Does your cat bite? Biting may be a natural and normal way of communicating and playing between felines. But, that’s not how you want your kitty to interact with you. The relationship between your cat should not involve bites or scratches. Fortunately, cats can be trained out of this habit. Continue reading to learn why your cat might be biting and how to stop it.
Biting And Scratching: Natural Forms Of Cat Communication
Here’s the scenario: You’re relaxing on the couch and petting your furry feline when all of a sudden you receive a bite on the hand or a swat from their paw.
Should you be alarmed? Chances are you don’t need to worry. Your cat probably isn’t acting out of aggression. Instead, they’re using their bites as a way to play or communicate with you.
Cats learn their biting and scratching habits early on in the litter. A kitten biting another kitten is a way to play and show affection.
It’s much easier to shape playful habits with kittens than with older cats.1 Learn more about the specific tricks below.
What Might Those Bites And Scratches Mean?
Meowing isn’t your cat’s only means of talking. Cats use their bites and scratches to verbalize their moods and fancies. Biting is not always a sign of aggressive behavior.
You don’t want to confuse your cat’s love bites for aggression. Nibbles and bites during a petting session are called “petting-induced aggression” and usually serve as a signal that your cat no longer wants to be pet.
Typically, love bites do not break the surface of your skin. These bites are not considered aggressive because they lack hostile reactions such as hissing and growling.2
It’s really just your cat’s way of reminding you that they are ready for a little space.3
Note – Consult your vet if your cat demonstrates aggressive behavior such as hissing or harmful biting. These are signs of aggression and should be observed by a professional.
Tips And Tricks To Prevent Biting And Scratching
Now, you can start to teach your cat that biting (or nipping) is not how you want to communicate. Read about a few easy ways to build a fun relationship with your cat with little to no petting-induced aggression.
Learn Your Cats Preferences
Cats have an unfortunate reputation for being unpredictable and moody. The truth is, cats are like any pet. They have personal preferences and unique ways of expressing their likes and dislikes.
For example, cats love affection and most enjoy being touched and held. But, they also have certain areas that are off-limits. Learning where your kitty likes to be scratched may help cut down on petting-induced aggression.
Try petting your cat at the base of the chin or tail, around the ears, and behind the whiskers on the cheek. Be aware that many felines do not like to be touched on the stomach.4
Avoiding a “no-touch” area like the tummy might help cut down on unwanted bites and scratches. This could require a little trial and error, but stick with it. Cats are typically very expressive, so it’s easy to tell when they like something and don’t (purring versus hissing).
Teach Your Cat That Your Hands Aren’t Toys
Cats love to play with toys. You know this if you ever catch your cat fidgeting with electrical cords or leaping after balls.
However, you want to teach your cat early on that your hands and fingers are not toys. Cats play with their claws, paws, and teeth, so they will naturally want to give you a nibble if they think you are romping around.
Always have a toy to offer them instead of your fingers, ideally one that allows for hands-off play (like a laser pointer). This sends a clear message that you are off-limits when it’s time to play.5
A Kitty Timeout
If your cat does give you a friendly bite while you pet them, slowly pull your hand away, then walk out of the room for a few seconds. This time-out from attention replicates how a mother teaches her young kittens that they are playing too rough.
Be sure to return to the room after a few seconds so that your cat doesn’t become anxious in your absence.6
Praise Good Behavior
Encourage your cat with supportive words when they behave appropriately. This lets your cat know that they are doing something good.
Reinforce this behavior with consistent remarks. If they behave well, tell them. Likewise, if your kitty misbehaves, don’t be afraid to use a stern voice for a reminder that bites and scratches are not welcome.
Make sure that all family members and guests communicate consistently. You don’t want your cat to receive mixed messages on what is appropriate behavior.
Reward Good Behavior
Take your praise one step further with a tasty treat for your kitty. When your cat behaves well, remind them that it’s appreciated with a favorite treat. Offer a nibble of something tasty after a bite-free play session.
Cats are smart and can make the connection between rewards and good behavior. Teach them that you consider biting and scratching aggressive and unwanted.
Don’t Use Harsh Punishments
Avoid punishing your cat for bad behavior with physical reprimands like grabbing it by the scruff. While you can use a stern voice, you should never yell at your cat. This sort of behavior only reinforces aggressive cat communication standards. This will only teach your cat only one thing – that you are something to be avoided.7
Building A Positive Relationship With Your Kitty
Life with your cat is like any relationship. It requires time, patience, and good communication. Listen to your cat. Watch for their unique movements and messages. This will help you better understand one another and foster a deeper connection. Plus, it can help cut down on undesirable play and petting-induced aggression.
The last thing in the world you want to do is ignore your kitty because you’re afraid of getting a scratch or bite on the hand. Learning a few of these tricks may help rebuild your confidence when handling your cat.
With no swipes or bites to worry about, you will feel more at ease with your animal companion and enjoy a healthier life together.
Important – Consult your vet if your cat is overly aggressive and not responding to any of your training. They may need some extra attention from a qualified professional.