What Does It Mean When a Cat Nibbles on Your Head?

He just wants to you to know he's glad you're his.
He just wants to you to know he's glad you're his. (Image: Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

While you're laying your head back on the sofa, Scruffy comes over and starts nibbling your head. He may even lick your hair. This behavior might seem odd to you, but he’s just doing what’s natural for him. After all, you’re one of his family members. He treats you the same as he treats his feline crew.

Showing Affection

When you want to show your furry pal some love, you probably just pick him up, kiss his forehead then pet him until he falls into a slumber or wanders off. Scruffy adores you and wants to show you exactly how much you mean to him, too. When Scruffy gently bites or nibbles your head, he’s showing you affection. Think of the subtle biting as little kitty kisses. He can’t pucker up his lips and kiss you, so nibbling is his alternative. While nibbling on your forehead, he’ll also purr like a lion and stick his rear end up high, and perhaps arch his back. A tail straight up in the air says he’s delighted to greet you.

Grooming You

Cats spend about half of their waking hours grooming, the ASPCA says. They'll groom not only themselves but other members of the family nest, including you. When Scruffy settles in next to your head and nibbles you, he's just grooming you and getting rid of any debris that might be tucked away next to your scalp. Just pat him on the head as a "thank you" for cleaning you up.

Claiming You

Scruffy isn’t just showing you affection, though; he also has a secret agenda. Cats have scent glands under their whiskers, up on their foreheads and along the gum line, among other areas. When Scruffy nibbles on your head, he’s putting his scent on you. This way when you leave the house, all the cats you come across will know you already have a feline companion and they need to back off. Even when you leave your cat's territory, you're still his territory.

When to Stop It

Nibbling and gentle bites shouldn’t be painful. If Scruffy bites hard enough to make a mark or if he draws blood, he’s being aggressive. To discourage such behavior you must consistently leave him alone immediately each time it occurs. When his tail starts twitching from side to side or he points his ears back, he’s letting you know he’s either stimulated enough to bite you -- possibly too hard -- or agitated enough to attack. He might stop purring while his pupils fully dilate. Don’t reach over and pick him up at this point, since he may be ready to act on his emotions. Instead, do your best to just get up and walk away. Let Scruffy take a breather by himself for a while. When he wants attention again, he’ll wander back over and start nibbling on you once more.

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