At one time or another, anyone who has owned a cat, or should I say, has been owned by a cat, has most likely been scratched or bitten. It’s just a fact of life cat lovers have to put up with. However, why is it that a seemingly affectionate and friendly cat will sometimes suddenly nip or bite? It doesn’t mean that the cat is dangerous or suffering from schizophrenia, but could mean that the cat is simply being a cat. The behavior of cats is not something that is easily understood and many researchers, and cat lovers, have discovered that one cat’s personality can vary greatly from another. For this reason, trying to predict a cat’s behavior or personality is practically impossible.
When a cat is purring, it’s happy. Everyone knows that. But I have personally been nipped by a purring cat. I did a bit of research and found some studies that said cats enjoy pleasurable stimulation such as stroking or grooming, and will purr. However, as the stimulation builds, for some cats, it can be too much and the cat strikes out at the cause of that stimulation, just to make it stop for a while. The cat can even continue to purr! Generally, though, there is usually some sort of warning sign, such as a flicking tail, flattened ears, a low, threatening growl or a sudden stop to the purring. If you are not paying attention to the cat and miss any of these warning signs, you may be the recipient of a scratch or nip. If the cat breaks your skin, be sure to wash the area very, very well, since a scratch or bite can easily become infected. I have even had cats bite a grooming brush!
If a cat does strike at you, try very hard not to pull away, as this will almost always result in broken skin. Nobody has come up with a good explanation as to why a cat will suddenly decide it has suddenly had enough ‘pleasure’, but if you have Fluffy on your lap and he/she is purring and looking sweet, it might be a good idea to not pet the cat continuously, just to give it a break in the constant barrage of stimulation. And, every now and then, take a look at your cat to see if it’s giving you any warning signs. Learn which signs your particular cat gives and watch for them. It’s also a very good idea to let your cat know early on, especially if you had it from a kitten, that biting is not acceptable. Don’t ever punish the cat, after all, it’s just doing what comes naturally, but speak firmly and stop the behavior. With common sense and love, you and your cat can enjoy a lifetime together.