Why Does My Cat Bite My Nose?


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As a cat parent I know it’s not always easy to understand the nuanced behaviors of our feline companions. Cats can be funny, strange, and quirky, but when they suddenly bite your nose, they’re bound to leave you somewhat confused!

Why does my cat bite my nose? A gentle nibble on the nose is usually a sign of affection, as your cat tries to groom or mark you with their scent. Biting your nose could also be the result of overstimulation from petting, and a signal of frustration and defensiveness.

If you’d like to know more about your cat’s obsession with biting your nose and how you can stop this habit, then keep on reading!

Why Does My Cat Bite My Nose?

Whether you’ve been chilling on your sofa watching TV with your kitty purring on your chest, or burying your face into the fluffiness of their belly, a nose nibble is always something unexpected, so let’s get you some answers!

Reason 1: It’s A Kitten Behavior

The way cats behave in their adulthood isn’t just a manifestation of their personality, but it has an immediate connection to their kittenhood, how they were raised by their mother and their overall socialization with humans.

This socialization period for domestic cats lasts between 2 and 7 weeks of age, and during that time they explore the world through play with other objects, humans, and pets. They also learn how to behave through social play with their littermates, and cats are also taught how to survive and be social through their mother if she herself is sociable and relaxed around other people.

This period is crucial because it teaches kittens social etiquette, what behavior is acceptable, and they do it mainly by engaging in rough play. If a kitten had been separated too early from their mother and siblings, chances are that their social skills especially when it comes to playing aren’t so refined. They might even retain this kitten-like behavior into adulthood, which can explain why your cat finds biting your nose acceptable.

Whether you’ve adopted a kitten, or your cat is much older, it’s possible that they might not know when to stop when they’re biting or scratching you. So, if your kitty is overall calm, then this kind of play like nose biting isn’t them being aggressive, in reality, they simply have never been told how to behave around you and your nose when they’re super excited!

Reason 2: They Are Showing Affection

I understand that it’s easy to associate feline biting with aggression, especially since our skin is far more sensitive, and even a soft nibble can cause discomfort, but that’s not always the case. If there are no signs of aggression present like growling, intense scratching, and hissing then it’s safe to say it’s love!

These kinds of love bites usually happen when both you and your kitty are relaxed. Perhaps your kitty is sitting on your lap purring, or you came over to give them a headbutt and suddenly there’s that pinch on your nose. This nibbling is easily recognizable because it’s not a painful bite directed to hurt you, but it’s far more gentle, sometimes ticklish, and playful even.

Just look at this kitty giving his human a massage as well as a love bite on the nose!

If you’ve never had a cat bite your nose out of love before, perhaps you can recognize the sensation from the times they’ve nibbled on your hand or fingers, or you’ve seen them knead and bite their favorite blanket or a piece of clothing that belongs to you, either way, those are displays of affection!

Reason 3: They Are Grooming You

By now it’s a known fact that cats love to be clean and according to Pamela Perry, DVM “between 30 and 50 percent of their day grooming themselves.” But some cats are happy to practice this behavior on each other, in which case it’s called allogrooming. Moreso, a research paper showed that “familiarity and relatedness are significantly associated with allogrooming and proximity of another cat.”

While this might be a common behavior between bonded cats this doesn’t mean that we as owners don’t get the privilege of getting cleaned by our cats. Some cats lick their owner’s hair, others will only go for the hands, while there are those who prefer to clean our faces in which case a nibble is almost unavoidable.

So, if your feline companion is grooming you, take it as a sign that your kitty feels especially connected to you, and that your nose needs a bit of a wash!

Reason 4: They Are Marking You

Cats are independent creatures, but they can also be a bit possessive, and to be sure that the couch, their toys, and the whole house belong to them they make sure to mark everything around them with their scent. With other cats and even with their human scent-marking turns more into a scent exchange, as they use the scent glands located on their cheeks and face by rubbing against you.

During this process, it’s not unusual for some cats to bite you and if it happens that they were headbutting your face then the protruding nose can easily become a target. So, while biting our noses might not be the best sensation it definitely can be their way of telling us that we’re part of their club, even if we’re mostly hairless, gangly, and graceless creatures!

Reason 5: They Are Being Playful

If you’ve just adopted a kitten or a young cat you might’ve noticed that they’re constantly in a playful mood. You’ll find them suddenly bat at things or run up and down the house, exploring their environment and climbing up your leg.

So, with this kind of attitude, it’s really not that surprising that they think our noses, that stick out, are a nice toy to pat or even playfully bite. As I’ve mentioned before not all cats outgrow rough play behavior, especially if they’ve never been trained to do otherwise. Perhaps they were separated from their mother and siblings when they were too young, or their previous owner didn’t teach them any boundaries.

Now, if your cat is much older and they still bite your nose whenever your face is close to them, then it might be because they’ve been conditioned from kittenhood to see it as a normal expression of their playfulness. Biting your nose as a game isn’t a bad thing on its own, but it can make a cat parent uncomfortable, especially as their feline companion grows and so do their teeth. That’s why it’s important to show them that there are certain places where they definitely can’t sink their teeth into!

Reason 6: To Get Your Attention

Another reason your kitty might go for the stingy nose bite is attention. Some cats will meow when they want to be petted, while others might use more “extreme” means to get their human’s immediate attentiveness. If you’ve been petting your kitty for the past hour and you’ve stopped, they might bite your nose to get you to notice that their needs aren’t being met.

It might come as a surprise to some of you when it happens and that exact reaction is what cats might be looking for when they’re nibbling suddenly at your hands or nose. It’s like they’re pinching us back to reality, and if we obey each time then they probably have found that it’s effective!

Reason 7: They Are Overstimulated

While a gentle bite on the nose can be a positive gesture it could also be a warning sign. Context does matter when it comes to a cat’s aggressive, fearful, or defensive behavior, and to understand why biting or scratching happens we need to get a closer look at the circumstances that led them there.

For instance, it’s possible that your cat bit you on the nose because of overstimulation. This usually happens when we over pet our cats or pet them in places where they don’t enjoy, like their tail, or if we touch their paws. Most of the time our feline companions will try to tell us that they want us to stop, for example, they’ll pull back their ears and twitch their tail, but if we don’t listen then they have to rely on their teeth and claws to get away.

If your kitty got scared then it’s possible that they redirected their defensive biting on the closest person near them, meaning you. It’s hard to always find the reason why our cats go into this flight or fight mode, it could be us or it could be new years eve fireworks from outside, either way, this behavior is not rooted in malice, but their survival instinct!

What Does It Mean When A Cat Bites Your Nose When You Sleep?

Receiving the unexpected nose bite while you’re petting your kitty could be easily explained by the multiple reasons above, but what if it happens while you’re asleep?

If you’re anything like me then sleeping without your cats isn’t an option even if it means that you have to stay in a shrimp-like position all night. But for some cats, sleeping with their owners might not be the most ideal situation, especially if their human is a restless sleeper. So, if your cat sleeps at the foot of the bed, then you might find them biting your feet as a reaction to your kicking and if they sleep next to your face then a bite on the nose will let you know that you’re claiming too much bed space!

Such situations are usually rare incidents, but if it happens way too often then they’re probably trying to wake you up. My cats use their nighttime yowling to pull me out of bed and it usually translates into two things, “feed me” or “I’m bored”. For some cats simply staring at you while you’re asleep, or crying isn’t as efficient, so what could be the next best thing? Patting your face with their paws or biting you on the nose!

So, if you want to keep sleeping with your cat, but you don’t want to be wakened up by their tiny teeth then I suggest having a play session with them before you go to bed. Using their hunting instinct to tire your feline companion out will not only help your kitty adjust their sleeping routing according to yours, but they’ll also need less attention from you even if they wake up in the middle of the night.

If it’s food they’re asking for then, then it’s worth looking into an automatic food feeder. I’ve food that  is a great way to satisfy your cat’s nightly food cravings. It won’t just save you your sleep, but it will also help your kitty associate you less with food throughout the whole day!

Why Do Cats Bite Your Nose And Then Lick It?

Some cats will bite their owners and then run away most likely because they know what they did was wrong, while other kitties will start licking us right after biting our nose or hands. This usually isn’t an aggressive bite, instead, it’s part of their grooming behavior where they knead us with their paws and lick and bite our noses, to make sure it’s super clean. Cats don’t really understand that this is something that feels uncomfortable to most humans because any other cat wouldn’t really complain.

I often see my two cats groom each other and then bite the fur to untangle any knots, but for cat owners, with one cat his can be confusing. Biting our noses can also seem confusing and it’s especially difficult to associate with a grooming or loving behavior if our cats don’t knead in the first place. But as most of us know each cat is unique and they can express their adoration in many ways.

It’s also worth mentioning that, licking our nose right after biting it could be a feline apology to the sudden bite they couldn’t control, whether they were overstimulated by our petting or because their playful side took over.

How Can I Know If My Cat Is Being Aggressive When Biting My Nose?

To understand whether your cat’s biting is a manifestation of aggressive behavior it’s important that you pay attention to their overall body language and facial expressions. Their ears, tail, and whiskers are a great place to start since cats also use these body parts to indicate their mood.

Warning Signs Of Aggression:

Cats use their bodies to communicate to us whether they are enjoying the interaction, so if your kitty starts biting or scratching it usually means that you’ve overlooked their early signs of aggression, the feline“No”.

  • The pupils are dilated pupils
  • They’re staring directly at you
  • The ears are flattened against the side of the head or rotated backward
  • They’re thrashing/twitching their tail
  • Hissing, growling and even spitting
  • The body posture can become crouched, or tense

Types Of Aggression:

We can be quick to interpret feline biting as aggression, but it’s crucial to keep an open mind and understand what type of aggression it is.

Fear Aggression

Cats can exhibit aggressive behavior for various reasons, it can be triggered by fear when they feel threatened. In this case, some cats will run away from you and hide, while others may choose the fight mode to defend themselves and if your face is close enough, they can bite your nose as they redirect this fear towards you.

Territorial Aggression

A cat’s sudden aggression could be territorial, and this usually happens to cats that are in heat. Some cats might be overly affectionate, or they’ll seem frustrated when approached. If your kitty is ready to be spayed/neutered you can find a list of low-cost spay/neuter clinics across the globe thanks to PetSmart by clicking here.

Emotional Trauma

Aggressive behavior can also tell us a lot about our cat’s past. If you’ve adopted an older cat it’s possible that they’re carrying a lot of baggage from a previous traumatic environment. Receiving a sudden bite on the nose from your cat could’ve been triggered by their abusive past owners.

Pain-Induced Aggression

Sudden bursts of aggression might be caused by pain. Pay attention to when your kitty bites you. According to ASPCA “even a well-socialized, normally docile cat can lash out when he’s hurt when someone tries to touch a painful part of him (for example, to medicate his infected ears), or when he’s in pain and he anticipates being handled because someone is approaching him.”

Declawed Cat

This illegal in many countries surgery is dangerous and it can affect a cat’s physical and mental health. Research has shown that declawed cats can also display unwanted behaviors such as biting. It makes sense that a declawed cat will use their teeth to defend themselves if they feel threatened or uncomfortable by the way their handles since they no longer have their first line of defense which is their claws.

There are many types of aggression that could’ve led your kitty to bite your nose, and no matter what the source of your cat’s discomfort is the best way to handle it is to take them to the vet or a cat behaviorist. These professionals can help you find the reason why your cat is lashing out, and they can help you heal your feline companion and improve your mutual trust.

How Can I Stop My Cat From Nibbling My Nose?

Whether your cat’s behavior is rooted in a form of aggression or love it’s important to find ways to limit their biting because no matter how gentle, scratching and biting can be dangerous and can lead to unwanted accidents.

Reduce Your Cat’s Rough Play Behavior

If you’re a new parent who just brought home a kitten it’s important that you teach them to play nice from the very beginning. Teaching them how to properly behave, especially if they’re in a playful mood, means not using your hands and feet instead of toys. When cats are small it can seem natural and innocent to overlook this rule because their bites and scratches aren’t painful, but once those teeth and claws grow then it won’t be as fun anymore.

While cats do learn how to behave when they’re babies, it doesn’t mean that we can’t have control over their play behavior when they’re older. So, even if you adopted an older kitty that doesn’t understand boundaries, you can help them change for the better.

It’s also possible that some cats only exhibit rough play behavior with certain people that allow them to do so. If you’re that one person who is on the receiving end of all their bites and scratches then it’s time to see your own responsibility in this. Try to switch this playful energy towards nearby toys, and keep your face as further away as possible until you notice that the cat’s association with play is no longer connected to your nose.

Make sure that your cat has various toys and an environment that they can explore. The Human Society advises that if your cat likes to wrestle-play, stuffed animals can help redirect this behavior. It’s also important that you rotate the toys so they don’t get bored and return to their old nose-biting habit!

Use The Positive Reinforcement Method

While kittens are easier to train and discourage from rough play this doesn’t mean you can’t follow the same tactics with older cats. It might take longer to reach your goal, depending on your cat’s personality, but it’s definitely feasible!

Remember that the best approach for cats is reward-based positive reinforcement. Make sure you understand why your kitty is biting your nose, and whatever the reason might be don’t punish them, instead try to be calm, keep your body relaxed and move away from them. It’s always best to ignore this bad behavior when it happens and give them a treat or pet them when they’re not biting your nose. Studies have proven that this training method “is a useful tool for improving the human-animal bond, treating behavior problems, and teaching novel tasks.”

Finally, have patience, because it’s the key to teaching our cats a new trick or help them unlearn a bad habit!

Closing Thoughts

Learning how cats communicate can be difficult, but it certainly is eye-opening. Our fluffy overlords aren’t only capable of giving us their love and attention, but they also offer us a new world to explore, of the feline language and its subtle queues.

Of course, some of these queues, like biting our nose or sniffing our hair can be a bit strange, but no matter how weird, these behaviors can tell us a lot about them and our mutual relationship.

Now tell us, have you ever received love bites on the nose from your cat?

Marina Titova

Marina was cat-struck 8 years ago. It was early autumn when Dante, her grey cat, found her and adopted her. They’ve been inseparable ever since. Dante has been a great cat-teacher and BetterWithCats.net seemed like the perfect place to share his cat-knowledge.

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