The full facts! Why do cats purr and then bite you?

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This is post is courtesy of Miauand, a web site all about cats.

why do cats purr and then bite you

Cuddling your kitty feels nice and relaxing as well but not until till it purrs and nibbles you. So, why do cats purr and then bite you?

This seemingly strange behavior, otherwise known as ‘love bites’, has baffled many cat enthusiasts.

Felines are the most temperamental and most unpredictable members of the animal kingdom.

One minute, they’re affectionately clingy and then the next minute they become aloof and unresponsive.

Moreover, we have no other choice but to cope up with their mood swings because we love our furballs dearly.

However, no matter how capricious they are, they still crave for our loving care and attention.

They also wish to be petted and gently stroked by their humans.
If you already own a cat, you’ve probably experienced having your arms or legs nibbled during moments of affection.

Moreover, you’re probably wondering what this unusual behavior means. As strange as it seems, love bite is an instinctive behavior that is inherent to domestic felines.

Love bite itself is not intended to harm their humans but is an expression of what they’re feeling.

They purr and bite for some reasons, and we’re here to help you understand why they do this.

It is also essential to know the difference between love bites and real cat bites. It would help if you learned how to distinguish between an affectionate bite from a dangerous one.

Here’s everything you need to know about love bites, how to understand this curious behavior and how to handle it.

Purring: The Prelude to Love Bites

why do cats purr and then bite you

At least we can all agree that all cats purr. Purring is one of the kitty’s ways of talking with you and with other animals.

We often hear them purr during pleasant moments such as cuddling, petting, and eating.

This gives the notion that purring is a feline’s vocalization to express contentment and happiness.

However, this concept may not be entirely accurate.

Felines also purr when they are anxious, scared, or in great pain. When your kitty purrs while you are petting it, never assume that it is very pleased with the moment.

Look at your pet’s facial expression to discern what your pet feels. Does it enjoy your moment together? Alternatively, is it already agitated and uncomfortable?

If your furry pet feels the latter, the next order of event would be biting.

Naturally, they would bite as an instinctive reaction to agitation and dread. Most of the times, soft purring can suddenly escalate into loud hissing if they are anxious or frightened.

So, be attentive to your pet’s purring and facial expression during moments of affection.

Purring and Biting

why do cats purr and then bite you

The misapprehension that purring is a sign of happiness has become the biggest regret of some pet owners.

Moreover, if you turn a deaf ear to its purring and turn a blind eye to its expression, expect the worse to happen.

Your supposedly pleasant bonding time can turn into one hellish experience when your kitty suddenly bites your hand after purring.

There are several reasons why they suddenly bite you all of a sudden. Yes, being nibbled without warning is truly agonizing.

However, you have to understand that this is a part of their

Let’s try to have a closer look at this feline behavior.

Love Bites

why do cats purr and then bite you

Never bite the hand that feeds you. However, of course, felines won’t bow down to anyone, not even to the hand that is petting them.

That is why you need to be careful when you’re with them. Even when they look happy now, the chances are good that they will flip and turn into a hellcat out of the blue.

If your furball has its eyes closed in silence while you’re petting it, that’s a sign that it’s enjoying what you’re doing. This means that it wants you to continue whatever you’re doing.

However, when it starts to purr with its eyes and mouth wide open, it’s best to stop whatever you’re doing.

Purring is probably your pet’s way of saying that it’s not feeling well anymore. It is also possible that you’ve absentmindedly touched a sore spot that might have triggered its agitation.

Ignoring the subtle signs can turn the moment into a regrettable event.

A cat in distress usually purrs loudly with its pupils dilated.

Moreover, it may stare directly at your hand with its eyes wide open, seemingly preparing to take a bite.

You can avoid getting the love bites as long as you can recognize the signs first.

However, if not, you might as well have hydrogen peroxide and a Band-aid ready.

There are mainly five reasons why our furry friends resort to love bites while we’re petting them.

1. Overstimulation

why do cats purr and then bite you

Our fastidious companions will surely let us know when enough is enough.

Prolonged petting can overstimulate your kitty to the point that it becomes aggressive.

Learn to read the signs telling you that your furball has enough already.

A thumping tail and loud purr with ears back are indications that you need to stop touching your pet.

These signs are as good as telling you to stay away from them right at the moment.

Staying away from them is the best thing to do in this instance. More importantly, this decision will save you from getting bite wounds.

Why do cats purr and then bite you? It is probably because of overstimulation as a result of prolonged cuddling and petting.

Hence, it is essential to read your pet’s body language and immediately back away when they tell you to stop.

2. A behavioral holdover from kitten days Kittens undergo teething phase wherein their baby teeth start to fall out to make way for adult teeth.

why do cats purr and then bite you

During this phase, kittens tend to bite just about anything to ease the discomfort of teething.

Since felines are creatures of habit, there’s a likelihood that they can bring this behavior into adulthood.

One of the reasons why they bite you out of nowhere is that they’re reminiscent of their teething days.

To save your arms and legs from their sharp teeth, some reliable teething toys can come in handy.

3. Aggression

why do cats purr and then bite you

Felines are temperamental creatures, and their sudden mood swings are difficult to decipher.

They can be remarkably calm at one moment, and then suddenly, they are behaving aggressively.

However, why do cats exhibit aggressive behaviors with no apparent reason at all?

Keep in mind that felines are initially wild hunters. Despite domestication, their instinct of hunting still runs in their blood.

With that being said, their hunter side will come out from time to time.

However, with no wildlife to explore and no prey to chase, their attention is then diverted towards you.

So, if you notice your kitty stalking you with steely eyes on their faces, prepare to be hunted.

In this case, do not provoke your pet’s aggression even more or you will regret it.

Stay calm and try to ignore your pet as much as possible.
Also, always be vigilant when you’re playing with them.

You’ll never know when their hunter mode is activated so be attentive to subtle signs.

If you feel that its behavior is becoming more violent (with biting attempts), it’s better to stop and keep your distance.

Instead, give your furry pet some toys to play with, or you can play fetch (if your pet knows how to play it).

Aggressive behaviors are also manifested when other animals try to invade their territories.

Alternatively, they feel threatened by the presence of guests in the house.

Amusingly, they won’t bite other animals or guests even if they feel threatened.

However, they would bite their owners instead. This is because felines won’t pick a fight with someone unknown to them.

If they’re not sure of what their enemies are capable of, they tend to redirect their aggression to someone they can get away with.

4. Being affectionate

why do cats purr and then bite you

You know what they say, love hurts. Sometimes, our furry companions would want to reciprocate our tender loving care by holding our hands.

However, they can’t hold our hands because they don’t have palms and fingers as we do.

They usually use their mouth whenever they want to hold something. So, if they gently bite your hand while you’re petting them, it may be a sign of affection.

However, when their biting goes overboard and realize that they’ve hurt you, they usually lick the bitten spot as a sign of apology.

5. Survival instinct

why do cats purr and then bite you

Felines are endowed with sharp canines, incisors, and premolars because their teeth are designed for both huntings and as a defense mechanism.

They won’t hesitate to bite if they are threatened or exposed to danger.

Purring is also an indication that they sense some threat around them.

With their guards firmly up, they tend to bite anything that touches them, including your hand.

If you notice that their defense instinct is in full swing, it’s best not to touch them. Let them calm  down for a bit and use soothing words instead of risking your hand.

Learn to Read the Signs

why do cats purr and then bite you

The best way to avoid getting love bites is to perceive the signs. There’s always a right time for cuddling, and there’s also a right time to stop petting.

As stated earlier, overstimulation and aggression are some of the reasons why they purr and bite you suddenly.

Luckily for us, signs of aggression and agitation allow us to keep away before their fangs can strike.

However, there are also other factors that may cause your pet to bite you all of a sudden.

Aside from reading its body language, it would help if you also looked at the situation and what is currently going on.

Does it sense some danger lurking nearby? Did it suddenly feel pain or discomfort?

Alternatively, did you do something to disrupt its peaceful siesta?
Also, please take note that the best time to cuddle with your furball is when they’re completely relaxed.

Picking them up when they are alarmed or tensed would only make their anxiety worse.

What to Do If Your Cat Bites You?

why do cats purr and then bite you

A gentle love bite should be mild enough not to break your skin. However, a more aggressive love bite could.

If bleeding occurs, immediately wash the bite wound with soap and water.

Apply some antibiotic ointment on the affected area to kill bacteria. Then cover the wound with a bandage.

For deeper wounds, it is best to bring yourself to a doctor to avoid severe infection.

The bacteria in the mouth or saliva can make their way deep into the skin.

Feline teeth are sharp that can create a deep and small wound which rapidly seals over, trapping the bacteria inside.

That’s why cat bites are considered to transmit higher risk of infection than dog bites.

In their mouths, all felines carry a large number of bacteria that can cause tissue infections in wounds.

The highly pathogenic bacteria Pasteurella multocida, is also present in their saliva that can potentially cause cellulitis and lymphangitis.

Cellulitis is a bacterial skin infection associated with redness and swelling of the injury site.

The swollen area often spreads rapidly and is usually painful with a burning sensation.

If left untreated, this condition can get worse, and infection may reach the lymph nodes and bloodstream.

It could lead to a more severe condition called lymphangitis wherein the lymphatic channels become inflamed due to infection.

In worse cases, the infection could also enter the bloodstream that can potentially lead to a life-threatening condition called septicemia.

Also known as blood poisoning, septicemia may progress rapidly without proper medical treatment.

Symptoms of this condition include:

  • rapid breathing
  • fever and chills
  • red dots appearing on the skin
  • increased heart rate
  • nausea and vomiting
  • inadequate blood flow
  • decreased urine output

Severe septicemia can progress to septic shock which is usually associated with body inflammation and multiple organ failure.

Taking all of these into consideration, it’s crucial to seek immediate medical attention when your cat bites you.

Of course, the wound would heal, but there’s no knowing if bacteria has entered the injury site.

So, it’s better to treat it immediately with topical ointments and consult a doctor for proper medication.

Are Kids Safe With Cats?

why do cats purr and then bite you

If you have kids at home, you’re probably having second thoughts about adopting a kitty now.

True enough, even a gentle love bite can easily pierce into your kid’s delicate skin.

However, don’t let this discourage you from getting a feline pet.
Teach your kids the proper way of petting a kitty.

Furthermore, tell them not to overstimulate or hurt the cat while they cuddle.

More importantly, keep watch over your kids while they’re petting your furballs.

If you notice signs of agitation or overstimulation on the cat, instruct your kids to stop petting. Then tell them to leave the kitty alone.

For infants, we don’t recommend allowing your feline pets near your delicate baby.

We understand that you both love your baby and your pet and you want them to get along together.

However, there’s always a right time for that. Wait until your baby is old enough to understand how to handle and pet a cat properly.

Risking your baby’s safety is NOT a good option no matter how you adore your kitty.

Remember, it is better safe than sorry.

Ways to Minimize the Occurrences of Love Bites Why do cats purr and then bite you?

Among other things, instances of love bites are mostly induced by petting.

However, there are ways to reduce the incidence of this aggressive behavior.

1. Medical care

why do cats purr and then bite you

Aggressive behavior can be the result of pain or discomfort. To make sure that your pet is free from any painful injury, have it examined by a vet.

Naturally, your pet would react violently if you accidentally touched a sore spot that you’re unaware of.

A regular visit to the vet will keep your pet’s health in tip-top condition.

Furthermore, early diagnosis of any underlying injury or disease can help your vet treat the condition before it gets worse.

Overall wellness is the key to happiness. So, if your cat is happy, it is less likely to misbehave.

2. Observe your pet’s mood

why do cats purr and then bite you

Choose the perfect time for a petting session. You can’t just pick up the cat out of the blue just because you feel like cuddling.

Sometimes, a cat will let you know that it wants to be brushed or stroked.

When it approaches you and starts rubbing itself against you, that’s a sign that it needs petting.

However, keep in mind that there are particular areas where they don’t like to be touched or rubbed.

Observe how your pet reacts when you touch different parts of its body.

Learn the areas where they want to be touched and the areas where they don’t want to be touched.

3. Interpret your pet’s body language

why do cats purr and then bite you

Cats can’t talk like us, so if they want to tell you something, they’ll manifest it through body language.

Even when they’re perfectly fine at the moment, you still need to pay attention to any signal or warning that it may give off.

Let us remind you that their behavior can change drastically fast and you might miss the signs if you’re not careful.

That’s why it is highly advisable to keep your eyes on your pet all the time during petting session.

The following are the most common signs exhibited by cats before biting:

  • dilated pupil
  • flicking ears
  • hissing or growling
  • thumping tail
  • mouth open
  • rippling of the skin

If you see these signs, your pet is probably trying to convey its feelings to you.

Then it’s up to you to interpret what your pet means by considering the current situation you’re in.

4. Scruffing

why do cats purr and then bite you

A cat has a loose skin around its neck called the scruff. We often see mother cats grasping their kittens by mouth through their scruffs.

Holding a kitten by its scruff, or simply scruffing, is a mother’s way of punishing unruly kittens.

So, when a cat is scruffed, it will realize that it has done something terrible.

If your pet attempts to bite you, gently grasp it by the scruff and lift it slightly while firmly saying ‘No.’

This disciplinary gesture will surely hurt your furball’s dignity, but it will teach your pet a valuable lesson.

5. Divert your pet’s attention

why do cats purr and then bite you

As mentioned earlier, our furry companions can become aggressive when they get deeply engaged with playtime.

If you notice that they’re trying to bite you during playtime, stop playing with them.

Then give them some toys to play with instead. Aggression will not last long, and they’ll eventually calm down after venting out their excitement or emotions.

When you’re sure that they’ve cooled down, you can resume playing with them.


why do cats purr and then bite youwhy do cats purr and then bite you

Despite their fickle personality, cats are affectionate creatures, and they would love to be cuddled from time to time.

However, why do cats purr and then bite you out of the blue?
Love bites may have different meanings depending on the current situation and the specific characteristics of feline pets.

This behavior is their way of communicating with you. That’s why you have to be receptive to every signal that they’re trying to manifest.

Interpretation of this behavior can be a bit tricky because it could mean the other way around.

They could bite you to show their affection towards you, or they may do it because they’re angry at you.

Learn to discern and decipher your pet’s mood and body language. This will help you understand what those signals mean.

Be careful and vigilant at all times because a love bite is not as sweet as it sounds. It could lead to severe infection if left untreated.

You can safeguard your kids’ safety by teaching them the proper way of handling a feline pet.

Also, you can make use of the ways to discourage your kitty in giving love bites.

To learn more about all things cat and kittens, and everything you need to know and have to make your cat happy, visit

We love our fury friends. And here's some great advice from some pet experts.

Pets Guest

We love our fury friends. And here's some great advice from some pet experts.

1 Response

  1. Nclght says:

    One of the main reasons is overstimulation. This occurs when you rub them too lightly. They are a bundle of high sensory nerves and stroking them too lightly gives them the heebie geebies, sees you like a creepy crawley and may strike out of instinct, especially if a stranger is doing it.

    Notice the force your cat uses when it rubs up against you. That’s the same force to use to stroke the kitty and it will love you all the more because you now “get it.”

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