Why Does My Cat Bite Me While Purring?

It Can Be a Shock But This Strange Behavior Can Be Explained 

I love my little fur balls… They make such a great part of my family, that there is no way I could imagine them not being there. But of course, there are times that make you wonder why they behave the way they do. And if you’ve ever asked yourself “why does my cat bite me while purring”, you’re not alone.

A surprising Bite

When you are spending quality time together enjoying each other’s company it sometimes comes as a complete surprise. The quick change of behavior, the total change that catches you off guard, a situation that is completely out of the blue – I am talking about the bite that happens when you least expect it.

It leaves you feeling sad and hurt, but most of all perplexed. I always ask myself “What on earth did I do wrong?” I might even get angry at the cat, because I just can’t believe that I did anything to upset it. So let’s explore why your cats would do this.

But actually, there are many reasons why cats bite you, even when they seem to be enjoying themselves, and if you look for telltale signs, maybe it will save you the pain.

Remember though that not all cats are the same, and they can react differently, depending on the situation.

Overstimulation

The most common reason why a cat bites or lashes out is overstimulation or over excitement. Meaning that it is enjoying the time with you, so much so that it gets to the point where it feels too good.

It is just like how you enjoy someone stroking your back or gently caressing your skin. The cats’ skin is full of nerve endings, and they come to you to feel pleasure and comfort, rubbing themselves on you till you start petting them. If you continue to pet them, it could come to a point where they have had enough. When the pleasure is too much and they need a break. They get overstimulated and need a “time out”. At this point, the cat will lash out at you and bite you hand – essentially saying “stop”.

However, it is a common misbelief that cats only purr when they are relaxed and enjoying themselves. In fact cats can purr when they are upset, scared, anxious or even threatened. They use the purring as a way to calm themselves. Almost like when we breathe deep and cross our arms to sooth our feelings. Since cats’ can´t hug themselves… They purr.

Look for Signs

If you look closely at your cat you will be able to see signs of how they feel. There is the flicking of the tip of the tail, or even a full slow swing of the tail, which is depending on the situation and also on the cat. Sometimes the ears twitch or even go flat. If you can see the pupils, you might notice them dilate completely. Some cats might become completely immobile, tensing up the whole body – as if they were ready to pounce on a pray. Although these are the most common signs, remember that all cats are different and can react in completely different ways. It really is down to how the cat is feeling and what it wants to say.

Is your cat trying to tell you something?

There is actually a range of different types of bites which cats use to communicate with you. For humans is not a very nice way to communicate, but for cats, the choices on how to “talk” with their human aren’t many, so they have to do what they do best.

Some people might call the bites – “love bites”, but the truth is that it is depending on the situation. A cat will only lash out when it has a motive to do so. 

It could for example be that they simply want to hold your hand, to spend some “quality time” together – so they gently bite and hold on a few seconds, not really letting you take away your hand. When they have reached a point when enough is enough, but they don’t want to let you go.

Or, when petting the cat, it could happen that you touch an area that is sore. If you think about it, imagine someone hugging you and you are sore from a session at the gym. It makes you feel pain and uncomfortable. That is when the cat might give you a large chomp, followed perhaps by a hiss, almost like it is saying “ouch, not there!” You might have simply hurt them by mistake.

A playful bite

Sometimes though, your cat just wants to play, and if you know how cats play – you know from experience that it tends to involve teeth, claws and a fair bit of “rough” playing. Since cats don’t know how to play like humans, they play like they play with each other, which involves biting. Depending on the game, it could be a swift bite or just a light gentle nibble. This is usually followed on by the digging in of some claws, almost immediately followed by the cat running away.

Closure

Another type of bite is more of a closure of the situation. They have simply had enough of petting and they want to move on to other things. So, they bite you quickly to just say “enough, I’m done”. This is not a bite that they do out of malice, it is just a bite to tell you that the “conversation” is over. If you at this point insist on continuing with the cuddles, ignoring the small but important telltale signs, the cat might even lash out harder, biting down hard and might even growl or hiss at you. Remember, your little fur ball is not yours – you are its human and it decides on when enough is enough. Independence is key!

Cuddles no petting please!

Also, there are times that the cat might be asking to cuddle with you, because it is not feeling well, like a child seeking comfort from mummy or daddy. It cuddles up and purrs with you- seeking solace. But as cats are very specific on what they want, they don’t want you to touch them that way, so they bite gently to tell you to stop and do something else. Usually after this bite, the cat moves away – almost like it is ashamed that it bit you.

The bottom line

Remember though, if your cat has bitten you hard, maybe even drawing blood – remember to clean the wound well and get it treated if needed. Don’t take any chances! These wounds can get infected which leads to other problems – so be careful.

Regarding the bite though, what you must remember is that your cat is essentially communicating with you, trying to tell you something and the best thing to do is to stop and look closely at your cat. Look for the telltale signs, think about how it is reacting and see if there is any reason for the bite. You are the person who knows your cat’s behavior and if you take notice of the cat’s behavior – you will be able to learn and understand what it wants to tell you. It is usually nothing serious and after a few minutes the bite will be forgotten and you will go right back to normal.

Hi, I’m Lucie, welcome to my website! Life simply wouldn’t be complete without cats… I’ve had a cat in the family for over 30 years now, plus I care for them as qualified vet nurse in a busy animal hospital. You can read more about me here.