|Unprovoked cat bites are scary and can be dangerous, but knowing the reasons behind why they might happen is a great way to stay safe.
Before we look at each, we want to remind you to be careful and take all cat bites seriously. Cat bites often get infected and require oral or IV antibiotics, and sometimes even surgery.
Symptoms of an infection include swelling, redness, pain, and skin that’s hot to the touch.
If you suffer a cat bite (that breaks the skin), please seek medical attention because the sooner you get help, the faster you will heal.
Reason #1 Redirected Aggression
Redirected aggression is when a cat takes their aggression out on someone other than the cause of their frustration.
The complicated piece of it is that it can happen long after the actual incident, which can make it difficult to determine their trigger. One of the most common triggers is cats they see outside because they can’t physically reach them. A cat can turn on any other animals or humans in the home.
If your cat is triggered by anything outdoors, try to block their access so they can’t see what upsets them.
Redirected aggression can also occur because one cat is triggered by another in a multi-cat household. Your best bet in this scenario is to separate the cats and do a slow reintroduction.
Reason #2 Overstimulation
Overstimulation in cats isn’t fully understood, but we know it’s a real thing. It occurs during play usually with humans or other cats, and sometimes with objects. It also occurs during affection. There are a number of possible reasons for it.
During play, a cat is often doing exactly what they would do if they were hunting. They stalk, pounce, catch and kill prey, and similar behaviors are seen during playtime.
Since hunting leaves the cat with a big reward or a lot of frustration (when the prey gets away), it’s possible the brain goes into overdrive, making the cat super excited (like we are when something cool or annoying happens).
Since play is similar, the same thing could be happening. Once you notice your cat might be getting overstimulated, it’s best to distract them by throwing a toy or turning on an automatic toy and walking away.
For cats that get overstimulated playing with other cats, you can use a blanket or towel to break up any fights. Never try to break up a fight with your hands.
Petting presents other possibilities for overstimulation. Typically a cat gets overstimulated when they’re pet head to tail over and over again. This could also cause the brain to get excited from the stimulation, and then their energy is too high and results in a nip or bite.
Another possibility is they’re giving us a small cue that they want us to stop, and we don’t notice it, and it ends in a bite.
Try to pet your cat in short stints, stick to the head, and only pet from head to tail a few times and stop.
Reason #3 Play
Biting is often part of playtime. Cats will bite toy mice, streamers, kicker toys, and fluffy balls, the same way they would bite prey.
When a cat is playing, it’s best to keep your limbs away from them and leave a distance so they bite their toys and not you.
Kittens are famous for wrestling hands and nibbling them. It’s cute when they’re small, but a problem when they’re big, which is why it’s recommended not to play with them using your hands.