Why does my cat lick me then bite me? Explanations of a puzzling habit.

Why does my cat lick me then bite me? Explanations of a puzzling habit.

Have you ever run into a situation where your cat starts to lick you fondly, then suddenly those licks turn into a ferocious bite? Sometimes the question of why does my cat lick me then bite me is also a confusing matter for me as well.

Why cat licks then bites

When cat bites then licks you (or vice versa), it can mean a few things:


Even though cats’ tongues may not have the best feel on your skin, they are designed for their primary purpose of cleaning and swallowing. The cat family’s tongues have pointy barbs called papillae, which are made of keratin. These barbs are sharp and backward facing toward the throat, helping felines swallow and take out even the smallest piece of meat off the bones of their prey. But they also aid in brushing and tailor their fur, especially for breeds that have longer and thicker fur coats.

Why does my cat lick me then bite me
The texture of a cat's tongue is optimized for efficient grooming.

Cats use licks on each other both to groom (especially the annoying to groom places), and to make sure their scents are similar as a way of alarming strangers ‘this cat is with me’. Mother cats do this with kittens because kittens can’t groom themselves, but adult cats will also do it to each other. And they will also do this to others in their social group, which means you. They lick you as a member worthy of mutual grooming.


But what does it mean when a cat bites you gently? It might just be that a cat has to work out grooming problems that can’t be fixed with their tongues. However, we humans unfortunately lack a cat’s coat of fur. Our skin is also more closely attached to other layers underneath. So an affectionate lick – or what the cat thinks is a helpful nip to pretty you up – will, in fact, hurt a lot.


In other cases, your cat might just want to play and he’s just not sure how to ask you to play. If your cat is a kitten, nipping (especially if it doesn’t draw blood) may be an invitation to scratch their ears or play wrestle with them. Cats love biting and scratching their friends in a playful demeanor, and the sort of nip they might give as part of a play fight or to tell you to knock it off isn’t supposed to break the skin.
Why does my cat lick me then bite me
Sometimes your cat can bite you out of nowhere.
Why cat nibble on you may also depend on what the two of you have been doing prior to this. If he is just waking from a nap, he may be ready to play. If he has just had a rousing play session and seems to be tired, he may just be asking for some petting or if you have been petting him, he may want you to stop. A true bite from a cat will be deep, can draw blood and is very painful.


So when your cat bites you out of nowhere, it can be a normal behavior, and exactly how a cat would treat a close friend or its own kitten. They might take a while to learn what their new human friends consider acceptable. When you find that their bites are a bit too rough, express your displeasure by reacting loudly with a yelp. They don’t intend to hurt you, so if you get the message across that it does hurt, they will learn not to do it.
Why does my cat lick me then bite me
It's important to stop unwanted biting

Therefore, in most cases, if your cat licks you then bite you, it might just be a sign of either affection or their playfulness to you. However, it’s very important to stop cats if they bite you out of aggression. Aggressive biting will often be accompanied by hissing, spitting and a defensive, arched posture. Try to avoid allowing your pet into situations in which they become aggressive. 


This is more likely the case with outdoor cats that consider you having territorial disputes with them, or cats that have a history of abuse and are frightened easily. Your pet should learn that this kind of behavior isn’t acceptable, or they will continue to use it as a way of expressing their fear or frustration.

what to do when your cat bites you

Why does my cat lick me then bite me
Treat your wound immediately if you are bitten by your cat.

If you get bitten by your cat and it draws blood, it’s important to treat it immediately since cat bites are highly infectious. Lightly press on your wound, so the bacteria that might enter will be forced out. Wash it gently with water and go see your doctor to get antibiotics or a vaccine if needed.  


Supposing that you wish to train cats out of their biting habit, you can buy them interactive toys to stimulate them and take the bites away from you. Fix their behavior right away if they attack your bare hand/feet or other body parts, and remember to reward them for their good manner.  


If you still have other ways to explain why does my cat lick me then bite me, please feel free to tell me in the comment. I would love to hear your opinions!

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