Why Do Cats Purr And Then Bite You?

Well, Sometimes Love Hurts. I have 4 cats that do this to me most times. It’s usually because I ask for it but sometimes that’s not the case. It’s always a hit or miss when they decide to turn their head and give your hand a big chomp. I dug a bit to here to see why this happens.

So, why do cats purr and then bite you? Cats purr and then bite you because of overstimulation. And with that can lead to some bad kitty behavior. So, listen to your cat’s body language and if they hiss, spit or bite, even if they may be purring at the same time, just back away.

Easy enough, right?

Why do cats give love bites?

Let’s set this mood:

Every once in a blue moon, apparently out of nowhere, comes a gentle nibble, a slightly startling bite, or an outright chomp!

What madness possesses your beloved feline?

Fortunately, it’s probably something as simple as you not understanding what’s going on in that furry little head.

We’re here to help translate it for you.

Why Do Cats Purr And Then Bite You?

Cats don’t have thumbs as we do, their paws don’t function the same way as our hands do.

When they want to grab or hold something, they frequently use their mouth to do it.

Biting you gently is a way to hold your hand, and your cat either wants you to stop doing what you were doing with your hand (maybe you were petting him and he was overstimulated) or to tell you he wants you to use the hand he is indicating to do something else (like play with him or pet him).

Possibly he even wants you to use it to apply a can opener to a can of cat food.

There are three possible reasons for these “holding hands” bites.

  • First, he may want you to play with him and he is trying to grab you – sort of the first move in wrestling for a cat.
  • He could also be trying to hold you because he wants affection.

In these two cases, a cat biting you is similar to a small child grabbing something with his hands.

Just remember that this type of bite is a grab and hold – so you just need to figure out why he wants to grab or hold you.

Cats can also become overstimulated by repetitive petting, which can trigger a bite reaction.

It is your cat’s way of saying “enough already!”

Watch your cat’s other body language, especially her tail, to see if she is becoming overstimulated.

Also, you can say, “why when my cat rubs against me then bite”?

For me, when my cat does this, she wants to play or wants my attention.

Here is a great video explaining why cats bite:


A twitching tail is a clue to back off for a bit.

“OK, maybe that makes sense on some cat planet, but why or what does it mean when a cat bites you then licks you?

Does she have multiple personalities?”

This kind of bite is usually the result of overstimulation.

Why does my cat bite me when she’s being affectionate?

The licking afterward is a sign of affection, almost an apology for biting you.

Cats lick those they consider family, so the bite and lick is a way of saying, “I’m sorry I had to bite you, I still love you.”

Here’s another possible reason for a bite-lick:

Sometimes, cats wrestle and one pins the other cat down, especially a younger cat, and then licks them.

This is a show of being a senior cat and giving the young one a bath.  So the bite and lick could also be a cat treating you like another cat, one who needs a bath.

Cats use their survival instincts honed over many generations and do few things without a reason.

Everything they do is geared toward survival in some way.  

  • Napping saves energy between hunts.
  • Purring heals the body and can even help bones knit together.
  • Playing helps to keep their hunting instincts sharp.

So, there is a reason.

If you observe their situation and body language, you can likely figure out that reason, even if it’s not obvious at first.

As we’ve already mentioned, it may be overstimulation, or your cat wants to play, or they are simply busy with other things and don’t want to deal with you at the moment.

There is a (very rare) possibility that your cat has some sort of behavioral or mental health issue and is very stressed out.

He shows he loves you by rubbing against you but then bites you because you didn’t react the way he expected.

This can happen if he rubs against you as you are walking and you don’t stop and he perceives you are leaving him, or if other cats are stressing him out and he wants you to intervene.

As with any other biting behavior, look at:

  • context (what is the situation and what else is going on?);
  • body language (is he purring and relaxed or tense and alarmed?);
  • recent behavior (was he being playful a moment ago or did you wake him up and startle him?).

If you can figure out what caused the biting behavior and work on understanding your cat’s body language,  you will be able to intervene before negative behavior happens in the future.

What Should You Do If Your Cat Bites You?

Goodness, if your cat does get a good grip and breaks the skin, definitely head to the sink and wash with soap and water.

Then get some healing ointment for the pain (because it will hurt or more like sting afterward) and bandage it up.

Because cat bites are like little bacteria injections, you should call your doctor, so they can make sure it won’t become infected.

As stated by:

It’s also important that you treat a bite wound right away. “Cats have especially small teeth and that causes an injection of bacteria deep into the skin,” explains Dr. Kate KuKanich, an associate professor of small-animal internal medicine at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University in Kansas.

Now if this is a highly aggressive type bite (from an attack) please go seek medical attention immediately!

But for the average home cat parents, these are the basics.

I was reading a story here on how to treat cat bites and puncture wounds, from a guy who learned the hard way while working in a shelter.

I feel that no matter how small always take extreme care of you get a bite from a cat and it breaks the skin.

Check out this case of a cat bite and what she did:


If the nerd in you wants to know why they gave her antibiotics, check out this article on the Microbiology of Animal Bite Wound Infections and scroll down the page for the “Cats” section.

They say the common bacteria that were considered as the most likely pathogens were:

The most common type of infection was a non-purulent wound with cellulitis, lymphangitis, or both (42%),  followed by a purulent wound without abscess formation (39%) and abscesses (19%).  Mixed aerobic and anaerobic infections were most common among abscesses (73%),  followed by purulent wounds (64%) and non-purulent wounds (58%) (206).

Safe to say that’s why the doctors might generally give you antibiotics for a cat or even a dog bite.

Cats And Kids

Thinking of adopting a cat with a toddler? Or even with a baby?

With their soft skin, even a love bite can feel like a piercing knife. Always best to safeguard when it comes to both baby and your cat.

For your kids:

If you feel your cat may “love bite” your little one, please teach them immediately how to properly handle the kitty. Or even if you have babysitters or nannies, advise them on how to enforce this as well.

For a baby:

Please don’t buy into the urban myth or old wives tale that a cat will suck the life out of your baby OR they will smell milk on their breath and suffocate them.

Not true.

However, please don’t let your cat sleep in the crib, bassinet or anywhere your baby sleeps. They can climb on them and suffocate them that way.

On a personal note:

I have 4 cats and when I had my daughter, they were pretty much exiled from the upstairs (you can get the Regalo Extra Tall Pet Gate to keep them out. This is the one we use and they couldn’t jump it!) just to prevent this and of course all the cat hair getting everywhere.

To put a bow tie on this topic, I hope we were able to wrap your kitty mind around the question in general: Why do cats give love bites?

Overstimulation, they just don’t know what to do with all those feel-good moments and survival, they need to protect their vitals from being pet too hard or rough.

Take it easy on your cats, or you’ll be in for a painful surprise.

4 thoughts on “Why Do Cats Purr And Then Bite You?”

  1. Hi… every night my cat lays in our bed… he then comes over to me.. purring like a trooper…. rubs against me… then hits mine with his paw till i pay attention to him… sometimes i bend my head down to him…. he runs against me and pokes me… licks me… then pushes his head to my mouth where i give him kisses…. he usually just likes the kisses …. but last night he chomped on my bottom lip hard…. i don’t get why because he has never in 10yrs bit my face… he is a biter… always when being pet… but never usually hard…. he knows what he did was wrong because he puts his head down…. but he also will do it again…. why would he bite my lip the way he did?

  2. I’m a my wit’s end. We have a foster fur baby. He’s an independent guy. He wants to be in the room with us. He wants to sleep with us, but only by our feet.
    When he comes in from being outside or when we come home, we have a routine we call “paying homage”. It’s the only time he want to be pet. He flops on the floor and wants about a minute of pure petting and attention.

    The issue is the mornings. When he wakes, he comes to the head of the bed. He’s purring and gives little head butts. He then sits on his “target’s” chest or shoulder. He continues to purr, but we have learned not to pet him. We love this time with him. The lovey snuggles are why we wanted to take him in for a while. The problem is that when he’s done purring, he bites. Hard. If we’re lucky, it’s a hand or arm. It can often be my face. Today it was my cheek. I try to position my hand defensively, Today, I thought he was asleep. He wasn’t. This type of bite isn’t from overstimulation on our part. It’s fast and harsh. The results are often bloody.

    I really want to keep him for the rest of his intended stay. If he bites one of my kids and draws blood, he will have to go.

    I’ll try anything. He’s otherwise sweet and fun. He loves to play. He’s got a great personality. It sounds like he may have been separated from his mother/siblings too young and never learned that bites hurt.

  3. Thanks for clearing this up. My cat was weaned too early, lived in a home where she was fed scraps and fostered by a friend before I gave her a forever home. We bonded quite quickly because I kept her in for a month before slowly introducing her to the outdoors, tempting her back with treats when she strayed too far. Some nights she wants to stay out and other nights she will come in and establish herself on top of my bed before my bedtime. She stays on top of the duvet all night, snuggled against my leg, sometimes I fall asleep with my arm around her back. She likes to start trying to wake me at daybreak. The love bites happen mostly in the morning when she has been trying to wake me, demanding petting but she will suddenly grab my hand or the soft skin just below my elbow. She has never pierced my skin. I have so far responded by pushing her away, after which she will retreat to her second most favourite sleeping place in the spare room.

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