Please Cat, No Biting!

CatChannel behavior expert Marilyn Krieger, CCBC, explains how to discourage a cat's biting habit.

Posted: April 4 2008 2 a.m. EDT

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Q: Our 1-year-old cat that we recently adopted likes to play bite. He is very sweet, but I really don’t like the biting. People have suggested using a spray water bottle or shaking a can with change in it. I have done both, and neither work. Any other suggestions?

A: Play biting can be stopped with management, proper play techniques and behavior modification. Never use your hands when playing with a cat. It is not uncommon for cats to chomp down when hands are used in play. A play glove isn’t recommended either because cats know that inside the glove is a hand. Instead, entice your cat with a fishing pole toy or a cat dancer. Safe little soft balls and paper crinkled up are just a few of the other toys that are intriguing to a cat. To ensure your cat’s safety, put the fishing pole toys and the cat dancers out of his reach when you aren’t playing with him.

If your cat does bite you, don’t pull your hand away. His instinct will be to bite down, inflicting a much worse bite. Instead, push gently in toward his mouth without hurting him. He should let go. Another method that works is to give him a timeout by turning around and walking out of the room. It’s important that you don’t pick him up or touch him. Timeouts don’t have to be very long. A couple of minutes is usually enough time for him to wonder why no one is playing with him anymore.

Don’t punish cats when they bite or do other unappreciated behaviors. Punishment usually results in the cat being afraid of his human companions. It’s important to build the cat-people bond and not break it. Also, punishment can result in the undesired behavior escalating and/or developing other bad habits.

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Reader Comments

Jen    Washington, DC

7/27/2010 10:01:34 AM

This is helpful. I didn't realize I shouldn't pull my hand away when my cat bites. From now on, I will try pushing in toward his mouth instead.

Another issue is that he bites my hand when I try to move him off of my bed at night when he is being rowdy.

Susan    Norman, OK

2/6/2009 10:27:01 AM

Good information. My kitten likes to nibble me when I'm petting her. She is also fascinated with my hair, and I've gotten that down fairly good. But the nibbling is something I'm having to work at. I usually stop petting her and she stops.

Margaret    Hutchinson, KS

1/17/2009 6:02:48 PM

this is very good to know. My 8 year old tabby has always played with my hands. He bites, causing infections. I will remember the idea to walk out of the room, rather than punishment.(not letting him go outside0 Hopefully there will NOT be a next time.

Danielle    New Port Richey, FL

1/13/2009 4:23:00 PM

This is good to know. My kitten will bite me sometimes when im petting her.

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