Why does my cat bite my girlfriend?
March 25, 2010 5:27 PM   Subscribe

Can someone explain why my cat bit my girlfriend? I was tickling her and she was laughing with somewhat of a high pitch, and the cat ran over and nipped her on the face.

We were both in bed at the time, so no, the cat didn't launch itself into the air to attack - just ran over and bit. We were shocked. I tickled her again, and the cat bit her again. I tried laughing or making high pitched noises, and both of our cats stared at me, but that was it.

The cat is a very sweet one year old female. She's playful, and I've never seen any aggression from her before towards us or our other cat.

Looking back, there was another incident where the cat licked the sheet near my girlfriend's face when I was tickling her, but no biting.

Obviously, my cat doesn't like something about the noise, but does anyone have any further insight about what's going on?
posted by dragoon to Pets & Animals (41 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
cats are weird. i have two, and i still don't understand half of what they do.
posted by TrialByMedia at 5:30 PM on March 25, 2010


Obviously the cat was feeling playful, or affectionate, or threatened, or bored, or the alien overloards that tell it what to do were running a controlled experiment.

I may have missed something.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:34 PM on March 25, 2010 [7 favorites]


I think ChurchHatesTucker may have hit the nail on the head.

Was it just a bit, or were there any claws involved? What part of her face did the cat bite?

Oh, maybe the cat was seeking to share your feasting on your kill.
posted by jabberjaw at 5:38 PM on March 25, 2010


I have a cat that hates our dog. If I get down on my knees and start playing with the dog — patting him, teasing him a little, poking at him, tugging him around any, etc. the cat will run over and swat at him. I've decided she thinks she's joining me in killing him once and for all or something.
posted by floam at 5:43 PM on March 25, 2010 [15 favorites]


My friend has a small female cat that does the same thing to their other male cat. If he makes a distressed noise because someone steps on his tail or something, she will come running across the whole house and down two flights of stairs and deliver an unholy ass-kicking to him. We also had a female cat that bit my wife when she was singing hard enough to draw blood. Cats can do weird things. Oddly enough, all of these cats are female. Maybe there is some kind of connection there.
posted by jefeweiss at 5:44 PM on March 25, 2010


The cat is a very sweet one year old female. She's playful

Maybe she wanted to play too? Was it a "nip" or a "bite"? Was she otherwise aggressive?

Also, seconding everything above: Cats are Weird.
posted by MuChao at 5:46 PM on March 25, 2010


cats are weird. i have two, and i still don't understand half of what they do.

Yeah, I think we established earlier that they're weirdos, the lot of 'em.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:57 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Cats bite for play - it sounds like it was a playful nip rather than a serious bite. (Especially if you two paused, then let the cat bite you again - doesn't seem that serious.) Maybe she was just getting worked up in the atmosphere.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 6:02 PM on March 25, 2010


I had a cat who reacted like this to loud, high-pitched noises coming out of my mouth (I'm also female). My other cat becomes very happy when I whistle, approaching me from across the room to purr and rub his face very hard against me. But this one cat, on the other hand, would approach me from across the room in order to bite me gently on the chin while I whistled. If my chin was out of reach, she would bite me on the elbow. She had the same reaction to my singing when I got loud. So I would say your cat reacts in a similar way. You may want to try whistling to see if she bites you then.
RIP, Mittens.
posted by wondermouse at 6:13 PM on March 25, 2010


My female cat does the same thing occasionally.. only to one person whom she finds very interesting/annoying/wonderful/spicy. She gets as close to my friend as she can and if said friend laughs or tries to get up ... she tries to bite her nose.

We can't figure it out and I rather like the fact that we can't - cats are weird (see above and the link that churchhatestucker has provided).
posted by Weaslegirl at 6:13 PM on March 25, 2010


It wasn't a full out tear-your-flesh bite, but I'm told it was harder than a play nip. No claws. They were on my girlfriend's cheek.

Solon and Thanks: Weird(er) thing is, the cat wasn't involved at first, just kind of came barrelling out of nowhere to deliver a bite.
posted by dragoon at 6:14 PM on March 25, 2010


"the cat licked the sheet near my girlfriend's face when I was tickling her" literally made me LOL, and that hardly ever happens. I mean, that is just SO strange! Cats really are beyond the pale, and I say that with all the love in my heart.

If we start with licking, and then progress to nipping, I would put that somewhere on the "nursing" continuum. A mother cat will lick her babies, obviously. A baby cat will suckle its mother with a motion much like biting.

If you've ever heard itty bitty brand new kittehs, they do make a squeaking sort of cry.

But yeah mostly I go with ChurchHatesTucker, and reference that prior thread. Cats is crazy.
posted by ErikaB at 6:16 PM on March 25, 2010


Cats have MUCH more sensitive hearing than humans, especially in the higher ranges. Perhaps the cat was reacting the same way you or I would if someone started making a VERY loud high pitched sound.
posted by dacoit at 6:17 PM on March 25, 2010


I have seen it theorized that certain high-pitched noises sound like the squeak of a rodent or prey animal, and so it could an instinctive Predator Cat response.

Sorry for comparing your girlfriend to a rodent. ;)
posted by misha at 6:21 PM on March 25, 2010


I'm a soprano that sings opera. When I sing in the same room as my cat, she nips at my legs. I take it to mean "What in the hell is that noise coming out of your mouth???"
posted by legendarygirlfriend at 6:21 PM on March 25, 2010


My old female cat used to freak out whenever I whistled or sang, her eyes would dialate, she'd run around, and yowl back. And attack me. I'm guessing in her little Tonkinese walnut brain that "me trying to sing Radiohead" = "danger Danger DANGER" and she's react accordingly by losing her shit.

It was great fun when I did it in the tub, because she wanted to attack, but I was protected by OMG WATER. So she'd just stand there on the rim and try to kill me with her death ray eyes.

Requiescat in pace Qu'Appelle. Hope you're not spazzing out too much in Heaven, what with those harp playing angels and stuff.
posted by spinifex23 at 6:25 PM on March 25, 2010 [22 favorites]


My boyfriend and I buy each other those annoying singing cards for various occasions, mainly of the Miley Cyrus variety. One of our cats gets all weird and bites the leg of whoever is closest. Me, boyfriend, the other cat. She also paws and scratches at it until it stops singing. She also does this with the phone on speaker. I imagine it has something to do with the frequency but man is it funny and yes we buy those cards specifically for the laughs.

Incidentally, she does not get like that when we're messing around with the theremin. Go figure.
posted by waitangi at 6:26 PM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think the picture we're developing here is that cats hate:

* Girlfriends being tickled
* Sopranos
* Radiohead
* Whistling
* Miley Cyrus
* Theremins

Works for me.
posted by ErikaB at 6:28 PM on March 25, 2010 [18 favorites]


Kitty wanted to tickle your girlfriend too. With her TEETH.
posted by iamkimiam at 6:32 PM on March 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


My old female cat used to freak out whenever I whistled or sang, her eyes would dialate, she'd run around, and yowl back. And attack me.

Hah. Yes. Once I was practicing a speech alone in my room, and my cat completely freaked out on me (and stopped when I stopped talking to myself.) Maybe cats just hate certain unnatural noises.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 6:35 PM on March 25, 2010


This isn't aggression, just weirdness. I also had a cat that would bite anyone singing off key. Whitney Houston renditions set her off worst.

In Julia Child's memoir, she recounts how her cat bit her and her sister every time they some certain French word that must have sounded even more ridiculous in Julia's trademark intonation.
posted by TrarNoir at 6:36 PM on March 25, 2010


I just looked it up-- the word was "j'ecoute." You can read the story here on page 72.
posted by TrarNoir at 6:38 PM on March 25, 2010


From what I read, if it didn't seem aggressive, sometimes the playful bites are cat "kisses". Could be a bunch of bunk but that's what I read on some behavior site.

That or the fact that cats are just evil *


*teasing. I own 2*
posted by stormpooper at 6:42 PM on March 25, 2010


One of my cats, a big male Maine Coone named Casey, has done something like this several times. Apparently when he hears the high-pitched wail of another creature in distress he feels the need to come running and kick its ass for some reason.

One time one of my female cats got herself into a situation. She was on the windowsill and managed to get one of her hind legs entangled in the venetian blind cord. She jumped, the cord tightened around her back leg, and she hung there suspended in mid-air shrieking in a most blood-curdling fashion. My husband and I immediately ran to the room to rescue her. Casey rushed past us and began attacking the poor girl as she hung there, and refused to be shooed away. The girl cat was shrieking, struggling, and peeing all over the wall in terror as I tried to free her; and every time my husband managed to run Casey off he'd circle back around the room and run back to continue the attack, which unsurprisingly was not particularly helpful to the rescue process. It took several minutes of wrestling two hysterical piss-covered cats into submission, not to mention a good couple of bites and scratches, before we were able to get her free. She was fine, though she carefully avoided that window for months afterwards.

Another time: I was sitting on the couch, with one of our other cats lying on the back of the couch above my head. The cat was messing with my hair and just as I turned my face around to talk to him, he sneezed this huge wet sneeze directly into my open eye. I let out a scream and jumped up because "ew, cat snot in my EYE!" and as I ran to the bathroom to rinse my eye out Casey came running across the room, jumped up and sank his teeth into my thigh right below my ass. I don't mean a little nip either; that fucker drew blood.

After that I was terrified of him and seriously considered having him put down (because I didn't want to give him to a shelter and risk having him adopted by a family with kids, because of, you know, the whole viscious attacking thing) but my husband with his cooler head and unbitten ass felt like perhaps ass-biting was not a capital offense. I did get some satisfaction, however, from the cat's vet-imposed 10-day sentence in "kitty jail" aka quarantine in a large mesh cage in the middle of our living room.

Short answer: I don't know why they do it, but apparently some cats are the exact opposite of protective when it comes to a member of the family making distressed noises. How charming.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 6:51 PM on March 25, 2010 [25 favorites]


The cat was reacting to the sound. The biting/nipping was telling her to "stop making that noise, it's irritating." I have a cat who bites me on the back of the leg whenever I'm using my "exasperated voice" with my husband or my kids, and only when I'm using that particular tone of voice, so the cat is definitely reacting to something specific about the sound.
posted by amyms at 6:55 PM on March 25, 2010


Seconding the rodent explanation. High-pitched laughing might sound (to a cat) something like a mouse squeaking, maybe one in distress. Another possibility is that a loud, high-pitched sound (of any kind) might hurt her ears, and (instead of running away from it) she's trying to turn it off.
posted by exphysicist345 at 6:59 PM on March 25, 2010


Maybe your girlfriend sounded like another kitten, and your young cat thought she'd like to play all-out kitten style. Kittens are kind of rough on each other sometimes.
posted by amtho at 7:19 PM on March 25, 2010


I'm liking Serene Empress Dork's explanation that it's the cat version of a pile-on.

(I may have seen humans exhibit this behavior once or twice. I bet you could even find a few examples of this happening on the internet, if you looked hard enough.)
posted by ErikaB at 8:50 PM on March 25, 2010


In Julia Child's memoir, she recounts how her cat bit her and her sister every time they some certain French word that must have sounded even more ridiculous in Julia's trademark intonation.

Wow.

Maybe I shouldn't have named Ms. Tonkinese Walnutbrain 'Qu'Appelle' then. She probably lost it for good the day I adopted her from the Humane Society.
posted by spinifex23 at 9:08 PM on March 25, 2010


We had a chihuahua that would howl whenever someone played the harmonica. One day our cat Tic-Toc happened to be in the house when Bubba started singing. Tic-Toc jetted into the room from wherever she had been snoozing, threw her arms around Bubba and bit him on the neck.

Needless to say, we humans all found it hilarious. Not so for Bubba, who was sad; or Tic-Toc, who seemed genuinely ruffled and stalked off in a huff.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:15 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was playing with one of my cats by having him chase a rope around the room. He got to breathing loudly. The other cat came over and smacked him on the head.
posted by neuron at 9:16 PM on March 25, 2010 [7 favorites]


stormpooper: "


*teasing. I own 2*
"

You mean they own you, right?
posted by pjern at 10:03 PM on March 25, 2010


In my experience cats bite when they're attempting to correct your behavior. Like "You cut that out now, y'hear?"
posted by amethysts at 11:49 PM on March 25, 2010


Ha. Love this:
"It took several minutes of wrestling two hysterical piss-covered cats into submission"!

I have a really cheap and nasty mobile which bizarrely (being so cheap) has a touchscreen. When it rings, my cat will cross the room and bat it, all furious black eyes. You tap the screen to turn off the ringtone/answer/read the text so I've missed a few messages this way.

Had to get my mum to watch, the first time. I couldn't believe my cat was answering the phone.
posted by blue funk at 11:50 PM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Since mine is constantly trying to teach me to hunt and canines like coyotes are sensitive to high pitched noises, I would guess they're trying to stop the noise to avoid easy detection. Their house is also their hunting perch, after all.

That and they're nuts. We may want to remember this trick for when they eventually try to take over the planet. It could come in handy.
posted by jwells at 6:03 AM on March 26, 2010


We have a female cat that gets protective when Mrs. Augustus laughs in such a way that it could be misinterpreted as wailing in pain, such as when being tickled. The cat in question will come running up and mew inquisitively, staring at her, and won't calm down until we reassure her.

MetaFilter: Cats are weird.
posted by AugieAugustus at 7:19 AM on March 26, 2010


I play the trumpet. When I practice, one cat runs and hides, the other comes running to rub against my legs. When I play in the higher registers he rolls over and wants his belly and haunches rubbed, and when I do that he nips my hand lightly. It's all part of their plan for world domination.
posted by phliar at 1:08 PM on March 26, 2010


My other cat becomes very happy when I whistle, approaching me from across the room to purr and rub his face very hard against me.

I had one of these as a child--she was typically very antisocial, but she did love being whistled to, and reacted exactly the same way you describe. My mother never believed me that it was the whistling--she thought it was too much like a snake charmer--but I have since had other people corroborate this phenomenon.

I also had one that clearly liked to be sung to (I'm a soprano) and I figured she was reacting in the same way as my whistle-kitty. Her favorite song was Sinead O'Connor's "In This Heart."
posted by dlugoczaj at 2:00 PM on March 26, 2010


Female cats yowl when in heat.

Male cats bite and hold female cats' necks when mating.
posted by orthogonality at 12:08 AM on January 28, 2011


Man, I love metafilter. This exact thing happened to me last night and of course googling the answer led me to a million 'Why do cats bite/How to prevent cat bites' websites.

My kitty seemed pretty distressed that I was being tickled and her biting my face just made me laugh even more. It is disconcerting that when I'm in 'trouble' she bit me, instead of my 'attacker'. My bf says it was because she sensed my weakness and wanted to eat me straight away :-/

Anyway, just adding a 'mine too' to this weird cat behavior.
posted by theRussian at 8:10 AM on February 3, 2011


"My kitty seemed pretty distressed that I was being tickled and her biting my face just made me laugh even more. It is disconcerting that when I'm in 'trouble' she bit me, instead of my 'attacker'. My bf says it was because she sensed my weakness and wanted to eat me straight away :-/"

We have two cats who do that. The triggers seem to be if they're overstimulated (usually) or it we are (rare, but it does happen.)

Kttehs are weird.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:49 PM on February 3, 2011


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