Before You Get Bitten

Follow these four steps to avoid cat bites before they happen.

By Karen L. Overall, MA, VMD, Ph.D.

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Before You Get BittenHere are some keys to preventing and treating cat-bite problems:

1. Avoid situations in which your cat is likely to respond to petting with biting.

2. Play only with toys; never play with your hands or feet. Never offer human body parts to cats as part of play. If your cat becomes overly aroused when playing with a toy, stop the play before anyone is injured.

3. Never pull your hand or other body parts away when your cat bites. Your cat may think you are playing and try harder to catch a moving body part.

4. Recognize the behaviors your cat exhibits before the behavior starts. Then, use these early warning signs either to redirect your cat to a safe game or remove yourself from your cats view until it returns to normal.

Remember that cats brains are wired differently than those of other animals. Cats can stay reactive and aroused for 24 to 48 hours. Move a very aroused cat into an unoccupied room using heavy cardboard or blankets. Sequestering the cat with water and litter during such periods can protect both your body and your warm feelings toward your cat. The earlier the intervention, the better.

Finally, truly anxious cats may benefit from anti-anxiety medication and behavioral intervention. Behavioral treatment can be as simple as teaching your cat to sit and relax in exchange for a food treat. Medication may actually help animals learn new behaviors faster. The combination can truly tame the emergent tiger in distressed domestic cats.

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Reader Comments

Brenda    Arkdale, WI

8/28/2014 3:58:41 AM

If my cat smells another cat's scent on my hand, he will bite me hard enough to draw blood. I then end up having to go to the E.R. and my cat going to the vet.

Becca    Philadelphia, PA

8/21/2013 9:51:43 AM

Our new 1-year Siamese male was a stray and was neutered a few days before we we took him in. Overall, he's a good kitty, but he has periodic "crazy" bouts where he runs through the house, attacks objects at random, and stalks my husband and me. (He likes to ambush us and grab our legs.) Initially he broke our skin, but scolding him has tamed the intensity of his bites. We give him time alone in his "safe room" when he gets out of hand, and we also place him in the safe room if we have to leave the house for an extended time. I think he would benefit from a 2nd cat for companionship, but he does play roughly with his toys. Should we attempt a 2nd cat soon? We've had him for about 6 weeks, and want to make sure he isn't threatened. And I don't think he needs medication yet, since I cannot see any fear expressed -- I think this is part of his play, but I wondered if we should try medication anyway?

CatChannel Editor    Irvine, CA

7/8/2013 11:26:21 AM

PJ -- That's a difficult situation. I found these other articles on cat biting that might help: LINK LINK LINK

In the last link, I found this piece of advice: When Willy does bite, instead of pulling your hand away, try gently pushing in toward his mouth. He will let go, thus minimizing the seriousness of the bite. At first, pushing in toward the mouth is difficult to do, since we are hard-wired to pull away when bitten. A cat is instinctually driven to bite down and increase the bite hold when an animal is trying to escape, thus increasing the odds of a meal. Though you are not prey, instincts take over and can result in a serious bite.

P.J.    Albuquerque, NM

7/7/2013 1:44:54 PM

My 5 year old spayed cat will let me pet her 4 - 5 times then will walk away... come back and bite me hard enough to draw blood. When I pet her I am petting her at the side of her head and the back of her head. She has never been corrected with a hand (water gun only - during first year) and never teased with a hand. She has never bit my hubby - only me, and only after the brief pet. Can you tell me why and what I can do to correct this??? I really need HELP !!!

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