Here's Why Your Cat Gives You "Love" Bites


If you're a cat butler (err, owner) you've probably experienced a "love bite" or two. Love bites usually happen in the midst of kitty cuddle time. One minute your kitty will be purring away as you pet them, the next they're nibbling and nipping at your hands. My cat Rascal has a fondness for my chomping down on my knuckles. This odd behavior may leave many cat owners wondering, "Why is my cat biting me out of nowhere?"

Biting is a form of communication for cats. They can bite for more than a few reasons: fear, aggression, defensiveness, or acting territorially. But did you know that many cats give their owners gentle nibbles and nips as a display of affection? Hence the name "Love Bites"! Cats show their affection for us humans in several ways - you just have to know what to look for. 

What is a Love Bite?

Love bites generally start as licks and graduate into gentle nips and nibbles that don't break the skin. Some cat behaviorists believe that love bites are reminiscent of a cat's kittenhood when their mothers would lick and nibble them during grooming. So if your cat is giving you a gentle nibble or lick, it can be seen as a sign of affection.

And believe it or not, though domestic cats aren't usually seen as "social" animals, they actually enjoy participating in what's called "allogrooming." Allogrooming is a social grooming behavior that helps increase bonds among social groups, in this case, you and your kitty; much like a pride of lions

So, how can you tell what is and isn't a love bite? A love bite generally doesn't break the skin. And when your kitty is giving you these gentle nibbles, there won't be other signs of fear or aggression, like hissing, growling, and clawing. Engaging in "love bite" behavior, your cat's body language will be relaxed and calm. 


However, as most cat owners know: sometimes these gentle nibbles and licks can be a sign that your cat is overstimulated and they're letting you know, gently, that it's time to stop. If you've ever been petting your cat only to have their gentle nibbles escalate suddenly into a harder bite, your cat may be experiencing overstimulation. If you have multiple cats that groom each other, you may notice this behavior during grooming time, too. 

Cats may experience overstimulation due to the sensitivity of their hair follicles - after an extended period of petting or pressure, it can begin to hurt and cause discomfort in cats. Gentle nips may be your cat letting you know petting time is over; these warnings may be paired with other signs of discomfort, such as tail swishing or flicking, skin twitching over the back, flattening of the ears, freezing, tenseness or staring, quick head turn to watch your hand as you pet, pupillary dilation, or walking away and lying down. 


How to Stop "Love Bites"

While love bites can often be a sign of affection, they can still hurt or cause discomfort to us cat owners. It's okay to discourage this behavior.

1. When your cat gives you love bites, don't quickly pull your hand away. Instead, stop moving your hand altogether until the nibbles stop, then move your hand. Cats are visual predators and the movement of your hand may encourage their prey drive and make them chomp down harder, purely out of instinct. 

Don't yell at or swat your cat, as this may result in fearful or aggressive behavior. Instead, use a reward system, such as treats, when the cat shows appropriate behavior. 

2. If your cat gives you love bites a little too often, try a hands-off play style. Use interactive toys such as a variety of wand toys or even an app-controlled cat toy to encourage bonding with your cat without the love bites.


Does your cat give you love bites? Let us know in the comments! 



  • Larry Crawley

    I feed a cat on my porch. He is young and wants to come in house. I have 3 in house. Wife said no more. I feel terrible. Cat has started to bite my hands not to hard. I put bed on porch for him and sit wit him. There are others i feed outside and 1 is a bully. I keep him away. What does biting mean

  • Alex

    My cat, and I say mine, as It was my son’s and his former partners, and I decided they were living a life to transient for a puddy cat, as they moved him several times in 5 years ( twice back to my place) and Puddy has bonded with me, to the extent when I moved houses and he got to see the new place, he instantly loved it and although got out the first day, was away for half an hour and back again ( we moved within 1 and 1/2 Kms of out last place) anyway short story long, Puddy is also a rescue cat, the kids picked him up from the SPCA , they fell in love with him when they saw him a day or so after they had removed his leg, they think it was a car accident, but he wasnt chipped, so they adopted him,, he has taken to climbing on the table every morning and head butting me, then climbing on to my laptop, grabbing my hand with his front paws, and biting me until I stop what I am doing to cuddle or play.. occasionally he does the bunny kick with it, ( he only has one hind leg, so its bearable) and he does it until I stop and play with him, or just cuddle him.. He has been in his element since I gave up work, a lot happier, as the doors are open and he is in and out all day, ( no cat doors yet, will look at how we are going to do that as our doors are all glass and old glass) the best part for Puddy is that my son and grandson are living with us, in a detatched unit, so he often goes and visits them, then wanders home when he gets bored ( usually goes there when I an vacuuming as he hates it) or he wanders up to the thrid floor whe my husband has his office and spends time sprawled out there poncing on Husbands feet while he is on a an online meeting, or just walking across the desk knocking things off as he goes,

  • Cat Named Stripe

    My cat grooms my whole hand for 5 mins or more when I pull away slowly he follows my hand or gently grabs it. He is 9 months old. Rescued off the street. Very very friendly though. First night I let him sleep in my house. He laid on my chest for hours sleeping. I had to sit in my recliner. Put his head right by my beard.

  • Rene Justice and Bella

    Bella is a very friendly and appreciative kitty. She loves giving kisses and holding onto my wrist/arms. At times when she is really happy (a lot of purrin’ going on) she will grab my hand and give me “love bites.” I think she is just sufferin’ from EXCESSIVE HAPPINESS and just doesn’t know what to do. LOL…….💕💕💕💕💕

  • Chris

    Our 9 year old cat has always had something of a nose fetish and will often make an attempt to have a single and very gentle nip on the very end during cuddle time… but she never goes as far as biting. Still, it can hurt if those needle teeth make contact with such a sensitive spot so she’s discouraged from doing it by just calmly saying “no bities”! (What cats bring us to, right?) She absolutely understands the deal now because more often than not, she’ll make the motion of going in for a nibble right up to having her mouth open and ready, but she’ll hang back from actually making contact. As for the ’I’ve had enough’ thing… I’m not saying it doesn’t exist at all in any cat but it’s simply not a thing for her, she’ll take cuddles every bit as long as you’re prepared to give them… the soft lump :0)

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