Behavioral problems

Why Does my Cat Lick and then Bite Me? The Answer

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: January 30, 2019
Why Does my Cat Lick and then Bite Me? The Answer

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If you have one or more cats, you've probably been through this situation: your cat is licking you quietly... and all of a sudden they bite you! What has happened? Don't they like the massage and petting you were giving them? Why do they engage in this conduct?

In this AnimalWised article we will enter the feline world, to explain why your cat licks and then bites you based on the behavior of the species and its meaning. In addition, we will also show you the guidelines to follow to prevent your cat from biting you. Keep reading!

  1. Cat communication
  2. Licking and biting, what does it really mean?
  3. So why does my cat lick and then bite me ?
  4. When the bite hurts...

Cat communication

Even if we are experienced owners, it's not always easy to understand what our cat is trying to tell us, so it's essential to immerse ourselves into the feline universe and learn more about our cats' body language. Regularly reviewing ethology-related articles (the science that studies animal behavior) can help us learn more about our beloved cats and interpret certain behaviors appropriately.

As you know, cats use their bodies to communicate with us and to express their emotions, so when your best friend licks you and then bites you, you should be very attentive to their body, this way you will understand why they are manifesting this behavior better.

Take a good look: Maybe you scared them while they were licking you and that's why they bit you? Did your cat lick you while purring and continue to do so while taking soft nibbles? The way your cat performs certain practices will tell you much more than you can imagine!

Licking and biting, what does it really mean?

There is no single way of interpreting a cat's licks, nor is there a single way of interpreting their, let alone the actions of both licking and biting at the same time, so we will try to explain in detail the purpose of these behaviors, which are both common in this species:

Why do cats lick?

A cat's tongue is certainly unique: it is made up of small keratin spines, which are especially useful when it comes to cleaning themselves, unraveling their hair, removing dirt from their coat and drinking water. This is why they have a rough tongue.

That's why, when a cat licks us, even more so if our cat is licking our hair, they are carrying out a grooming behavior, as if we were just another cat. This is a very positive social behavior, which shows a good bond with the owner and the desire to make us feel more comfortable.

Even so, cats also lick as a sign of affection, since they have learned through associations that it is something we like and that also generates an endless number of stroking and affection. On the other hand, an excessive and non-stop licking (even compulsive) can mean that something is not going well and that the well-being of our best friend is compromised, it's therefore an indication of stress and anxiety, in which case we recommend you to review the 5 most frequent stress symptoms in cats.

Why do cats bite?

As with licking, a bite can also have several meanings, however, whoever has been bitten by a very angry or very frightened cat knows that it has nothing to do with the bites that can be made by a playful cat, even if they are somewhat painful. Truly angry or frightened cats show a very expressive body language, contracted, rigid and bristling, accompanied by hissing, waning meows and curved back.

These kinds of bites (accompanied by painful scratches) have absolutely nothing to do with bites through play, which usually take place when they get out of control, when they use warning bites, so that we stop disturbing or petting them; or bites as a sign of affection, which are usually more controlled and repetitive.

So why does my cat lick and then bite me ?

Some cats may bite after licking us as a warning sign so that we stop petting them, others may do it as a sign of affection and a third group could do it as another sequence that leads to grooming, i.e they think that biting is part of the process of grooming.

When cats clean each other by licking and nibbling in order to perform a thorough hygiene and brushing routine, so it would be perfectly normal for our companion to bite us during their beauty session. It's totally normal and typical of their species, it's not negative behavior.

Why Does my Cat Lick and then Bite Me? The Answer - So why does my cat lick and then bite me ?

When the bite hurts...

More often than not, our cat can hurt us if they bite us. What should we do then? The first thing to note is that under no circumstances should we scold them, since our feline is engaging in social behavior, even if it is not entirely pleasant.

How should we act when a cat bites us? Ideally, after the bite, we should stop caressing or paying attention to them. If we are constant and always follow the same pattern, over time, our cat will associate the bite with the end of the game or the caressing session.

At the same time, it will be essential to use positive reinforcement and reinforce behaviors that please us, such as being calm, licking without biting or purring placidly. To do so, we can use a simple "very well" or choose a tasty prize or treat, such as a piece of cooked chicken.

Why Does my Cat Lick and then Bite Me? The Answer - When the bite hurts...

If you want to read similar articles to Why Does my Cat Lick and then Bite Me? The Answer, we recommend you visit our Behavioral problems category.

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I am fostering a kitty for two months and he has been with me for the past 1.5 months. I buy him toys to play with along with other basic necessities (like food, litter , treats, chicken etc). But he keeps biting me, not the soft types but hard. He bites me on my hands and legs (near ankles) almost every morning and night (before bed). I tried many things, but he just won't stop biting. Can you please help me to know why is he biting? Does he wants to play or what?
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Jyothsna,

We cannot provide a diagnosis in the comments to articles. The information we provide can only suggest possible reasons, but a veterinarian or feline ethologist are the best avenues for diagnosis of behavioral problems.
Sheri Murphy
My cat licked my cheek the other night, about 1am. I have no hair on my cheek, so I don't know if that was an act of grooming me or not. However, the licking woke me up and the biting a hole in my cheek hurt and I was so surpised. I got up, of course..he had food, water, all his toys at his disposal so I'm very confused. I understand about him grabbing my hands and biting me and I can react appropriately, but not so much when I'm sound asleep .
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Sheri
Cats sometime do this because they want attention. Try play with your cat or pet it and give it attention for at least an hour before going to bed. There are, however, many reasons your cat might doing this. Sometimes cats bite their owners when they are asleep because the person was moving or doing something that possibly caused worry in the cat. Here are some ideas of games you can play with your cat before bed so that it feels it has received enough attention, give them a try to see if it helps:
Please don’t hesitate to contact us for more information, AnimalWised.
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Why Does my Cat Lick and then Bite Me? The Answer