Issue 25: May 10

Dear Fancy,

The other night, I was on the floor, at my cat Oliver's level, petting him before I continued with our nightly ritual of a pre-bedtime snack (for him). Unexpectedly, he gave me a little bite on the tip of my nose. It was just a gentle nip. It didn't hurt at all; I was just surprised. What was that about? Ollie has been with me for several weeks and is quite friendly.


Dear Esther,

Cats bite for many reasons; teeth are such effective communicators. The gentle "love bites" you describe are generally done when we're feeling affectionate and amorous. You can go along with it, as it's not done with intent to hurt. But some folks understandably don't want their cats to get used to biting people, so when receiving a love bite they consistently say "ouch" at a moderate volume and cease physical contact with their cats until they're not being bitten, and then for few seconds after that to re-affirm the "don't bite me" message. Don't try to pull away while kitty has his teeth on you, even if just barely; that could trigger a firmer bite. Just give him the cold shoulder and verbal cues that you don't like it, followed by a brief timeout. Then you can resume what you were doing, perhaps with a bit more distance between kitty and whatever part of your body he was biting.

Note: Sometimes the phrase "love bites" is used to refer to cats' bites that are induced by over-petting. For more information on this type of biting, please see this article.



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