This playful gesture is reminiscent of their kittenhood days.

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black and white cat biting finger
Credit: Lurii Garmash / Getty Images

It's important to you that your pets lead healthier, happier lives. Whether you want veterinary advice, behavioral insight, or the best-in-market pet essentials that make every day more joyful, for both you and your cat or dog, The Well-Balanced Pet offers practical tips you can use.

Those little love nips your kitten or cat gives you aren't all about love. In reality, cats bite for a number of reasons, from simply being overstimulated to reminding you it's time for dinner, says Shadi Delshad, an animal behaviorist specializing in cats. (And yes, they can also bite because they love you.) There are several reasons why your cat might bite you, but there are also steps you can take depending on each situation.

But no matter why your cat bites, it's important to remember that you can change the behavior if you don't like it. "Cats are just as capable of being trained as dogs," says Delshad. But, she warns, "training your cat not to bite will not occur overnight." Instead, the training process takes patience and consistency.

They're overstimulated.

A cat can become overstimulated if she's been touched in an undesired place, like her stomach, for too long. If a fast swishing tail, rotating ears, tense body, or dilated pupils accompany your cat's bite, she might be overstimulated, which Delshad says is a sign that it's time to stop petting her.

They love you.

If your cat gently nips at your skin—without breaking the skin, and without provocation—then she's likely showing you affection. "Some cats communicate their affection this way," she says. Even so, you may still want to stop her from biting. A gentle "no" can help curb those love nips.

They're reminding you of something.

Another kind of gentle nip has little to do with love and everything to do with what a cat wants: food, a toy, or anything else they might desire. For example, if you forgot to put down food at meal time, your cat may find you and bite as a way to remind you she's ready to eat. If you find your cat frequently bites around meals, Delshad suggests setting an alarm for the same time each day. "Cats are creatures of routine that rely on familiarity and predictable outcomes," she says.

They're being playful.

If your cat is a bit bored, or if you're her only source of entertainment, she may bite you as a way to play. Like other bites, this nibble should be light. But if you'd rather your cat not bite as a form of play, be sure to "create an enriching environment" where she can play alone, says Delshad. Or if possible, adopt another cat. "They can play together instead of playing rough with you," Delshad says.

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