This complete guide on how to stop a kitten biting outlines reasons cats bite, the different kinds of bite behaviour, and strategies to stop it.
No matter how gently it purrs and delightfully cute – a cat is and will remain a predator. This is particularly evident when house tigers bite. To avoid serious injuries, you should learn how to stop a kitten biting and wean your cat from this behavior as quickly as possible.
With a very small cat, it may still be cute when it suddenly bites your hand with its delicate baby teeth. Nevertheless: You should wean your kitty from this behavior as early as possible – because as she gets older, the bites can be quite painful. Because if a person is bitten by a cat , it can have serious consequences. Therefore, start training as early as possible. With small kittens, if they start nibbling at you while playing, all you need to do is pull your hand away. There are a few other things you should do with older cats.
How to stop a kitten biting: consistency is the magic word
Owners must never lose patience with the cat. Don’t hit the cat, don’t yell at it, don’t chase it . Such actions frighten the animal and produce undesirable effects . Anyone who calls his cat over to punish it confuses the animal. It doesn’t understand why people react negatively to them – usually, being lured by a person means something pleasant for the cat.
If the punishment is separated from the incident, the cat cannot process the reaction. The consequence must always follow directly after the bite . In addition, all family members must go along and act in the same way. Otherwise it will be difficult for the cat to learn.
Cats are known to be afraid of water – take advantage of this if you want to stop your house tiger from biting. Every time the velvet paw sinks its teeth into your skin, spray it with some water, for example a standard water gun and spray bottle . This training measure requires a lot of perseverance on your part – the animal will only get used to biting if it associates this unpleasant experience with it every time.
At the same time, however, never be resentful if you want to wean your cat off something: If your cat needs to be cuddled immediately afterwards, you shouldn’t deny it a few pats.
How to stop a kitten biting: Offer alternatives
In the rarest of cases, your cat will bite you out of real aggressiveness or even malice. Often this happens more because she wants to act out her play instinct. You can see this intention quite clearly, especially in young animals: The kitty puts on its ears, its eyes are wide open and it attacks quickly and precisely. It can also happen that a cat suddenly uses its teeth while playing with humans . If your kitten does this and bites your hand, for example, don’t pull it away immediately – it will only get you additional scratches. Instead, let go of your hand completely. The cat will then think of its “prey” as “dead” and will most likely let it go so you can carefully withdraw it.
In any case, you should distract your cat and provide her with alternatives so that such painful situations do not arise in the first place. Offer your cat toy that she can bite into to her heart’s content. Because if your kitty has interesting alternatives, she has no reason to abuse her master and mistress for her prey-catching games – and you don’t have to break her off this behavior at all.
Usually cats only bite lightly. There can be various reasons for this. If you stroke a cat and suddenly bite and scratch it while petting it, it may just be enough of the petting or you may have caught a ticklish spot. The cat’s previous warning signs, such as twitching its tail and turning its ears backwards, are probably simply not noticed by the cuddling owner.
Cats rarely bite without warning. Then it’s mostly about getting attention. In order not to train the cat in this behavior in the first place or to wean it off again as quickly as possible, it should be ignored immediately in such a case. You should only pay attention again when the cat has calmed down and is not actively seeking contact with people.
How to stop a kitten biting: Understand the cat
The better you know your cat, the sooner you can influence its behavior. It is extremely helpful for the owner to know what encourages the cat to make positive changes in its behavior. Cats usually respond best to positive confirmation : give clear praise or reward appropriate behavior with a treat. You react to undesired behavior with ignoring or turning away.
How to stop a kitten biting: Foresee biting
Owners need to learn to anticipate the biting or scratching that will take place. Cats often emit specific cues that suggest the animal is out to do something. Look out for any special signs of any interaction with the cat (e.g., petting). So dilated pupils, lashing tail, curly facial wrinkles and no purring noise should sound your alarm bells. If the cat pushes your hand away, it does not want you to touch it.
Then it is important not to touch the cat any more and to leave it alone . Otherwise, you will literally provoke the cat to fight back. If the cat stares at you, puts its ears back and tenses its body, you should first move away from the animal.
You can stop this behavior by taking the cat and placing it on a scratching post. If she attacks it with her claws, you have to praise her for it (because she scratched the tree, not you). Alternatively, you can offer the animal a toy – if it bites you can give praise to it too . If the situation is precarious and you want to be on the safe side, it is advisable to push the cat aside and leave it alone.
Why do cats bite?
Owners need to understand what motivates biting and scratching behavior. Recognition is essential in dealing sensibly with the problem.
If you recognise the triggers, you can get rid of them. The following characteristics can determine the behavior:
- Self defense.
The cat uses biting and scratching to defend itself. Example: If someone accidentally steps on her tail, she will naturally feel pain and will consequently follow the natural reflex of self-defense. So in this case she doesn’t bite or scratch out of sheer malice, rather she wants to say “Ouch, that hurts!” As the owner, you have to keep a cool head – do not react aggressively, but say clearly “no”.
Cats often try to mark their territory. You want to be the highest-ranking individual in the household and assert yourself by scratching and biting. Here you can find out more about territory behavior. As a rule, people have only one option to regain their dominant position: castration.
A move, loud noises or even a person’s bad mood can have a negative effect on the animal . Cats absorb the emotions prevailing in their environment and register the smallest changes – these mean sheer stress for the four-legged friends. Try to create a peaceful environment: turn down the music system, keep raging children away from the animal, etc.
Young cats are full of energy and are very playful. The desire to play is quickly transferred to biting and scratching. Direct the exuberant energy onto the scratching post or any toys . Also, do not let the kitten keep biting your hands or anything like that. Otherwise, she will continue doing this as an adult cat because she has not learned otherwise.
Unwanted behavior is often a response to existing illnesses. Cats that feel sick and in pain are afraid of closeness and usually shy away from touch . Take the cat to the vet for a thorough check-up.
Is a cat bite dangerous?
Cats rarely bite people so hard that they bleed. However, should it happen, you should disinfect and monitor the wound. This is because infection and inflammation can occur. If in doubt, consult a doctor.
Types of kitten and cat biting
The love bite in cats
When the cat starts to gently bite or nibble on the hand of the person while cuddling, it is called a “love bite”. This behavior is not meant to be evil. It mainly occurs when you stroke the cat’s stomach. This stimulates the cat to play and it becomes cocky. At the same time, however, it is a – albeit often unwelcome – proof of love. The tomcat also bites the “queen” easily in the neck during mating.
When the cat sneaks up on its humans and bites its hands or feet and legs, it is mostly underutilized and in this way pursues its play and hunting instinct. Try to play with your cat extensively for at least 20 minutes a day.
But never tease your cat with your bare hands. The toy gloves with extended fingers that are available in stores should also be avoided, because the cat should learn that your hand is not a toy.
It is better to organize catch games instead of fights. You can find fishing rods with a toy on them. For most cats, a small ball or cuddly toy that is thrown and that they can chase after is enough.
Upbringing and hierarchy
Cats bite each other especially in play. Serious biting is less common in ranking battles. This also depends strongly on the character of the cat and the conditions in the neighborhood.
Every now and then it also happens that the mother cat bites her young slightly to reprimand them. This education is harmless. However, if the cat bites its kitten more violently and apparently for no reason, for example if they meow a lot, it can be a sign of excessive demands. Then the person should intervene and try to give the cat a break, for example by “watching” the nest for a while or possibly feeding the kitten to take some stress off the cat.
The killing bite
The killing bite during the hunt must be distinguished from all of these bites. The kitten is instinctively innate with the fatal bite. Either the throat is bitten through or the neck is broken by biting the neck hard and shaking it. They have to learn the intensity, which is why the mother cat brings her kittens home with her from a certain age.
Dr Alma Peterson is a skilled veterinary surgeon specialising in small animal practice and focusing on natural veterinary solutions wherever possible.