Why Do Cats Lick Then Bite? Is That Being A Nice Kitty?

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Why do cats lick then bite, is usually related to play behavior. Cats will often engage in rough play with each other, which consists of some chasing, pouncing and biting. The same applies when playing with their owners.

Is Your Cat Showing You Affection When Licking?
Is The Cat Trying To Tell You Something? Anxiety!
Petting Induced Aggression – How To Recognize!
A Love Bite

It is somewhat disconcerting to be playing with your kitty and having fun, when the cat licks you and then bites or does the bite lick combo. Our instinct is to be upset and pull our hand (or foot or arm etc) out of harms way while shouting ”hey kitty”. The tone of voice and the sudden movement spooks the cat and there it is, fun ended.

Why do cats sometimes do this? Kids can have problems with this, thinking they have upset the cat or that the cat is mean.

Is Your Cat Showing You Affection When Licking?

cat licking owners hand

It may be that your cat is simply showing you affection in his own feline way by giving you a little lick. Some people encourage their cats to do this because they enjoy it, while others find it uncomfortable.

Some cats and kittens will lick and bite their owners on the nose. Once again, this isn’t a problem unless it is for you. Most people find it quite endearing. The nose appears to be a particular target.

This is a personal story as a cat owner with children. One of the kids used to put some vegemite, a tiny amount, on his bare foot. The vegemite has a strong smell. The cat absolutely loved it and would lick it off with his rasping tongue, much to the amusement of the kids. Does your cat lick you?

What is vegemite? Vegemite is an Australian condiment, pretty well hated the world over, unless you are an Aussie and then you will love it.

Is The Cat Trying To Tell You Something? Anxiety!

If the cat licks you then bites you, it may be that the cat’s own anxiety levels are rising to a point where they lash out at their owner because they simply do not know how else to express their fear without resorting to biting.

why do cats lick then bite

This can happen when there is loud noise or some other disruption. The cat will become anxious and feel threatened by this stimulus, which leads to them trying to defend themselves using their teeth.

Being bitten by an angry or anxious cat is not the same as being bitten when the cat is playing. A bite from a fearful cat will be reflected in the cat’s body language, for example stiffness in the body, hissing, warning meowing and so on.

Petting Induced Aggression – How To Recognize!

Aggression after being petted is not uncommon and can be avoided by getting to know your cat’s body language and his likes and dislikes when being petted.

Related: This article walks you through the steps of petting a cat.

The cat may feel vulnerable and react by licking and biting or biting and scratching. Stop petting the cat until you can determine what may be causing his distress.

Commonly cats don’t like being petted on the tummy. This was a giant no no for the vegemite loving cat. His paws were also out of bounds. His tummy and paws were white, so we just avoided the white parts.

Areas To Avoid When Petting A cat

  1. The tummy area and paws are pretty common no go areas to pet a cat.
  2. Another area to avoid is the tail. As we know the tail is a barometer for the cats mood. Cats don’t usually take kindly to having the tail played with. This could well result in a cat bite. Children often find the tail of a cat to be irresistible. Model the correct behavior of how to play with a cat correctly.
child pulling a cats tail may get bitten
Don’t touch the cat’s tail.

When adult cats and kittens are playing together, their bodies become intertwined (which is why cats often end up with their tails wound around each other) and during this tussling match, there may be times when the cat’s teeth unintentionally make contact with you. This is accidental and although regrettable, it is not something the cat intentionally was trying to do.

If the bite is aggressive, it is necessary to look at the behaviour that came first. If playing with the cat became too aggressive it is not unusual for the cat to respond by biting or sometimes scratching.

Related: Why Does My Cat Scratch Me? You can stop this behavior.

Don’t get angry at your cat if he bites you while playing, instead be firm and say no firmly. Cats don’t always know when to stop, if they do bite you too hard just say no firmly and turn away.

He will learn what is OK and what isn’t over time, by providing him with plenty of affection he will stay calm when playing and play biting.

Sometimes when children are playing with a cat, things may get a little out of control the cat may show aggression and the licking turns to biting. Remember this is a learning curve for the child and once again highlights the importance of teaching children how to treat cats. Using a grooming glove can be a quiet time for the cat to enjoy being petted while sitting on a soft lap. Children can be shown how to use a glove. This is a lovely bond to foster and a gentle way for children to pet the cat.

child playing with a cat
Children need to shown how to play with cats.

There is no point in shouting at the cat. The cat will usually respond by running away and then becoming fearful. A far better solution is to learn to understand our cats and be aware of trigger situations.

A lot of understanding the behavior of your cat, is simply by observing and paying attention to his little habits.

Licking and Biting or Biting and Licking?

Which comes first, the licking or the biting? Mostly the licking would come before the biting however it can certainly be in reverse. It is just one of those wonders of the kitty world.

Just Plain Licking!

Cats’ territorial scent glands may be one reason why they lick certain parts of your body. Territorial scent glands, which are found on the cheeks and paws of cats, release chemicals. The cat recognizes you as a member of its family (because of your smell) and is marking you as such.

A Love Bite – Not Really!

If you’re a cat owner you’ll sometimes be puzzled by your cats behavior, especially when they give you a nip or bite and then lick you straight afterwards. This kind of behavior is very normal among cats.

Sometimes cat kisses can seem more like a bite or a sharp pinch which can hurt. Remember don’t get angry at your cat, as you can confuse the poor cat. If your feline friend gives a firm love bite than just be firm and say No firmly! In time your cat will understand.

The Cat’s Built In Mood Detector

Make sure when you approach your cat to look at their tail first, as their tail is like their mood detector. Remember if their tail is quivering with excitement avoid contact as you might end up with a love bite.

Approaching your cat when it’s in a good mood, the tail will look calm and only the tip will gently move. On the other hand if they’re unhappy their tail will flick from side to side, it’s always best to avoid contact with them until they show a better mood.

Look at that mood detector and gauge how much playing kitty us likely to be okay with. Some cats by nature are very placid however others are not. Or vegemite loving cat certainly had his turns of aggression. It wasn’t until he was an elderly cat that he tolerated being picked up and cuddled.

Live in harmony with your cat, just try to be aware of their mood swings and if they do bite and lick you (kiss you) remember it’s usually their way of saying I love you.

There is a scent gland on the bottom of the cat’s paw, if you stroke your cat with their paw in your hand he may lick you to show his affection because he will pick up his own scent to remind him that it’s his territory.

Why Do Cats Lick Each Other?  

Grooming begins immediately after birth. They do this through a basic social activity that serves as an emotional bond and a way of communication, even before the play behavior is developed.

You may have noticed that most social grooming between cats is around the head and neck. It is harder for the cat to reach these areas. Hygiene does play a role in why cats groom each other.

Grooming behavior where cats lick each other is described in more detail on this page.


two cats talking to each other
Good manners are what is required dear. Don’t you agree?

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