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.

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