What Does a Cat Biting & Licking You Mean?

by Bethney Foster, Demand Media
    Let me down!

    Let me down!

    When your cat bites and licks you, it can mean different things at different times. Cats bite and lick to communicate. You have to consider your cat's body language and what is happening in your cat's world to determine just what it is he is trying to tell you.

    Play

    Cats bite and lick as part of play. Kittens who leave their littermates too young may not learn boundaries and go on to play too rough as adults. Because mom and littermates will squeal and stop playing when a kitten gets too rough, staying with the family for longer teaches kittens not to bite too hard. If you adult cat is biting and licking too much in play, you can try to teach him this isn’t acceptable. When he starts to play too rough, walk away. He'll soon learn that if he wants to continue to play, he'll have to be gentler.

    Affection

    Sometimes, licking and gentle nibbling can be your cat’s way of showing affection. Mother cats lick and nibble at their kittens in grooming, and it may be that your cat is trying to show you the same love his mom showed him. This behavior can become annoying, but as you redirect him, keep in mind he is doing this because he wants to show his affection. Never yell at him or hit him to make him stop. Again, the simplest way to tell your cat that you don't like being licked is to walk away when the behavior starts. You could also try offering him a treat or toy to distract him.

    Stress

    Some cats take licking and biting a step further and suckle on their person's skin or clothing. This behavior likely results from kittens leaving their moms and littermates too soon. The suckling behavior is probably comforting to your cat and may start or increase when he is feeling particularly stressed or insecure. If the behavior doesn't bother you, it's OK to let him continue. If it gets to the point of annoying, try redirecting his behavior by walking away, offering a treat or distracting him with a toy. You might also try a cat pheromone product to help ease any anxiety he is feeling.

    Over-Stimulation

    Many cats will become over-stimulated if play or petting continues too long. His tail starts to twitch and he gets that annoyed look on his face. Then before you know what has happened, he's chomped down on your hand. There is no way to train your cat not to become over-stimulated. Dealing with over-stimulation biting means learning to understand what your cat is telling you. If he struggles to get down, let him down. If his tail is wagging, his ears are back or his body is stiffening, these are signs it's time to back off. Some cats will go from purring and cuddling to over-stimulation in a matter of seconds. If your cat is one of these, it's critical you learn to read his signals.

    About the Author

    Bethney Foster works in social justice and animal causes, and is director of a pet rescue agency. Foster spent nearly two decades as a newspaper reporter/editor, writing for publications including "The Central Kentucky News-Journal," "Mount Vernon Democrat" and "Cleveland Daily Banner." Foster graduated from Campbellsville University, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in English, journalism and political science.

    Photo Credits

    • Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images