The best way to get your kitten to stop biting you is to interrupt the activity immediately, stop paying attention to them, and reward positive behavior later. Combined with other techniques and knowledge about kitten development, you can stop biting in most cases.
Biting is a natural thing for kittens. Cats are predators, and they use biting to make a living in the wild.
So, when your kitten bites you, it has a lot to do with the cat’s natural makeup, and it’s not because it’s angry at you or doesn’t love you.
Nonetheless, you probably still want to know how to get your kitten to stop biting you. This article explains seven steps you can take to stop biting behavior, why kittens do it, and why some kittens do it more than others.
Biting Is Normal Kitten Behavior
If your kitten is biting you, this is perfectly normal behavior for a baby cat, and it’s called play aggression.
Kittens naturally go through a biting phase of development in their first months of life, when they learn how to control this aggression and stay in a harmonious relationship with others if they have opportunities to learn.
The mother and littermates significantly impact what kittens learn about tolerable biting during play early in life.
However, the kitten still needs help understanding that biting is not okay with people. Kittens adopted early or orphaned need special attention to learn how to bite gently and avoid hurting people and other pets.
However, one thing never to do when a kitten bites is to punish it for the behavior. Punishment is likely to increase aggression, making the problem worse, and might also lead to injuries to you, a family member, or the pet.
Instead, try these seven methods of training your kitten not to bite people.
7 Ways to Stop Kittens From Biting
1. Stop Interacting When the Kitten Bites
One of the most successful methods for getting a kitten to stop biting you is to ignore the behavior and stop interacting as soon as it starts.
Kittens naturally love to play, and biting is a form of play and fun for them. By walking away, you teach the kitten that biting won’t get them the attention they want from you as their playmate.
However, it’s important to walk and move away slowly and not make sudden movements while you go. Sudden and fast movements can trigger the kitten’s natural hunting instincts because it resembles what a prey animal does when it tries to run away.
In addition, quick movements can act as a reward for the biting and make the kitten continue acting aggressively.
Also, please don’t pick up or touch the kitten to move it out of the room when it’s biting. Picking it up is likely to result in more aggressive behavior directed toward you.
If the kitten has a grip on your hand or foot with its little jaw, instead of suddenly pulling away, gently press on each side of the kitten’s mouth to release its hold. Then get up and leave the room.
2. Interrupt Biting With a Loud Sound
Mother cats often correct their offspring’s behavior by making a loud hissing sound that says, “I’m not putting up with this! Watch out!”
By imitating the mother cat’s sound, you can also send a strong signal to your kitten that you don’t like biting and won’t allow it.
This technique works for kittens under about seven months old. However, once a cat gets older, making a sound is less likely to work because older cats use and respond to hissing differently than kittens.
Kittens have short attention spans, so making a loud, sharp, and sudden sound can distract them long enough to stop the biting and get them onto some other activity.
Some people use an air horn to get their message across. However, scaring the animal is not the goal, and a fear response could worsen the problem. Instead, the point is to disrupt the activity, so the kitten redirects its attention to something else.
To disrupt a kitten’s biting, make a short, sharp noise and move away as soon as the kitten reacts and stops biting.
3. Distract the Kitten With Toys and Games
Since most of the time a kitten’s impulse to bite comes from playful aggression, distracting it with another game or toy often works to stop biting and teach the kitten about other activities that are fair game for biting.
The best kitten toys mimic the movements of prey animals that trigger biting behavior. Toys that delight a kitten need not cost much or anything because you can often make them from things on hand around your house.
For example, a few feet of thick yarn tied to the end of a stick makes an enjoyable toy to dangle at arm’s length and give your kitten something safe to attack.
You can also tie a toy mouse or an old sock to the end of the string to provide the kitten with more material to dig in its teeth and claws.
In addition, a toy like this keeps the action a safe distance from you and minimizes the chances of the kitten turning its playful activity onto your arms or legs.
Remember that an interactive toy like this does not always need to be in motion to keep a kitten interested. Kitten’s also like it when the toy stops moving, and they can watch, wait, and get ready to pounce.
Other readily-at-hand and straightforward kitten toys include:
- Balls of aluminum foil or paper
- Ping pong balls
- Small plush toys
- Long feathers or feathers tied to a string or stick
- Paper bags and boxes the kitten can easily get in and out of to hide.
Toys to avoid are anything that puts your hands, fingers, feet, or other body parts in striking range of the kitten’s playful attacks. For example, avoid putting on a glove and letting the kitten attack your gloved hand because this provides the wrong message about where to direct this behavior.
It’s also helpful to have a variety of toys and use different ones at different times to keep the kitten interested and engaged.
If surprise attacks of ankle-biting are a problem, try having a toy in your pocket that you can take out quickly and use to distract the kitten as soon as the unwanted behavior starts.
4. Reward Positive Behaviors
When your kitten plays and interacts with you in ways you like, reward this behavior to train the animal in the direction you want it to go.
Rewards can be as simple as verbal praise saying, “Good girl!” using a gentle voice or petting the animal if it likes being touched.
Simply continuing to play with a kitten when it’s enjoying itself is another effective positive reward from the kitten’s perspective. A small edible treat is another reliable way of encouraging good behaviors.
However, it’s crucial for effective animal training to provide the reward immediately after the desired behavior. If you wait too long, the kitten might become distracted, and you could be rewarding the wrong thing.
5. Adopt Another Kitten as a Playmate
One of the best ways for a kitten to learn the rules of gentle play is to grow up with another kitten as a playmate. Kittens quickly teach each other what too much rough playtime is, and they use some of the same techniques described here for people.
For example, when two cats are playing and one gets too rough, the other will often walk away and stop engaging as a way of communicating they don’t like what’s going on.
Adopting a second kitten gives the two of them unlimited time to learn the rules of a fair game, and you will likely benefit from this as well.
However, bringing a new kitten or cat into a resident cat’s territory can be challenging.
Introducing cats to new pets can take a long time and a lot of work, although it is usually easier with kittens.
Adopting both kittens at a young age and close together in time works best to avoid personality clashes and give your kitten a playmate for learning about controlling aggression.
6. Play With the Kitten Often to Stop Biting
Another method for eliminating biting in a kitten is to play with it frequently.
Kittens have lots of energy they need expend to and curiosity to explore. Playing helps them use up their energy, develop motor skills, and learn about playing with you.
In addition, giving kittens safe and fun outlets for their energy can help them develop and outgrow their urge to bite people.
Try to play with the kitten at least three to four times a day for ten minutes or until the animal gets tired and wants to stop on its own. Frequent play is essential with young kittens.
A practical method of playing is to have the playtime and follow it immediately with a meal or an edible treat. Feeding the kitten after playing reinforces the excellent behavior of appropriately playing and interacting with you.
When the kitten is alone, it’s also essential to have toys available to play by itself safely. A cat scratch post or cat jungle gym can also entertain your pet when no one is home.
However, for safety reasons, avoid leaving your kitten alone with balls of string or anything it could get tangled up in.
7. Rule Out Medical Problems
Biting can result from a kitten having a medical problem. If biting is a frequent problem when you pick the kitten up or try to touch it, it could have an injury or illness that makes touch hurt.
For example, if the kitten has a skin condition, an injured paw, or a tummy ache, it might use biting as a defense against being handled in a way that aggravates the discomfort. Take the kitten to the animal clinic for a check-up if other methods don’t work or if you see signs of an illness or injury.
Kittens Bite Naturally and It Helps Them Hunt
Cats have inborn instincts to bite and scratch objects in their environment, especially those that move quickly and resemble small prey animals. Biting is natural for a kitten, and it represents how their ancestors fed themselves.
If one of the reasons you got a kitten is to have a cat that catches mice around your house, you want a kitten that knows how and when to use its teeth. At the same time, you want a pet that does not direct this behavior toward people.
Kittens also bite things to learn about them and to explore their world. Biting shows them how different things react, what is safe, and what is dangerous. By their fifth week, kittens start to show behaviors related to mice hunting skills, including pouncing and biting.
As they develop, kittens go through a biting phase that involves play and social development, peaking when the animal is about four or five months old. If kittens lack sufficient freedom and time to practice their biting skills in this early part of life, it can later lead to more severe problems.
This crucial learning period is one reason frequently playing with a kitten is beneficial and essential for its development and why orphaned kittens sometimes have more trouble learning to play gently.
Some Kittens Bite More Due to Aggression
So far, we have talked about biting due to playful aggression. However, other types of aggression in cats can also result in bite problems.
Each kitten and situation is different. The cat’s breed, early life history, health, and innate temperament all come into play when answering why some kittens bite more than others.
However, cats bite for various reasons, and understanding fear and aggression in cats provides additional insight into what makes some kittens and grown cats bite more than others.
Signs of Aggression in Kittens and Cats
Kittens and cats display different body language depending on what type of aggression they are feeling.
Some general signs of aggression in felines are:
- Ears flattened on the side of the head
- Tail and back hair puffed up
- Whiskers flattened against face
- Body crouched
- Tail flicking rapidly or tucked around the body
- Dilated pupils
- Hissing or other vocalizations
The tail’s position can tell you a lot about the animal’s emotions. For example, a rapidly flicking tail is generally a sign of anger, and a cat’s tail tightly wrapped around its body more likely indicates fear.
By paying attention to your kitten’s body language, you can learn the signs telling you when to back away from situations that could turn aggressive.
Triggers for Aggression in Kittens and Cats
Aggression in cats is a complex problem divided into categories based on the target or trigger for the aggression. Besides play-induced aggression, aggressive behavior in kittens and cats can be triggered by:
- Overstimulation from petting
- Social status disputes
- Territorial protectiveness
- Maternal instincts
Many cats are taken to shelters due to aggressive behaviors that overwhelm the owner. Unfortunately, cat aggression is a common problem in the domestic feline world, so it’s beneficial for everyone to take action as soon as possible if a kitten shows excessive signs of aggression.
One thing you can do is avoid any situation or trigger known to cause aggression. For example, if a kitten becomes aggressively frustrated by seeing birds outside the window, close the curtains or take the pet to another room.
You can also manage many other types of aggression by ignoring the behavior and leaving the kitten alone. For example, if a kitten shows fearful aggression, walking away might be all that is needed to end the situation.
On the other hand, if a kitten has an injury or illness that causes biting or other aggressive behavior, paying attention to the problem and making a trip to the veterinary clinic is the most effective and humane solution.
Kittens and cats often become aggressive when introduced to a new pet or person in the home. In this case, the solution involves keeping the parties separated most of the time and then slowly and systematically introducing them to each other for short periods until they become familiar and comfortable together, which can take weeks or longer.
Kittens Must Be Trained Not to Bite
Biting is normal for kittens, and it’s the owner’s responsibility to help the animal learn when and where it’s okay to bite.
Abruptly ending interaction with a kitten that bites you too hard is one successful way to discourage this behavior. Giving the kitten lots of attention, play, and learning opportunities is also crucial.
Some kittens, such as orphans, have more trouble learning to control playful aggression, and cats display aggression for multiple reasons. Learning how to read your kitten’s body language helps keep your relationship harmonious and free of unwanted biting.