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Why Does My Cat Nibble Me? 7 Possible Reasons

Cats are curious creatures that tend to do what they want—whether we like it or not. Whether it’s ruining furniture, meowing all night long, or getting into the garbage, every cat seems to display at least one behavior that their owners are not fond of. Some behaviors are simply curious, like nibbling on us. If your cat nibbles you, you’re probably wondering why they might be doing so. There happen to be a few reasons that they may exhibit this behavior.

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The 7 Possible Reasons why your Cat is Nibbling You

1. They’re Showing You Affection

Some cats decide to show their affection to human companions by nibbling on them. Many people refer to these affectionate nibbles as “love bites.” Nibbling to show affection should not be painful in any way and instead, should feel playful in nature. These nibbles can sometimes even be ticklish. Nibbling is how cats would interact with other felines that they have bonded with, so it makes sense that they would nibble the humans in their lives whom they feel close to.

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2. They Happen to Be Teething

A teething kitten cannot help but wrap their mouth around things that feel good to chew on, and sometimes that happens to be a human’s arm or finger. Anytime a kitten that has yet to grow all their adult teeth nibbles on you, it’s a good bet that they are trying to get relief from the pain and discomfort that they’re feeling as those teeth grow. Teething tends to happen between the ages of 3 and 7 months, which is when the baby teeth fall out and the adult teeth start to come in.

cat bites the woman's hand
Image Credit: Luis Echeverri Urrea, Shutterstock
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3. They’re Trying to Relieve Stress

Sometimes, cats can get stressed out for one reason or another. It could be that they’ve experienced a big life change, or they could be dealing with a health condition. Whatever the reason, a cat might try to relieve their stress by nibbling on their human companions while they are interacting with them. The nibbling can be soft and gentle, or it might be hard and aggressive, depending on the level of stress that’s being dealt with.

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4. They Want to Be Left Alone

If you start petting your cat or interacting with them in any other way, and they start to nibble or lightly bite on you, chances are that they want you to leave them alone for the time being. This is their way of nicely letting you know their wishes, but if you don’t respect those wishes, they might get more forceful with their biting and cause damage to your skin.

cat biting owner
Image Credit: Bogdan Sonjachnyj, Shutterstock
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5. They’re Looking for Extra Attention

If your kitty is feeling lonely and/or neglected, they may decide to get your attention by nibbling on your arms, hands, legs, or feet—whatever they can most easily get their mouth on. They might also display other types of behavior while they nibble, such as lightly swatting at you or meowing. Spending a few minutes petting your cat and maybe playing a game should provide them with the attention that they need so they’ll stop nibbling on you.

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6. They Are Grooming You

Cats naturally nibble on themselves and their babies for grooming purposes. The nibbling helps get rid of things like fleas and dirt. Whether you’re dirty or not, you might find that your cat nibbles on you to groom you. Grooming others is a form of bonding for cats, so you should take the behavior as a sign that your kitty feels bonded to you and wants to strengthen that bond.

a red domestic cat bites its owner's hand
Image Credit: Irzhanova Asel, Shutterstock
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7. They’re Just Trying to Play

When a feline feels frisky and doesn’t have anything better to do, they might start nibbling on someone nearby in the hopes that they’ll receive interaction in return. If you’re uncomfortable with the nibbling, redirect your cat’s attention to a toy, and praise them for refocusing their playfulness.

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There are several reasons that your cat might nibble on you, all of which can be corrected if you don’t like the behavior. Most of the time, cats aren’t trying to hurt anyone when they nibble. If they wanted to hurt a human, they would bite down hard. So, if the nibbling doesn’t cause much pain, you can assume that the act is not one of aggression.

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Featured Image Credit: Daria Bondina, Shutterstock