Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cat love bites: What they are, and why cats do it

Lucy the cat preparing to deliver a love bite

Two of my cats like to give love bites: When I am petting them, they will nibble on my hands and arms. Eamon will alternate these little nibbles with actual licks, which is great as he also drools when he purrs. I appreciate the cleanup help. Jasper doesn’t drool, but he bites with quite a bit of force, and often breaks the skin.
Cat bites can be fairly dangerous, as cat teeth are sharp and can penetrate deep into tissues. Cat’s mouths also harbor bacteria, which can be deposited deep underneath the skin during a bite. So a love bite might be a sign of affection, but it can go horribly wrong very quickly. So it's best not to encourage the behavior.
Sadly, it’s difficult to break a cat from giving love bites, as it means scolding a cat that is trying to be nice. Most people don't want to do that, and if they do, the cat might just stop being affectionate at all, with or without the bites.

Here's what I do. When the cats bite me, I stop providing all affection and walk away.  They are learning not to bite me if they want me to keep petting them. Does it work? Not always. But I keep trying!

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