How do I get my cat to stop biting and scratching me?

My cat is so aggressive! For no reason, he jumps on my hand a then bites and scratch!

Sound familiar? Or your friends were complaining about it? Have you seen posts asking for help on cat-related Facebook groups? If you have answered ‘yes’ at least once, it’s no surprise – aggression towards the keeper is one of the most common complaints from cat owners, showing how little we know about the nature of animals with which we live under one roof.

Because biting and scratching causes pain, it is perceived as a manifestation of aggression, which is a source of mythical ‘malice and bad will’ of cats. Is the cat’s intention really to hurt a human? No, very often attacking the legs and arms is not associated with the discharge of negative emotions. The majority of such actions is only channeling of natural behavior on man – including unsatisfied hunting instincts.

Why does a cat hunt a human?

There are several reasons, some may surprise you.

Bad habits

Many cats attack hands or feet because they were used to it. When a kitten is small, many keepers play with him using their hands or feet. It’s so sweet and cute. Right?

The problem gets serious a few months later when from a defenseless toddler your kitty turns into a hunter. Along with elongating teeth and claws, its strength and hunting needs also grow. The cat does not understand why something that was considered a normal interaction between him and the keeper, suddenly causes aversion. Why do we raise the voice or even worse hit our cat? On our own accord, in a few months, something that was previously “sweet” and “cute” gets “aggressive” and “malicious.”


Hunting humans is simply interesting. Why? The cat is a hunter, its habits are based on the senses. While most cat keepers will throw a ball towards the cat to watch with joy how an evolutionarily programmed predator jumps and chases it. The ball will fly wherever the cat wants, when it runs out of kinetic energy, it will simply stop in the middle of the room. Would the mouse do that? No. So it is no wonder, lack of proper stimulation, makes a human attractive for a cat: he has a smell and is warm to the touch, makes cool sounds when bitten and his movement cannot be predicted. A man is a challenge, a ball or a fishing rod winding up in front of a cat’s nose – not so much.

Incorrect socialization process

The social development of a cat is a process lasting about 3 months. During this period, kittens learn from the mother and siblings behaviors characteristic for the species, including determining pain limits. That is why it is extremely important to leave kittens with their mother up to 12 weeks of age. Unfortunately, most people who take care of young cats have no idea about it. Do the kittens use the litter box? They eat alone? Great, you can send them to new homes. Rapid separation, inability to determine the difference between playing and inflicting pain, can lead to a situation where the kitten will not know how to control its strength. When we add playing with the kitten with our hands and/or boredom, we get a recipe for a perfect storm.

As you can see, all of the above reasons are caused by a human factor: misinterpretation of cat behavior, lack of forward-thinking and ignorance of the true nature of the cat.

How can we avoid biting and scratching? How we can change the situation in which you have already become the best toys of our pets?

  • Do not take away kittens younger than 12 weeks from their mother. If you found an orphan cat, look for an experienced temporary with a mother and offsprings (or experienced adult cat) so that the kitten can properly socialize.
  • In order not to develop a bad habit, do not play with the cat with your hand.
  • Adjust the length and intensity of play with your pet. A healthy, young cat will need longer and intense amusement, cat senior – shorter but often.
  • Recreate the hunting cycle: after physical activity, give the cat a meat meal. Simulate movement of an escaping mouse with a toy, do not take it immediately after playing.
  • Choose the right toy. Distance toys are perfect – rods, strings with a mouse or feathers at the end.

Bad habits, inadequate socialization, and unfulfilled instincts are the most common, but not the only, reasons for attacks on humans.

Aggressive behavior can also be caused by:

  • Reaction to pain e.g. during an accident, illness, visits to a veterinarian.
  • Transferred reaction – the cat was upset earlier, and the frustration was transferred to the keeper.
  • Provocative human behavior.

If the cat has never shown aggressive behavior before and the change occurred suddenly, a visit to the veterinarian and a thorough examination is necessary! If you are unsure of the cause of the attack, or if the above-mentioned ways of dealing with this situation do not work, consult a good behaviorist. Good luck.

Best, Inari!

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