VCA Animal Hospitals

Why does my cat bite me when I'm petting him?

Published: Aug 23, 2012

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It's a scenario many cat owners are all too familiar with. They are simply enjoying some petting time with their feline companion, when all of a sudden they are bitten.

Pet health experts say the behavior, known as petting aggression, occurs when the animal is no longer enjoying being stroked. Because cats can't speak, they use biting to say, "I've had enough. Now leave me alone."

Luckily, the aggression usually does not result in injury. However, it can leave pet owners confused and unsure of the proper way to interact with their animal.

It's important to know that petting aggression is a relatively common behavior. That being said, if your cat begins to exhibit it, you should consult a vet to rule out any underlying medical problems that are causing the animal discomfort. According to, conditions that may contribute to biting when being petted include arthritis, tooth ache or ear infection.

Cats who were not handled by humans early in their lives or who were poorly socialized may also be more prone to petting aggression.

The good news for cat owners is that it is possible to recognize the signs that the animal may lash out so they can prevent being bitten. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, growling or hissing are sure signs the cat is getting fed up. Other less obvious signs include tail twitching, body tensing, dilated pupils or ear movements such as flattening the ears against the head.

Ending physical contact and petting at the first sign any of these behaviors can prevent biting.

If you have difficulty recognizing the signs that your cat is becoming annoyed but know that he is prone to petting aggression, pet experts say it may be beneficial to find a preferred way to interact with your cat. This may be as simple as discovering exactly how and where the cat likes being scratched or eliminating petting in favor of other interactions such as allowing him to sit on your lap or playing games together. Vets say avoiding all physical contact may also be necessary in order to avoid this and other cat behavior problems.

One thing to keep in mind is that vets say it's important to avoid physically punishing your cat if he bites while being petted, as it will likely increase the animal's anxiety and cause him to become more aggressive.  


General Practice

We have over 540 animal hospitals in 41 states that are staffed by more than 2,000 fully qualified, dedicated and compassionate veterinarians, with more than 200 being board-certified specialists. The nationwide VCA family of general practice hospitals give your pet the very best in medical care, providing a full range of general medical and surgical services as well as specialized treatments*: Wellness, Spay/neuter, Advanced diagnostic services (MRI/CT Scan), Internal medicine, Oncology, Ophthalmology, Dermatology, Cardiology, Neurology, Boarding, Grooming

*services may vary by location.

Our family of pet hospitals stands out by delivering the greatest resources in order provide the highest quality care available for your pets. By maintaining the highest standards of pet health care available anywhere, we emphasize prevention as well as healing. We provide continuing education programs to our doctors and staff and promote the open exchange of professional knowledge and expertise. And finally, we have established a consistent program of procedures and techniques, proven to be the most effective in keeping pets healthy.

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Specialty Care

Sometimes sick or injured pets need the care of a veterinary medical specialist. When that happens, VCA specialty hospitals work closely with the general practitioner veterinarians who refer cases to us in order to provide seamless veterinary care to your pet. When your pet is facing any kind of serious illness or injury, our specialty referral hospitals will provide the compassionate and expert care your beloved pet needs.

Our goal is to make sure that when you and your pet are in need that you have access to board certified specialists who are up to date on the very latest developments in their field. In our state of the art hospitals, our specialists also have access to the most sophisticated diagnostic and treatment tools and techniques from ultrasonography and endoscopy to CAT scans and even MRI.

We have twenty-eight specialty hospitals across the US so there may be one near you. Our specialized services include: cardiology, critical care, dentistry, dermatology, internal medicine, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology, radiology and surgery.

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Emergency Care

In case of emergency, please call us immediately. If it is after hours, check with a local animal hospital emergency clinic.