Question: Why does my cat bite me when I stroke it?

Anita Kelsey, cat psychology expert, explains

I have personally experienced petting induced aggression with an otherwise sweet cat called Mish Mish (pictured below). She guides you into a force sense of security, head butting hands and legs, sweetly meowing with excitement and without any warning, once you gently stroke her head, she could turn around and bite.


Usually there are warning signs such as a twitching tail, back hair standing on end, or skin ripples along the back (these are all signs of annoyance or over excitement) but with this cat there are no signs. It comes out of the blue and has, sadly, made most people unable to stroke her.

Of course the above situation is extreme but with cats that get too excited or irritable with too much grooming the best thing to do is keep the stroking to an absolute minimum. Make sure you are aware of any warning signs and be content that a cat sitting on your lap may be the extent to which your closeness goes.

Extensive studies have been done but are inconclusive as to why petting induced aggression happens but Bonnie V Beaver has suggested the following theories:

  1. The cat initially enjoys the stroking but they reach a threshold because it has gone on for too long.

  2. A cat can only communicate that it wants its guardian to stop petting it by way of scratching or biting.

  3. A cat may be lulled into drowsiness via the stroking and then suddenly ‘comes to’ again and becomes startled.

Because these types of cats can sometimes be unpredictable it is wise to accept that these cats may never be cuddly and a stroke that lasts one minute is generally all that is needed, or tolerated.

With my cat Mish Mish, pictured right, I let her do all the rubbing, I keep my hands still, I keep my touch to a absolute minimum, no fast movements, and then we enjoy each other without any touching. Mish Mish lays on my lap or by my side and seems totally content. And that’s the way most cats with petting induced aggression should be treated. We have to respect that they find our touching them very annoying or stressful after a short time.

If you have asked yourself the question Why does my cat bite me when I stroke it and you would like to discuss this or any cat behaviour issues please don’t hesitate to email Anita Kelsey, Cat Behaviour Practitioner, on

You are not alone and all enquires are most welcome.