Here's Why Your Cat Gives You "Love" Bites January 16 2019, 14 Comments
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, you should take it as what it is: a gesture of affection!
Your cat is letting you know that they feel safe and comfortable around you. 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.
How to Stop "Love Bites"
While love bites can be a sign of affection, they can still hurt or cause discomfort to us cat owners. It's okay to discourage this behavior. But be sure to use positive reinforcement - never react negatively to a biting cat. Instead, use a reward system, such as treats, when the cat shows appropriate behavior.