Why Do Cats Give Love Bites When Showing Affection?
Cats are loving animals and show affection in many ways, such as rubbing their body or head against you while you pet them or when you walk by them. They’ll purr and blink slowly to show they are happy. Another (odd) way cats show they love us is with “love bites.”
Love bites are a mystery, for sure. One minute your kitty is purring with pleasure from your touch and the next thing you know you’ve been bitten and scratched. This is very common and has been nicknamed as love biting, or more formally, petting-induced aggression.
What is Love Biting?
A love bite is when your kitty gently bites your hand while they are playing or while you are petting them. Sometimes it will begin as licking and eventually turn into biting. They’re either saying “I love you” or they’re trying to tell you it’s too much for them.
Love biting is part of your cat's natural instinct, especially when they feel overexcited or overstimulated. You may also experience a bite when your cat feels a strong sense of bonding.
Every cat I’ve owned does this, some less than others. My current cat Oreo has an interesting routine. He’ll come in from outside meowing hello, come to me for a pat and then go to my husband for a pat, but then bites his hand, all while purring happily.
I was curious to learn more about love biting, so I did some research, and this is what I found:
- It may be status-induced aggression, in which cats seek to take control of a situation.
- A neurological stimulus that associates being petted at length negatively, as well as too many people playing with them, too many sounds or being too rough.
- Some cats may not know how to show their human subtly they’re unhappy, so they bite.
Some cats are more sensitive than others, especially on their lower back above their tail. If your kitty becomes overwhelmed by all the love, it may give you a gentle nip, as if to say "okay, that's enough!"
How Can I Minimise Love Biting?
The best way is to pay attention to your cat’s tolerance level so that you can stop petting well in-advance of a bite. Observe their body language and stop petting as soon as the warning signals start appearing - a swishing tail or intense purring has always been my cue. It’s better to leave your kitty wanting more 😉
You’ll soon learn the areas your cat likes to be stroked. From my experience, on the head between the ears and under the chin are generally safe spots. The body is where it can vary dramatically, and as tempting, as it is, stays away from the tummy!
Love biting is different to hostile biting. A love bite is okay when it’s soft and gentle, but when a cat bites down hard, it’s not ok, and they are probably trying to communicate something very important. If your cat also begins hissing, growling and swishing its tail, step away as your cat is not happy, or sick or hurt.
Keep in sync with your precious kitty, and you’ll know when they need a break from playing.