The things to do if your cat bites but not too hard
When a cat bites but not too hard, it could be because of three main reasons:
- A sign of affection learned from their early days
- The cat wants to get your attention
- A result from overstimulation
Once you know which is your own cat’s situation, you need to act accordingly.
We all have seen the cute things cats do to show you their love, such as purring, licking you, rubbing their cheeks or gentle headbutting. However, there are also other signs they can use to show us affection, which may seem confusing or weird at first.
One sign that could be confusing to understand is when cats decide to give you a soft bite. That action is also known as a “love” bite.
It’s not anything to be worried about, it’s natural and inherent for cats to lightly bite as part of their communication.
“Love” bites are not strong enough to break the skin compared to more aggressive bites from fear or stress. It’s important to tell the difference between the two.
If your cat bites but not too hard, that’s already a good step! It means they love you enough to not want to hurt you, no matter what the reason may be.
So, congratulations! You’re from the lucky ones.
Let’s look at the three causes for “love” bites one by one.
Cats Bite as a Sign of Affection and Intimacy
It could be that your cat simply wants to show you they love you, and their way of doing it happens to be through light nibbling.
This type of biting gets established as a habit of the kitten from very early on.
While they are young and curious, they explore how much is okay to bite and scratch while playing around with fellow kittens.
Because a lot of them get taken away from that environment by owners very early, the kittens may not have enough time to learn those lessons. That results in the biting progressing into adulthood since it’s developed from an old habit.
Therefore, the owner has the responsibility to show the cat what is acceptable and what isn’t.
Cats Can Bite When in Need of Attention
Sometimes, cats can be just as needy or clingy as we are.
They also need to feel comfortable and receive frequent affection. When they don’t have enough of it, they may resort to capturing your attention in more surprising ways, like softly biting you.
Translated into our language, this could mean “It’s play time!” or “I want to be petted!”
Be careful how you pet, though.
Cats Can Bite From Feeling Overstimulated
Sometimes, cats can be just as sensitive as we are, especially when it comes to the so-called “petting-induced overstimulation,” as quoted in Catster article.
Their hair follicle receptors can get overstimulated from too much touching or petting. They can only take so much before the pressure from the stroking stops being pleasant and starts becoming uncomfortable.
The more it continues, the more irritated the cat will get. They will feel the urge to let you know it’s time to stop, but they want to do it without hurting you.
So, if you don’t stop, you may get a “love” bite or two.
If they don’t make you stop either, then the cat will be forced to make you stop by using other defense mechanisms like real bites and scratches that can hurt.
How to Know Which Category Your Cat Falls In
To understand which is your case, you need to look at the context of the situation and reading the cat’s body language.
If you cat is trying to show you a simple sign of their affection towards you, it will most likely occur during cuddles or petting. The cat will seem calm in every other aspect, but they can still give you a “love” bite to return the favor.
If your cat wants to get your attention with “love” bites, I think it’s pretty obvious when that could happen – when you don’t give enough attention to your pet. Even if you do, they may need it right now, and you shall deliver.
If your cat bites you softly because of overstimulation, they will give you plenty of warning signs beforehand.
Pay attention to them, they indicate when the cat is starting to feel discomfort from too much close physical contact, and it’s time to back away before the bite comes.
According to Dr. Liz Stelow at PetMD, “The cat may become slightly tense immediately prior to biting.”
Some of the warning signs include:
- Sharp head turn
- Twitching skin on the back
- Long staring with dilated pupils
- Swishing their tail
- Flattening their ears
- Stiffening body
After the “love” bite, two things can potentially happen.
The cat will either get progressively more aggressive or, if you stop the action that they want you to stop, they can still stay and want to be around you. This depends on what the cat prefers as well as the type of your relationship.
How to Stop Your Cat From Giving “Love” Bites
Like I said in the beginning, cats give soft bites as a natural and inherent reaction, which is part of how they communicate with the world around them.
It isn’t a bite that aims to pierce the skin or hurt you in any way. Since this habit is mostly harmless, there’s no need to take any measures towards trying to stop it.
However, that’s a personal choice, of course.
If you still want to stop your cat from biting you completely, the best way to do it is just to learn how to understand your cat – what they like and don’t like, and how much of it they like.
Here’s a few additional tips to keep in mind:
- Stop moving your hand at all, or push in
Your cat bites you. Your first instinct is to pull back your hand immediately. This quick reaction will trigger the cat’s hunting impulse, which can lead to an actual harmful, dangerous bite.
We don’t want that. Let’s try a different approach.
Your cat bites you. You freeze. Your hand is very still until the cat lets it go. You remove your hand slowly. You stop the behavior that led to the bite in the first place, and both sides go about their day safely.
Sounds better, right?
Animal behavior consultant Amy Shojai suggests that your other option is to push your hand in towards the bite to tell the cat to release you.
Just don’t pull your hand back. Don’t react sharply. Don’t use punishments or aggression because the cat won’t learn from it. They don’t comprehend that the punishment is a consequence of their specific action.
- Use toys for playing more often
Play games with your cat, involving objects other than your hands.
Anything they can play with will do the job – laser pointers, climbing trees or walls, fishing-rod-style toys, and so on.
Not only will that show them there’s other things they can bite, but also it will help with using the cat’s built-up energy and stress. It gives them something else to take it out on and lowers the chance of that happening on your hand.
- Tell them it hurts
I have had personal cases, when just saying “Ouch!” out loud startled the cat and made them realize that they just hurt you without intending to.
This response is also rooted in their childhood. When the cat used to wrestle with other kittens and the playing started getting rougher, the kitten would release a high-pitched sound that signaled they were in pain and wanted to stop.
You don’t need to make yourself sound like a kitten. Just tell them it hurts.
However, if it’s truly a “love” bite, it shouldn’t be harmful to that point at all. If it is, the reasons may be completely different, and you need to be careful.
Keep both yourself and your cat safe.
If your cat bites you more seriously, check your skin and wash the bitten area carefully with warm water and soap. Cleveland Clinic confirms that cats can carry small microbes and bacteria that can lead to infections or diseases, dangerous to humans.
If you notice the area becoming red or swollen, seek out medical help as soon as you can.
When it comes to your cat, pay attention if they start biting more often than usual. They may be trying to tell you about a more serious problem that’s going on. Contact a veterinarian for help on the matter.
In conclusion, you don’t need to worry if your cat bites but not too hard. The “love” bites are a common reaction that can be managed and understood when you know your cat well enough. Learn how to respect their needs and preferences.
At the end of the day, cats will be cats.