Do Cats Know When They Hurt You?

I love my cat to bits but I have to admit, our relationship hasn’t always been smooth sailing from the get-go.

Like most human relations, we have our ups and downs too.

Since young my cat has had the tendency to play bite which can hurt quite a bit. It can cause me some distress when his bites get too aggressive and make me bleed.

He is way better now after years of corrective training.

But do cats know when they hurt you?

Unfortunately not. Your cat does not have the mental capacity to realise that it has hurt you. It might seem like playing to your cat or an instinctive action done out of anger. The good news is that cats can be trained to understand displeasure from their owners.

In this article, we will try to further understand why our cats lash out at us and what we can do to reduce the risk of it happening.

Do Cats Know When They Did Something Wrong?

As much as we love our cats, we can’t expect them to respond and think like a human cat. They are first and foremost cats and our pets second.

We still need to be careful when handling our cats at times. Especially when they are showing signs of aggression or fear.

Cats will still do what comes instinctively to them when they are fearful or angry. And they won’t feel guilty about it.

Do not fret.

With the right training and patience, your cat can be trained to better understand your displeasure.

Why Did My Cat Bite Or Scratch Me?

As cat owners, we will first need to understand some common domestic cat scenarios that can cause your cat to lash out at you.

We won’t be able to fully prevent it but at least we will be more prepared to react.

Let’s list them out.

Grooming Your Cat

cat hates grooming. what can you do about it

Grooming your cat is a basic necessity for all cat owners. As fastidious as cats are when it comes to grooming themselves, there are certain things that are beyond them.

We should learn how to brush our cats, brush their teeth and trim their nails on a regular basis.

If your cat has not been accustomed to being groomed from a young age, you can expect resistance.

You might think that trying to brush your cat’s teeth or cut its nails is next to impossible. But there are cats that can get triggered just by brushing them.

Here’s a tip.

Get started on grooming once you have your cat.

It is best to get them used to grooming as kittens so that it gets a lot easier as they get older.

Feeding Medication

This is something that I have always dreaded doing to my cat, even up to today. Many cat owners have a hard time trying to feed their cats liquid medicine or pill them.

Our cats don’t understand why you are trying to force a pill down their throat or feed them liquid medicine and can lash out at you.

But it is a necessary evil that has to be done when your cat is sick.

Some cat owners will syringe feed their cats water or tuna broth just to get them used to having a syringe in their mouths.

This is something that you can start doing.


Cats are sensitive creatures both mentally and as well as physically.

They have more nerve sensors than us and are more sensitive to touch. If your cat bites or scratches you after a few minutes of stroking, it is because of overstimulation.

If you find your cat attacking you and not your partner, it could be due that your cat has associated you with the feeling of overstimulation.

Most well-socialized cats love being stroked but only up to a certain point.

After that, it can start to feel uncomfortable to them. And if you don’t stop, your cat will definitely remind you.

Rough Playing

It is always good to give your cat as much quality time as possible. Playtime is usually a good way for pet owners to bond with their cats.

The right way to play with your cat is with toys and not with your hands or legs.

There are some cat owners that use their hands and feet to engage in rough playing with their cats as a kitten.

It is not an issue when you have a tiny kitten biting and scratching your hand. Let a fully grown adult cat treat your hand the same way and it will hurt.

You can’t blame the cat for hurting the owner this way since such behavior is allowed in the first place.

Sometimes these cats will even start to hunt and attack your feet instead.

Do not allow your cat to use your appendages as a toy.

Breaking Up A Fight

If you have two or more cats at home, the more dominant cat will have a tendency to pick a fight or bully the other cats.

It is easy to tell when trouble starts to brew between your cats. They will be in each other faces and meowing a lot.

Cats can get really aggressive when they fight and some cat owners have been caught in the fray when they tried to separate the cats.

It happened to my good friend and she required stitches.

My friend was fostering an injured cat and her own cat just didn’t like the new cat. Her cat was stalking the injured cat and waiting to pounce.

She managed to get in the way of her own cat just when it pounced. But aggressive cats have a lot of pent up energy and my friend’s cat redirected his negative energy on her leg instead.

She showed me pictures of her injury and it wasn’t a pretty sight.

If you need to break up a potential cat fight or one that is happening, spray water or throw a pillow at them, use a loud noise to distract them, etc.

Just don’t try stopping the fight with your body or risk getting injured.


Like humans, cats too can suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. This could be due to the cat being abused by humans or attacked by another animal.

Even an accident which resulted in a bad injury can also lead to PTSD.

Depending on the nature of your cat’s PTSD, this condition can cause your cat to act aggressively when triggered.

How To Recognize Aggressive Behavior In Cats?

It is important for all cat owners to be able to recognize when their cats are feeling angry. Here are some common body language signals.

  • Meowing or yowling loudly
  • Ear pulled back against its head
  • Hissing
  • Showing its teeth
  • Fluffed up fur on tail and body
  • Body turned sideways

If you see your cat behaving this way, it would be best to leave your cat alone and let it calm down. Trying to get close or calm your cat down can result in your cat hurting you.

How To Show Your Cat Your Displeasure?

When it comes to correcting your cat’s behavior, it is important to do it at that point when the offence is committed so that the cat understands.

Here’s what you need to do when your cat hurts you with its teeth or claws.

Make a loud “Ouch!” sound to get your cat’s attention. Your furry friend might not understand what “ouch” means but it knows from your reaction that it ain’t good.

Cats sense pain in their human owners due to their highly tuned senses.

This has to be the first negative feedback from you to address the bad behavior.

Next, remove your cat away from your hand or leg. Do not hit or scold your cat even though you are angry.

Cats have the mentality of a 2-year-old child so treat them as such.

You can redirect your cat’s attention to its toys or scratching post. Let it get physical to burn off some energy.

If for some reason your cat is being more stubborn than usual, give it a short time out by locking your cat in a room until it calms down.

Please do not lock your cat in for hours.

Just a few minutes is enough to let your cat know that bad behavior gets no attention from you.

How To Reward Your Cat?

If you find that your cat starts to behave more civilized around your hands or feet, reward its good behavior with more attention and treats.

Do it every time your cat sits next to you without attempting to use you as a scratching post or chew toy.

Keep doing this and your cat will start to be aware of how its behavior affects your reaction.

Do Cats Know When You Are Mad At Them?

Studies have shown that cats feel us when we are mad with them. They are able to pick up on our verbal and body language cues.

Even dogs will comfort their owners when they are sad.

Some studies say that cats are able to recognize the difference between a smile and a frown. When the cat sees its owner smile, it may respond more favorably by purring and showing affection.

How Do Cats Apologize To Humans?

The word ‘apologize’ doesn’t belong in a cat’s vocabulary. Cats don’t feel guilt hence there isn’t a need to apologize.

But they do want to feel safe with you.

There are times when my cat will give me a little scratch when I try to wipe him down after he is done using the litter box.

It always catches me off guard causing me to shout out in pain.

This sends my cat running away and hiding in his secret location (i know where it is) for the next 30 mins.

He only comes out when he thinks the coast is clear.

He will slowly come near me and start giving me affection.

It isn’t his way of apologizing but it is his own way of saying it is water under the bridge now.


I know it sucks big time when our feline friend causes us harm. I’ve been scratched pretty bad because my cat got scared when I tried to groom him and I ignored the signs.

Your cat isn’t doing it out of spite but it is just a natural feline reaction.

Make sure to swiftly correct your cat when he hurts you and reward your cat for good behavior.

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