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Why Does My Cat Chew on My Fingers? 8 Vet-Verified Reasons

Written by: Emma Stenhouse

Last Updated on May 28, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

Gray Cat bitting hand

Why Does My Cat Chew on My Fingers? 8 Vet-Verified Reasons

VET APPROVED

Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Cats do weird things sometimes, and if your cat has ever tried to chew on your fingers, you might be wondering what on earth has gotten into them. Some cats might choose to chew plastic; for others, their owners’ fingers are a favorite target. Join us as we look at eight reasons cats might decide to chew on your fingers. A brief nibble can seem cute, but a full-on bite from a cat can be painful and at risk of becoming infected.

Working out exactly why your cat is chewing your fingers is the first step to stopping them or changing your behavior so they don’t get to the point of chewing on you in the first place. If you want to discourage your cat from biting your fingers, we’ve also provided solutions for each reason.

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Top 8 Reasons Why Your Cat Chews on Your Fingers

1. They’re Playing

White cat bitting fingers
Image Credit: Vika Hova, Shutterstock

Cats love to play, and sometimes this can escalate to biting. The result is the same whether it’s another cat or your fingers. When our domestic cats are playing, they’re often honing the hunting skills that they’d be using if they were living in the wild. No amount of domestication will stop your cat from wanting to pounce on and bite their prey, even if it’s a toy mouse!

Solution

Allowing your cat to chew on you fingers, even if just in play, can send mixed messages to your cat. They won’t understand that it’s okay to bite you sometimes but not other times.

Consistency is the key for your cat to understand what is allowed and what is not. If your cat bites your finger during play, remove your hand. Or, if necessary, remove yourself from the scenario for a couple of minutes.

Completely ignore the cat, do not speak to it, and do not look at it. This is the only way the cat will understand that biting is unacceptable. After a few minutes, you can return and restart the play session and deflect your cat’s attention onto a toy instead of your hand.


2. They’re Stressed

Some cats will chew on or eat non-food items if they’re stressed. This can be a form of self-soothing behavior. Certain breeds, including Siamese cats, are more prone to chewing things to relieve their anxiety. If you’ve been working longer hours, have moved the furniture around, or brought a new pet home, they can all cause stress for your cat.

Solution

Speak to your vet about how to keep stress to a minimum. Make sure your cat has plenty of enrichment within their environment. Introduce new pets slowly, and consider using a feline pheromone diffuser to help your cat feel more secure and settled.


3. They’re Overstimulated

cat playing with woman hand and biting
Image Credit: Bogdan Sonjachnyj, Shutterstock

Many cats can go quickly from enjoying a soft stroke from their owners to what is known as petting-induced aggression. It is when your sensitive cat’s nerve endings become overstimulated from too much petting. So, if you’re wondering “Why does my cat bite my fingers when I pet them?”. This could be a message telling you that they’ve had enough and to back off.

Solution

Watch your cat carefully as you pet them. If they show subtle signs of overstimulation, like the end of their tail flicking or twitching ears, stop petting them and walk away. You’ll gradually be able to work out your cat’s threshold for petting. It is far better to leave the cat wanting more petting than crossing their limits. Learn to quit while the cat is still enjoying it, and your petting will remain favorable to your cat.


4. They’re Showing Affection

Some cats may show affection by giving you a gentle nibble. Pay attention to your cat’s body language and behavior, and you’ll soon be able to determine if your cat’s chewing is affectionate, a warning sign, or because you’ve just been preparing fish for dinner!

Solution

As long as you don’t mind your cat giving you a little bite on the fingers, this isn’t a problem. Remove your hand and ignore your cat if the nibble turns into a stronger bite. That is the only way the cat will learn it crossed a limit.


5. They Like Chewing Things

Cat playfully bites the fingers of a human hand
Image Credit: SerPhoto, Shutterstock

Some cats like to explore new textures or objects with their teeth. If you’re finding your cat nibble on your fingers when you pet them, this could be why.

Solution

Offer your cat a chew stick or tough rubber toy to nibble on instead of your fingers. If you know that your cat loves to chew on things, make sure you only leave them home alone in a cat-proof room without any exposed electrical cables or any other items by which they could hurt themselves by chewing.

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6. They’re Teething

As a kitten’s baby teeth start to fall out and their adult teeth erupt, it can leave their gums feeling sore and irritated. One way for them to relieve this pain is to chew on something, much like a teething baby.

Solution

If your kitten is teething, offer them a selection of safe items to chew instead of your fingers. Some kittens like chewing on cardboard. Just supervise them so they don’t end up eating any. Others prefer rubber chew toys; a puppy toy can often work great. Once your kitten’s teeth have come through, the pain will subside, and their chewing should stop.


7. They Can Smell Food on Your Hands

Black cat playing with woman hand and biting a finger
Image Credit: dashtik, Shutterstock

Have you been de-shelling shrimp for dinner and stopped to give your cat a stroke on the way to wash your hands? Don’t be surprised if your cat gives your hand an exploratory sniff and maybe even a nibble. They might not be able to resist the strong smell of tasty food.

Solution

If you’ve been handling food that attracts your cat, wash your hands thoroughly with scented hand soap before you pet your cat.


8. They Were Weaned Too Early

Most kittens will naturally start weaning at around 8 weeks of age. If your kitten was weaned earlier or suddenly removed from their mother, they can sometimes seek comfort by replicating the motions of suckling. While most cats use a soft blanket to do this, some cats chew on your fingers instead.

Solution

If your cat is consistently suckling on your hand or another inappropriate object, ask your vet or a cat behaviorist for advice. Sometimes you can give your cat a soft toy or blanket to use instead. This is a self-soothing behavior for cats, so it’s not something that you necessarily want to prevent your cat from doing altogether.

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Conclusion

As you can see, there are a variety of reasons why your cat might chew on your fingers. None of them are necessarily bad, and your cat could just be feeling playful or teething. However, if you’re concerned about your cat having a nibble on your fingers reach out to your veterinarian for advice.


Featured Image Credit: Kyrylo Vasyliev, Shutterstock

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