My rescue cat bites my face

The title to this article is really a question about how to fix a cat behavior problem. This is what she wrote:

“she’s four now, and i’ve had her for two years. she was fairly bite-y when i got her (though she never scratched) but over the years she’s become much sweeter. she’s still picky about her interactions but will cuddle even with strangers and sleeps on my bed.

now the sleeping on my bed is the problem because sometimes, in the middle of the night or early morning, she will attack my face and head (the only part of me not covered by blankets). i try to reprimand her but she’s usually already run off.

due to my living arrangements her food and litter box are in my room, and it would be difficult to relocate them.

please help! (and sorry for any errors, i am on mobile)”


My comment for what it is worth:

This is not an untypical problem for cat owners, which is why I thought I write about it briefly. The question above comes from a visitor to the well-known website reddit.com. The lady describes what is typically called “bad cat behaviour”. It is considered to be a domestic cat behavioural problem but I see it differently. I just see a clash between the lifestyle of a domestic cat and the lifestyle of the cat’s owner/caretaker.

At night there is a clash in lifestyles and this needs to be accepted by the human. Domestic cats like to be active at night. It’s in their DNA. Humans routinely sleep at night which can lead to their cat trying to wake them up. This can take the form of nipping the cat owner’s nose, poking the face, walking all over the owner, making noises and licking the bed. In short anything which irritates and wakes up the owner. They want companionship. They want the human to be active with them. They don’t really understand why the human companion is inactive.

Fortunately, in my experience, cats gradually adapt to their human’s rhythms and routines. This means they end up sleeping on the bed with their human companion at night and their activity levels drop off sharply. It is an example of the adaptive nature of the domestic cat. This may occur more readily if the cat is an indoor cat as being confined gradually swashes out of the cat the desire to hunt.

However, the lady who asked the question has not had the pleasure of that form of adaptation. She has, regrettably, reprimanded her cat which I don’t think will do any good at all. It’ll just confuse her.

My answer would be that she has to accept it and gradually her cat will come around to her lifestyle all being well. Some cat owners lock their cat out of their bedroom at night. This, also, does not resolve the matter. And I think it is arguably cruel to do that because there cat wants to be with them.

I think cat owners need to understand that domestic cats have a different lifestyle to humans. The cat is hardly domesticated. There will be clashes therefore and this is one example. I don’t think enough cat owners realise this. It is beholden on the cat owner to adapt as well. There needs to be compromise.

I often get up early in the morning to go downstairs with my cat because he wants me to. He wants me to get up and be active. It’s about compromise. Cats will compromise usually by adapting. There will be a meeting of minds and ultimately there will usually be a kind of harmony. But it starts with the human.

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My rescue cat bites my face — 11 Comments

  1. I think that is correct and well said. My Scottie (Russian Blue) is very active and tends to wake me by laying on my chest and pawing my face gently. Unfortunately his claws are usually needle sharp and painful, because I’m too lazy to keep them trimmed. I just roll my face to the side while saying “Ow!”. He understands, which is why he’s so gentle. He doesn’t understand why I sleep all night or don’t get up early, and as the human I should and do understand that.

  2. We agree, in part, but this behavior is unacceptable but can be dealt with along with patience and love. First, keep the claws trimmed. Second, prior to bed, be very very active with the cat. Play is very important. A feathered string toy is great for this. Once the cat has eaten for the evening, next would be to play, play, play until the cat is exhausted. Then both go to bed. It may take awhile, but eventually the cat will get into the rhythms of its human. Should the cat attack at night, react like a mamma cat would. What I did with my two is give the kitty version of REOW! very loudly with an angry tone. If the cat is within reach, I take her paws gently in my hand and softly say ‘gentle’ and repeat it ad nauseum until the cat gets it. It won’t work overnight; it may take a month or more depending on the stubbornness of the cat. I once had to gently cuff one of my cats (like a mamma cat) but still send ‘gentle’ and repeated it with a gentle ‘meow’ sound. One day, without warning, they got it. Now once in a blue moon, one of them will bounce on the bed but will gently touch either my nose or cheek or just gently head bunt me. It’s a much sweeter way to wake up. They get lots of fussing up for that behavior.

  3. This also reminds me of the animated Smon’s Cat. Go to YouTube and search for Simon’s Cat..Wake Up. OMG! It’s the funniest!

    • I had exactly the same thought. I was going to add the video but I have gone off YouTube videos as they the company deletes them all the time or changes the embed code.

  4. My cat, Mitzy, has never done anything like this to my face, and doesn’t paw. She sleeps til about 4 or 5am, and then softly cries in my face. Once in awhile it’s louder. The main thing she does, usually before “we” go to bed is knead my shoulder, usually the right side. I do keep her nails trimmed, and my clue is what I call “a sharp one”. When I trim her nails, I tell her that I’m looking for the sharp ones. She’s pretty patient up to a point, and I don’t have to do all the claws, just the “sharp” ones.

    A few times, when I’ve rolled over, she’s attacked my raised arm. I usually just push her off the bed with my leg. I also saying “No” while I do it.

    She’s pretty good during the night, and is able to look out the front window to see any night time activity, which is either cats or racoons. A few nights ago, she woke me with a sound, and I looked out to see 4 cats running across the grass in front of the house. It was dark, but I think they were cats.

    There have been sightings of bob cats and mountain lions who have escaped the fires. There have been some deaths of outdoor cats and small dogs.

  5. This is an after thought. I wonder if blowing in a cat’s face might dissuade them. I keep a spray bottle of water handy if she wakes up way too early. I just spray the wall near her, and she usually goes back to bed.

  6. I’m starting to think that cat owners are all self-victimizing masochists today. No sane person on earth would put-up with a pet that attacks them, no matter the reason. Dogs are frequently euthanized for proving to be unsocialized, dictated and demanded by local laws. It’s how you domesticate any animal species for being around humans. You keep the genetic lines of those animals alive that are beneficial to humans and breed only those, while destroying the genetic lines of those animals which have traits which are harmful or undesirable by humans. All you are doing is making sure that all future cats attack humans by keeping alive any vicious cats. No wonder that less and less people want cats. Your misguided masochistic values are making them into unwanted pets for sane people. Now leaving nothing but self-victimizing lunatics barely tolerating any cats today.

    • Your comment is pathetic. This cat is not attacking her owner in a way which causes harm. The cat is simply looking for attention. It is you who is misguided. Your comment indicates an obnoxious aggressive personality. A person to be avoided. This cat is a rescue cat and random bred and therefore your comment about breeding is irrelevant in this context.

      • Typical justification for your self-victimization. If you don’t want cats that attack humans then you must destroy the source of those kinds of cats that are now giving all cats and cat owners a vile name. Not too bright, are you.

        • Hitler wanted to eliminate the Jews. What magnitude of arrogance you have, and evil, mean cold blooded monster are you? To decide an entire species should die. It would be better if you and all the barbaric monsters like you were wiped off the planet. Get off this site.

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