Overstimulation. And with that can lead to some bad kitty behavior. So, listen to your cats body language and if they hiss, spit or bite, even if they may be purring at the same time, just back away. Easy enough, right?
Well, Sometimes Love Hurts.
“OK”, you finally admit to yourself, “I am a cat person.” How did that happen?
Maybe you found yourself charmed by a friend’s cat purring and relaxing on your lap or were you simply the recipient of one too many funny cat videos?
However it happened, you now find yourself commingling with one or more cats, and usually loving the loving!
Why do cats give love bites?
Let’s set this mood:
Every once in a blue moon, apparently out of nowhere, comes a gentle nibble, a slightly startling bite, or an outright chomp!
What madness possesses your beloved feline?
Fortunately, it’s probably something as simple as you not understanding what’s going on in that furry little head.
We’re here to help translate it for you.
Cats don’t have thumbs like we do, their paws don’t function the same way as our hands do.
When they want to grab or hold something, they frequently use their mouth to do it.
Biting you gently is a way to hold your hand, and your cat either wants you to stop doing what you were doing with your hand (maybe you were petting him and he was overstimulated) or to tell you he wants you to use the hand he is indicating to do something else (like play with him or pet him).
There are three possible reasons for these “holding hands” bites.
- First, he may want you to play with him and he is trying to grab you – sort of the first move in wrestling for a cat.
- He could also be trying to hold you because he wants affection.
In these two cases, a cat biting you is similar to a small child grabbing something with his hands.
Just remember that this type of bite is a grab and hold – so you just need to figure out why he wants to grab or hold you.
Cats can also become overstimulated by repetitive petting, which can trigger a bite reaction.
It is your cat’s way of saying “enough already!”
Watch your cat’s other body language, especially her tail, to see if she is becoming overstimulated. Also, you can say, “why when my cat rubs against me then bites”?
For me, when my cat does this, she wants to platy or wants my attention.
Here is a great video explaining why cats bite:
A twitching tail is a clue to back off for a bit.
“OK, maybe that makes sense on some cat planet, but why or what does it mean when a cat bites you then licks you?
Does she have multiple personalities?”
This kind of bite is usually the result of overstimulation.
Why does my cat bite me when she’s being affectionate?
The licking afterwards is a sign of affection, almost an apology for biting you.
Cats lick those they consider family, so the bite and lick is a way of saying, “I’m sorry I had to bite you, I still love you.”
Here’s another possible reason for a bite-lick:
Sometimes, cats wrestle and one pins the other cat down, especially a younger cat, and then licks them.
This is a show of being a senior cat, and giving the young one a bath. So the bite and lick could also be a cat treating you like another cat, one who needs a bath.
Cats use their survival instincts honed over many generations, and do few things without a reason.
Everything they do is geared toward survival in some way.
- Napping saves energy between hunts.
- Purring heals the body and can even help bones knit together.
- Playing helps to keep their hunting instincts sharp.
So, there is a reason.
If you observe their situation and body language, you can likely figure out that reason, even if it’s not obvious at first.
As we’ve already mentioned, it may be overstimulation, or your cat wants to play, or they are simply busy with other things and don’t want to deal with you at the moment.
There is a (very rare) possibility that your cat has some sort of behavioral or mental health issue and is very stressed out.
He shows he loves you by rubbing against you, but then bites you because you didn’t react the way he expected.
This can happen if he rubs against you as you are walking and you don’t stop and he perceives you are leaving him, or if other cats are stressing him out and he wants you to intervene.
As with any other biting behavior, look at:
- context (what is the situation and what else is going on?);
- body language (is he purring and relaxed or tense and alarmed?);
- recent behavior (was he being playful a moment ago or did you wake him up and startle him?).
If you can figure out what caused the biting behavior and work on understanding your cat’s body language, you will be able to intervene before negative behavior happens in the future.
What Should You Do If Your Cat Bites You?
Goodness, if your cat does get a good grip and breaks the skin, definitely head to the sink and wash with soap and water. Then get some healing ointment for the pain (because it will hurt or more like sting afterwards) and bandage it up.
Because cat bites are like little bacteria injections, you should call your doctor, so they can make sure it won’t become infected.
As stated by:
It’s also important that you treat a bite wound right away. “Cats have especially small teeth and that causes an injection of bacteria deep into the skin,” explains Dr. Kate KuKanich, an associate professor of small-animal internal medicine at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University in Kansas.
Now if this is a highly aggressive type bite (from an attack) please go seek medical attention immediately!
But for the average home cat parents, these are the basics.
I was reading a story here on how to treat cat bites and puncture wounds, from guy who learned the hard way while working in a shelter. I feel that no matter how small always take extreme care of you get bit from a cat and it breaks the skin.
Check out this case of a cat bite and what she did:
If the nerd in you wants to know why they gave her antibiotics, check out this article on the Microbiology of Animal Bite Wound Infections and scroll down the page for the “Cats” section.
They say the common bacteria that were considered as the most likely pathogens were:
The most common type of infection was a non-purulent wound with cellulitis, lymphangitis, or both (42%), followed by a purulent wound without abscess formation (39%) and abscesses (19%). Mixed aerobic and anaerobic infections were most common among abscesses (73%), followed by purulent wounds (64%) and non-purulent wounds (58%) (206).
Safe to say that’s why the doctors might generally give you antibiotics for a cat or even a dog bite.
Cats And Kids
Thinking of adopting a cat with a toddler? Or even with a baby?
With their soft skin, even a love bite can feel like a piercing knife. Always best to safeguard when it comes to both baby and your cat.
For your kids:
If you feel your cat may love bite your little one, please teach them immediately how to properly handle the kitty. Or even if you have babysitters or nannies, advise them on how to enforce this as well.
For a baby:
Please don’t buy into the urban myth or old wives tale that a cat will suck the life out of your baby OR they will smell milk on their breath and suffocate them.
However, please don’t let your cat sleep in the crib, bassinet or anywhere your baby sleeps. They can climb on them and suffocate them that way.
On a personal note:
I have 4 cats and when I had my daughter, they were pretty much exiled from the upstairs (you can get the Carlson Extra Tall Pet Gate over at Amazon to keep them out. This is the one we use and they couldn’t jump it!) just to prevent this and of course all the cat hair getting everywhere.
To put a bow ties on this topic, I hope we were able to wrap your kitty mind around the question in general: Why do cats give love bites?
Overstimulation, they just don’t know what to do with all those feel good moments and survival, they need to protect their vitals from being pet too hard or rough.
Take it easy on your cats, or you’ll be in for a painful surprise.