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What is Biting?

Cats can bite their owners for many reasons, causing painful injuries that can become infected. Watching your cat’s behavior before the bite can give you hints as to why she may have become aggressive. Such indicators as the positions of her tail, whiskers, and ears are signals to other animals that she may be getting upset. Some of the reasons behind the bite may include:

  • Fear 
  • Frustration 
  • Territory 
  • Poor play socialization 
  • Redirected aggression 
  • Petting-induced aggression 
  • Maternal instincts
  • Physical discomfort

Why Biting Occurs in Cats

Why your cat bites you has to do with how she feels in a particular situation, as well as her natural instincts.

Fear 

Fear can cause a cat to become aggressive, especially if she cannot escape the thing she fears. She may become defensive against new people or animals, or fearful of a car ride that may lead to the vet, and will often show you in her crouched posture, flat ears and dilated pupils.

Frustration 

Cats can become frustrated if they are bored or lonely, and need mental stimulation and exercise. While you may go off to work every day, your cat sits around and waits for you. She may be frustrated when you return home and don’t spend time with her. She may also get aggressive if she is deprived of something she wants, such as food or a toy.

Territory

 

While much of territorial aggression displayed by cats is towards other cats, it can be directed towards people as well. Cats will mark their territory through scent marking, chin rubbing, and walking their turf. Territorial aggression can be triggered by a new pet or person in the house, moving to a new home, or if another kitten in the family reaches sexual maturity.

Poor Play Socialization

 

When your cat bites during play, this often means it did not get enough socialization when it was a kitten. Kittens learn how to play with their littermates as they bite and wrestle. It is here they learn when a bite is too hard. Owners can also contribute to the play biting habit by not teaching their adorable little kittens not to bite, only to find out it is much worse when they are adults.

Redirected Aggression

When a cat becomes aggressive towards a person or an animal that she just can’t reach, she may lash out and bite her owner if he gets in the way. This dangerous and common type of aggression can occur after the initial situation that caused the aggressiveness is over, catching an owner completely by surprise.

Petting-Induced Aggression

This refers to the strange occurrence of a bite from a cat who was just enjoying your petting. While experts are not sure why this occurs, it is theorized that the repetitive contact of petting can become unpleasant, causing your cat to aggressively stop you.

Maternal Instincts

Just like any mother, a cat may act aggressively to defend her kittens from a possible danger. This defensiveness is heightened in those first few days after birth, which is why it is good to leave the kittens alone during that time.

Physical Discomfort

Aggression can be triggered by pain or discomfort from an injury or medical condition, and can make an otherwise gentle cat lash out. Many conditions can cause this irritability, such as arthritis, hyperthyroidism, dental disease, or even the cognitive dysfunction that is common in aging cats. Medications can also alter your cat’s mood and lead to a bite.

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What to do if your Cat is Biting

If your cat is suddenly biting, you may want to take her in to get checked by a veterinarian. There are many conditions that can cause your cat’s aggressive behavior, and your vet will determine what could be affecting her. Be sure to relate any other symptoms you may have noticed, as well as your cat’s behavior surrounding the bite to your vet. After an exam and several tests, your vet may diagnose her with a medical condition, and recommend the appropriate treatment. This may include medication, supportive therapies, and even environmental changes to help your cat be more comfortable.

More often, when biting is seen more than occasionally, it can be attributed to a behavioral problem. While a new mother has every right to protect her kittens, a cat who bites during play or from fear, frustration, or similar reasons should not be allowed to continue this aggressive behavior. While medications can help calm anxiety and mood, behavioral modification techniques are often recommended to retrain your cat. A behavioral therapist can help to identify your cat’s triggers and create a training program.

Frustrated cats may benefit from daily play time with owners, interactive toys, and multiple play stations to curb boredom. Some behavior can be redirected by interrupting the aggressive behavior before it begins. Play biting can be curbed through using noise deterrents and toys that are away from your body. Desensitization techniques may help the fearful cat. A cat who bites while being petted may need you to refrain from touching or handling her unless she seeks you out.

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Prevention of Biting

Ensuring that your cat receives proper socialization during weaning, and in your first few months together, can make all the difference in her confidence and aggression levels. Keeping your cat mentally challenged and exercised can keep a cat from getting bored. Routine check-ups that include vaccinations can prevent some diseases and alert you to others before they progress too far. Above all, be consistent with your cat when training her to exhibit the behaviors you desire.

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Cost of Biting

The cost to treat a cat who bites can range with the treatments themselves. Behavioral issues can cost between $75 to $500, while more serious medical conditions, such as a dental abscess, can range up to $900.

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Biting Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Newt

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Unknown

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7 Years

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Critical severity

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0 found helpful

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Chewing And Licking

Newt has ruined furniture, doors, shoes, and much more. He chewed about 4 inches of wood off two decorative pieces on each of 6 dining room chairs (4in x 2/chair x 6 chairs = 48 inches of antique wood!). He constantly licks surfaces like carpet, upholstery, blankets, people, the dog, wood furniture, computer monitor, teddy bear, door frame, and more. He has done this all of his 7 years. If the kids and vet would allow it, all teeth would be removed, along with the back claws that have ruined the top of the dining room table and many other things. When found and given to us he was a few days old with a badly injured and infected eye that probably cannot see. He is very active, energetic, and playful with dog and people to an extreme. Please let there be a diagnosis and recommendation.

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