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Why Does My Cat Chew on My Fingers? 8 Vet-Reviewed Reasons

Vet approved

	Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Cats do weird things sometimes, and if your cat has ever tried to chew on your fingers, you might be wondering what on earth has gotten into them. Some cats might choose to chew plastic; for others, their owners’ fingers are a favorite target. Join us as we look at seven reasons cats might decide to chew on your fingers. A brief nibble can seem cute, but a full-on bite from a cat can be painful and at risk of becoming infected.

Working out exactly why your cat is chewing your fingers is the first step to stopping them or changing your behavior so they don’t get to the point of chewing on you in the first place. If you want to discourage your cat from biting your fingers, we’ve also provided solutions for each reason.


The 8 Reasons Why Ypur Cat CHew on Your Fingers

1. They’re playing

White fluffy cat is biting a human's hand
Image Credit: Vika Hova, Shutterstock

Cats love to play, and sometimes this can escalate to biting. The result is the same whether it is another cat or your fingers. When our domestic cats are playing, they’re often honing the hunting skills that they’d be using if they were living in the wild. No amount of domestication will stop your cat wanting to pounce on and bite their prey, even if it’s a toy mouse!


Allowing your cat to bite you, even if just in play, can send mixed messages to your cat. They won’t understand that it’s okay to bite you sometimes but not other times.

Consistency is the key for your cat to understand what is allowed and what is not. If your cat bites your finger during play, remove your hand. Or, if necessary, remove yourself from the scenario for a couple of minutes.

Completely ignore the cat, do not speak to it, and do not look at it. This is the only way the cat will understand that biting is unacceptable. After a few minutes, you can return and restart the play session and deflect your cat’s attention onto a toy instead of your hand.

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2. They’re stressed

Some cats will chew on or eat non-food items if they’re stressed. This can be a form of self-soothing behavior. Certain breeds, including Siamese cats, are more prone to chewing things to relieve their anxiety. If you’ve been working longer hours, have moved the furniture around, or brought a new pet home, they can all cause stress for your cat.


Speak to your vet about how to keep stress to a minimum. Make sure your cat has plenty of enrichment within their environment. Introduce new pets slowly, and consider using a feline pheromone diffuser to help your cat feel more secure and settled.

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3. They’re overstimulated

cat chewing finger
Image Credit: Bogdan Sonjachnyj, Shutterstock

Many cats can go quickly from enjoying a soft stroke from their owners to what’s known as petting-induced aggression. It is when your sensitive cat’s nerve endings become overstimulated from too much petting. They may whip their heads around and give your fingers a quick nip. This is basically a message telling you that they’ve had enough and to back off.


Watch your cat carefully as you pet them. If they show subtle signs of overstimulation, like the end of their tail flicking or twitching ears, stop petting them and walk away. You’ll gradually be able to work out your cat’s threshold for petting. It is far better to leave the cat wanting more petting than crossing their limits. Learn to quit while the cat is still enjoying it, and your petting will remain favorable to your cat.

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4. They’re showing affection

Some cats may show affection by giving you a gentle nibble. Pay attention to your cat’s body language and behavior, and you’ll soon be able to determine if your cat’s chewing is affectionate, a warning sign, or because you’ve just been preparing fish for dinner!


As long as you don’t mind your cat giving you a little bite on the fingers, this isn’t a problem. Remove your hand and ignore your cat if the nibble turns into a stronger bite. That is the only way the cat will learn it crossed a limit.

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5. They like chewing things

a red domestic cat bites its owner's hand
Image Credit: Irzhanova Asel, Shutterstock

Some cats like to explore new textures or objects with their teeth. If your fingers are closest to your cat when they want to chew something, they’ll probably choose you!


Offer your cat a chew stick or tough rubber toy to nibble on instead of your fingers. If you know that your cat loves to chew on things, make sure you only leave them home alone in a cat-proof room without any exposed electrical cables or any other items by which they could hurt themselves by chewing.

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6. They’re teething

As a kitten’s baby teeth start to fall out and their adult teeth erupt, it can leave their gums feeling sore and irritated. One way for them to relieve this pain is to chew on something, much like a teething baby.


If your kitten is teething, offer them a selection of safe items to chew instead of your fingers. Some kittens like chewing on cardboard. Just supervise them so they don’t end up eating any. Others prefer rubber chew toys; a puppy toy can often work great. Once your kitten’s teeth have come through, the pain will subside, and their chewing should stop.

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7. They can smell food on your hands

black cat chewing finger
Image Credit: dashtik, Shutterstock

Have you been de-shelling shrimp for dinner and stopped to give your cat a stroke on the way to wash your hands? Don’t be surprised if your cat gives your hand an exploratory sniff and maybe even a nibble. They might not be able to resist the strong smell of tasty food.


If you’ve been handling food that attracts your cat, wash your hands thoroughly with scented hand soap before you pet your cat.

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8. They were weaned too early

Most kittens will naturally start weaning at around 8 weeks of age. If your kitten was weaned earlier or suddenly removed from their mother, they can sometimes seek comfort by replicating the motions of suckling. While most cats use a soft blanket to do this, some may grab your hand or fingers instead.


If your cat is consistently suckling on your hand or another inappropriate object, ask your vet or a cat behaviorist for advice. Sometimes you can give your cat a soft toy or blanket to use instead. This is a self-soothing behavior for cats, so it’s not something that you necessarily want to prevent your cat from doing altogether.

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Featured Image Credit: Diana Taliun, Shutterstock