Why Does My Cat Bite My Hand When I Stroke Her?


by Larry Chamberlain

You have settled into your favorite armchair, perhaps reading the final chapters of a gripping novel. Suddenly you are aware of the imploring stare of your cat sitting at your feet. You invite her onto your lap. Gently you begin to stroke her and your cat signals her appreciation with an audible purr.

One hand holding your book the other hand continuing to pet your mouser, you again get lost in your novel. All is well in the world with you and with your cat.

Suddenly your cat bites your hand

The experts don’t agree on exactly why it is that some cats enjoy being petted, but end up biting. One thing that they do agree on is that when kitty bites at you, it’s a sure sign that she has decided that she’s had enough stroking.

Cats differ in the amount of petting they will accept, and not all cats respond by biting when they have had enough. Some cats simply jump from your lap and saunter off to investigate interests anew. But many cats will nip you and your animal is one of them.

Could you have known that a bite was on its way? Yes, there are often signs that cats give before biting. And, if you had not been so wrapped up in reading your novel, you may have paid heed to your little pets warning.

If kitty’s tail begins to twitch, in a rolling flick, watch out! She’s getting ready to chomp at your hand.

If your cats ears start turning towards the back of her head, or flatten against her head, that’s a warning a bite is coming.

If your cat suddenly becomes restless, or stiffens and stares at your hand, she could be about to nip you.

If you noticed any of these signals, simply stop stroking your cat. Your pet will either stay on your lap or jump down and walk off, whichever happens you don’t get bitten.

What you should not do is punish your cat for biting your hand. That simply does not work. Cats are more likely to identify the punishment with you rather than with their bad cat behavior. If you miss a warning sign and kitty manages to get her jaws around your hand, try to resist the temptation to pull your hand away or push your cat away. Simply freeze. Chances are that your cat will not sink her teeth in, she has got her message across, and you have stopped petting her.

If you try and push your cat away it is likely that she will fight with your hand resulting in skin punctures for you. (An animal bite can become infected quite easily, if your cat does draw blood clean up the wound scrupulously and seek the advice of your doctor.)

Why do some cats behave in this aggressive way? The degree of tolerance to petting may be genetic, or it may be learned behavior. If when your cat was a kitten you allowed her to chew on your hand in play, she learned that biting human hands was an OK thing to do. So, when she feels that she has had enough stroking (she’s the boss remember,) she will bite at your hand to let you know – if you ignore her warning signals.

Some experts recommend the use of healthy tidbits, as a reward, in order to increase the time your cat will tolerate stroking. At the first warning signal offer kitty a treat, continue to stroke your cat gently for a time and offer her another reward. It is said that your cat will learn to connect petting with the tidbits and may, with patience, allow you to pet her for longer periods.

Larry Chamberlain is a life long lover of cats. To find his articles and thoughts about the domestic feline visit http://www.best-cat-art.com the site for all the best in cat art, cat and kitten health and cat issues


About Author

Devoted pet owner and now, devoted pet editor, Judi spent her time working in traditional offices, keeping the books and the day-to-day operations organized. Taking her dog to work every day for over a decade never seemed odd. Neither did having an office cat. She knows what it's like to train a new puppy and she's experienced the heartache of losing beloved companions.


  1. My cat is a biter. Ha. He will bite or protest when he’s had enough petting or thinks he’s been held long enough. Usually though, he simply walks away or whines if he wants to be put down. That’s just his personality and I love him any way.

  2. My cat bites like that – but you can see she gets agitated before she does. Sometimes however, you can also see that she herself is not so sure if she wants more petting or if she really needs to go out and patrol the grounds…

  3. My male cat, Buddy, is a biter and a kicker. He’ll come up looking for some attention, I’ll get about 2 strokes in and bam; he’s on the floor kicking himself. This is usually the sign that he’s had enough, but then once he’s done kicking himself; he gets back up and comes back for more. 2 more strokes and he’s on the floor kicking again. This will continue of we allow it and then he’ll bite and run away to plop on the floor and kick himself.

  4. Cats are often quite independent creatures and resent any attempts at forcing them into interacting. Clearly, by making any interaction with you a positive experience for your cat, you will increase the tolerance and perhaps eventually affection that your cat shows towards you.


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