’re petting them, they’re likely giving you a few warning cues that you’re missing. For instance, your cat’s ears may slightly flatten, their whiskers pull back, or their tail starts slightly flicking.

These are all signs of annoyance from your cat. If you don’t heed them, your cat will likely escalate to biting you in order to get you to stop.

Most cats don’t like their stomachs, tail, or legs pet. Some cats are quite sensitive having their backs pet.

It’s safest to keep your petting to the top of their head and neck area. Even then, make sure you pay attention to the micro behavioral cues your cat is giving you that tell you they’re uncomfortable.

Just like how humans get annoyed with something after a while, your cat is the same. It’s best to stop petting your cat before they get to that state of overstimulation so petting remains a positive thing. Over time, your cat may grow more tolerant of it and even seek it out.

Why Do Cats Bite Gently?

Cats who gently bite you can be communicating a variety of things including:

  • Overstimulation
  • Desire for attention
  • Love and affection

In order to understand which, you’ll need to take in account your cat’s body language and surroundings.

If you’re petting your cat and they gently bite you, that’s likely a warning bite letting you know they’re getting overstimulated so you should stop. If your cat is otherwise content and happy, they’re likely showing affection towards you or wanting additional attention with their “love bites.”

How To Discipline A Cat For Biting

If your cat bites you, your best course of action is to train the behavior away. Cat’s do not tolerate discipline well from humans.

If you try to yell at your cat, spray them with water, or use a physical form of discipline, you’ll only create a frightened cat who will act out and bite you more.

Instead, you should focus on limiting the scenarios that your cat bites you. Keep a list for a week tracking every time your cat bites.

What were you doing when you were bitten? What else was happening around you?

After a week, you should clearly see a pattern. It may be that your cat bites you after you try to pet them when they got done playing. Or that your cat comes over to bite you when they’re hungry and want food.

Once you know the reasons for your cat biting you, you can use the training above to redirect the biting behavior onto an appropriate toy or head off the biting altogether by not letting your cat’s emotions escalate to the point of attack.

Stephanie Mantilla curiosity trained header logo holding black cat
Stephanie Mantilla

Positive Reinforcement Trainer & Enrichment Specialist

Stephanie has over 12 years of experience training and enriching exotic animals as a Zookeeper. During this time, she received a certificate in Behavioral Husbandry from the Association of Zoos & Aquariums and is an expert in animal behavior.
In her free time, she uses positive reinforcement to train her numerous pets at home and is always thinking up creative ways to prevent her pets from getting bored. On Curiosity Trained, Stephanie now helps people make their pets’ lives better by giving them easy to follow tips and science-backed information.

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