If there’s one thing that almost all cat owners can agree on, it’s that cats do strange things. Your cat can go from napping to tearing around the house in an instant, can love you one minute, then act like he doesn’t know you the next, and can get stuck in the most ridiculous places. Most cat owners learn to take their pets’ odd quirks in stride, but sometimes their behavior is so bizarre that even the most seasoned cat owner is left scratching their head.
If you’ve ever had your cat chew on your fingers, you may be wondering what in the world is going on inside his furry little head. In this article, we will look at some of the reasons your cat may be chewing on your fingers and some frequently asked questions about the behavior.
The 8 Reasons Your Cat Chews on Your Fingers
1. It’s Entertaining
One of the simplest reasons your cat may be chewing on your fingers is that he finds it entertaining. Many cats enjoy the sensation of chewing, so your cat may have latched onto your fingers one day and decided that you were his new favorite chew toy.
This behavior typically isn’t a cause for concern unless your cat is harming you. If that is the case, you can discourage your cat from using you as an oversized chew toy by snatching your hand back and shouting, “Ouch!” when he bites. Eventually, he will start to realize that his bites are hurting you, and he should stop.
2. Your Fingers Smell Like Food
If your cat chews on your fingers after you’ve just finished cooking or eating a meal, there is a chance that he can taste the residue of your food on your fingers.
After washing their hands, most humans cannot smell the leftover scent of chicken, tuna, or other meats that cats may find enticing. However, cats have stronger senses of smell than humans, so it is possible that your cat can still smell a lingering trace of food.
3. Your Cat Is Giving Love Bites
Cats show love in funny ways. Sometimes he’ll be all over you; other times, he’ll ignore you for hours. And on occasion, he may give you love bites.
If your cat chews your fingers often, he may be displaying affection. An easy way to tell if this is the case is to replace your finger with a chew toy. If your cat ignores the toy and continues to gnaw on your fingers, the chances are high that he is showing you affection in his strange yet endearing way.
4. Your Cat Is Overstimulated
It’s no secret that cats can get overstimulated. Whether your cat bolts from the source of his stress or attacks it, overstimulated cats can behave strangely. In some cases, overstimulation may cause your cat to chew on your fingers.
This is especially the case if you have been petting your cat. While cats enjoy being petted, their tolerance for physical contact has a time limit. If you continue to pet him past this limit, he may bite the closest part of your body: the fingers.
To prevent this from happening again, learn the signs that your cat is overstimulated and back off before he feels the need to lash out.
5. You Have a Teething Kitten on Your Hands
If your cat is still a little kitten, he may have started chewing on your fingers because he is teething. Just like with humans, a kitten’s teething experience can be painful. As a result, he may resort to chewing on everything in sight to try and minimize the pain. Often, that can include your fingers.
After 8 weeks, your kitten should grow out of the teething stage. If the finger-chewing behavior persists, your cat’s teething behavior may have become a habit.
6. Your Cat Wants Attention
Although cats can be aloof at times, there is no denying that they are social animals. When your cat is ready to socialize, the first person he will go to is his favorite human. And if you aren’t reading into his cues that he’s ready to socialize, he may chew your fingers to get your attention.
He may also be looking to play. If he nibbles on your fingers, bolts, and then looks back at you, that’s a pretty good indicator that he’s trying to get you to play with him.
7. Stress or Anxiety
When cats are stressed or anxious, they may look for reassurance in the form of their favorite chew toy. If that chew toy happens to be your fingers, your cat may munch on your fingers whenever he is feeling overwhelmed.
If your cat is feeling stressed or anxious, one of the first steps you should take is ruling out the possibility of medical issues. Poor health or pain can cause your cat to feel distressed, so always check with your vet if you have cause for concern. If it is determined that there is no underlying medical issue causing your cat’s distress, try to find the source of his stress and remove it from his environment if possible.
8. Play Fighting
Another reason that your cat may be biting your fingers is because he is play fighting. Play fighting is a common way that cats play with each other and with their humans, and the intention isn’t to hurt you. Still, your cat’s teeth are sharp and may accidentally poke you too hard. However, you can direct your pet’s attention away from your hand by enticing him with a toy that’s more interesting than your fingers.
Is Chewing a Normal Behavior?
Chewing is a perfectly normal behavior in cats; however, there can be times when it is a cause for concern. If your cat’s chewing behavior is excessive and interferes with other life activities, you may have cause to be alarmed. Likewise, if your cat begins to harm himself with his chewing behavior, you should reach out to your vet right away.
Are There Risks to Chewing Behaviors?
If your cat chews on objects, there is always a chance that he may ingest something he shouldn’t. This can lead to issues such as intestinal blockages or ingestion of toxic materials.
Can Chewing Behaviors Be Stopped?
Chewing behaviors can be stopped by providing enough enrichment to stop your cat from wanting to chew or through clicker training. Either way, finding the root of your cat’s chewing behavior will help you to determine how to stop it.
As adorable as your cat’s quirks can be, some can be disruptive or undesirable. For some owners, having a cat chew on their fingers is a behavior they would rather discourage. Once you know why your cat may be biting your fingers, you can start constructing a plan to teach him more desired behaviors. Sometimes, chewing behaviors can indicate that your cat is not feeling well, so if you are ever concerned, do not hesitate to contact your vet.
Featured Image Credit: Bogdan Sonjachnyj, Shutterstock