Why Do Cats Rub Against You Then Bite? An Experts Answer

As cat owners and lovers, we often receive various feline behaviors. One moment, our cat is rubbing against us lovingly, and the next, it seems to transform into a fierce hunter, nipping at our hand.

You are not alone if you wonder why cats display such a peculiar mix of affection and aggression. In this blog post, we will explore the reasons behind your cat rubbing and biting you and delve into the fascinating world of feline communication.


Why do cats rub against you and then bite?


Cats are complex creatures capable of displaying a wide range of behaviors.

One of the most curious characteristics of cats is their tendency to rub up against their owners and then unexpectedly bite them.

This might seem strange and dangerous, but fear not—the behavior can be explained.

Felines have scent glands on their cheeks and tail, so when they rub up against you, they’re marking you as part of their territory and reassuring themselves that this is familiar ground.

As most cat owners know, cats love to explore, but they also feel reassured knowing where their home base is.

If a cat can smell your scent on themself or in your apartment, it will provide them with a greater sense of security when stepping out into the big wide world.

The biting often occurs because the cat becomes overwhelmed by its desire to explore combined with the safety of being able to recognize its scent – it can lead to some over-excitement.


The power of scent marking


Cats carry scent glands around their body, including their cheeks, head, and the base of their tail.

When your cat rubs against you, they are engaging in a behavior known as ‘scent marking,’ whereby they deposit its scent onto you.

This action establishes you as a part of their territory and a source of comfort. In addition, scent-marking is a way for your cat to bond with you and share some love.


Seeking attention and determining the mood


A cat rubbing against you might also be seeking your attention. Like a dog wagging its tail, a cat rubbing its body against you is their way of demanding your attention and asking for some interaction.

Additionally, the rubbing serves as a means for your feline to assess your mood.

This contact lets them pick up on your energy and understand whether you feel stressed or relaxed.


Rubs turning to bites – an expression of overstimulation


Now, let’s address the perplexing moment when your furry friend suddenly takes a nip at your hand.

This action doesn’t necessarily mean that your cat has taken a disliking to you.

Instead, it is their way of saying they are overstimulated.

Cats can become easily overstimulated if petting or playtime lasts too long.

This can trigger a sudden change in their behavior, turning a loving rub into a gentle bite.


Play aggression and self-defense


Sometimes, the bites you receive after a cat rubs against you might result from play aggression.

Cats, especially younger ones, are known to be playful creatures that like to use their teeth and claws to explore their surroundings.

As such, the bites maybe your cat’s way of inviting you into rough-and-tumble playtime.

On the other hand, cats are also susceptible and can feel threatened by even the slightest environmental changes.

An unexpected noise or movement might trigger a defensive reflex, causing them to bite even though they were previously being affectionate.


Understanding your cat’s body language


Each feline friend is unique, and it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with your cat’s behaviors to know when they might be inclined to bite.

Reading their body language will help you preemptively identify potential biting situations.

For instance, if your cat’s ears are flattened against its head, or its tail starts twitching, it might feel uncomfortable, and a bite could be on the horizon.


Cats rub against you and then bite. How do I stop it?


As with all behavior problems in cats, you must understand why your cats rub against you and then bite. You will then be able to solve this problem.

Most cat owners will give up their kitties for this behavior. But, before you get there, I have a few suggestions to get your cat to stop biting.

As for cats rubbing against you, it is natural and expected behavior. I mean, your cat wants you to feel safe with you around. And because we move quite a lot, we bring home foreign scents.

Therefore, you may observe your cat rubbing to mark you. She needs to erase those scents and replace them with hers. A cat will only feel comfortable in a threat-free environment.

Below, we are going to look at how to stop cats who rub against you and then bite:


Rule out any medical reasons


If your cat suddenly starts biting your hands, you should check with your vet.

It could be that she is in severe pain leading to biting. Well, see a vet to rule out any medical complications. As we discussed earlier, your cat could also have gotten injured during a catfight.

Your vet will advise upon a conclusive diagnosis.


Invest in toys


Most cats start biting as kittens. Unfortunately, it is a behavior that we often forget to control.

They are so cute, which makes them quite tempting to hold and carry around. If you want to stop your cat from biting, invest in several toys.

If your kitten has just started biting, she could be teething. As a human child, your kitten will need something to chew on constantly.

It feels good, especially because she has that itchy feeling in her gums. Get her clean and friendly toys to chew on at the moment.

Also, avoid playing with your cat with bare hands. Instead, always carry a toy with you. This way, you can always produce it when your cat initiates play with you. It is not only good for distracting your cat’s aggression, but it is also safe to use.

A toy like a mouse look-alike will serve her predatory play. Remember that it is your cat’s nature to chase, hunt and kill prey. Therefore, provide interesting toys to meet these requirements.


Teach your cat that biting is unacceptable


As we have mentioned above, some cats start biting as kittens. It is because no one ever taught her to inhibit biting.

It is a skill earned in kittenhood, as a cat mother will not allow her kitten to bite her. So now, if you have a biting cat, you must play mother to her.

Whenever she attempts to bite you, ignore her completely. Leave the room when he bites you, and miss her.

You may come back a few moments later. However, it does not mean the play ends when your cat bites on you. Instead, teach her that aggression and biting have no place in your life.

Gradually, your cat will understand she cannot bite you or anyone else. Her mouth should not come into contact with your body.



So, why do cats rub against you and then bite? In summary, cats rub against you to create a bond, mark their territory, and gauge your mood, while bites often stem from overstimulation, play aggression, or self-defense.

Understanding these behaviors is integral to fostering a healthy and happy relationship with your feline companion. As you learn to read your cat’s body language and determine their comfort levels, you can transform these occasional nips into moments of shared understanding and affection.



Affiliate Disclosure
This website is supported by its readers. Please assume that all links are affiliate links. If you make a purchase from one of the links we will make a commission from Amazon. Thank you.

Michael Grover

About Me I have been a pet owner for most of my life. I am now retired and spend my days writing about problems relating to cats, dogs, and funeral poems. I am passionate about stopping animal cruelty in any shape or form. My passion is to help people like you identify behavior problems in cats and dogs. That is what I do. Over the years of my life, I have always kept cats and dogs. About four years ago I retired and found I had a lot of time on my hands, so I started to write all about dog and cat problems. It was suggested that I start up a website and publish my words to help people with their pet problems. I am still writing every day and hope you find my articles useful. Regards Mike Grover

Recent Posts