We’ve all been there: you’re enjoying some quality time with your kitty, you’re petting her, she’s nuzzling you. Then, suddenly, she gives you a little nip. Ouch! A fairly common behavior, many cat owners call this “love biting”, while veterinarians and feline behaviorists have coined a more formal term: Petting Induced Aggression. So, why do cats bite? Read on to find out.
Petting Induced Aggression, better know as “love biting”, is a perfectly normal behavior for cats. It is instinctual for your feline friend to nip, particularly when she’s feeling overexcited, overstimulated or when she’s feeling a strong bonding connection with you, or another cat.
Figuring out the motive for a nibble can be a bit mysterious because it’s totally dependent on the specific circumstances. The motivation for a cat-bite can range from any of the following
- She’s tired of being pet
- She wants to be put down
- She’s getting carried away with a play session
- She wants your attention
Regardless of the reason, it’s important that you know how to read your furry friend’s body language. Though it may seem like your cat is being aggressive without warning, the odds are that she’s given you a few cues leading up to the nibble. If she has a history of biting, make sure you’re paying close attention during your petting sessions.
A few of the typical warning signs may include:
- Dilated pupils
- Tail lashing
- Tail thumping
- Skin twitching
- Ears flattened back against head
If your cat is demonstrating any of these signs, it’s important you respect her wishes and end your cuddle time immediately. If you’re paying attention, over time, you should be able to end your sessions before she starts showing signs of aggression. For example, if you pet your kitty for about five minutes before she starts nipping, try stopping around the four-minute mark. Cat behaviorists recommend leaving your cat wanting more because if you cease petting while the experience is still a positive one, it breaks the cycle of your cat ending it in a negative way.
It’s equally as essential that you pay attention to where your cat likes to be pet. She may love an ear-scratch, but if you stroke her on the lower back, you might be overstimulating her which can lead to an attack.
Additionally, ending play or petting periods with a treat is another great way to finish on a high note.
Most importantly, don’t punish your feline friend for Petting Induced Aggression. It will only continue to increase her anxiety and eventually ruin your bond. Remember, she’s not biting you to be mean, she feels this is the only way to let you know she’s tired of being touched. From her perspective, all other attempts at communicating this have failed.
Patience is a big part of having pets, but if you can “listen” carefully and try to empathize with her, you’ll almost always find a solution that will bring you closer together.