Your cat nuzzles your armpit because it is strongly scented with your unique scent. Cats show family bonds by swapping (wiping) their scent against yours. Also, the hair and the warmth of the armpit can remind your cat of snuggling with its mother or nursing.
When your cat nuzzles your armpit, it can be a cute bonding behavior, or an annoying habit that you want to stop. Cats may also lick or bite when they nuzzle your armpit. In this article, I’ll discuss why – and if your cat’s nuzzling is too much for you, I’ll explain how you can discourage the behavior.
Why Does My Cat Nuzzle My Armpit?
They like your scent
Every human and animal has a unique scent, influenced by individual hormones, diet, exercise, and genetics.
Cats can tell other cats apart by remembering their unique scent, and they do the same with humans.
The members of the cat’s family are usually valued as a part of their safe home base and their defenses.
Scent-swapping – nuzzling against scented parts to exchange scent deposits – is a key way that cats who live together, or are friendly, bond. Cats do this with their faces as that is where a major scent gland is located.
They want some petting
After scent-swapping by nuzzling your armpit, your cat may extend their head or neck up towards you, asking for some petting.
Your cat is feeling relaxed and safe with your scent and is reaching out to connect with you by asking for affection.
Why Is the Armpit so Attractive to The Cat for Nuzzling?
Other than the human groin, no place on the body is as strongly scented as the armpit.
While humans can sweat from every pore on their body, and this contributes partly to our scent, our armpits have special glands called apocrine glands. Apocrine glands release pheromones – scented “messages” which have an effect on other humans and animals.
While we may not realize it, some studies show that human pheromones affect who we find attractive as a partner.
Our pheromones can have an attractiveness for cats.
Sweat from the apocrine glands is also more concentrated.
Why Does My Cat Nuzzle My Armpit and Lick It?
Here are several reasons your cat could be licking when they nuzzle your armpit:
They are adding taste information to scent information
Tasting is another way that cats find out about the world. Your cat may be adding the information it receives through taste to the information it has received from your scent. Tasting also produces a different level of scent information.
They are grooming you
Cats that live together happily will often groom each other. This seems to be part of their bonding process.
According to cat behaviorist Pam Johnson-Bennett, grooming and licking is another way of swapping scent, creating a bonded “family scent” between family members.
Your cat may be extending their bonding to you as part of its family.
This family scent process is called allogrooming.
Cats also find it soothing to groom another animal and to receive it.
The grooming may also be triggered because you have hair in your armpit.
Your armpit tastes nice
Human sweat is salty, and both cats and dogs can like licking it for this reason.
Also, your cat may be investigating the scents you have added to your armpit. They could be tasting your deodorant, soap, or shaving cream, from your skin or hair.
Why Is My Cat Nuzzling My Armpit and Rolling Like Crazy?
The cat is really enjoying your pheromones! Human armpits can be as enjoyable to cats as catnip.
Cats may also show a preference for one person’s armpit over another person’s.
Why Does My Cat Open Their Mouth when They Nuzzle My Armpit?
If your cat holds its mouth open a little or grimaces while nuzzling your armpit, it’s using its superpowered scent analysis gland.
Cats and some other animals like dogs and horses have a special pheromone-receptive gland on the roof of their mouth.
If your cat opens their mouth or grimaces while smelling, they are using this gland: this is called the Flehmen reaction.
They are making an in-depth analysis of the scent. They make meaning from it and store it in exact detail for later recall.
Why Is My Cat Biting My Armpit as Well as Nuzzling It?
Biting can be a natural part of how a cat grooms itself or another cat.
If you watch a cat grooming, you will notice they often push their teeth deeply into the fur to remove knots.
Small bites may just be part of the cat’s natural grooming methods, and it probably doesn’t intend to hurt you.
However, you should decide how much biting you feel comfortable with in your armpit.
What if My Cat Is Biting My Armpit Hard?
If your cat is biting hard, it’s probably overstimulated by all those pheromones.
You will need to make a sensible decision as to whether you allow them access to your armpits.
Why Does My Cat Fall Asleep in My Armpit?
It’s common for cats to nuzzle an armpit, then curl up in the armpit space and go to sleep.
When you think about the environment kittens grow up in, in a litter of kittens with the mother, they are extremely close to one another physically.
Your cat might feel very safe, warm, in a scented place, and comforted by sleeping in your armpit.
Test your deodorant
Cats can bite in response to a specific smell.
It might not be your natural scent, but the scent you are adding to your armpit that is triggering your cat. This could be deodorant, soap, or shaving cream.
Try putting some of the product onto your arm or fingers, and hold it out to your cat to investigate.
By trying this a few times, you might be able to see whether the cat is biting in response to a specific smell. If you find that this is a trigger, you can try changing to a different scent.
Why Does My Cat Bury Its Head in My Armpit?
Cats may naturally enjoy burying their head in your armpit, blocking their eyes, nose, and even ears.
If the cat is hiding its head, it can be:
Generally, cats will only bury their eyes, nose and ears – their prime senses – when they feel entirely secure. They really trust you and the environment that they’re in.
Anxious cats sometimes bury their faces in armpits, blankets, or other dark places.
By watching the cat’s general behavior throughout the day, you will be able to tell whether your cat is burying their face because they are secure or anxious.
How Can I Stop My Cat Nuzzling My Armpit?
Behaviorist Pam Johnson-Bennett recommends watching for when the cat gets ready to start nuzzling your armpit.
There is probably a position you lay in, or a look in their eyes when they jump on you, or a time of day or night they prefer. Have a really distracting toy ready.
You can let the cat be physically close to you and cuddle with you in the way you like, but use the distraction as soon as they go for your armpit.