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Cat biting often seems to come as a surprise. One minute your cat is purring while you pet her, the next minute she chomps on your hand. Why is that? It could be a few different things, but the most important thing is to start watching for signals that it's coming and change gears

Scenario 1: You see restlessness, tail twitching, flattened ears or head turning toward the hand.

Response: Stop petting. You probably have a sensitive cat who is overstimulated by the petting. At this point, try giving her a treat and a few more pets. You might be able to build up her tolerance gradually.

Scenario 2: Your cat is dozing in your lap, wakes up suddenly and bites your hand.

Response: It's too late. But now you know that it's a good idea to stop petting when she falls asleep in your lap. The theory about this behavior is that the cat wakes up disoriented and confined by something (your hands) and instinctively tries to get away. She probably will jump down, look confused and start grooming herself to calm down.

Scenario 3: You are petting the cat's stomach when she reaches to bite you.

Response: Stop petting her stomach. Cats have sensitive stomachs and can get defensive when touched there. They will wrap their paws around the wrist, hold on and bite.

Cats vary a lot in how much they like being petted or held by people. If your cat doesn't like much petting or holding, but plays with you, follows you around and sleeps on your bed, take heart. These are all indications of attachment and unhuggable cats can be just as attached to their people as huggable ones.

If you would like to work with a Wisconsin Humane Society behaviorist one-on-one regarding this behavior topic, please call 414-431-6173 to schedule a consultation or email us at