Why Does My Cat Bite My Hand?

If your cat grabs and bites your hands when all you want to do is pet your cat, maybe you aren't giving your cat what he or she wants.

Some cats scratch or bite to get attention. Via Cat Fancy/Flickr
Some cats scratch or bite to get attention. Via Cat Fancy/Flickr

By Julie Mignery

Q.

My cat Mr. Whiskers wants attention but then scratches or bites. Why? — Betsy Lawrence

A.

I think the problem is that while you’ve determined that Mr. Whiskers wants your attention you haven’t yet figured out exactly how to give it to him. I absolutely understand how you could be misinterpreting his demands. When my cat meows at me while I’m busy working and looks at me with her big green eyes I always want to pick her up and make her sit on my lap all day. I’ve learned, however, that after a dozen or so ears-to-tail pets she’d rather relax on the couch, on the fluffy gray rug in the bedroom or in whatever spot is currently catching the most sun rays. Sometimes she gives in and sits on my lap for a few minutes while I type, but most of the time she doesn’t. Next time your cat asks for attention:

  • Give it to him, but scale it back. Use a lighter touch when you pet him or scratch his head just once instead of the multiple times you might want to.
  • Watch his reaction. Does he try to scratch or bite only when you pet a particular part of him? Maybe he likes back scratches but would prefer you leave his tail or ears alone. Stop giving him attention the moment he reacts negatively. Get up and walk away. Maybe make a loud noise to let him know aggression is not allowed.
  • Consider that you might be interpreting his attention demands all wrong. Maybe he’s nudging your hand with his head NOT because he wants you to scratch him but because he’d like you to throw him a catnip toy. Maybe he’s meowing NOT because he wants you to pick him up but because he wants more food.
  • Trim his nails to limit the damage.
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Behavior and Training · Cats

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