What Does It Mean When A Cat Bites You Gently

You’re sitting on the couch, watching your favorite Netflix show, and your cat jumps up to join you. You pet her, and then she jumps on your lap. She’s so cute and snuggly, you think to yourself, then you get back to your show. Just when you’re entranced in the plot, your cat starts licking your arm. Weird, but she does this sometimes. Then, out of nowhere, she takes a bite out of your arm. Ouch! What in the world?

Cats are notorious for licking and biting their owners, sometimes gently, sometimes not. But why? These bites may seem to come out of nowhere, for no reason, but if we explore this topic a bit, we will see that there’s always a reason, and your cat knows what it is. We just have to figure them out. Some common reasons why your cat may bite you are their age, genetics, environmental changes, fear, insecurity, and your emotions and behavior.

Reasons Why Your Cat May Bite You Gently

Cats may bite their owners for many reasons, but here are some common ones:

Age and Genetics

Young kittens often bite and scratch more when they are learning how to play, and this is totally normal. When a kitten reaches four months or so, their play biting and scratching usually subsides. In addition, some personality traits in cats, like aggression, are hereditary.

Owner Behavior

Cats are sensitive to their owner’s emotions and often mimic them, hence the phrase “copy-cat.” A study published by NPR shows that cats will appear sad when their owners are sad and appear happy when their owners are happy. If owners show aggressive behavior, their cats may mimic this behavior through biting and scratching.

Environment Changes

A move, a new baby, a new pet, visitors in the home: all of these examples are changes to your cat’s routine that can add stress. Cats are creatures of habit. They tend to sleep in the same places, play in the same areas, and eat at certain times.  If there is a disruption to their schedule, cats may feel overstimulated and confused, and they may resort to biting.

Fear and Insecurity

Cats may bite out of fear. If there is a human or animal in the home that they are afraid of, they will likely bite, which is why cats may bite small children who want to “play” with them. Instead of play, the cat sees a toddler’s advances as a threat. Likewise, if you bring a new pet home, your cat may start to feel insecure and jealous. Cats are super sensitive, and they need to know they are loved.

Basic Needs Not Being Met

Cats need food, water, shelter, and attention to survive. They thrive off a schedule, so if your cat expects to eat at 6 PM, and there is no food, she may bite to let you know she needs her dinner. Cats will also bite their owners to get attention. This is one of the most “out of the blue” bites and may leave you confused, but just pet your cat and give her some attention.


Cats are typically playful; however, when playing with your cat, use toys instead of your hands. Cats love to pounce on and bite toys, so use laser pointers, stuffed mice, or other cat toys. If you use your hands, your cat may bite your hands, thinking they are toys.


You may be thinking that you don’t think any of these reasons fit why your cat bites you because he bites you gently and doesn’t pierce your skin. In this case, your cat may be showing you affection. This would be a playful, “love bite,” and it is a sign of your cat’s admiration for you.

Cat Biting

How Common Are Cat Bites?

Cat bites are common; there are an estimated 400,000 cat bites each year, but the number is much higher since these are the ones that are reported. While it may be funny when your cat bites you, it can pose a serious risk. In fact, according to Medical Daily, one in three cat bites will become infected. If an infected cat bite is left untreated, it can develop into cat scratch fever, a bacterial infection that causes flu-like symptoms and can cause long term problems like encephalopathy or vision loss.

How Do I Stop My Cat From Biting?

To get your cat to stop biting, first, you need to determine why he is biting. The reason may or may not be obvious, but it is something you can probably figure out. For example, if you recently had company over, and there was a human sitting in your cat’s spot on the couch, your cat may have resorted to biting. Cats are territorial, after all.

Make sure you do not yell at your cat. If she climbs up on the kitchen table or hides your favorite pair of socks, there is no point in yelling at your cat. In addition, try to watch your own emotions around your cat, whether it is stress, sadness, or anger. If possible, be happy and friendly, and your cat will follow suit.

Make sure you give your cat the attention and play time he needs. Lately, I have been shining the flashlight on my phone around my cat when it is dark, and she loves chasing it around. In fact, she could chase the light for hours!

If your cat bites you, don’t punish him, just stop engaging with him. Move your hand away, and this will signal to your cat that biting is not appropriate. You can say a firm, “No,” but don’t yell, or that may make the situation worse.

Black Cat Biting Hand

Bottom Line?

If your cat is like most cats, their biting is both cute and annoying. Sometimes it may be painful and break your skin. Wash your wound with soap and water and apply a band-aid. If your bite becomes infected with redness and swelling, call your doctor to get it checked out.

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Renee Whitmore is an American college professor and freelance writer from North Carolina. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English and a Master’s Degree in English Education. When she is not driving her teenage son to wrestling practice or learning the ins and outs of Fortnite from her younger son, she is working on her first book to be published soon.

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