Why Does a Male Cat Bite a Female’s Neck While Mating?

mating cats
Mating Cats, Muppaphone, Flickr

Many people find this behaviour (along with the shrieks of female cats) alarming because it gives the impression of a forced encounter, but neck biting is actually a defensive action on the male’s part. Although females choose their mates and mating is voluntary, the male needs to protect himself in case she decides to attack him for some reason while he’s in a vulnerable position. Kittens have an instinct to stay still when held by the scruff of the neck, and adult cats maintain this instinct to some degree, so holding the scruff of the neck reduces the likelihood of attack.

It was once believed that a female cat shrieks after mating because the spines on a male cat’s penis (which induce ovulation in female cats) cause pain during withdrawal, but experts now think that the shriek is a warning gesture. The female, in a vulnerable position because the male has his teeth clamped on the back of her neck, lets him know that he’d better not take advantage by doing anything aggressive. Given that mating cats often don’t know one another beforehand, taking a few precautions is sensible in case they’ve chosen an unusually volatile partner.

For more cat articles, see the main Cats page.

References:

    • Morris, D. (1986). Catwatching. Three Rivers Press: Random House.
    • Seidensticker, John, & Lumpkin, Susan. (2004). Smithsonian Answer Book: Cats. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Books.

15 thoughts on “Why Does a Male Cat Bite a Female’s Neck While Mating?”

  1. Actually, my particular theory was that since cats are induced ovulators, the neck bite may create some kind of stimulation of the pineal gland and/or hypothalamus, which might in turn affect the release of the egg and/or lower the female’s outrageous estrogen levels to a reasonable quantity. This behavior is also seen in ferrets and minks, who are induced ovulators as well, but not in dogs. The pineal gland comes into it because, as far as I know, melatonin sometimes has a regulatory effect on the heat cycles of induced ovulators–this has been particularly well-demonstrated in members of the weasel family, and maybe it plays a part in the heat cycles of cats as well. Any thoughts or input on these ideas?

  2. Don’t mimic the action yourself!!! My female cat seemed like me scratching the loose skin on the back of her neck, but would then bizarrely turn round and stick her backside up at me. The one time I tried to turn her back round to face me, she hissed and took a swipe at me, drawing blood (she is never normally aggressive). Trying to find out why led me here…

  3. we gotta family friend thats a vet. she told me, along time ago, bout the biting thing. she said the more they bite, the more kittens theyll have.

  4. I saw a mature male cat bitting and holding down a kitten that is a long way from maturity He is a bully, the kitten was in pain and not enjoyment. I Got him off 3 times by spraying with water bottle. When the kitten had a chance to run, the poor thing ran

  5. Its horrible period to watch your female cat go through that. Neck fur matted, smelling like feces, tired, an can’t get away. away

  6. The interesting note about tigers!As my family owned one long ago,a male Siberian tiger,and they were taking him to local zoo where he was once born and he was having so to say dates,and had cubs!About 2-3 times a year they did that,and nearly always he was back home tired,slept for couple of days nearly all day long just waking up to eat,pee and fall asleep again!And he always had some lacerations on his face,which were actually nearly always made by his mates in the end of his stay,seems like when they had enough they started fighting him and soalthough he was twice as large as most of them-he nearly always got beaten up by his mates!And one even managed to attack him so he escaped onto a tree branch and was trying to repell that aggressive unsuccessful mate,and all that was regularly happening while he was not only massive but also any creature which was neither human nor tigress was actually ever able to survive encounter with Neron if there was no any fence between them:lots of local wildlife was hunted down and eaten-even several bears!But the smaller but evil and vicious tigresses always were ending their mating sessions with clawing him and were never honesty fought back!So the question is:is that stuff going on with tigers only or with other felines?As I know while the tiger is like that-among lions the situation is other way round:if the lioness would claw her mate-she may get seriously injured by what will follow that!

  7. I have 2 four month old cats male and female from the same mother ,the male cat has been biting at the neck and tugging her around which has left her a bald spot what can I do to prevent this from continuing all comments and or advice would be appreciated. Thanks Milo & Hannah Our fur babies

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