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Why Your Cat Bites, Nuzzles, Scratches or Drools: Puzzling Cat Behaviour Explained

Misunderstood Cat Behaviours & Their Causes

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Cat behaviour can be down right mystifying. If you’ve ever wondered by your cat bites, drools, nuzzles, or scratches, your not alone. Read on

Cat laying down

Why Cats Bite

You’re petting your cat and he loves it, pushing into your hand, nuzzling you, purring, perhaps kneading you with his paws. And then suddenly—youch! He’s sunk his teeth into your hand. You may call it “love biting” but feline behaviourists refer to it as Petting-Induced Aggression. According to “Cat Daddy” Jackson Galaxy, these bites mean your cat is over-stimulated. As Galaxy explains to the Sydney Morning Herald, “The hair follicle receptors in a cat can only take so much petting before it hurts.” Galaxy recommends watching for signs of agitation, such as dilated pupils, tail wagging or thumping, ears flattened, meowing or growling, and skin twitching. If your cat exhibits these behaviours, stop the petting session. Above all, don’t punish your cat for biting you. He’s just trying to tell you he’s had enough after his subtler forms of communication went unheeded.

Drooling Cat

Why Cats Drool

Like many things with cats, drooling is not entirely straightforward. While some cat owners report that their cat drools when happy, really relaxed, or nervous, this is the exception, not the rule. Note that cats that drool in these circumstances will most likely have done so their whole lives; if your cat is suddenly drooling, it warrants a trip to the vet. Drooling can point to kidney disease, poisoning, or dental problems, among other serious issues. It could also mean your cat doesn’t want to, or can’t swallow for a variety of reasons, including esophageal blockage, causing excess saliva to flow from the mouth. Medications can also induce saliva, and a cat may drool when nauseous. One other cause could be catnip, valerian, or silver vine. These plants stimulate cats, and behaviour like rolling, rubbing, and even drooling is not uncommon. Bottom line, if your cat suddenly started drooling (and hasn’t done so her entire life), you should go to the vet. 

Why Cats Rub You With Their Face

Your cat has scent glands all over her body. When rubbing her body up against things, she is depositing her scent on objects (such as you) to leave a scent mark. Your cat is, in essence, marking you as hers. Scent marking is done to indicate ownership or assets as belonging in a group. Well-bonded cats will groom each other, creating a group scent. This is called allogrooming. (You can promote group cohesion and thus harmony in your multi-cat home by using the same brush to groom your cats one at a time.) Cats go cheek-to-cheek with you as an affectionate and social gesture. This bonding behaviour shows how much your cat trusts you, so what’s a little cat hair in your mouth for these loving moments?

Cat paws scratching a sofa

Why Cats Scratch Furniture

Your kitty doesn’t mean to destroy your velvet couch—she just can’t help it. Scratching is an innate behaviour cats have a need to engage in. Scratching marks territory by leaving both a visual mark and a scent (paws have scent glands); it removes the dead outer layer of claws; and scratching allows them to stretch and flex their entire bodies—preferably by sinking their claws into a scratching post and not your sofa.

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