Why Does My Cat lick and bite me?

Why Does My Cat Bite Me Then Lick Me? (10 Reasons)

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There you are, hanging out with your adorable cat, when suddenly there is a bite followed by licking. Then sometimes she’s licking you, then bites. Is this a love/hate relationship or something else?

A Cat that lightly bites its person followed by a lick or the other way around is typically to communicate adoration. Cats also do this while grooming and thus may be treating you like a fellow cat. However, sometimes cats behave in this manner due to stress or overstimulation.

Like much in the world of cats, your pet’s nip can mean more than one thing. Sometimes it’s an act of love, but other times, especially when young, it can be inappropriate play. Good cat owners should try to know the difference.

Why Is My Cat Biting Me Then Lick Me?

Cats biting you and then licking you (or the other way around) is typically an act of love. However, there are times when a nip means something else. So we’re breaking down all the reasons your cat may be giving you some teeth and if you should do anything to discourage it.

1.       Your Cat Is Giving You A Love Bite

The most common reason a cat gives its person a bite and then lick (or lick than bite) is love. Your cat trusts and adores you and is showing this affection in her feline way. A purr may accompany these love bites (although not always), are generally gentle, and do not draw blood.

These love bites often occur during cuddle time, when your cat is relaxed or drowsy, often choosing to sit near or on you. The bite will either start with a lick, end with a lick, or be in between licking spats.

However, love bites do not include:

  • Hissing
  • Growling
  • Clawing
  • Lashing of tale
  • Hunched, rounded back

These signs mean your cat is annoyed, in pain, scared, ill, or stressed out.

In addition, sometimes, when you pick up your cat, they might give you a gooey look and nip you on the nose as a love greeting, which is painful. If your cat is doing this, you may want to take better care when picking him up.

2.       Your Cat Has Decided You Need A Bath, AKA Grooming You

Your cat might be biting and licking you because she’s decided you must be groomed. But this doesn’t necessarily mean your cat thinks you are filthy. Cats groom their young or other cats they really like. Thus, your cat may just really think you’re swell.

Cats do tend to treat their favorite humans like bigger, less adept cats. The behavior has sprouted many theories that cats see humans as “bad cats,” although science has yet to prove it. However, the reality is probably far more complicated and nuanced since cats can differentiate between a dog, bird, rabbit, and fellow cat.

3.       Your Kitten Bites You While Playing

Kittens are cats-in-training, learning and practicing many behaviors, including their hunting skills, and the play-prey might be you. Thus, your adorable kitten might be gnawing and licking you during roughhousing because he is in attack mode.

However, using you as a chew toy is far from ideal. What might be cute and harmless when it is a tiny fluff ball is incredibly painful and alarming when they’re full-grown adults.

The trick to curbing play-biting is redirection, not punishment. Pay with your kitten using toys rather than wiggling your fingers. If your fluff ball attacks your ankles or toes, gently untangle him and present a more suitable toy for him to pounce and gnaw.

4.       Your Poor Cat Bites You Out of Stress

Your cat might bite and lick you if it is stressed out in an attempt to soothe. Road trips that involve cat carriers will often inspire such behavior, especially if a vet visit is involved. Changes in scenery, such as staying in a vacation home, can also create stress bites.

Give your cat some space in a calm and safe environment to calm down and acclimate. Sometimes just sitting in a quiet room with your cat is enough, leaving her plenty of room to find her mellow while also assuring that you are there should she need you.

5.       Your Cat Has Bitten You While Hunting

While we teach kittens not to hunt their human, they sometimes forget. The hunting instinct is so strong, especially when he’s just missed that fat bird, that your hand or ankle has become the next fixation.

Don’t punish your cat for treating you like his next kill. However, don’t keep letting him attack you. Instead, consider distracting him with a toy or moving him to another room to find his chill.

6.       New Cats Bite To Mark Territory

New cats, especially adopted adults, are often nervous and uncertain and may bite and lick you, trying to mark you as territory. Also, a cat you’ve been pals with for years might do this if a new cat is introduced. In short, your loyal fur friend is jealous and is marking you as hers.

In either situation, do not react with punishment. Give affection, assurance, and use a lot of patience. In time, this undesirable “marking of territory” behavior will dissipate.

7.       Your Cat Might Bite When Unwell

Your cat might be unwell if she is acting oddly, and the biting and licking are of unusual snappishness or ferocity. Cats are limited in communication with humans, and this undesirable action is just their way of pleading for help and understanding. So watch for other feline signs of illness or infection, and give your vet a call if you find any.

8.       Your Cat Is Biting And Licking You Due To Poor Hygiene

You might taste really good to your cat if you forget to wash your hands after a meal or working in the kitchen. Thus, your cat is biting and licking you because you are currently tasting delicious.

9.       Your Cat Is Biting You Because It Wants To Be Left Alone

Contrary to myths, cats are social creatures. However, they are like social introverts rather than extroverts. They like their humans and other animal companions, but they also need alone time to regain their energy and zest. So if you have been smothering your cat with love, he might be biting and licking you in a plea for some space.

10.   Your Cat Is Biting Because Your Petting Skills Are Meh

Cats enjoy some petting, but they are much pickier about how it is done than your average dog. For example, some cats only allow specific areas to be stroked, such as under the chin or a slide of the cheek. Others will allow a few strokes along the body but don’t appreciate it if it goes beyond a few times.

Thus, your cat might bite you first to tell you to stop but lick you to let you know it still likes you. Look for twitchy ears or tail or a narrowing of eyes, as these are signs she’s annoyed.

Tips from Our Vets

Cats make excellent companions and bring so much joy to our lives. Unfortunately, however, they cannot speak to us.

If your pet exhibits odd behavior, it can be worrisome and difficult to know if the behavior is normal or a reason for concern.

Not sure why your cat is exhibiting a specific behavior?

  • Some behaviors can seem very odd but may be completely normal.
  • Others could signal illness or injury.
  • Due to the lack of ability for a cat to communicate with us verbally, it is imperative to pay close attention to what the cat is telling us through their behavioral changes.

The most important takeaway is that if you are ever concerned about a behavior that your cat is displaying, your best resource for information is your veterinarian.

In general, a new behavior that is not typical for your cat should be investigated. Examples would be:

  • Not eating
  • Suddenly sleeping more than usual
  • Becoming aggressive or grumpy when interacting with other people or pets

These behavior changes most commonly indicate that something is wrong, and your pet needs to see their veterinarian as soon as possible. It is much easier and more likely to be successful, to treat an illness early in its course as opposed to waiting until the cat is very sick.

Other odd behaviors include:

  • Eating feces or vomit
  • Chasing their tail
  • Sudden bursts of activity

These may be completely normal. However, if you notice a drastic change in your cat, for example, they never exhibited one of these behaviors, and now they suddenly are, it is prudent to have them examined by their veterinarian as soon as possible.

Even if the behavior is normal, it may lead to unintended issues.

For example, young cats consuming their feces or the feces of other cats can be a normal behavior but can lead to gastrointestinal upset as well as intestinal parasitism.

Parasites from your cat can cause serious health complications, not only for your cat, but also for you and your family, as many are transmissible to humans.

Licking of the feet or scratching may seem like normal cat behavior but typically indicates a health issue such as allergies, fleas, or skin infection.

Left untreated, these issues will worsen and cause additional discomfort for your cat.

Remember that your best source of reliable health information for your cat is your veterinarian. Because cats cannot verbally communicate with us, it is essential to be proactive with any possible health concerns.

Working with a trusted veterinarian as your partner will ensure many happy and healthy years for both you and your cat.

Final Verdict

The most common reason cats bite and lick their owners is affection. The classic slow blink may even accompany it. But if the behavior is accompanied by aggressive body language, a hiss, or seemingly out of the blue, your cat might be trying to communicate something else. Thus, like many things in life, it’s essential to interpret your cat’s bite in the context of the situation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does my cat lick my other cat and then bite?

There are a few reasons why your cat may be licking and biting another cat. One reason may be because they are trying to show dominance over the other cat. Another reason may be because they are grooming the other cat and getting rid of any dirt or knots in their fur. Finally, some cats just enjoy the sensation of licking and biting another cat’s fur. If your cats are constantly fighting or you are concerned about their behavior, please consult a veterinarian or animal behaviorist for help.

Why does my cat lick and bite my feet?

There are a few reasons why your cat may be licking and biting your feet. One reason may be because they enjoy the taste or smell of your feet. Another reason may be because they are trying to get rid of any dirt or debris on your feet. Finally, some cats just enjoy licking and biting feet as a form of grooming. If you are concerned about your cat’s behavior, please consult a veterinarian or animal behaviorist for help.

Why does my cat lick and bite my hair?

There are a few reasons why your cat may be licking and biting your hair. One reason may be because they enjoy the taste or smell of your hair. Another reason may be because they are trying to get rid of any dirt or knots in your hair. Finally, some cats just enjoy licking and biting hair as a form of grooming. If you are concerned about your cat’s behavior, please consult a veterinarian or animal behaviorist for help.

Why does my cat lick and bite my neck?

There are a few reasons why your cat may be licking and biting your neck. One reason may be because they enjoy the taste or smell of your skin. Another reason may be because they are trying to get rid of any dirt or debris on your skin. Finally, some cats just enjoy licking and biting necks as a form of grooming. If you are concerned about your cat’s behavior, please consult a veterinarian or animal behaviorist for help.

Why does my cat grab my arm and bite me then lick me?

There are a few reasons why your cat may grab your arm and bite you before licking you. One reason may be because they are trying to show dominance over you. Another reason may be because they are trying to get rid of any dirt or debris on your skin. Finally, some cats just enjoy the sensation of biting and licking skin. If you are concerned about your cat’s behavior, please consult a veterinarian or animal behaviorist for help.

Why does my cat lick and bite my shirt?

There are a few reasons why your cat may be licking and biting your shirt. One reason may be because they enjoy the taste or smell of your shirt. Another reason may be because they are trying to get rid of any dirt or debris on your shirt. Finally, some cats just enjoy licking and biting shirts as a form of grooming. If you are concerned about your cat’s behavior, please consult a veterinarian or animal behaviorist for help.

Why does my cat lick my face and then bite me?

There are a few reasons why your cat may lick your face and then bite you. One reason may be because they enjoy the taste or smell of your skin. Another reason may be because they are trying to get rid of any dirt or debris on your skin. Finally, some cats just enjoy the sensation of licking and biting faces. If you are concerned about your cat’s behavior, please consult a veterinarian or animal behaviorist for help.

Why does my cat lick and bite my kitten?

There are a few reasons why your cat may be licking and biting your kitten. One reason may be because they are trying to show dominance over the kitten. Another reason may be because they are trying to get rid of any dirt or knots in the kitten’s fur. Finally, some cats just enjoy the sensation of licking and biting another cat’s fur. If you are concerned about your cat’s behavior, please consult a veterinarian or animal behaviorist for help.

Why does my cat grab my hand and bite me then lick me?

There are a few reasons why your cat may grab your hand and bite you before licking you. One reason may be because they are trying to show dominance over you. Another reason may be because they are trying to get rid of any dirt or debris on your skin. Finally, some cats just enjoy the sensation of biting and licking skin. If you are concerned about your cat’s behavior, please consult a veterinarian or animal behaviorist for help.

Additional Sources & Resources

-National Institutes of Health: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22894875

-American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA): https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/general-pet-care/cats-licking

-Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pica/symptoms-causes/syc-20355097

-The Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21790450

-Veterinary dermatologist, Dr. Karen Becker: https://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2011/08/26/veterinarian-explains-why-cats-lick-and-bite.aspx?x_cid=20110826_HK Pets_&x_medium=email&x_source=17&x_campaign=20110826Z1&x_content=17896034&utm_source=newsletter_17896034&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20110826Z1&utm_content=17896034&et_cid=DM78044&et_rid=542897888

-PetMD: https://www.petmd.com/cat/conditions/skin/c_ct_lick granuloma_acral_superficial

-WebMD: https://pets.webmd.com/cats/guide/cats-and-licking?page=2

Pet News Daily Staff
Pet News Daily writers are experts in pet care, health and behavior. We are members of Society for Professional Journalists and practice ethical journalism.