I am an Affilate!

I hope you enjoy any product or service that I recommend. :) Just so you understand, I may take a share of any sales or other compensation from the links on this page. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Thanks if you use my links, I really appreciate your support.

Why Is My Cat Air Chewing?

If you have noticed that your cat is air chewing, or someone else has pointed it out to you, you may be wondering what it is and why it’s happening… 

​​Why Is My Cat Air Chewing?

One of the most common reasons that cats start air chewing is feline obesity. Obese cats are not able to effectively groom themselves, as some areas are simply out of reach. This causes them to nip at their legs or at the air as this is as close as they can reach and it also leads to skin irritation as your cat cannot keep their fur clean.

So, now you know. But, what else can cause this? Should I be concerned about it? Is this a sign of nausea? Keep reading for these answers, and much more… 

What else can cause my cat to air chew?

An orange cat with mouth wide open.

An orange cat with mouth wide open.

If your cat is not overweight, fleas are another common cause of ‘air chewing’ to consider but in rare cases this behavior can be neurological and may require vet assistance. Pay attention to the frequency and context. If your cat is air-chewing a lot, then this should be considered a red flag and a vet visit is in order.

What is air chewing?

Air chewing is when your cat seems to be biting or nipping at the space in front of them, even when the space is empty. It is often combined with biting at the paws or the hands, but is generally caused by one of three things.

The first is that the cat might be overweight and unable to properly groom, while the second possibility is fleas. A 3rd possibility is Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome, which generally includes symptoms such as excessive grooming, air biting, tail chasing, and in extreme cases, it may include seizures.

Not all cats will demonstrate the same symptoms, so if your cat is suddenly showing behavioral changes such as these then a vet checkup is a good idea. While FHS is poorly understood, there are medications which can help, and early diagnosis is always best.

Should I be concerned if my cat is air chewing?

If your cat is air chewing, but not frequently, then it could be a sign of overstimulation or that their skin is simply feeling itchy. If the behavior is fairly compulsive however, and especially if your cat is chewing and scratching at themselves then a vet visit is definitely in order.

Most often, it is simply feline obesity or fleas that causes them to scratch like this or to bite the air, so check the ideal weight for your cat and if they are a little overweight then your vet can help you to create a proper diet and to treat any skin irritation that comes with not being able to properly groom.

If the chewing behavior started after introducing a new animal to the house and you’ve ruled out fleas then you might also consider adding a baby gate to ‘wall off’ a room for your cat to go to while they get used to the new animal.

Air chewing is sometimes caused by stress, so this might work and give your cat some time to adjust to their new housemate.

Is cat air chewing a sign of nausea?

 This is another possibility. If you’ve made changes in your cat’s diet or they’ve been getting into the garbage, then air chewing could be a sign of a food allergy and subsequent nausea. See if the behavior is occurring right after your cat eats and this will help you to rule out a food issue.

Dental issues can also cause air biting and nausea, so this is another thing to consider. An infected tooth is not easy to see unless you can check your cat’s mouth and even then, you might miss it – it’s definitely a good idea to get your vet’s assistance if you think that this might be the case.  

Why does my cat keep chewing on nothing?

A cat playing with string lights.

A cat playing with string lights.

 If this is new behavior, it could be a dental issue that your vet will need to check out. Cats will sometimes appear like they are chewing on nothing, when in actuality they feel discomfort in their teeth. Chewing motions and grinding their teeth together are good examples and a red flag that it’s time for a vet visit.

Watch your cat closely, however, as they have also been known to snap up a small bug or two and in those cases, that chewing you are seeing is genuine.

Why does my cat bite the air when I pet her?

 If your cat is biting at the air when you pet them, it may be a sign of overstimulation. This is especially common when petting around the tail in some cases of FHS, but it can also occur with cats that are simply overweight.

In such cases, the skin becomes irritated because your cat cannot groom it, and this gets itchy and uncomfortable – sometimes enough that your cat will give you a nip!

If your cat is not overweight and showing these symptoms then a vet visit might be a good idea to rule out Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome.

Could my cat be chewing air because of a broken tooth?

Your cat might well have a broken or infected tooth if the behavior you are seeing is new. Cats aren’t always happy when we try to take a look at their teeth, so this is something that is very easy to miss. If you suspect that your cat is having dental issues, a quick visit to the vet can swiftly rule this out.

Watch for chewing motions, tooth grinding, or in extreme cases for your cat picking up food more carefully or showing loss in appetite. These are all red flags that you might be dealing with a broken tooth.  

Could my cat be chewing the air because of hunger?

Cats communicate in a number of ways and some have even been known to mimic chewing when they are trying to tell you that they might like a treat. So, it is possible that your cat is trying to tell you something, it’s all going to depend on the context.

If your cat looks happy and healthy and the air-chewing is more of a casual thing than a habit, then try different things like giving them treats or play. It might just be that your cat is asking for attention or a snack!

Could cat air chewing be a sign of comfort and health?

Cats will sometimes make a contented, chewing noise when they are happy. If your cat is doing this and purring, then this is usually the case. It’s much the same as when humans make happy sounds for a good meal or surprise company.

Take special note of when your cat is doing it and this should tell you what you need to know, but sometimes air chewing is just a completely harmless sign of a happy, contented cat.

Why is my cat making a chewing grinding noise?

Things like gingivitis and mouth ulcers will often result in your cat making chewing motions or grinding their teeth. This is especially common in species such as Persians, that have been bred for flatter faces and are thus more prone to issues like misaligned teeth.

If your cat is grinding their teeth, a quick checkup with your veterinarian can help to rule out these and other dental issues. They will likely show a loss of appetite as well, as the damage to their teeth will interfere with eating properly.

If you see these symptoms, schedule a vet checkup right away to rule out any dental issues.

Lindsey Browlingdon