There you are, just waking up, and your cat bites your face. Ouch! Not how you quite imagined starting your morning. Why do cats do this? How could you get your cat to stop? And how can you help your cat relax? Well, that’s exactly what we will be explore here today.
So, why does my cat bite my face in the morning? Cats may bite your face in the morning to show affection, especially if they don’t break the skin. Other times it could be your cat is ill or stressed. Some cats get fed up with being petted, while others try to show dominance. It could also be your cat needs something from you.
So, there can be a number of different reasons for this behavior.
Which is why you need to try to understand the context.
Is it right away, is it after a little while? Is this new, even?
So to help you try to identify which one it could be, let’s delve deeper into the reasons.
Then we will turn to what you can do about it. And hopefully, get it to stop.
Reasons Why a Cat May Bite Your Face In The Morning
The most common reason for gentle face nibbles is love – but it could be your cat is trying to attract your attention because of illness, stress, boredom, or needing food or the toilet. Young cats may suffer from a lack of socialization if they leave their mother too soon as kittens.
Your Cat Is Showing You Affection
The most common reason for a gentle bite in the morning from your cat is love.
Cats will often groom each other as a way to show their love and affection.
This behavior is referred to as allogrooming – and it can include biting as well as licking.
If your cat likes to gently nibble on your chin – especially after a few licks – it could be your cat is allogrooming you!
You may notice your cat biting you gently in the morning and then staring at you as if to say, “It’s cuddle time!”
Your Cat Is Ill
It could be your cat is ill.
Perhaps your cat is in pain and wants you to know that something is wrong – in which case, it’s probably serious, as cats tend to hide their pain out of an instinct to appear strong to survive in the wild.
Some cats have a rare condition called hyperesthesia which causes them to be extremely sensitive to touch: their hair follicles are more sensitive than normal.
If you notice your cat’s skin crawl while you pet them along its back, it could be your cat has hyperesthesia.
Other signs of hyperesthesia can include:
- They scratch an area themselves that you tried to pet
- Their pupils are dilated
- They drool
- They dig or scratch at a particular spot
- They urinate or vocalize while being touched
- They chase their tail
Your Cat Is Stressed
Cats are creatures of habit, and sometimes they may bite their people in the morning because they are feeling stressed from a recent change in their routine or circumstances.
Causes of stress in cats include:
- A new pet in your home
- A new baby or child
- Guests coming to stay
- New noises around the house (such as construction work or loud music)
- Someone they love has gone away
- Their diet has changed
- Something about their litter tray has changed (its location, type of litter, etc.)
- Another pet or other family member is bullying or mistreating them
- Other changes to their usual routine
You’ll need to see to these problems to help your cat feel calmer (see below).
Your Cat is Fed Up With Being Petted
Referred to as petting-induced aggression, this is when your cat suddenly bites you after you’ve been having some cuddles that they’ve seemed to enjoy.
While it might seem that the biting is coming out of nowhere, your cat may be telling you they’ve reached their tolerance limits for being touched.
Cats are highly sensitive creatures, and while most enjoy being petted, too much petting can irritate them or even become painful.
Your Cat Is Showing Dominance
If you tend to stare unblinkingly at your cat, they may bite your face in the morning as a way of showing dominance, especially if they feel threatened.
Unlike us, cats don’t like prolonged and direct eye contact – they see it as a challenge.
If your cat hisses or growls before biting or shows other signs of aggression, chances are it’s trying to show you they are in charge (or they think they are).
While this is most common in male cats as they reach adulthood, females can try and assert dominance, too.
Your Cat Is Getting Carried Away At Playtime
If you have a morning playtime session with your cat and they suddenly bite your chin playfully, it could be they’re simply getting carried away by excitement.
Even if your cat likes a bit of rough play, it isn’t a good idea to encourage this.
Your Cat Is Bored
Sometimes a bored cat can bite its people on the chin as a way to say, “Wake up and play with me!”
Your cat may be wanting to get your attention in much the same way as some small children will pull on their parents’ clothes or tug at a hand.
Often cats can look for more attention in the morning because they have been sleeping all night – your cat is most likely seeking interaction, love, and food (possibly in that order).
Your Cat Needs Something From You
If your cat usually goes out in the morning, it could be biting you as a way to get you to feed them or open the door to go outside.
Hungry cats can gently bite their people in the morning – many of us can get a bit cranky or restless when we’re hungry, and cats are no different.
Your Cat Has A Lack Of Socialization
Sometimes cats haven’t spent enough time with their mother or siblings as kittens to learn that biting isn’t always welcome.
If your cat is very young, it could be there’s a socialization issue.
How Do I Get My Cat To Stop Biting My Face In The Morning?
It can be just about impossible to get your cat to stop biting your face in the morning, especially if your cat is doing it out of love. For problems caused by illness or stress, the biting may well stop of its own accord once these problems are solved.
Address Any Medical Issues
If you believe your cat has a medical problem, the obvious first step is to go to the vet for a check-up. If your cat is biting you to show you something is wrong, you need to take it seriously.
Signs that something isn’t right with your cat include:
- More or fewer vocalizations than usual.
- Sudden changes in eating, drinking, or appetite.
- Sudden mood changes.
- Changes in breathing (shortness of breath, rapid breathing).
- Dilated or constricted pupils.
- Appearing lethargic, not wanting to play.
- Prolonged diarrhea or vomiting.
- Not using the litter box correctly.
- Visible injuries or problems like limping, skin problems, weight change (gain or loss).
- Sudden changes in grooming habits (too much or too little).
- Bad breath.
- Swelling or wounds or areas painful to the touch (e.g., distended or painful abdomen).
- Discharge (from nose or eyes).
Get your cat to the vet if you notice any of the above signs.
Address Stress In Your Cat
A stressed cat can develop other health problems, and you wouldn’t want them to continue to feel unhappy.
It’s essential to address any causes of stress in your cat and do what you can to help them feel calmer (see below).
Try Distracting Your Cat
If you know your cat is not biting you in the morning because of an urgent need, you could try distracting your cat to see if something else can claim its attention.
Try rewarding your cat when they behave in an acceptable way and ignore any biting behavior (as long as you know your cat isn’t biting you because of one of the other reasons listed here).
You can also give your cat chewable and interactive toys to bite on – have one of these at the ready in the morning so you can substitute it for your face, rewarding your cat when it makes the ‘switch’.
Try gently removing your cat from your face to show them this isn’t appreciated, and then give signs of affection (rubbing, scratching) away from your face.
Other Suggestions To Help You Calm And Relax Your Cat
Other ways to help calm and relax your cat include remaining calm yourself (so no yelling or punishing your cat), petting your cat in a way that they like, and making your home more stress-free.
Never Punish Or Yell At Your Cat
Even though you might be tempted to shout or otherwise punish your cat, never give in to this temptation: you’ll only make the problem worse.
Yelling or punishing a cat will only make them more frightened of you – thereby increasing the likelihood of biting.
Your cat might playfully lick or nibble you and then bite too hard – they’re only acting on their desire to hunt.
Kittens learn these hunting behaviors by pouncing on, attacking, and grabbing each other.
If your cat bites you hard, exclaim, “Ow!” and turn away from them. They’ll quickly learn that biting too hard won’t get them what they want.
Adjust How You Pet Your Cat
Pay attention to how your cat likes to be petted, especially if it tends to nip your face after a petting session.
Look at whether your cat does this if certain areas are petted, such as his tail or belly.
- The pressure you’re applying.
- Whether you pet your cat with slow or quick strokes.
- Where you pet your cat (most cats appreciate soft scratches near their scent .glands on their cheeks or under their chin or at the base of their tail).
- How long you pet your cat for (some cats have a shorter tolerance to petting than others).
Make Your Home More Stress-Free
Here are simple ways to help your cat feel calmer by making changes in your home environment:
Ditch Air Fresheners, Incense, And Other Odor-changing Substances
Cats like the smell of home, meaning your smell and theirs.
Cats use the scent glands in their paw pads, flanks and cheeks to mark your home (and you) with their personal scent to help them feel secure and calm.
By trying to cover up these odors with artificial substitutes, you are elevating your cat’s stress levels, as they are scent and sound-focused.
Provide A Calm Hideaway Place For Your Cat
Cats need places where they can go to rest in peace and quiet.
Whether this is under or on your bed, in a favorite closet, or on a cat perch by the window, your cat needs a place that’s all its own to destress.
Try Providing A Noise Buffer
Soft classical music, a white noise machine, a soft fan, or pet tunes designed for cats are good ways to help calm your cat.
There are even dedicated YouTube channels with music for felines. Avoid human preferences like the radio or the news – cats have different tastes.
Make Sure They Like Their Litter Box
Keep the litter box clean and appealing for your cat.
If you have a multi-cat household, each cat needs its own litter tray.
If you aren’t sure what to provide for your cat, most kitties prefer open, large litter boxes with unscented, sandy litter (not self-clumping, as that sticks to their paws and can cause intestinal blockages).
Provide Your Cat With Both Physical And Mental Stimulation
Cats need both to be happy, so make sure your cat is active every day: vertical space for climbing, safe outdoor access (like a catio or walks on a lead), window spaces for watching the world, scratching posts for their claws and muscle tone, food puzzles to keep their minds busy, and dedicated playtime with you.
Like us, cats need both types of stimulation to release those feel-good hormones.
If your cat is biting your face, be it morning or otherwise, you will want it to stop.
In most cases, it’s not actually a cause for concern, nor is it even spiteful. In fact, and as odd as it may seem, it’s merely a communication method.
What is being communicated, though, can range.
From something quite basic, to something that may need medical intervention.
Nevertheless, thankfully there are things you can do in either context.
But if you are in doubt, or are seeing potential signs of ill health in your cat through other behaviors or tendencies, then get onto a vet.
Just rule medical causes out, at least.
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I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.