Don't Fight The Bite
Is your fur baby cuddly and loving one minute, then sinking their teeth into your skin the next? Or does your kitty play just a little too aggressively and doesn't understand the strength to their bite?
Biting is a predatory instinct and a typical cat behavior when playing and exploring new things. However, not all cats seem to understand that biting their owner or other humans is unacceptable behavior.
If this is the case for you and your feline friend, fear not. It is possible to teach your cat to control their bite when playing and curb the tendency for recurrence.
Why Does My Kitten Bite Me?
Kittens learn how to behave from the interactions they have with their littermates and mother. When playing together, kittens teach each other how to bite gently. If one bites another too hard, the victim will discipline the offender, teaching them to reign it in and use less force in their bite.
If taken away from their mama and siblings too early, a kitten will not have the chance to learn those playtime manners.
Additionally, the bite strength a cat can tolerate is often too much for us, so we may have to continue training them. Aside from playing rough, kittens can also bite to communicate a need or if they are teething.
How Do You Train Your Kitten To Play Gently?
Without being taught to play gently, a kitten will not understand that their bite hurts you. It's important to set boundaries early on in their training to reinforce what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Here are our top tips on how to train your kitten to stop biting.
- Withdrawal - When your kitten bites too hard, let your hand go limp, withdraw from playtime, and tell them a firm "no". This makes them understand that they went too far, and they will associate the warning with the behavior over time.
- Redirect - Whenever your fur baby tries to bite you, give them a soft toy to chew instead. Teaching your kitten to play with toys instead of your hands or feet from a young age will prevent any aggressive biting as they get older. Likewise, avoid using your fingers to play. Although it’s tempting, allowing your kitty to chase your hand only encourages them to see your skin as prey.
- Reward Good Behavior - Give your kitty treats when they choose to play with and bite their toys instead of your hand.
- Let Them Learn From Other Cats - If you have a solo kitten, you may want to consider giving them a friend. Kittens do much better in pairs as they love to play together, so they’ll take their energy out on each other rather than you! If you can’t adopt a second cat, perhaps you can set up playdates with friends or neighbors kitties instead?
Why Does My Adult Cat Bite?
There are a few different reasons why adult cats may be biters.
- Communicating Needs - While cats commonly use their meow to tell you when they want to eat or play, a cat might bite you to get your attention instead. They choose this communication method as it’s usually a more effective way to make you notice them, especially if you tend to ignore their vocal calls.
- Frustration - When a cat is angry, they will display this emotion through their body language and behavior, this could include biting. Many things can frustrate a feline such as if they want to go outside but can’t or if they can see another animal in their territory. In this case, cats don’t tend to come up to you and bite, but if you get close enough when they are angry, they will not hesitate to release that anger onto you.
- To Stop Unwanted Action - If your cat wants to be left alone and you start to pet them, they may respond with a firm no in the form of biting. Furthermore, they may bite if you do something that causes them stress, pain, or just feels uncomfortable, such as trimming their nails or cleaning their paws.
- Predatory Play - Cats are hunters by nature, so they have a desire to attack. If your fur baby can’t fulfill this desire outside or through kitty sparring, they might choose you as their prey and plot an attack on your feet as you walk past them.
How To Stop An Adult Cat From Biting You
Redirect & Reward - Like with kittens, redirect your adult cat to an appropriate toy to bite instead. Ensure your cat has enough toys and stimulation to take their energy and frustration out on so they don’t need to seek you out. Reward them with treats every time they redirect their attention from your skin to their toys.
Clicker Training - If your kitty tries to attack your feet whenever you walk past them, you can try clicker training to get them to stop. Once they stop and sit, reward them with a treat. After a while, they will start to associate the click sound with the reward.
Don’t Pull Away - When your cat bites your hand, and you move it away, it mimics the reaction of prey trying to escape. This encourages your cat to attack harder. Instead, push your hand into your cat’s mouth gently. Although this goes against your instinct, the action will confuse your feline and cause them to let go as it’s not what prey would do.
Do Cats Bite If They're In Pain?
Although less common, felines of all ages may bite you if they are suffering. Just like humans, cats can become short-tempered and snappy when they are sick or injured.
If your kitty suddenly starts to bite while unprovoked, particularly if they bite and hold on, it could be a sign that they are in pain and are trying to get your attention or find some relief.
If your cat keeps biting you after trying all of the above, consult with a pet behaviorist who can advise you further.
Never use physical punishment on your feline as this will stimulate them more and cause them to fight back. Yelling and hitting can make your cat fearful of you and their home environment, which could lead to anxiety-related behavior and a greater distance between you two.
Keep calm, keep patient, and show them you'll love them through their learning process. Change is a slow step for our kitties but well worth the effort.