Why Does My Cat Bite Me And Then Lick Me?

A small white British kitten lies upside down
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As all cat people know, cats are mysterious. Why they make the choices they make, do the things they do—it's all enigmatic to us mere humans. Sure, we can imagine what it must be like to be a cat, but there are some cat behaviors that mystify us. For example, when your cat is purring and content, happily sitting in your lap and all of a sudden, she bites your hand and then licks the spot she just bit. What the heck is that?

How cats show affection

Cats certainly are loving and lovable little fluff balls. Once they pick you to be their person, you're it. How they show you that you are their everything will differ depending on the cat, but there are some signs that your cat is super happy that are pretty consistent.

Do you notice that your cat loves to sit on your chest and rub his mouth and jaw on your chin? That's one way your cat is telling you he loves you. Or that he owns you--it really can go either way. Cats have scent glands along their jaw and by sweetly rubbing his jaw along yours, he's leaving a trace of his pheromones on you. This can serve as a reminder that your his, a warning to other cats or animals that you're taken, or simply that he's hungry and it's dinner time.

Purring and kneading are also two signs that your cat thinks you're just the best. Cats purr when they feel calm, relaxed, and safe. They knead often for the same reasons. Just like rubbing faces, your kitty kneads you to leave a tiny little scent marker on you from the pads of her paws.

We know that there are certain behaviors that signal that a cat is relaxed, happy and feeling the love. One major thing a lot of their actions have in common is that many of these affectionate acts are commonly grooming behaviors.

Beautiful bengal cat feeling sleepy or playful.
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Why is my cat licking me?

If you are curled up with your cat, and she takes your hand in her paws and licks you, she is probably engaging a grooming behavior with you, as she would another cat or kitten. She's bonding with you. This bond is important for any human and cat relationship, and much like with humans, absence can make the heart grow fonder. In a recent study, cats who have been apart from their owners for a little while will be more interactive once they are reunited. So be prepared for extra kitty kisses when you get back from that three-day weekend vacay.

Why is my cat biting me?

Both licking and biting can be tied to grooming, but biting also is a method of communication for cats. If your cat is biting you, he can be playing, warning you, or telling you he loves you. It is important to think about the context of the bite, what your kitty's body language is telling you, and if your cat's bite breaks the skin. A cat who bites hard enough to cause a wound is not a happy cat and it is important to get the wound treated right away.

Cute pet playing rough
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Why is my cat biting and then licking me?

When we look at cat behaviors in the big picture, there are still elements of mystery, but most of the time it comes down to communication and grooming. If your cat is feeling playful and is biting your hands and then licking them, she is treating you just as she would another cat. She's saying that you're her bestie and she's feeling feisty.

She could be communicating to you that she's getting a little over-agitated with whatever the situation is—be it play, or petting, or cuddling, or looking at your face—and she needs a break. It is key to really take note of the rest of your cat's body language to determine if everything is cool or if it's time to cool down and take a break.

Additionally, a cat who bites and then licks you might be simply falling into the grooming patterns she's used to. Sometimes cats will chew or gnaw on a part of their fur to remove debris or help smooth things out before licking. This may be what she is doing to you.

Is there any time when licking and biting is worrisome?

There are certain behaviors that cats will use to signal that they are in pain or discomfort. Cats will repetitively lick a specific body part or area when they are in pain or "over groom" themselves. Additionally, they may try to bite, especially if they are in a lot of pain, as a way of warning the nearby humans that they aren't feeling well or they're hurting. Experts don't agree that licking people is a particularly reliable sign of pain, as there are other reasons a cat could be doing that. Namely, because she feels like it. If your cat is exhibiting other symptoms of pain, it might be worth taking him to the vet to get checked out.