Cat owners often raise the question of why their cats will sometimes bite them and then lick them afterwards. There are several reasons why cats may do this:
- The most likely reason is that they are engaging in a comforting behavior known as “allogrooming.”
Allogrooming is seen in both wild and domesticated cats, typically with members of the same social group grooming one another to show affection or to reduce stress. Animals use their paws, mouth, or other part of their body to touch one another by doing things like removing ticks, stroking fur, and more.
When cats give their owners this type of attention, it could be a sign of affection or reassurance that the cat does not feel threatened by their owner.
- Your cat is playing with you, either engaging in some gentle playfighting or hoping to get a rise out of you for its own amusement.
- Your cat is trying to show its dominance over you. This behavior is usually displayed by biting and holding on until the victim submits or begs for mercy. If this happens frequently, it might be time to seek help from a veterinarian who can provide advice on how to stop the aggression.
- Your cat may be feeling stressed or scared. When cats feel threatened or anxious, they sometimes resort to physical violence as a way of self-defense. You can try soothing your pet with gentle strokes and vocalizations, making sure not to alarm them by raising your voice.
- Your cat is trying to reciprocate the love. When we scratch them behind their ears, rub their tummies, or give them attention in any other stimulating manner, they respond by licking our skin affectionately in return—sometimes even quite vigorously!
Whatever the reason behind it, being licked by your cat after they’ve bitten you can be an unsettling experience, so it’s helpful to understand why they may behave in such seemingly strange ways. It could also be useful to consider how else you can show your cat affection to ensure both of you are comfortable and happy together.
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