close up of a ginger tabby licking a grey tabby

Why Do Cats Bite Then Lick?

Why do cats bite then lick? What is this odd behavior about? They seem to do it with us and with other cats. Read on to find out what they are up to:

You know how it goes, everything’s going to plan. You and your partner are enjoying a nice night at home. Netflix is ready and cued, and the delicious aroma of the buttered popcorn fills the room. Time to relax.

About ten minutes in, right as things are getting interesting in the movie, you feel your cat at your feet, licking the bottom of your calf. It kinda feels nice as their rough tongue moisturizes your skin.

Then they decide to start gnawing on you like you’re a piece of fried chicken.

What gives? Why is your cat gently biting your leg?

How Does My Cat Display Affection?

Your cat is your furball friend, and they love you. As their owner, they rely on you to take care of them. While they might seem like independent animals, your cat depends on you for its physical and emotional health.

Your cat forms a bond with you early in its life, and you’ll find it uses all types of body language and actions to catch your attention. As long as you socialize with her and give her everything she needs, your cat will be your best friend.

You know how your cat cuddles up to you and starts rubbing her cheeks all over you? It’s a way of them saying they love you and a way to mark her scent on you. The reality is, there’s a big part of your cat that thinks they own you.

When your cat jumps into your lap and makes themselves comfortable, they’re looking for attention. If you pet her, she starts to purr. Purring is a cat’s response to your attention, letting you know how much they’re enjoying the experience.

When cats feel relaxed and calm, they might also start to knead at your blanket or clothing. “Needling” is when the cat repeatedly kneads its claws into the cloth. It’s kind of like babies chewing on something when they’re teething – it feels good.

a seal and mink snow bengal kitten kneading her favorite blanket

Unfortunately, if you’re wearing good clothing, their sharp claws will wreck the threads and destroy your outfit. Let’s not forget about the nails penetrating your skin.

Why Does My Cat Lick And Bite Me?

So, what are the top reasons your cat decided to bite and lick your hand as your petted her this evening?

#1 Cats Lick And Bite Because They Love You

It might seem crazy, but the number one reason cats exhibit this licking and biting behavior – is because they love you. That’s right; it’s a sign of kitty affection.

Some cats get a kick out of doing it, and some might lick or bite more than others. However, in most cases, your cat isn’t trying to hurt you.

If your cat’s trying to inflict harm on you, it would, and there would be little you could do the stop it. These “love bites” are nothing like the damage you could receive from a full bite from an aggressive, angry feral cat.

If you complain and protest to your cat and change your seating position, they’ll probably stop. Scooping her into your lap also makes her stop this behavior.

If your cat keeps licking and softly biting, it might be a sign of them asking you to do something else.

#2 Licking And Biting Is A Play Request

Your cat might be signaling that it’s playtime, and they want some cuddling or action from you. This can often be the case when a cat bites you when you are sleeping. Grab a toy and see if their alertness picks up. If they start engaging in playtime activities, they want you to help them burn off some energy. Some cats like to play for ages, and some get bored easily, which brings us to our next point.

#3 Licking And Biting Tells You They’re Over Playtime

Yes, you really can’t win with your cat, can you? They bite you when they love you, they bite you when they want to play – and yes, they bite you when they want you to stop.

If you’re playing with your kitty for a few minutes, and they start biting your fingers, it means that playtime is over.

Some cats can bite pretty hard, especially if you keep going. For example, tickling their tummy could net you purrs for your efforts or cost you your fingertips.

#4 Your Cat Is Asking For Food

Another sign of the licking and biting behavior is hunger – when did you last feed your cat? Are you sure their water bowl is full?

#5 Your Kitty Is Feeling Anxious

Like humans, some felines have problems with anxiety. It stems from the fear they experience from “separation anxiety” as kittens.

This problem happens when the breeder separates them from their mother for the first time.

This anxiety can transfer to other areas of their life.

Suppose the owner doesn’t give the cat enough attention or neglects its needs for food and water. In that case, the cat can start exhibiting erratic and anxious behavior, like hiding away and biting.

a grey cat with green eyes biting down on a hand

Do I Need To Worry About My Cat Licking and Biting Me?

Unsociable cats don’t bite and lick; they go into biting rages in some cases. However, chances are you take care of your kitty, and it’s a sign of the first for items on the list.

Your cat will never bite you so hard it causes an injury unless it really wants to catch your attention, and you keep ignoring it. However, even if they do go a bit far, it’s not going to cause a visit to the emergency room.

If your cat does break your skin, make sure you treat the area with antiseptic. The bacteria in cats’ teeth, saliva, and claws can sometimes cause issues with infections.

It might surprise you to learn that “cat-scratch disease” is a real thing. Caused by the “Bartonella henselae” bacteria found in your cat’s nails, CSD can cause a nasty infection.

Typically, cats carrying the Bartonella henselae bacteria came in contact with fleas or had flea dropping enter a fresh wound.

However, in most cases, your cat doesn’t keep going with the biting behavior after you acknowledge them.

What Cat Behavior Relates To Licking And Biting?

Most people find that the biting behavior starts as the cat begins to mature. Kittens don’t really exhibit bite-and-lick behavior.

Depending on your cat, it could prefer biting or licking behavior. 

Some of the issues with licking include the following.

  • Licking your face
  • Licking your hands and fingers
  • Excessive over-grooming of themselves
  • Grooming and licking other cats (allogrooming)

Some of the biting issues with cats include the following.

Veterinary science is still unclear on the exact reasons cats exhibit this biting and licking behavior. Some experts suggest it could be a means of cats supplementing the minerals in their diet.

By licking you, the cat takes the salts out of your skin. Maybe after a few licks, it finds you tasty, and she wants to know what you would be like for the main course? We doubt it, but you never know with cats.

Do You Notice Any Of The Other Licking Or Biting Behavior In Your Cat?

Which biting or licking behavior do you notice in your feline friend? Drop us a line in the comments and let us know your experience raising your kitty!