Why Do Some Cats Give "Love Bites?"
Cats are loving creatures and show their affection in many different ways. They may rub their body or head against you while you pet them or when you walk by them. They will purr and wink at you to show they are happy (read more about this in my blog "8 Signs Your Cat is Happy"), but another way some cats show they love us are through “love bites.”
What’s A “Love Bite?"
A love bite is when a cat gently bites your hand or part of your body while they are playing or while you are petting them. It may show they are happy or pleased with you. I once knew a cat that loved to lick people and eventually the licking turned into biting. It was her way of saying “I love you.” However, they may also be trying to tell you it's all a little too much for them.
Some cats are just more sensitive for others - especially on their lower back right before their tail. If some cats becomes overwhelmed by all the love, they may give you a gentle nip - almost just touching their teeth to you - as if to say "Okay, okay. That's enough from you!"
When Love Bites Get Too Hard
A love bite is okay when it’s soft and gentle, but when a cat bites down hard, it hurts us! If your cat has a habit of biting like this, they are probably trying to communicate something very important– they feel over-stimulated.
There may be too many stimuli in the room - possibly too many people playing with her, too many sounds, etc. Basically, your cat has reached their limit with whatever they are doing at the moment, and they need a break from playing.
One of my friend’s cats gets over stimulated when two people play with her or when I use two hands to play with her. It’s just too much for her to focus on. She either bites down hard (She’s drawn blood before!) or runs away.
Signs A Cat Is About to Bite Hard
Cats do give warning signs through their body language before they bite. The key is to recognize signs your cat is feeling overwhelmed before they get to the breaking point. Pay attention to their tail, body position and eyes:
- Tail: A cat that’s on edge will wag their tail back and forth. They may also puff the hair out on their tail as well. This is there way of telling you they need a break from playing.
- Body Position: As you are playing, you may feel their skin start to twitch quickly or they may begin to squirm and become tense. They are warning you that they are on the verge of a stimulation overload.
- Eyes: Your cat’s eyes will become dilated when they are happy and playful. But if they starts moving their eyes and head towards you, then away, and back towards you, this is their way of saying “Hey, don’t you understand, I’ve had enough of this play!”
What To Do If Your Cat Has Bitten and Hurt Someone
It’s not always easy to tell if your cat is feeling overwhelmed. Hard bites may still happen. If they do, you can help them learn it’s not okay to bite this way. To discourage your cat from biting hard, tell them “No!” Then, walk away and do not give them any attention.
Make sure to do this every time they bite. It shows them that when they bite, the play stops.
It can be difficult to get cats that are used to letting us know they are done playing with a bite - especially if they are full grown. Kittens are easier to train because they are still young and learning, but no matter what age the kitten, keep at it! You can get them to stop through this discipline, a positive attitude, and perseverance!