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Why Does my Cat Lick me then Bite Me?

Why Does my Cat Lick me then Bite Me?

When my Siberian cat Alexei licks me I take it as a sign of love. However, when he quickly follows the licking up with a bite I begin to think that he might feel otherwise! I was heartened to discover that this problem is not unique to Alexei and that many other cat owners have asked why does my cat lick me then bite me?

It can be very confusing when your cat displays what seems to be loving behaviour and then behaviour that can actually cause you pain. Is it angry? What have you done wrong? And what should you do?

Here are 5 reasons why your cat may lick you and then bite you – plus some of the other most frequently asked questions in this area.

woman with tabby cat why does my cat lick me then bite me

Why Does My Cat Lick me then Bite Me? 5 Reasons

1. To express their love

If your cat approaches you and gives you a couple of little licks and then a bite when you weren’t petting them before hand – and if they seem happy and calm – they are probably trying to show you their love. This little nip is a normal way for them of expressing their love. I am afraid that your cat most likely doesn’t understand that this love might be a bit unpleasant for you to receive.

Kittens and sometimes grown-up cats will often lick and nip each other. Their skin is a bit tougher than ours so it most likely doesn’t hurt them. Thus your cat thinks this is an appropriate way to express its love for you.

woman snuggles with tabby cat

2. They are Grooming You to Bond

Cats will give little bits in their own grooming process when they have matted fur or need to get rid of something on their fur. Or they will do this when grooming each other, particularly when they are kittens. Cats have keratin spines on their tongue – this is why your cat’s tongue can feel a bit exfoliating. These spines allow your cat to clean itself thoroughly.

grey cat with yellow eyes and tongue up

If there is lots of licking and not much biting then they may be attempting to groom you, as if you were another cat. And if they are focussing on licking and nibbling on your hair then grooming is an even more likely explanation. If your cat is trying to groom you this is a very positive sign as it shows they have a good bond with you. Remember, cats don’t randomly groom other cats – they will only groom the cats in their group.

3. It is Overstimulated

Have you ever noticed that your cat can quickly go from being happy and content whilst you are stroking or playing with it to suddenly being very unhappy and frustrated? This normally means that they are overstimulated. Our cats of course can’t tell us to leave them alone so they communicate this through the lick and bite.

tabby cat holding person's hand

There are no set rules about overstimulation. What is too much for one cat will be fine for another. Your cat will probably have a tendency towards a small amount or a large amount of stimulation being comfortable. However, there may be some variances in what they will tolerate depending on their mood eg they may like more cuddles if you have been away or if they are feeling unwell.

Also, your cat may become aggitated if you spend too much time petting a part of their body that is more sensitive. Have a look at your cat’s ears when this happens. If they are flat against its head or flicking back and forth it is time to leave your kitty alone.

tabby cat licks human finger

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Another good way to know if you have overstimulated your cat is by watching what they do after the lick and bite. If they run away and hide then it is likely that they have been overstimulated. If they stay near you then it might be one of the other reasons in this article.

4. They are Playing

If there is a toy involved in the lick and bite then it is likely that your cat wants to play. However, the desire to play and overstimulation can look quite similar. If your cat has its whiskers and ears pointing forward, tail up, slightly arched back, and dilated pupils they may well be in the mood to play.

grey cat with colourful feather toy

The key determinant of playing vs overstimulation is how your cat reacts after the bite. If your cat wants to stay around you and is bouncy and looking happy then they are probably looking to play. If they tense up and depart the scene overstimulation is the most likely explanation.

If your cat stays on the scene then bring out a feather toy or other cat toy and you’ll soon find out if they are in the mood to play.

British blue cat chewing red ball of threads

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5. It is stressed

Excessive licking and biting can be a sign of stress or anxiety. Some cat breeds like Siamese cats will chew things when they are anxious. Alas, this chewing behavior may also extend to chewing parts of you. Some cats will start licking non-stop or in a compulsive manner when they are stressed.

wedge siamese cat
wedge siamese cat

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If your cat licks you and then bites you it is unlikely that they are genuinely angry with you. You may well have seen your cat angry or scared. Angry cats tend to get very arched and firm backs, fur standing on end and quite a hit of hissing. At worst you may be annoying your cat due to overstimulation.

Licking and Biting Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why does my cat only lick and bite me?

Probably because you are the person that they love the most.

couple with tabby cat

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2. Why does my cat lick and bite other cats?

As mentioned, licking and biting other cats can be quite normal in the world of kitties. It could also be because of one of the reasons above. However, it is likely that the other cat knows what your cat is up to!

3. What do gentle cat bites mean?

This is most likely a little love bite from your kitty. If your cat is relaxed and happy when biting you gently then this is the most likely explanation. However, if they are tense then it may be time to back off before the gentle part becomes history.

grey cat licks grey kitten

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4. Why does my cat grab my hand and bite me?

If your cat is grabbing and biting your hand it is probably mimicking hunting behaviour. This is how your cat would treat captured prey. This would mean that it was tearing its prey apart so that they could eat it but the odds are they don’t plan on doing this to any of your body parts.

5. How do I get my cat to stop biting me?

If you want your cat to stop biting you, make sure you react to every cat bite, even if it is gentle. Pause and very loudly and firmly say No. Then don’t make eye contact with your cat for at least about a minute so they also link biting with not having your attention.

cat tongue licking up close

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