Since we've adopted our cat, we're having some trouble with sudden bites. Sometimes when she's in a completely relaxed attitude, she suddenly opens her eyes and bites me or my girlfriend. Although many people would say she does that just playing, I'm not sure since she bites so strongly (we still have some scars from months ago).

Usually, her first target is our hands and arms when we're cuddling her. She usually has her eyes closed, suddenly opens them, and we get a good chunk taken out. But our arms are not the only target; our knees, shins, feet are also. Though those areas are less frequent and probably weaker, they still hurt.

We've never beat her (she obviously gets some spank when she's doing bad), and she also knows biting us is bad, as immediately after the bite, she runs away as far as she can.

She is sometimes a bit easily frightened; she's the only one cat at home though, and not especially affectionate. We've tried anything to make her discourage doing this including water spray bottle, spanks, closing her up in her carrier.

Can someone explain why this behavior is happening?

  • 2
    Adopted from where? Is she a former street cat? Is she a kitten, a young cat or obviously an adult? Have you had a cat before this one? Other pets in the house? Does she use her claws too, or teeth only? Feb 16, 2014 at 23:30
  • We got her when she had 1month, until then she was with her mom at a family's house. Noone of us had a cat before, she's 2years now and indeed, she uses her claws too. No other animals here.
    – NKN
    Feb 16, 2014 at 23:51
  • Related: pets.stackexchange.com/q/16/31 Feb 17, 2014 at 0:37
  • 1
    Also take a look at @Zaralynda's answer to question "How should I discipline my cat for bad behaviour?" Feb 17, 2014 at 6:11
  • 1
    you might just be missing other warning signals that the cat is displaying, a cat can look totally relaxed to someone who doesn't understand them yet completely ready to attack for all it's worth Feb 17, 2014 at 8:58

3 Answers 3


Have you ever watched videos of cats hunting? Ever notice that the cats are relaxed, even appear dozing, and then suddenly explode into action? Cats are sit and wait predators and are able to go from a more covert monitoring of the surroundings to sudden action extremely quickly. That does make spotting the signs very challenging, but it's supposed to.

As a quick comment: physical punishment is very unlikely to be effective. I used to be of the "squirt bottle" mindset, but it's effectiveness is extremely suspect. Basically, you're assuming that the cat is connecting your aggression properly, rather than seeing it as a reason for their own. In other words, you may be teaching it the exact opposite to what you want to be teaching them here...

Based on various research, cats have a socialization sensitivity period of about 12 weeks and during that period need to be handled and socialized with humans and with other cats. Based on your description, you were handling the kitten from earlier periods, but it was not fully socialized with other cats and that is how it learns some of its interaction skills. In the absence of the other cats, the sole source of learning in this respect has come from your efforts.

Also, as you noted, your cat is skittish, which is another reason I think they problem is insufficient socialization time. Not being especially affectionate is also another sign. The cat is likely to retain this general pattern even if she eventually completely trusts you and your partner. The one thing to be aware of us that a suspicious, distrusting, cat being confined is only going to enhance aggression, not subdue it.

At this point, your better options are to look for ways to encourage the more desirable behaviour and this takes some real patience. When I was much younger, we adopted a persian that had been horribly abused by the "man" (I have a very poor opinion of animal abusers) of the house and as a consequence he was terrified of males and male voices. I spent many, many, hours on my side and stomach talking to him and coaxing him with treats and short pets until he eventually came to trust me and no longer fear. At which point, he became a huge lap cat, one that would happily lie on you and enjoy petting for hours on end.

I think a similar approach may help here. Basically, start out with very short duration pettings and reward her with a treat at the end of the session if she doesn't react aggressively. As time goes by, slowly increase the duration of the sessions, maintaining the reward for success until she overcomes her biting desire. She may never really react to other humans positively, but if you can get her to a place where she will with you, that's something at least. Patience is the key, it can take many months.


My deceased, much-missed Raphael was notorious for this sudden biting--more than once he'd bite me on the nose and draw blood!

After biting me out of the blue, he'd recoil immediately, bracing himself to be smacked, knowing he had done wrong (or maybe he was just assuming a defense posture), as if he had made a bad split-second decision and knew there was going to be a repercussion.

Over time I had to accept that was just part of his nature (I can't say why, perhaps he was abused before I adopted him at 6 months), and couldn't control himself. Even if we were cuddling, and I went to give him a peck on the nose, he simply just did not like me putting my face too close to his in any circumstances.

All other signs suggested he loved me very much. So my only recourse was to take the high road, and do what I could to control myself: I made sure never to put my nose too close to his face, it was just too tempting a target for him. I stopped smacking him after he did it (not too hard, of course, just a consequence that indicated he had performed a bad action). I tried to avoid putting him in the situation where he would make the wrong choice. He simply wasn't going to learn or change that behavior.

I had to accept that he wasn't going to drop that bad habit and had to continue to love and accept him for what he was, unprovoked biting and all.


It was legs with my cat. He was friendly and would always come up for a cuddle and a nuzzle but every now and then he'd go for the leg, and then scarper. It was usually in the middle of the night and you'd be fast asleep with a leg out of the cover and he'd sink his teeth in. Occasionally he'd claw at a bare leg when you walked past.

We'd found him as a stray kitten, only three or four weeks old, and had 2 other cats in the house, so he was socialised with cats and humans from a very young age.

We lived with it. He died at age 15 and never lost the urge to kill a bare leg at random intervals.

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