Middle of the night bites — what Richmond cat is trying to say

DEAR JOAN: Our cat, Mojo, is a feral kitty born the first summer of the pandemic. We got him from a neighbor when (Mojo) was about 8 weeks old. We took him to the vet to be checked out, and he got all his shots and was neutered when he was a little older.

The problem is, he loves to get up on my chest when I’m lying down. He’ll knead his paws on me, come up to my face and demand kisses, and bump his head against my face a few times. Then out of nowhere, he’ll bite me on my neck, cheek, nose, lip — wherever he decides.

I tell him, “no biting,” whenever I feel his mouth start to open, and I turn my head away, but his head follows. About half the time, he ends up biting me. He will also jump up on the bed in the middle of the night and want me to pet him, but if I’m too sound asleep, of course, I don’t and sometimes then, he will bite my hand.

I’ve wondered if giving him catnip in the daytime might encourage him to play more, so that he’ll sleep more at night. He has lots of toys and loves to play with them. We sometimes hear him batting them around at night. I’d hate to banish him from our room, but this biting is annoying. He rarely bites hard enough to break the skin, but it’s a real bite. So far, he hasn’t bitten anyone else, not even my husband.

Do you have any ideas why this is going on or how to get him to stop?

Ellen Seskin, Richmond

DEAR ELLEN: This won’t fix the problem, but it’s good to recognize that Mojo is just doing his cat thing, and because he’s been doing it for quite a while, he sees those nighttime bites as something completely normal and acceptable.

It might make you feel better to know those soft nips on your neck and face are most likely love bites. He loves you the most, which means you win.

Despite the popular notion that cats have no reason for most of the things they do, a cat bite is not something random. There is a purpose for a bite.

Sometimes it’s because they are annoyed with us. Cats do not, by nature, like to be petted, but they have learned to be — mostly — accepting of their human’s desire to stroke that soft fur. They sometimes even ask to be petted, but they have their limits, and they let us know when they’re done by biting. I had a cat that would always give you one warning before actually sinking his teeth into flesh. I thought that was very fair.

Gentle bites, especially to the face, are to show affection.

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