Has your feline friend ever showered you with affection by licking you, only to unexpectedly nip at you moments later? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably pondered the question: why do cats bite and then lick?
Cats communicate in various ways, including meowing, purring, licking, and yes, even biting. But why do they combine a seemingly loving gesture like licking with a nip, which is generally considered undesirable behavior? The truth is, nobody knows for sure. It’s the million-dollar question.
While experts in feline behavior may not have a definitive answer, as a cat parent for over 20 years, I’ve observed and interpreted this behavior in various scenarios. In this article, I’ll share my insights into nine different situations, accompanied by adorable images and an educational video on overstimulation.
It’s important to note that every cat is unique, and their bite-then-lick behavior may have different meanings. So, let’s dive into the various reasons behind this perplexing behavior.
Table of Contents
It’s Play Time
Imagine this scenario: you’ve just come home from a tiring day at work, and as you finally sit down to relax, your cat jumps on your lap, sweetly licks your arm, and then nips you. What was that for?
Chances are, while you were exhausted, your cat was at home, probably sleeping. Now that their favorite person has returned, it’s playtime! Their little nip is their way of saying, “Get off your butt and play with me!”
During playtime, your feline companion might exhibit the lick-nip combination not only towards you but also towards their toys. It’s their way of interacting and engaging in playful behavior. To avoid the lick-nip combo, I recommend keeping a laser pointer or a wand toy nearby, so you can entertain your kitty while sitting comfortably.
Have you ever observed a litter of kittens snuggled together, nipping and licking each other? Those little nips are what we often refer to as “love bites.” Similarly, cats might display similar behavior towards us, their pet parents. The only difference is that cats have tougher skin, so a nip isn’t painful to them like it is to us.
While we may prefer just the gentle lick, we don’t always get to choose how our kitty shows affection. When the bite is light and doesn’t break the skin, it’s simply a slightly more assertive way for them to express their love.
Grooming and Bonding
Next time you observe your kitty grooming themselves, take note of how they lick and nibble in certain areas. Something similar could be inferred when they groom you. Cats may enjoy grooming their human’s hair, leaving us a bit disheveled in the process. It’s their way of bonding with us.
However, it’s important to remember that a cat’s tongue is like sandpaper, making it difficult for them to groom us in the same spot for an extended period. So, if the licking becomes too intense, they might resort to a little nip. Ouch!
Cats rely heavily on scent to convey messages, much more so than humans do. When they rub their face against you, nibble, or lick you, they’re marking you with their scent. It’s their way of claiming you as a member of their family and letting other cats know that you’re off-limits.
While marking is typically done using facial scent glands, sometimes biting and licking can also be involved in the process. So, don’t be surprised if your kitty rubs their face on you and then goes in for a little lick and nibble.
You Taste Good
Believe it or not, a nibble and lick from your cat could simply mean that you taste good. It might be the salt on your skin after exercising or working in the garden or the lingering flavor of a sandwich you just made. While it may seem silly, cats do have a keen sense of taste.
However, be cautious if your cat keeps nibbling and licking you. Consider what substances you’ve touched or applied to your skin, as some may be harmful to your furry friend. Always wash your hands before snuggling up if you’ve handled anything that could be toxic to cats.
Cats seek attention for various reasons, and their methods can vary. For example, if you’ve overslept on the weekend and missed your furry alarm clock’s breakfast time, they might meow or gently lick you awake. If that doesn’t work, they may resort to a little nip to get your attention.
Remember, you’re the servant in this relationship! While some cats may just sit and stare, the lick-nip combo is quite common when they’re not getting the response they want. So, pay attention to their cues and respond accordingly.
Telling You to Stop
Up until now, we’ve discussed positive or playful reasons for the bite and lick combination. However, sometimes cats use this behavior as a warning. One of the most common reasons for a nip after licking is to communicate that they want you to stop what you’re doing.
This warning can be particularly relevant in situations of overstimulation. Some cats become overwhelmed when touched for extended periods or in certain areas. Signs of overstimulation can include flicking tails or laid-back ears. If your kitty becomes squirmy, it’s time to give them some space.
Occasionally, biting and licking can also be a manifestation of stress, frustration, pain, or illness. It’s their way of expressing discomfort or dissatisfaction. Pay attention to patterns of behavior and consult your vet if you suspect any health-related issues.
Understanding Cat Behavior
To interpret your cat’s bite and lick behavior accurately, it’s essential to observe their body language. Their tail position, ear movements, and overall behavior can provide valuable insights into their intentions. Learning to recognize subtle warning signals will help strengthen the bond between you and your kitty.
While it can be challenging to decipher your furry friend’s complex language, being a good companion means learning their ways. If you’re having trouble understanding why your cat bites and then licks you, feel free to leave a comment below. I’m here to assist you to the best of my abilities!
Remember, being a cat parent is both a unique and rewarding experience. Enjoy the love, playfulness, and occasional nibbles from your feline companion!