Although some tend to be a bit aloof, cats are generally considered to be affectionate animals. Those that are socialized at a young age, usually before eight weeks old, usually grow into affectionate adult cats. Felines display their affection for humans by licking them and rubbing their faces and bodies against them. However, it can be somewhat alarming if your cat rubs against you and then suddenly bites!
Why do cats rub against you and then bite?
This is a cat’s way of showing affection.
Cats show love and affection for their humans in the most unexpected ways, and a classic example is when they rub against you and then bite. This is also often called a love bite and rarely draws blood; it is more of a loving gesture. However, be aware that if your cat is biting you with ears held back and dilated pupils, you should probably back off. This is not a love bite; your cat is showing agitation.
It could be a bad habit your cat has learned.
Cats that played with their humans’ hands and feet when they were kittens are likely to continue their biting behaviour as adults. Ideally, you should correct this behavior while your cat is still a kitten by using toys and strings to play with, rather than your bare hands.
It could be redirected aggression.
Cats that rub and bite their humans could be redirecting their aggression. It could be that your cat is frustrated with something and is taking her anger out on you by rubbing and biting you. This behavior is comparable to a person taking out their anger on a punching bag.
Your cat could be in pain.
Cats may rub and bite as a way of masking their pain. This tends to be an instinctive behavior among cats; they hide their pain because revealing it could make them vulnerable to predators. If your cat bites you, it could be an indication that the pain has become unbearable. Consult your vet so he can assess the situation at once.
Your cat might be overstimulated.
Another reason your cat may bite after rubbing against you is overstimulation. While most cats love to be cuddled and stroked, it does not mean they want it to go on forever. Once they become overstimulated, such as if you scratch them too hard, they may give a warning bite before running away.
Why do cats rub against you?
To distribute their scent
Cats rub against objects or people to deposit their scent, according to cat experts. They have scent glands that emit pheromones on certain areas of their bodies, such as the tail, cheeks, forehead, paw pads and anal area. Vocalizations and body language are both means of communication for cats, but their scent can linger as a longer-term message. Rubbing is a cat’s way of claiming territory, and cats may rub not only people but also objects around the home.
To mark you as a member of their pack
Felines in the wild function as colonies, and they mark each other by rubbing and butting their heads together. Cat experts are convinced that this is a form of communication and acceptance. Cats rub against humans to mingle their scent with that of their humans’. If they do not rub against you, it could indicate that they do not really like you.
Cats are not particular about what human body part they rub against. However, they tend to rub your face if they particularly like you, and will headbutt or bump their head on you to signify their friendship. The head rubbing or headbutting behavior leaves pheromones that indicate a friendly encounter.
Headbutting also places a cat’s face and eyes in a vulnerable position, which signifies trust as well as friendliness. For this reason, experts say, only confident cats exhibit headbutting behavior. Cats may also walk close to their humans, rub their whole bodies against their legs, or wrap their tails around their humans’ legs to signify friendship and trust.
Cats are generally considered affectionate animals, despite some of them being slightly aloof and reserved. Friendly cats express love and trust toward their humans by rubbing their bodies or faces against them to transfer pheromones. They may also bite you after rubbing against you; this could be a display of affection, but could also be due to bad habits learned while they were still kittens. Biting can also be due to redirected aggression, overstimulation, or an underlying health issue.
Image: istockphoto.com / Giovanna Rim