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Why Does My Cat Chew on My Fingers? 8 Reasons for This Behavior

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, and for other cats, your fingers look rather good.

Join us as we take a look at seven different reasons that cats might decide to chew on your fingers. A brief nibble can seem cute, but a full-on bite from a cat can be extremely 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 offered solutions for each reason too.

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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. Whether this is another cat or your fingers, the result is the same! 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 wanted to pounce on and bite their prey, even if it’s a toy mouse!

Solution

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. Deflect your cat’s attention onto a toy instead of your hand. Toys attached to a wand and string are great for this purpose, as it keeps your hands farther away from those sharp little teeth!


2. They’re stressed

black cat chewing finger
Image Credit: dashtik, Shutterstock

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 as a way to relieve their anxiety. If you’ve been working longer hours, have moved the furniture around, or brought a new pet home, these can all cause stress for your cat.

Solution

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.


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.” This 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.

Solution

Start to 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 and be sure to pet them for less time than it takes for them to reach or exceed this.


4. They’re showing affection

cat chewing finger
Image Credit: SerPhoto, Shutterstock

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

Solution

As long as you don’t mind your cat giving you a little bite on the fingers, this isn’t a problem. If the nibble turns into a stronger bite, then start to deflect your cat’s attention onto a toy.


5. They like chewing things

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

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

Solution

Offer your cat a chew stick or tough rubber toy to nibble on instead of your fingers. If you know that your cat does love 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.


6. They’re teething

shaded silver manx cat
Image Credit: Lisa Charbonneau, Shutterstock

As a kitten’s baby teeth start to fall out and their adult teeth start to erupt, this 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!

Solution

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


7. They can smell food on your hands

cat biting owner's fingers
Image Credit: Crina Doltu, Pexels

Just been deshelling prawns 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.

Solution

If you’ve been handling food that will smell super tasty to your cat, make sure you wash your hands thoroughly with scented hand soap before you go and make a fuss of your cat.


8. They were weaned too early

kitten chewing finger
Image Credit: XINN, Shutterstock

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

Solution

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.


Featured Image Credit: Diana Taliun, Shutterstock