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Cat Q&A: Why Does My Cat Lick and Bite Me?

I’ve met a lot of humans. You’re a hard species to figure out. For one, you take photos of us constantly and put them on the internet — it’s bad enough to invade our privacy, but I have yet to see any royalties. Or what about when a box is delivered and you try to give us some lame toy that’s inside instead of the box? I honestly don’t understand how you all ended up in charge.

Because we don’t speak the same language (even though we cats clearly understand yours), we do a lot of communicating nonverbally — mostly because we like to challenge your “superior” intellect. But don’t get your prefrontal cortex in a tizzy! I’m going to let you in on what’s behind a couple of behaviors — just a couple — you might be experiencing with your cat companion.

 

black and white cat on couch licking finger of owner

Why Does My Cat Lick Me?

Because we never see you lick yourselves clean and somebody has to do it. Seriously, though, it’s generally a good thing when we lick our humans. However, there are cats who lick too much or whose licking is caused by behavioral issues.

Cats Lick You to Show Affection

Licking other cats, as well as our favorite people, is a sign that we like you. From the time we’re kittens, we lick to groom each other, especially spots that are hard to reach by ourselves. Cats are master contortionists, but even we have limits. So, a reasonable amount of licking is most likely your cat bonding with you.

Cats Lick You When They Want Attention

Your cat might lick you because they want to play. Or they could just be angling for a good petting session (although if you really knew them, they wouldn’t have to ask).

But sometimes, licking can indicate stress or anxiety, especially if it’s excessive. If your cat’s licking becomes extreme, call the vet to get your furry friend checked for any medical causes. You might find that you’ll need an animal behaviorist to turn the licking back down to “let’s play” levels.

 

black and white cat on table biting finger of pet parent

Why Does My Cat Bite Me?

To be clear, I’m talking about harmless little nips, not the kind of lion-grade chomping we use for hunting and other serious situations. These “love bites” (as you weirdly call them) often catch you by surprise during an innocent moment of petting or licking.

Cats Bite You to Say “Enough”

Since you haven’t learned to speak cat, we are known to bite to let you know when we’re done. I’ve had enough petting for now = love bite. You’re petting an off-limits spot = love bite. My hair follicle receptors are overstimulated. So, what do you get? A love bite.

Cats Bite You as Part of the Grooming Process

Now and then when we’re grooming ourselves with our tongue, we need our teeth for a particular job, like freeing a burr from our beautiful fur. So in the midst of giving you a proper licking, your cat might decide to unleash those pointy teeth for good reason, but it’s still a shock when you don’t know it’s coming.

Cats Bite You Because It’s a Learned Behavior

Kittens love to roughhouse. By nature, they practice stalking, hunting, pouncing and biting. And if you encouraged that behavior by interacting aggressively with your kitten or juvenile cat, then you deserve every nip you get! If you used your hands or feet to rile up your little furball, they’re always going to consider those areas fair game.

  • orange and white tabby cat on persons lap touching fists

    5 Weird Cat Behaviors Explained

    Let’s face it:  Our feline friends can be real weirdos at times. But most cat parents adore their odd yet endearing behavior. Plus, it keeps things entertaining around the house! Check out our list of five mystifying cat behaviors and why they do them.

    1. Kneading

    A lot of cat parents call this behavior “making biscuits” because it looks like a baker kneading dough. According to PetMD.com, when cats knead by rhythmically pressing down with one paw and then the other, it usually signals happiness. Not all cats do it, but those that do usually knead soft blankets, pillows, other animals or (of course) their owner’s lap! A lot of felines also soothingly purr at the same time.

    Kittens instinctively knead their mother to get milk flowing, but why do adult cats do it? According to Vetstreet.com, pet experts think it’s a way to show contentment, display affection and mark a person, object or another animal with the scent glands in their paws. While it’s usually a sign of love, some cats also knead to calm themselves if they’re feeling a little stressed or anxious. Whatever the reason, though, one thing’s for sure: Cat parents usually enjoy their kitty massages!

    2. Going Bums Up

    When you stroke your cat’s back or brush them, do they suddenly go into elevator-butt position (yep, that’s really what it’s called!) by lowering their front end, raising their hindquarters high and pointing their tail straight up? If so, this is your cat’s way of saying, “That’s the spot!” It’s how your cat lets you know you’re scratching them in juuuust the right place — usually at the base of their tail — and that they want you to keep doing what you’re doing!

    Sometimes your cat might stick their elevator-up backside in your face. And while it might seem a little rude, it’s actually a friendly gesture that tells other cats your kitty feels secure and is kindly offering up the chance for a butt sniff. (Which, like with dogs, is 100% normal.) The good news? You don’t have to take them up on the offer; you can just keep scratching instead.

    3. Squeezing into Small Spaces

     

    “If I fits, I sits” isn’t just an online phenomenon; it’s a way of life in the cat world. That’s because felines love to squeeze themselves into and sleep in tight spaces like bathroom sinks, baskets, bags, bookshelves or, of course, B-O-X-E-S! They may even choose a cardboard container over an expensive, comfy cat bed. Why? Because they like the security and warmth these places provide. According to Vetstreet.com, some pet experts consider cats’ love of tiny spaces to be a nod to their wildcat ancestors that hid and slept in small, enclosed places as a way to avoid predators and stalk prey.

    4. Chattering

     

    When your cat sees a bird outside the window, they might chatter at it. Chattering is a distinctive, repetitive clicking sound made from a combination of lip smacking and your cat rapidly vibrating their lower jaw. This odd behavior looks like teeth chattering, and a lot of cats also sprinkle in soft, birdlike “chirp” sounds.

    This strange cat trait is thought to be a mix of predatory excitement and frustration at not being able to get to the bird that’s making them cuckoo. Moderncat.com also reports that some animal behaviorists even think the chattering sound mimics a “killer bite” used to break the bones of prey. (Wow! Who knew Fluffy was so ferocious?!)

    Regardless of the exact reason cats chatter at birds, most feline parents find it hilarious and worthy of a social share.

    5. Being Terrified of Cucumbers

     

    Who knew such an unassuming fruit (yes, fruit!) could strike so much fear into most cats? The internet is packed with videos of unsuspecting cats shooting straight in the air and fleeing from a cucumber secretly placed behind them.

    But have you ever wondered why most cats react this way? Animal behaviorists have a couple of leading theories for the “cucumber cat phenomenon.” Most agree that cucumbers look like snakes, which cats are instinctively scared of. Another theory is that they’re reacting to an unexpected object suddenly showing up behind them.

    Whatever the reason cucumbers make a cat’s blood run cold, we don’t recommend pulling this prank on your poor cat — your little furball could get hurt! (Plus, you can already find plenty of videos to get your “scaredy cat vs. cucumber” fix.)