It depends on your cat’s situation, type of bite, and personality.
Light bites are often a form of affection or playfulness. Deeper bites can be a sign of overstimulation, pain, or anxiety.
As a veterinarian, this is a question I get asked often! Cats use body language as a form of communication as they cannot speak our language.
IN THIS ARTICLE
Why Do They Do It
Cats use a combination of body positions such as tail and ear positions, vocalization such as hissing or purring, and oral behaviors like biting and nibbling to ‘talk’ to us.
It can sometimes be hard to figure out what they are saying, so we have done the hard work for you.
When a cat hugs your arm and bites you, they are trying to communicate a message. This message can differ depending on the situation, as there are different reasons a cat may hug your arm and bite you.
Hugging your arm and then biting you can have five different meanings:
If you have been playing, cuddling, or grooming your cat, and they feel overstimulated and need some alone time or a break, they can use this biting technique to say, “I would like to have a break,” or escape the situation.
We see this behavior commonly in cats who need medical treatment, such as their deworming tablet, as it’s an easy, quick way for your cat to communicate they would like space from their situation.
Cats love to play! You may find that your cat is so lost in the moment of the game they forget that you are not a plaything and can hug and bite you as part of the game.
This is not meant to be a painful bite but simply a way of saying they are having a great time playing with you.
When a cat wraps their arms around you and bites, they mimic the behaviors used in hunting. Play-biting is used to practice these essential hunting skills, and it’s not related to aggression or behavioral problems.
We see this behavior more often in younger cats and kittens still learning to stalk and hunt prey. Younger cats and kittens tend to grow out of this behavior with time as they transfer their play skills to real-life situations outside the home.
If you think your cat is playing with biting, ensure you have many toys to move their biting behavior onto. Rotating the toys regularly to keep them interesting is another good trick to keep their teeth away from your arms!
In the wild, a cat is a solitary animal and lives alone. Now they live happily in our homes with us, but even so, they can spend much time alone.
Many cat owners will consider it an honor when their cats choose to spend time with them. A gentle arm hug or nibble can be their way of saying how much they love you! (even if it’s not a particularly enjoyable experience for us!)
During the day-to-day job as a veterinarian, sometimes you meet a cat who enjoys biting people regularly, which can be related to a behavioral issue.
After a complete physical health check to make sure the behavior is not related to pain or illness, a referral to a veterinary behaviorist is made.
This allows training alongside anti-anxiety medication to help your cat unlearn this biting behavior. It can be a long journey, but with time and patience, your cat can learn that biting regularly is not a behavior you wish to see.
Biting, nibbling, and licking are all utterly normal grooming behaviors that your cat will regularly use on themselves and possibly other cats or people.
If your cat is biting you, they may be trying to display grooming behaviors, which is another way of showing affection for you. Spending time grooming your cat may strengthen your bond if your cat likes to groom often.
Now that we know the most common five reasons cats hug and bite your arm, it’s worth noting the risks of these types of behaviors. Hugging and biting your arm can be an utterly harmless behavior, but sometimes accidents happen, and then it’s vital as a cat owner that you are prepared to respond to this.
While there are many positive reasons that your cat may choose to hug your arm and bite you, now and then, a cat may bite a bit too hard and puncture the skin.
If your cat does this, you must seek medical care immediately.
Cats carry many bacteria in their mouth that can cause serious bacterial infections when transmitted through a deep cat bite. Veterinarians and vet nurses are well aware of this risk as it is common in our job.
Some cat bites can be so profound that surgery is needed to flush and clean the pocket. So, while a cat bite may look unconcerned initially, it’s always best to seek medical attention if your cat breaks your skin with a cat bite.
Sometimes biting can signify boredom or frustration, so look at your cat’s environment and ensure they meet their needs.
All cats must have a minimum of a safe sleeping area, a litter tray, food, and water. Cat scratchers, toys, and trees allow your cat to express natural behaviors such as scratching and marking. This is important for their mental health.
Different types of toys- chewing, chasing, and puzzle- and spending time playing together will help keep their spirits up. Some cats are particularly clever and enjoy learning tricks. The more time you spend with your cat, the better you will know what they like and how to keep them happy.
Looking at their body language, the events happening at the time, and knowing your cat’s behaviors well will help you to tell what they are trying to communicate.
If you can’t work it out for yourself, don’t stress, a veterinarian will be more than happy to talk through what’s going on and try to find out what the underlying reason is, so always reach out to your local clinic if you are struggling with a biting issue.
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