Cat love bites: Why on EARTH do cats do that?

You’ve been there before. You’re with your beloved feline friend, and she’s happily purring away while you pet her and scratch her in all her favorite spots. Maybe you’re holding her, if she likes that. Then out of nowhere, she nips you. Not hard – she doesn’t break skin and it probably doesn’t even hurt, but you suddenly feel little teeth on you. Cat love bites are perplexing – why do cats do that?

Cat love bites are a form of communication

Kali will lightly bite both of us, but oftentimes it’s just a tiny little nip when we’re petting her and cuddling her. Sometimes, when I hold her and she’s happy and purring, she’ll put her tiny needle teeth on my shoulder. She gives me a love bite.

Cat love bites may happen because your cat is feeling over-excited or over-stimulated, but it could also be because she feels a strong bond with you. Cats don’t communicate with us the way we communicate with each other. That little nip you get in a moment of affection is her way of saying she loves you.

We’ve figured out that she uses bites to communicate any number of things, including telling us when she wants more rubbing, when she’s done, when she wants us to feed her, and when she’s just feeling frisky. Sometimes we can tell it’s because she’s getting annoyed; she’s usually also giving us other cues, like twitching the tip of her tail. This particular type of bite is caused by petting-induced aggression, which you can read more about here.

Not all cat bites are love bites, though

There’s one thing you should remember if your cat is biting you: You have to determine the cause. That means paying attention to her body language, and her purring and/or vocalizing. What does your cat do when she’s at her happiest, and how does that compare to when she’s annoyed? Cat love bites can be difficult to distinguish from other bites. However, if her bites are at all aggressive, let her go so she can calm down.

But if her behavior indicates that her little nips are, in fact, just cat love bites, and she’s not hurting you at all, then she’s saying to you, “I love you!”

Cone of shame & alternatives: Helping your cat deal

Things happen to our cats. They get injured, or need surgery, and they insist on trying to eat the scabs or chew the stitches out of the healing wound. Your cat is acting on his instinct to stop the discomfort from the wound, which can make things worse. So you have to put him in a cone of shame, which he absolutely hates. Even if it’s a soft cone, he will probably be very stressed during this time. What are some good ways to help him handle it, without risking his recovery?

Making the cone of shame easier on your cat

Your cat may have trouble eating, drinking and using the litter box while he’s in the cone of shame. However, if the cone is on properly, he should still be able to do these things. Try putting his food and water bowls up on a little stool or stand so he doesn’t have to bend down as much to get to the bowls. Or simply hold his bowls for him when he wants to eat and drink (if that works for you).

Remove any litter box covers you have so that he can move freely inside the box. Also, while it might seem distasteful, you can temporarily put his box in a more open area of the house, again, so that he can move freely. This, too, might help to reduce his stress and feel better while wearing the cone of shame.

Alternatives to the dreaded cone of shame

Everything is more difficult with a cone of shame. Eating, drinking, using the litter box, even getting comfortable and sleeping are difficult. You might start hunting for alternatives—any alternatives—to forcing him to wear that cone. One possible alternative is to put him in a shirt. Shirts sized for babies aged 0-3 months are good sizes for cats and they’ll cover most wounds. This will likely be much less stressful for your cat.

However, according to Vetstreet, putting him in a shirt might not be effective on its own, especially if your cat is extremely determined to get at his wounds.You can try a no-lick spray, or some other non-toxic, but icky substance to discourage him and protect his wounds.

Other options besides the hard plastic cone include an inflatable or cushioned “donut,” or a neck brace-type appliance. The softer cones are better than the rigid plastic cones, but because they can invert, they don’t necessarily work for all situations. Also, cats can hate the soft cones as much as the rigid ones.

Consider giving him time out of his cone of shame, but be careful

You can consider giving your cat supervised time out of the cone of shame, especially around feeding time. However, Dr. Phil Zeltzman says that dogs can be even more traumatized by this, as he might see it as some form of punishment. The same is easily true for cats. Dr. Zeltzman believes that the stricter you are with it, the more quickly he will get used to it.

As much as we hate seeing our pets suffer more than we think is necessary, protecting their injuries and incisions from themselves is crucial to their recovery. So, if you’re having trouble with your cat and the cone of shame, try some of these options and see if they help. But don’t just remove the cone and hope everything will be okay.