It’s halfway caught between annoying and adorable, the act of your cat biting your nose. Additionally, cat bites can be dangerous. Don’t worry; we’ll help you figure it out, with the help of our Certified Cat Behaviorist here at Cat World – Dr. Janet Cutler, who holds a Ph.D. in Pet Behavior and has years of experience working with cat owners to address problematic behaviors (such as excessive nose biting!).
A cat biting your nose could be an act of infection, an act of aggression, or an illness.
Top reasons your cat is biting your nose, according to our Cat Behaviorist, Dr. Janet Cutler
Your cat is grooming you
Cats spend a lot of their time grooming themselves, grooming other cats, and even licking people. Your cat could groom you as they would another cat they are comfortable with. Typically, we associate cats cleaning themselves with licking. A cat’s tongue feels like sandpaper; it almost tickles. However, cats will also bite areas to help remove parasites or dead skin. If your cat bites your nose, they may try to groom you, which is a sign of affection.
Your face can also have salt from sweat or some leftover food which could encourage them to lick and possibly bite.
You cat is getting too much affection!
Your cat might bite your nose because of too much physical attention. They can sometimes bite if you’re petting your cat more than they’d like or are excited and don’t know what to do with that excitement. If they happen to be near your face, your nose is a pretty easy target.
Cats are sensitive creatures. While we love petting them, and they love being petted, sometimes things progress too far. Petting-induced aggression happens when your pet becomes overwhelmed during petting or touching. Certain areas of their body, such as the tail or stomach, are sensitive and may overstimulate the cat. This results in the cat lashing out, trying to avoid the stimuli bothering them. To prevent this, short petting sessions allow the cat to leave if wanted and ensure you both enjoy the experience. Read our article about petting-induced aggression in cats.
Your cat wants to mark you with their scents.
Cats have scent glands on their feet, face, and tail. Cats will touch humans with these areas to mark them. They will also often rub their faces and head bunt other cats or their people – this often means that they are content and happy. Rubbing, scratching, or biting releases this scent onto you, letting other cats know you are theirs. Cats mark people who are important to them.
As Dr. Cutler describes: “Your cat may start with rubbing and then get a bit excited, which can turn into a bite.”
Your cat simply likes biting your nose: it’s fun.
Your cat may simply like it or may have learned that YOU like it. There could have been a light bite in the past, and if you thought that was funny or cute and inadvertently rewarded it, your cat might keep doing it. It’s a type of play.
As kittens, felines learn how to play by biting and fake fighting with their littermates. The act of nibbling is a way to initiate play. If your cat bites your nose but otherwise seems engaged and happy, they might be asking to play. You can notice this positive behavior with relaxed ears and half-closed eyes.
Your cat is communicating with you
One of the primary reasons your cat may bite your nose is they are trying to communicate a need with you. When kittens are born, they aren’t able to meow. Instead, they communicate through biting and kneading. Mother cats also bite their young to show affection. This activity may continue into adulthood.
Additionally, your cat could be biting your nose because they want something. This is usually attention or food. A cat meowing constantly can be annoying, but it may escalate to biting if they need something and you’re not listening. Try to figure out what your cat is asking you for when in doubt.
Your cat is soothing you
While cats are thought of as unsocial creatures, cats are loving if you know how to speak their language. Cats are known to cuddle and stay close to those under emotional or physical stress. Under these circumstances, grooming can take on a soothing manner. Similar to above, this grooming may progress to little nibbles.
Your cat is being territorial
Cats may have a human they are closer to than others in the household. In multi-cat households, cats are still territorial. A pack has a social hierarchy, and the cat’s position determines their territory. Some cats develop a special bond with a human and mark them as their territory. As cats have scent glands on their face, biting a human can also signify a territorial dispute. It’s telling every other cat, “This human is mine!” in big, bold letters.
Your cat is declawed
Declawing is a procedure in which each cat’s toes are amputated up to the first joint while removing the claw. This surgery can increase back pain and influence behavior changes in cats.
Declawed cats are more likely to bite other cats and humans. This is theorized to be due to increased pain leading to aggression. It gives your cat a lower threshold for annoyance. If they don’t like the petting session or something you’re doing, they are more likely to react negatively.
Your cat is in heat
Typically, cats will go into heat every two to three weeks, with a seven-day length average. During this cycle, female cats are more aggressive in something called heat-aggression. Your cat isn’t going to attack you. Instead, she will become more aggressive with her affections. This can lead to an increase in already affectionate behaviors, such as biting your nose. One of the only long-term solutions to your cat going into heat is to have them spayed.
Your cat doesn’t feel well
Like when they are in pain from declawing, cats who don’t feel well are more likely to react aggressively. If your cat doesn’t feel well, they may hide from you or avoid contact in areas that hurt. If you suspect your cat isn’t feeling well, contact your veterinarian.
How can I know if my cat is biting my nose because he’s too aggressive?
The first question you may consider is whether your cat is being aggressive by nibbling on your nose. Thankfully, cats have many ways to communicate their intentions through body language.
Cat aggression usually occurs after something winds them up or upsets them. For example, play-induced aggression comes from too much petting, and your cat’s nerves are too sensitive. Similar instances can cause your cat to lash out unexpectedly, biting you on the nose.
How do you know if your cat is biting your nose because he is coming aggressive? Aggressive cats have the following characteristics:
- Ears: An aggressive cat’s ears are usually flattened or backward. It’s a warning to stay away.
- Eyes: Their eyes are usually wide with dilated pupils. They won’t blink while in an aggressive state, as cats consider slow blinking a sign of affection.
- Body: Whiskers can be flat to the face or out to the side when a cat is aggressive or fearful. Typically, whiskers are relaxed.
What you should do: If your cat has any of these signs, give them some space to calm down. Continuing your current course and ignoring their body language is sometimes why your cat might lash out aggressively.
My cat is biting my nose: is this normal?
Yes, it’s normal. Your cat biting your nose may not be a pleasant experience, especially if they nibble hard. But this is one of the many ways your cat communicates with you.
Should I let my cat bite my nose?
Generally – no. While biting your nose is a fairly frequent behavior with our feline friends, you shouldn’t let your cat bite your nose in a way that could potentially hurt you. Even if the bite is not meant aggressively, it can cause severe damage. Cats don’t know how fragile the cartilage of our noses can be, and cat bites can transfer dangerous bacteria, leading to infections such as cat-scratch fever (CDC website). It can occur when a cat’s saliva gets into the bloodstream. About 40% of cats are infected at some time in their lives, though cats don’t usually show any signs. Cat-scratch fever isn’t just a rumor; it’s an illness that can lead to severe consequences or even death.
But cats don’t always bite your nose aggressively. Let’s review the top reasons your cat would be biting your nose with Dr. Cutler, our specialist in cat behavior.
How can I keep my cat from biting my nose?
A cat bite can be a painful experience, especially if your cat meant it. While we know what may be causing the biting, we still want to stop it. The dangers of cat bites are well-established.
- Don’t Punish: You should never punish your cat for biting you. It may be the first instinct for some, but a cat doesn’t do it to be rude or annoy you. Biting is one of their methods of communication. This is considered negative reinforcement, which may raise your cat’s anxiety and aggression levels. Punishing your cat for communicating with you will diminish your relationship, leading to issues in the future.
- Redirect: The best method is to redirect your cat. While this can be difficult, give your cat something to focus on that isn’t what caused the biting. If it’s due to playing roughly, give the cat a toy to engage with instead. Or, if it’s due to boredom or hunger, give your cat what they need. Additionally, you can use calming pheromone sprays or plugins.
- Reward: If you notice good behavior from your cat during a petting or playing session, you can reward them with a treat or a special toy. Incentivize them not to bite you, which will become a positive reinforcement instead of negative.
- Space: You can also give your kittens a time-out to show you did not enjoy the behavior. When a cat bites you, you can respond with a crying noise which tells the cat it hurts. Then, put the cat into another room so it doesn’t initiate another session in which biting might occur.
- Veterinarian: If your cat’s biting persists, you may need to loop in your veterinarian. While there are many easy reasons for your cat biting your nose, there is always the possibility that something may be wrong. If there have been recent behavioral changes, you should contact them to discuss whether a medical issue may be at play.
Are cat bites dangerous?
Yes, cat bites can be dangerous. According to the Center for Disease Control, “About three to 14 days after the skin is broken, a mild infection can occur at the site of the scratch or bite.”
Symptoms may include:
- Swollen or red
- Round raised lesions
- Poor appetite
- Tender or painful lymph nodes
Cat bites and scratches should be washed with soap and running water. If you have any of the symptoms above, contact your doctor.
Why does my cat bites my nose when I sleep?
If a cat bites you while you’re sleeping, they want you to wake up. They’re bored. Cats are crepuscular, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk. While you are sleeping, your cat is at their most active. If they are a single cat, most likely, they are asking you to give them attention.