Some cats seem to have an odd habit. When you’re cuddling them and petting them, they go after your fingers. To you, it seems different from love bites and petting-induced aggression, and maybe you’ve noticed that your cat doesn’t bite so much as chew, gnaw or suck your fingers. Our matriarch, Gizmo, has done this with us her whole life and it is…perplexing behavior, to say the least. Why do cats chew fingers, anyway?
There is a variety of reasons why cats chew fingers
First off, if your cat is actually a little kitten around 9 weeks of age, she may be teething. Kittens who are teething often bite anything and everything. That includes your fingers and toes, because it relieves the discomfort of teeth growing in.
This is actually the perfect time to teach your kitten not to chew on things. The first thing you can do is give her chew toys she can chew on when you’re not playing with her. You can also teach her appropriate biting through interactive playtime.
There’s also “Ow! and Down,” which is a great way to teach her not to bite you. When she does, you say, “Ow!” in a high-pitched, but not loud, voice, and put her down or walk away from her. This teaches her that biting you is unacceptable without teaching her to fear you.
Adult cats chew fingers, too, though.
There are a few reasons why adult cats chew fingers. For many, it’s like wool-sucking – it’s something comforting from their kittenhood. It can also be your cat’s way of playing. We think that both these reasons are why Gizmo chews our fingers. To her, it’s both a throwback to her kittenhood, and it’s also fun and playful for her. We didn’t do much to stop her from doing it when she was a kitten, so she’s kept doing it through her entire adult life.
If your adult cat is chewing on your fingers, you can train her out of it with more playtime, and also with the “Ow! and Down” technique. Be aware, though, that it will take considerably longer if she’s already grown. It’s always easier to train kittens than cats, but don’t let that stop you if you’d rather she didn’t use you as a chew toy.