My Cat Nibbles Me a Lot - Cat Love Bites
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There are many ostensibly odd behaviors cats make which have important reasons behind them. We may think a cat biting us is a sign of aggression, but it will depend on the context and how they bite. When a cat is hissing at us, batting at us with their paws and then bites us, we can assume this is problematic. But what about when they bite us gently or nibble at us when lying down comfortably.
At AnimalWised, we find out why my cat nibbles be a lot. We understand the difference between biting for attack or defense and cats giving love bites.
What do cat nibbles mean?
Bites are part of the wide behavioral repertoire of cats. They have different meanings depending on a series of factors, such as the context of the moment they bite or their general emotional state. When a cat is cared or angry, they will show signs of aggression such as keeping their eats back against their head, hissing and baring their teeth.
Here we look at some of the different reasons cats bite:
- Exploratory behavior: cats are very curious animals. You will see them jump after or chase anything which catches their attention. Although they don't use their mouths to explore as much as dogs do, cats will nibble at leaves, wires or other items in their environment which they deem worth investigating. This is especially common in kittens. For this reason, we need to be careful if they are near anything potentially dangerous.
- Play Behavior: cats are also adroit hunters. They have neither the need nor much opportunity to hunt when they live with human guardians, but they still need to exercise their hunting instinct. Instead of stalking prey or a sibling, they often ‘hunt’ humans as a game. They will pounce and bite, wanting to engage further. If a cat is poorly socialized, they may not learn bite inhibition and can actually cause harm when playing, even if they are only playing. Nibbling can be interspersed with running around, jumping and rolling on the ground. In these cases, they are simply love bites as only a cat which trusts you will want to play.
- Demand for space: bites are also part of feline communication. In many cases, they are used on another individual to indicate they move away or leave them alone. This behavior does not necessarily have to be accompanied by an aggressive attitude, since the cat can be perfectly relaxed while expressing their desire to be alone. They will do this with other cats, animals and humans.
- Offensive or Defensive Behavior: another important reason cats may bite is to willfully attack another individual or to defend a territory, resource or themselves. During a conflict, the feline adopts a tense posture. They may put their ears back, bristle their fur, move their tail rapidly from side to side, bare their teeth or show other warning signs. If you occasionally observe signs of aggression in your feline, it's best to leave them alone and not force interaction. It is likely they are very scared or feels some kind of pain. If the behavior persists, go to your veterinarian or contact a feline ethologist to diagnose the problem.
Learn more about how your cat communicates with our article on cat body language.
Why does my cat gently nibble me?
Imagine the following situation: you are at home sitting quietly on the sofa with your half-asleep cat resting on your lap. You have been petting them gently for a some time when, suddenly, the animal bites your hand without warning. You weren't doing anything aggressive, so it's easy not to understand why they do this. Is this scenario familiar to you?
You may be one of the many guardians who have experienced their cats snapping at them while seemingly relaxed. Don't worry, this doesn't mean your cat hates you. This behavior is very common in felines and they do it simply as a way of telling us that they no longer want to continue receiving caresses from us. Maybe we are being too rough for their liking, we are touching an area where they do not like to be touched or they are simply bored.
Generally, these bites are sudden and gentle. They may be a little nibble or a quick bite. It is also common for the cat to grab our hand using the claws of their front paws and kicking with the rear ones, slightly curving the body as they do so. Although it is true that they can go overboard on occasions, this biting and kicking by the cat does not have any offensive intention. They do not intend to harm us, only communicate their wishes, which is why the cat gives us nibbles that do not hurt and not strong bites.
We may find a situation in which the cat takes the initiative, approaches us, sniffs us and begins to gently lick our face, hands or some other part of the body. This is a sign of trust and affection, the reason we call them cat love bites. The feline is grooming us and sharing its scent with us, just as they do with other cats with which they have a close relationship. During this grooming, it is common for the occasional nibble to appear in the form of a gentle pinch with the teeth. This is normal and often simply as a means to groom us more comprehensively.
Finally, if the cat bites our ankles while we are walking, jumps on us when we are unaware, runs around us or stalks us, there is no doubt they are playing and just looking to have fun. Again, these are a form of love bites since they want to spend time with those they love.
What to do if my cat bites me
Once you have identified the reason why your cat bites you, you can act to prevent it. Here are some tips on what you can do in each situation.
Your cat nibbles at you to ask for space
If your feline bites you while you pet them, it is likely they do not like how you are doing it or they simply wants you to stop touching them. Avoid caressing him in areas such as his belly or legs, always make gentle movements in the direction of their hair and do not force physical contact when they want to be alone. If your cat sees you recognize their body language and respect their boundaries, they are more likely to initiate petting themselves.
Learn more with our guide on the best places to pet your cat.
Your cat gives you small nibbles while licking you
In this case, the cat is performing an affiliative behavior, i.e. they are showing attachment they feel towards you by grooming you and giving you small nibbles. If it does not harm you, you should let them. This behavior reinforces the bond between the two. If these bites are annoying or you prefer to avoid them, you just have to gently separate your hand or move away from the cat a little so that it stops the behavior. Do not scold or punish them for wanting to show you affection.
Learn more with our article on why my cat licks then bites me.
Your cat nibbles you to play
Like dogs and other animals, cats use their mouths to play with each other and with us. When the feline stays with their mother and siblings during their first months of life, they play and enter the period of socialization. This important period teaches them how to act with others in a healthy way and helps to establish important boundaries. For this reason, not removing the kittens from their mother too early is vital.
If your cat is very rough when playing, avoid using your hands directly when you play with them. It is better to use feather dusters, ropes, balls or any other object that they can chase and capture. It's also a good idea to provide your cat with a climbing tower or interactive toys. Remember that environmental enrichment is essential for the well-being of your cat.
Your cat is aggressive and bites you
If your cat attacks you, it is most likely a defensive action due to fear, insecurity or stress. Some cats may attack their guardian to defend a resource. Although to may be able to prevent a possible aggression due to recognizing their calming signals, it is more important to find out the reason for your cat's insecurity.
Providing for our cat's basic needs is an important one. If we do not feed them enough or do so erratically, they may develop food insecurity and bite you when you go near their dish. Big changes in the home such as renovation or the arrival of a new family member can cause fear or stress. Even physical illness can make them aggressive. For these reasons, you will need to go to a veterinarian to rule out health problems and speak about understanding why the cat is aggressive. This is best done with the help of a feline ethologist.
If you want to read similar articles to My Cat Nibbles Me a Lot - Cat Love Bites, we recommend you visit our Behavioral problems category.