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Why Does My Cat Spit At Me?

If your cat is spitting at you it may come across as alarming and make you wonder why this is happening…

Why does my cat spit at me?

Cats spit for a range of reasons. Most commonly, spitting is a behaviour of a scared, irritated or angry cat.  Spitting sits in the range of growling and hissing. Cat use this behaviour to communicate negative emotions, e.g. they’re frightened, angry or aggressive.

So, now you know. But, is this behaviour normal? How can I prevent my cat from doing this? Is this spitting the same way humans do it? Keep reading for these answers, and much more…

Is it normal for a cat to spit at you?

A cat hissing.

An angry-looking black cat.

It’s not normal for a cat to spit at you. This behaviour means they are upset with you, and you should try to figure out the reason behind this.

Your cat should not behave towards you this way for no reason. Make sure you give your cat plenty of space when it starts to spit at you as continuing to bother it can cause further stress, and the cat may become aggressive towards you.

If there is no apparent reason for your cat to be spitting, it may be unwell and trying to keep you away as it feels vulnerable. Continuation of this unexplained behaviour should lead you to consult with your vet.

How can I prevent my cat from spitting at me?

You can prevent your cat from spitting at you by making sure you give it enough space when it is upset.

Learn to read your cats body language so you can identify when your cat feels annoyed, threatened or angry with you. This way, you know to give it space and an opportunity to get away from you, and it will not have to resort to spitting at you.

Make sure your cat has their own space in the house that they feel safe and comfortable in. This way, they can retreat when they feel overwhelmed.

Make sure you are meeting all your cat’s needs and that they are in good health. A happy cat should be more relaxed and less likely to feel the need to hiss at you.

Do cats spit the same as humans do?

Cats don’t spit the same way humans do as they don’t have lips to purposely and forcefully expel saliva from the mouth.

Cats possess saliva in their mouth as they use it for the same digestive processes as we do, as the first enzymes to break down food. But you will not see them expelling saliva in spit the same way we do.

The cat behaviour coined “spitting” may be confusing for this reason. Spitting is a very forceful and aggressive hiss mixed with a growl for cats. Because of its aggressive nature, the cat’s saliva is often pushed out with the air coming from the throat.

The saliva or spit itself is not a valuable part of the aggressive display, just a by-product of the communication of hissing.

Why do cats spit when playing? 

Cats may spit when playing if the playing gets too rough and they start to feel threatened. Alternatively, spitting can be part of mating behaviour so that the play may be courtship before mating.

Sometimes cats play can get out of hand whether they are playing with you or another cat. During play, they can quickly feel dominated or threatened and display aggressively to let who they are playing with know they are no longer having fun.

Another reason you may see cats spitting during play because both play behaviours and spitting can be seen in courtship before cats mating. If either of your cats is intact – meaning they haven’t been spayed or neutered – then spitting during play could indicate they want to mate!

Why do unneutered cats spit?

For unneutered or unspayed cats, hissing at other cats can be part of the mating behaviour. If the hissing is directed at you, it likely isn’t an indication of wanting to mate with you but rather viewing you as a threat.

Why do elderly cats spit?

Hissing may also occur more frequently in elderly cats who are cognitively disorientated, such as dementia. This can cause confusion and misinterpretation of body language.

Is cat spit dangerous?

Cat spit can be potentially dangerous. Cat spit contains lots of different types of bacteria that human bodies aren’t used to. 

While your cat spitting at you won’t cause an issue with saliva landing on the skin, cat bites are known to cause mild to severe irritation, depending on how the body responds.

The bacteria in a cats saliva is toxic to some small animals like birds and small rodents, and their bite can cause these animals to die from infections.

Infection won’t is as severe for humans who get cat saliva in their bloodstream since we are a lot larger than these small animals, and our bodies can deal with the bacteria.

But cat saliva can be potentially more dangerous for those with compromised immune systems. This includes young children, the elderly and those with immune diseases.

Does a cat’s spit have a healing agent in it? 

A stethoscope.

A stethoscope.

Cats spit has healing agents specific to heal cats, and it does not help heal human wounds.

There is an age-old wives tale that pet saliva is the ultimate medicine for wounds as they clean our harmful bacteria, preventing infection and promoting healing. But this is simply untrue.

Cats will lick their wounds as the saliva contains enzymes that will help to clot their blood and prevent bleeding.

While these enzymes may help clot your blood, cats saliva also contains a wide range of harmful bacteria that will outweigh the benefits. 

Is cat saliva toxic to small animals? 

Yes, cats saliva is toxic to small animals. Many owners will keep their cats indoors to reduce the risk of their cats catching small animals because a single cat can have flow-on effects on the ecosystem in the neighbour. Mainly if they are active and avid hunters.

Cats saliva contains bacteria that will cause infection in the bloodstream of small animals. So even if your cat bites a little animal then releases it, that animal will still likely die if the bite has caused a bleeding wound.

If your cat brings in wounded small animals, they can be saved if given vet attention quickly. Vets can administer anti-biotics that will fight blood infection.

Does cat saliva carry diseases? 

Cat saliva can be a transmitter of disease, but only if that cat either has the disease or is a carrier.

Diseases caused by cat saliva can range from mild to severe. A mild reaction to saliva includes “cat scratch fever”, which occurs from cat scratches or bites. It usually involved mild itching and swelling, but for those allergic to cats, it can be quite a lot worse.

Cat saliva can also carry internal parasites from things they have eaten, i.e. wild animals or poor quality food, which can be passed on if cat saliva gets into your mouth.

Scabies, ringworm, giardia, toxoplasmosis and rabies are all infections and diseases that cat saliva can potentially pass on to you. While it all sounds horrifying, fear not! Keep your cat healthy with regular vet checkups and keep good hygiene personally and in the home to reduce this risk.

Why does my 8-week old kitten spit at me? 

Young kittens of 8 weeks old may spit at you as they are easily frightened and still learning about the world around them.

Spitting is a normal cat behaviour, and a kitten as young as eight weeks old is still testing out all their cat behaviours and when to use them!

Your kitten will also be easily frightened by you, other cats or other pets. Make sure they have their own space and always speak to them gently and calmly.

Lindsey Browlingdon