Why Does My Cat Lick And Bite My Nose? 7 Top Reasons

Medically reviewed by: Rebecca MacMillan BVetMed BSAVA PGCertSAM MRCVS
Cat Behavior February 16, 2022

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Why Does My Cat Lick And Bite My Nose? 7 Top Reasons

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Your cat spends up to a quarter of her waking hours grooming. To keep herself clean, your feline uses her tongue to lick her face and body.

A cat’s tongue has hundreds of hard, backward-facing keratin barbs called filiform papillae. These barbs give your furball’s tongue a sandpaper-like texture that makes it easier to remove dirt. The special design of the tongue also helps to transfer saliva into the coat, which is thought to help with regulating body temperature as well as keeping clean. Apart from grooming, your cat also uses the rough tongue to drink water and rasp meat from animal bones.

Cats are also known to lick their human parents and family members. In addition to the licks, your furball may also have a habit of giving you small kitten-like bites on your nose.

This behavior is hard to ignore, especially because your feline’s tongue can feel a bit rough on your skin. But before you push your kitty away, let’s explore the reasons behind her face liking and also give you answers to the question, “why does my cat lick my nose?”

1. To Display Affection

Cats that groom their favorite people, by licking their skin or hair or even nibbling or sucking on their clothing, indicate great affection.

Your cat can’t verbally express her affection or give you a warm hug as people do. Instead, she will lick and bite you softly as a way of expressing her love. The’ love bites’ are the closest to a kiss you’ll get from your cat. Besides, your nose is the most accessible part of your face. So, it’s only natural that your pet will focus in on  it.

Also, cats are very particular about people lick and will only lick the face of the ones they share a close bond with. Your cat licking your nose demonstrates that she feels secure around you and genuinely loves you.

Further, kittens are constantly licked by their mother to keep them clean and as a way of showing them affection. When the litter grows older, they adopt this behavior as a way of displaying affection.

2. To Clean Your Face

By now, if you’re a cat parent, you must have noticed that your furball is super clean. Your cat will spend hours grooming, licking, and cleaning herself and extend this behavior to other cats.

Similarly, mother cats clean their kittens by licking them. The kittens learn and reinforce this behavior as they grow older.  So, when your kitty licks you, she is trying to teach you some basic grooming skills.

Your cat also has an excellent sense of smell, with research showing it to be even more sensitive than a dog’s..  When you eat something, the scent stays on you for hours, even after cleaning your face. If your feline smells any foreign scent on you, she may interpret it to be dirt. In response, she will lick and bite you to get rid of this  lingering smell.

3. She’s Curious

We all know the famous saying ‘curiosity killed the cat.  And any cat parent will agree that the insatiable need for cats to explore often leads them into trouble.

For instance, when you’re asleep and tend to be non-responsive, your cat will lick your nose just to make sure you’re alive and breathing. She might also find it fun to get a reaction out of you!

Similarly, if your cat notices something strange on your face, her curiosity will prompt her to lick or bite the thing away from your face.

4. Your Cat Is Marking Her Territory

Your cat has scent glands all over her body, including her mouth. By licking and biting you, your cat is transferring her scent on you to claim you as hers. The scent also serves as a warning to other cats that you’re taken.

You may also notice this territorial behavior with your feline if you have added another furball to your family. Similarly, if you have been around other cats, your pet will lick you to get rid of the other cats’ scents.

5. Your Feline Is Hungry, Hurt Or Stressed

The face licking just means that your pet considers you part of her pride.

If your feline is licking you uncontrollably, she may be stressed or hurt. Licking your face or biting your nose is an excellent way for your cat to communicate her discomfort, as the chances of getting your full attention are very high.

In some instances, your feline will also lick you when they’re hungry. The licking may be accompanied by other behaviors like:

  • Sucking
  • Nose biting
  • Insistent meow
  • Kneading

Some intelligent felines will lick their owners’ hands and mouth when they want food as they understand the connection between the mouth, hands, and food.

So, next time your cat licks your face excessively, try and find out if she’s hurt, stressed, or hungry.

6. You’re Part Of The Family

Most cat parents associate cat biting with aggression. However, unless the biting is accompanied by other aggressive behavior such as hissing and scratching, your feline may just be letting you know that she has accepted you as part of her family.

Mother cats lick their litter to socially bond with them. The licking makes the kittens feel safe and secure. It also helps to reduce conflicts in the group. If you have multiple cats in your home, you may also have noticed them licking each other which is meant to strengthen their social bond.

When your cat recognizes you as a  part of her pride, she will lick you . to transfer her scent onto your face . This helps bond with you and shows that you are an accepted member of her  family.

7. Your Sweat, Salty Skin Is Tasty

Cats lick themselves to eliminate parasites, infections, and allergies.

Some cats find human salty sweat appetizing. If your cat notices that you have a sweaty sheen on your face, she might find the urge to lick it irresistible.

Your cat may also lick and bite your face if you’re cooking a tasty meal in the kitchen and the aroma gets on your skin.

Conclusion

Cats learn face licking and nose biting from their mothers. Mother cats spend lots of time licking their little ones clean which also helps to bond them as a family.

When your cat licks your face or nose, she’s probably letting you know that she loves you. You can reciprocate this show of affection by stroking and cuddling your pet in return. However, cats may also lick and bite your nose if they’re hungry, stressed, curious, or just want to taste your sweaty face!

If you find your cat’s face-licking behavior unpleasant, do not punish or push her away. Instead try to distract your feline by encouraging her to play with other toys or  check to see if she’s hungry or in need of something.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does my cat lick and nibble my nose?

By licking and nibbling your nose, your cat might be trying to groom you. Similarly, she may also be marking you by transferring her scent onto you.

Should I let my cat lick my face?

Your feline’s tongue will pick out bacteria, as well as things like flea dirt and traces of kitty litter, when she is cleaning herself. It’s therefore not recommended to let your cat lick your face frequently. Besides, a simple lick from your cat may be cute, but excessive licking on the same spot will hurt due to the roughness of her tongue.

Why does my cat lick me then bite me?

This is the easiest way for your feline friend to get your full attention. Your cat will lick, then bite you as a way of bonding, showing affection, or just inviting you to play. It’s definitely behavior that’s hard to ignore!

When a cat licks your face, what does it mean?

Your kitty will lick your face because she considers you part of her family. Licking is usually an affectionate behavior, as well as a way of cleaning you. However, she may also lick you because she finds your sweat tasty.

Agnes is a freelance writer with big love for all fluffy creatures, especially her Maine Coon cat. She's written over 200 articles about animal care, ranging from how to raise kittens to the healthiest pet snacks on the market
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