My girlfriend and I have a 1 year old (or slightly younger) orange tabby that we adopted a little over a month ago. He is a good, easy-going cat overall, but he sometimes bites my girlfriend, either on the hand or face, for seemingly doing nothing. She’ll be petting him and he’ll want to bite her hand. Or, he will willingly come to HER while we’re laying in bed, cuddle, be loving, and then bites her face hard. He NEVER does this with me.

I should point out that I work from home, so I spend the most time with him. I feed him, I clean out his litter, I play with him. She will occasionally play with him and pet him when she comes home.

I was thinking maybe this is the reason why he bites only her. She has recently started to feed him and give him his treats whenever she is home but, so far he is still biting. Almost every day. I hope she just needs to continue to feed him and play with him for his behavior to change (We just started, afterall) But I worry it may be something else? Anybody have ideas or suggestions?


3 Answers 3


She’ll be petting him and he’ll want to bite her hand. Or, he will willingly come to HER while we’re laying in bed, cuddle, be loving, and then bites her face hard.

Counterintuitively, this may mean that he likes your partner more than he likes you.

One of our cats shows love by biting. Whenever we pet her and she's really happy about it, she will resort to biting extremities (toes, fingers, nose, wrist, arm, leg, ...). Based on her behavior, you can clearly see she intends it as an act of love. She does the same to her sister when they cuddle up.

She tends to never break the skin, so I allow her to bite softly. I appreciate the loving intention more than the biting inconveniences me. If she ever bites too hard, I pull back, say "ow" and stop petting her. That seems to very quickly teach her where I draw the line.

It's not impossible that your cat's urge to bite comes from a similar intention of reciprocating love, but he's simply oblivious to how forceful he's biting.

If you want to fix this, the first question you need to answer is where you draw the line. Are you going to forbid any (loving) biting; or is there simply a particular pain threshold that he must stay below?

The principle is the same: act like you're hurt and don't want to interact anymore. The cat will (after a few times) learn that it did something to ruin cuddle time, and thus will stop the biting.
Depending on where you draw the line, you should act more/less offended. If you want to institute a zero-tolerance, act more offended and immediately end cuddle time (make them leave the bed/couch). If you're okay with soft bites, be less offended: pull back, tell them off, enforce a short break (5 to 20 seconds), then resume cuddle time.


It sounds likely your cat is getting over-stimulated when she's petting him. This is a frequent problem in cats, where they come to you wanting petting, everyone's happy, and then all of a sudden the cat lashes out.

I would try to observe if there are any differences in the petting technique between you and your girlfriend. Especially in how long you continuously pet the cat, and if there are any areas she tends to pet that you do not. Over-stimulation is most likely to happen if you pet the cat for a very long time, or if you pet it in an area that seems to be particularly sensitive, in front of the tail, for instance, is a common spot for a cat to get over-stimulated if you pet it too much.

When petting cats, you should generally keep an eye on the cat to try to observe its body language for any subtle changes that may be an indicator it's getting over-stimulated. Don't pet the cat if you are not observing it, because that's the most likely time for you to accidentally do something the cat does not like. Signs the cat is getting over-stimulated include if the cat is twitching the skin on its back, if its ears go ever so slightly back, if the cat generally is seeming to tense up, especially in the face. If you observe these signs, simply stop petting the cat and leave it alone.

If this is a common problem, it's probably best to just limit the time of petting sessions in general, so the cat does not get over-stimulated.

It's also possible that the over-stimulation is happening because the cat is getting frisky, especially if it associates your girlfriend in particular with playtime. In that case, it's probably best to make sure the cat is played with before petting.


It's possible that your cat is biting out of excitement, or a little bit of jealousy(?). If the cat bites her hand, have her push her hand forward into the cats mouth. It's a bit counter-intuitive, but the cat cannot bite down if it's jaws are being shoved open and naturally release the hand. The cat will, in turn, forget about biting altogether. No solution for the face bites, except to say that the cat may automatically stop that behavior once it finds biting the hand is pointless.

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