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Why Does My Cat Nibble Me? 7 Possible Reasons

Written by: Rachael Gerkensmeyer

Last Updated on February 20, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

cat biting a woman's finger

Why Does My Cat Nibble Me? 7 Possible Reasons

Cats are curious creatures that often get into trouble for following their instincts. Whether they’re ruining furniture, meowing all night long, or getting into the garbage, every cat seems to display at least one behavior that their owners are not fond of.

Some behaviors, like nibbling on us, are unusual. If your cat nibbles you, you may be confused about their intentions. In this article, we’ll discuss the reasons that they exhibit this behavior.

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The 7 Possible Reasons Why Your Cat is Nibbling You

1. They’re Showing You Affection

Some cats show affection to human companions by nibbling on them. Many owners refer to the affectionate nibbles as “love bites.” Nibbling to show affection should not be painful and, instead, should feel playful. The nibbles can sometimes even be ticklish.

Nibbling is how cats interact with other felines they have bonded with, so it makes sense that they would nibble the humans they feel close to in their lives.

2. They Happen to Be Teething

A teething kitten cannot help but wrap their mouth around things that feel good to chew on, and sometimes that happens to be a human’s arm or finger. Anytime a kitten that has yet to grow all their adult teeth nibbles on you, it’s a good bet that they are trying to get relief from the pain and discomfort they’re feeling as their teeth grow.

Teething occurs between the ages of 3 and 7 months, which is when the baby teeth fall out, and the adult teeth start to come in.

cat bites the woman's hand
Image Credit: Luis Echeverri Urrea, Shutterstock

3. They’re Trying to Relieve Stress

Sometimes, cats get stressed out for one reason or another. It could be that they’ve experienced a big life change or are dealing with a health condition.

Whatever the reason, a cat might try to relieve their stress by nibbling on their human companions while interacting with them. The nibbling can be soft and gentle, or it might be hard and aggressive, depending on their stress level.

4. They Want to Be Left Alone

If you start petting your cat or interacting with them in any other way, and they start to nibble or lightly bite on you, chances are that they want you to leave them alone for the time being.

It’s their way of politely letting you know their wishes, but if you don’t respect them, they might get more forceful with their biting and cause damage to your skin.

cat biting owner
Image Credit: Bogdan Sonjachnyj, Shutterstock

5. They’re Looking for Extra Attention

If your kitty is feeling lonely or neglected, they may get your attention by nibbling on your arms, hands, legs, or feet. They can also display other behavior while nibbling, such as lightly swatting at you or meowing.

Spending a few minutes petting your cat and playing a game should give them the attention they need so they’ll stop nibbling on you.

6. They Are Grooming You

Cats naturally nibble on themselves and their babies for grooming purposes. It removes fleas and dirt. Whether you’re dirty or not, you might find that your cat nibbles on you to groom you.

Grooming others is a form of bonding for cats, so you should take the behavior as a sign that your kitty feels bonded to you and wants to strengthen the bond.

a red domestic cat bites its owner's hand
Image Credit: Irzhanova Asel, Shutterstock

7. They’re Just Trying to Play

When a feline feels frisky and doesn’t have anything better to do, they might start nibbling on someone nearby in the hopes that they’ll receive attention in return. If you’re uncomfortable with the nibbling, redirect your cat’s attention to a toy, and praise them for refocusing their playfulness.

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There are several reasons that your cat might nibble on you, all of which can be corrected if you don’t like the behavior. Most of the time, cats aren’t trying to hurt anyone when they nibble. If they wanted to hurt a human, they would bite down hard. So, if the nibbling doesn’t cause much pain, you can assume that the act is not one of aggression.

Featured Image Credit: Daria Bondina, Shutterstock

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