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LeavesNoTrace's avatar

Why does our cat bite my boyfriend but not me?

Asked by LeavesNoTrace (5674points) July 12th, 2017

My BF has a beautiful 6-year-old (neutered) Maine Coon mix that he rescued as a starving stray kitten when he was just 5-weeks-old. He LOVES his kitty, and they are very close. I came on the scene about three years ago, and now our dear orange boy has become “my” kitty as well. (He actually own us though.)

The cat is affectionate to us both, but he is definitely an alpha male and is quick to use his teeth in any situation where he’s not 100% happy. He’s healthy, well-cared for, and soaks up plenty of attention and play throughout the day as I work from home. We have a quiet, child-free apartment with an outdoor terrace for him to roam and pigeon-watch/hunt for bugs.

However, he often exhibits unprovoked aggression toward my significant other. He is not afraid of him in the least, and I would dare say he loves his “daddy” so this behavior strikes me as very strange.

For example, today, my boyfriend was walking out the door for work, and the cat suddenly ran after him and sunk his feet in his calf and bit and scratched him out of the blue. My BF was not disturbing the cat, and it was completely unprovoked. This happens about once a day, and he will not allow me to use a spray bottle to correct the behavior like I used to do with my cats (who, incidentally were quite well-behaved.)

The cat almost never does this to me but on the rare occasion he does, I’ll dip my fingers in water and flick at him but will also do the same if I see him do it to my BF. Perhaps he’s been trained to do it to me but not to him since he knows he can get away with it? Or does he see my BF as a rival male in his territory? He gets especially angry when my BF does pushups or situps on the floor but never disturbs me when I do yoga except to ask for pets or show me his belly.

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13 Answers

snowberry's avatar

I’m guessing you hit it on the head. Your cat does it because he wants to (Who knows what goes on inside a cat’s head)? But it continues because it’s allowed, meaning of course that he doesn’t get squirted with a spray bottle when he bites your boyfriend.

LeavesNoTrace's avatar

@snowberry Indeed, I was pretty good about setting boundaries with the cat early on. Biting = water flick. My BF thinks this behavior is cute/funny but only until our mini sabertooth tiger has his fangs in him and I hear a blood-curdling scream coming from the living room. XD

A lot of the time he is sweet and affectionate. He runs to the door when my BF comes home even if I’ve already fed him and allows him to pick him up and will even lick his face. He snuggles with us in bed and likes to be near us so he’s definitely not fearful or threatened in his own home.

I do wonder if this play aggression is because he sees my SO as a male rival for his territory or something?

stanleybmanly's avatar

The boyfriend is delicious. You’re just drab kibble.

snowberry's avatar

When our dogs were puppies they tried growling if our kids tried to put them down. So of course the kids would hold them longer and put off going to the bathroom or whatever so that they wouldn’t irritate the dog. A small swap with the newspaper from me shut that behavior down in a hurry.

So maybe your cat doesn’t want boyfriend to leave? I could see it happening. So I think the question is how far is your boyfriend willing to let this go? A cat bite can be very serious.

Does he need to land in the emergency room before he starts taking it as seriously as your cat does?

rojo's avatar

My M-I-L’s cat does the same thing to her. He will sneak up behind her and nip or scratch at her legs or just reach out and bite her arm when sitting in her lap. He is not really aggressive except in these instances and even then he is not exhibiting aggression. Hard to explain but he is not in attack mode, he almost looks distracted when he does it. He has never bitten or scratched anyone else. We have tried to get her to use a spray bottle on him but she does not want to use one, at least not on a regular basis that the situation would require. She claims she has tried it and it just makes him worse; that he will stalk and ambush her after she has sprayed him.

I really think that he does it because he can get away with it.

si3tech's avatar

@LeavesNoTrace I agree with some of above. He does it because he can get away with it. It’s sad that your friend LETS him get away with it! Let’s hope he, or any other target doesn’t get a nasty infection from cat bite!

Coloma's avatar

Cats are very intelligent little beings and they often have quirky emotional responses. My guess is he is exerting his fat cat attitude towards your BF, displaying dominant and territorial behavior. Some animals are just extra dominant and disciplining will increase their aggression.
I’d suggest your BF work at more play and treat rewards and see if he can win over grumpy cat.

The more frequent, positive interactions the better.
My daughters cat has not been especially fond of her live in BF or 3 years. She has peed on his stuff and on their bed at times when she feels disgruntled. Recently my daughter was gone on a 2 week vacation leaving the cat alone with her BF and her behavior has much improved after being alone with and dependent on him for food and attention.

Coloma's avatar

I do agree wth the spray bottle too, great training aide. My friends little dog is a foot attacker and he has gone after my feet a couple times. Not long ago he bit my toe, nothing serious but it hurt. I whipped out a bottle of body spray from my purse and zapped him in the face. haha
He has not come after me again. LOl

Dutchess_III's avatar

My cat bites me. She’s a bitch!

Coloma's avatar

My cats bite me too but they are love bites, little nips when they want pets or attention. I encourage it, infact my female Siamese will bite on command when I say ” little bites for me!” LOL

LeavesNoTrace's avatar

Thanks for your responses, all. Mr. Cheeto adores his “Daddy” and has been with him since 5 weeks old but may have some territorial/alpha male stuff going on with him. My BF says that when I came on the scene it actually mellowed him out a bit and that fat orange boy is like putty in my hands. However, sometimes he’ll even nip me if I pet him one too many times etc.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

They might be love bites rather than aggression. The old ‘three strokes and you get a bite’ thing. My cat will bite me sometimes. It’s just a nip. I’d rather he didn’t, but I don’t think there is any maliciousness behind them. They’re love bites. He also wants to wash me. I hate when he tries to wash my face or hair. Noooo!

Patty_Melt's avatar

Take a look at cats in the wild. They do the very same thing to each other, a dash, a nip, a swipe. It keeps them on their toes. As running, pouncing predators, it is like football players doing jab, dodge, chest bumping, and such.
Push ups, going to work, those are the things your guy does for health and survival. Your cat probably triggers on those activities, and feels a slightly rowdy predator nudge inside.

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