Skip to main content

5 Times to Worry About a Cat Licking You and Then Biting You

I enjoy writing about issues related to the health and wellness of animals and providing guidance to pet owners on simple home remedies.


Why Does My Cat Lick Me and Then Bite Me?

Cats that lick you and then bite you are probably expressing their love by giving a "love bite." This is particularly likely if you're just lounging around and not petting your cat actively because he's trying to get your attention. But, in certain situations, it might be an indication of something else.

It's a common behavior in many cats that have become over-stimulated, and until you learn how to handle it with your cat, it can be frightening and frustrating.

The majority of cats' aggressive behavior is directed at their owners and it may be difficult to know how to react. The behavior may start with affectionate licking and then move quickly towards actions like stalking, chasing, attacking, running, hiding, pouncing, leaping, batting, swatting, grasping, fighting, and, of course, biting.

An affectionate cat might suddenly feel the need to defend itself when they are experiencing fear, pain, or stress, or when they are acting on their predatory instincts. You should call your veterinarian if your cat suddenly bites you without provocation to make sure there isn't anything physically wrong with him.

The following five situations outline some circumstances in which you may raise concerns about your cat's licking-and-biting behavior.

1. When Your Cat Bites You Hard

A cat might occasionally lick you playfully but then bite you firmly. Because they are acting on their innate desire to hunt, cats frequently bite strongly after licking affectionately. Licking, biting, and kicking are especially common play actions for kittens. They mimic how they pounce, grab, and attack their prey when they play like this.

Yelling at your cat for biting is never a smart idea. If he bites you hard while you're playing, firmly exclaim "ow" and then leave. He will discover that biting forcefully puts an end to playtime. Punishing or yelling at him will only make him fearful and more likely to respond negatively.

2. Excessive Licking and Biting

In most cases, cat licking and biting are normal behaviors that cats engage in when interacting with their environment. They may do this to express affection, request our attention, or simply enjoy some alone time. Cats lick to express love, form bonds with people and other cats, and groom.

Licking and biting are their ways of telling us what they want or how they are feeling, so we must pay attention. However, when your cat keeps licking and biting you excessively, it may be a sign that he is stressed, anxious, or allergic. If your cat is frequently licking and biting, you may need to take them to the vet for diagnosis and treatment.

3. Licking and Biting on the Face

Cats frequently lick our faces while we rest or sleep, and if they need attention, they might even bite. Our cats' behavior suggests that they view us as members of their family. They will take care of us by grooming us and fostering our relationship because they want us to be healthy.

However, when your cats lick your face, it may pose potential health risks. The saliva of a cat's mouth contains several parasites and bacteria referred to as "Pasteurella," which can lead to lymph nodes and occasionally serious infections. Of course, those germs will get on you when they lick and bite your face.

The most effective thing you can do is try to divert your cat's attention to something else to prevent him from licking you and then biting your face. If your cat enjoys being petted, you might do so to deter them from licking. In a similar vein, you might try using a toy to get them to focus on playing rather than focusing on you.

4. Overly Licking and Biting in the Morning

Because they anticipate their owners being active and engaged with them then, cats are more affectionate in the morning. Some cats might be trying to get extra attention in the early morning hours because they may feel a bit deprived after they have been sleeping all night. In the morning, cats seek food, love, and interaction.

Your cat may become more affectionate with you in the morning due to these positive associations. Because of this, you can anticipate that they will lick you and bite you more frequently (and perhaps more aggressively) than at other times of the day. Try ignoring your cat for a while if it bothers you, and watch to see if he shifts his focus to something else.

Play aggression is a behavior that is often  exhibited in cats

Play aggression is a behavior that is often exhibited in cats

5. Communication During Petting

If your cat wants to play, it might lick you and then start nibbling as a prompt to play. During times of petting, cats commonly nibble or bite their owners. It is especially common in cats that have recently given birth. These cats are believed to act similarly to a mother cat grooming her kittens with tiny bites.

But excessive licking and biting during petting could be a sign of stress or anxiety. It might be a sign that he is trying to communicate with you to let you know how he is feeling. Along with other symptoms like biting, restlessness, shaking, drooling, and loss of appetite, an anxious cat may require medical attention. As a pet owner, you could try offering some calming and reassuring techniques. A veterinarian may need to prescribe supplements or medications to treat his anxiety.

Final Thoughts

By giving you loving licks and bites, your cat is letting you know how much it cares. It might be trying to cuddle or it might just want to play rough. Cats who lick and bite are probably expressing their love by giving a "love bite." If you're just unwinding and not actively petting your cat, this is particularly likely.

But so-called "love bites" might also be a warning sign that something is amiss with your cat. Excessive licking and forceful biting can sometimes be a sign of play aggression, anxiety, pain, or stress. If you are in any way concerned about the extent of your cat's behavior, it's a wise idea to consult a veterinarian.

Sources and Further Reading

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2022 Louise Fiolek