Cat Love Bites Explained [6 Causes & How To Stop It]

“Why is my cat biting me?”

This is a question that every cat owner has asked at some point. Not all cat bites are aggressive, but the sudden change in your cat’s behavior may be confusing.

Read on to find out about the different reasons for cat bites and what you can do about it.

How to Recognize a Cat Love Bite

  • Playful
  • Soft gnawing, doesn’t draw blood
  • Happy body language (soft purring, flashing tummy, etc)
  • May start with licking
  • May be due to petting or completely unprovoked
  • Aggressive body language is absent

There are a lot of body language cues that can help you understand how your cat feels.

If you’re petting your cat and they seem to be enjoying it (soft purring, slow blinking, etc…), and then suddenly they start nibbling at your fingers, that’s a love bite!

Love bites can also be completely unprovoked. They’re playful and don’t draw blood. Your cat may start with licking, and afterward, you may feel a little bit of gnawing teeth.

Unlike more aggressive biting, love bites are not dangerous and are not a sign that your cat feels scared or threatened.

Why Is My Cat Biting Me?

Here are some possible explanations.

Affection

Cats typically lick and nibble their young kittens while grooming them. So soft, harmless gnawing is one way for your cat to say that they love you, that they feel safe, and that you’re their family.

This is what people usually mean when they use the term “love bite”, but the truth is that cats may do this for a variety of other reasons.

If your cat doesn’t display this type of affection, don’t be disheartened. Cats show their trust and affection in a variety of ways, such as bringing you their kill as a present, flashing their tummy, “head-butting” you, kneading your feet, and slowly blinking at you.

Overstimulation

Your cat isn’t necessarily angry with you, but they may be telling you that they don’t want you to pet them anymore. Some cats don’t like petting in general, while others may prefer short petting sessions or petting in specific areas only. The love bite is a gentle way of telling you to stop petting them for now.

Ginger cat bites woman's hand. The fluffy pet plays with woman o

In this case, your cat may show some signs of discomfort before biting you, such as their ears moving back, their tail twitching, and their pupils dilating. If you spot these signs, stop petting your cat.

Cats love their freedom so it’s important to give them a break from time to time. They may decide to get up and leave, or they may prefer to cuddle. Either way, they’re done with petting.

Some owners have the opposite problem! They get bit when they stop petting their cat. You can check out our guide on why cats bite when you stop petting if this is you 🙂

Kitten Play

Love biting may be a behavior that your cat has carried over from kitten-hood, particularly if they start nibbling at you unprovoked. It’s a playful way to ask for your attention, so it’s okay to pet them in that case.

If they do this often, it can also be a sign that they’re bored. Having lots of toys at home and enough stimulation for your cat should help. If they’re your only cat, consider getting another cat for them to interact with.

If your adult cat got used to biting you unprovoked, and the biting is painful, it’s important to understand that they don’t actually mean to hurt you, it’s just that their playing style may be a little rough.

In this case, scolding the cat would not work, and may instead make it more aggressive. It’s possible to retrain your cat to nibble on toys instead of your fingers.

Need

Cats may nibble at you to communicate a specific need, especially if they follow it by meowing or by trying to lead you to a specific place. They may want you to feed them, to open a door, to clean their litter box, and so on.

Woman hand is playing with black kitten on cat twer

This behavior is typically harmless, but if the biting is painful, you can retrain your cat by simply not responding to the biting. Only respond to their needs when they use another method of communication (such as meowing or nudging your ankle).

Over time, the cat would learn that the other communication methods are more effective and would use those instead.

Pain

If the biting is a new behavior that only occurs when you touch a certain spot, your cat may be in pain. It’s important to check the area for any injury and take your cat to the vet.

Try to record any new or unusual behaviors and symptoms to help the vet understand the problem.

If it’s a small kitten, the biting could be a sign of teething, and is completely normal.

Teaching Your Cat to Stop Biting

Unlike love biting, aggressive biting usually means the cat feels threatened or is otherwise trying to assert dominance. It is usually coupled with aggressive body language such as dilated pupils, hissing, growling, baring claws, and fur standing on end.

Sometimes biting is not aggressive, but is still not wanted, so you may want to teach your cat to stop biting you.

  • Cats are natural predatory creatures, so they need something to hunt on a daily basis. You can use a feather or a toy to play with them every day for at least 10 minutes. This can help satisfy their hunter instinct and prevent them from seeing your hands and feet as prey.
  • If the cat is showing aggressive, dominant behavior, use a higher tone of voice to show them that you’re in charge. Cats don’t respond to verbal instructions very well, but they respond to tone.
  • If the cat is biting to get a specific need fulfilled, simply ignore the need until they use a different method of communication.

Summary

Cat behavior can be confusing and hard to read, but you know your cat best. If your cat is biting you, it’s usually because they’re trying to tell you something.

  • If your cat bites you while petting, look out for signs of discomfort and respect the cat’s boundaries.
  • If they seem comfortable, then you can relax and simply accept their affectionate gesture.
  • If the biting is painful or problematic, teach your cat to direct the behavior in other ways.

Think about what your cat may be trying to tell you. Are they bored? Hungry? In pain? You’ll find other clues that will help narrow down the problem based on your cat’s body language.

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