How to Stop a Kitten from Biting

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Becoming a pet parent to a kitten is a big responsibility. You have to ensure they get their vaccines on a regular schedule, and you should invest time into teaching them desired behaviors. Believe it or not, kittens can be trained just as easily as dogs, and it's up to you to teach them what behaviors are acceptable and which are not. Learning how to get a kitten to stop biting can prevent undesirable behaviors and serious illness. 

Unfortunately, all kittens have a biting phase because they learn about the world with their mouths. You may sometimes find your kitten biting you for several reasons ranging from attention-seeking to playing. However, biting can quickly become an undesirable behavior, especially if your kitten is hurting you or breaking the skin. Therefore, you should teach your kitten to stop biting as soon as possible to prevent this undesirable behavior from becoming dangerous. But how do you get a kitten to stop biting? Read more to learn a few tips for discouraging the behavior to improve your relationship with your kitten. 

Do Kittens Grow Out Of Biting?

Cats don't necessarily grow out of biting, but they use their mouths more when they're young to learn about the world and engage in play. Luckily, you can easily train unwanted behavior out of them. However, biting is your kitten's way of communicating, so you should never scold them. 

Discouraging rough play is crucial because you never want to teach your cat that biting people is okay. Of course, you can't always prevent your cat from biting because it's how they communicate with other animals and humans, but you can deter them. If you allow your cat to bite you when they're young, it will be harder to train them to stop when they're older. However, most kittens will grow out of the biting habit when they become adults unless they've learned to use it to get your attention. 

Unfortunately, cat bites can be dangerous because they can spread cat scratch disease (CSD), a bacterial infection that can occur when your cat bites hard enough to break the skin. CSD symptoms range from mild symptoms like red and swollen skin to fever, headaches, and fatigue.1 Luckily, CSD is not a serious illness, and most people don't need treatment, but it's always best to avoid getting sick by teaching your kitten to stop biting. 

Reasons kittens bite

How Long Does The Kitten Biting Phase Last?

Kittens typically play rough until they learn not to. However, cats can become overly rough with humans without intending to actually hurt them. Play aggression is a common behavioral problem many cats have, especially kittens because they haven't learned how to play gently. 

Of course, you might be wondering, "Why is my kitten biting me?" Ultimately, kittens bite for several reasons. If you're not actively engaged in play, your kitten might bite you to get your attention by attacking your hands or feet.2 This is especially true for cats who spend most of their time alone without physical exercise or mental stimulation to prevent boredom. Bored cats are more likely to display unwanted behaviors, such as spraying urine, scratching furniture, and becoming overly aggressive. 

Of course, another reason your kitten is biting you is likely due to teething, especially if they're between three weeks and six months old. If your kitten is teething, they might bite you to massage their gums to reduce discomfort. However, you can deter this behavior by working with your vet and giving them toys that massage their gums as they play. 

In most cases, your kitten is likely biting you because they're playing too enthusiastically. Luckily, you can learn several methods to prevent this behavior if it becomes a problem or your cat becomes aggressive. 

How To Get A Kitten To Stop Biting

Cats are social creatures, and they communicate with their human companions and each other in several ways, including biting. While biting can be considered an aggressive behavior, your kitten's biting behavior is likely not aggression. However, if you allow the behavior to continue, it could quickly become aggression. Signs of an aggressive cat include hissing and growling and crouched or tense body language accompanied by biting.3 Most kittens are not aggressive; they simply don't know how to play gently, so it's your responsibility to teach them. If you're wondering, "How to get my kitten to stop biting," here are a few things to try:  

Refocus Their Attention

If you want to learn how to get a kitten to stop biting, you'll need to have tons of toys. Playing with your cat is okay, but you should involve toys. With toys, you can refocus their attention on something other than your hands. When playing with your cat, if they start to bite, you can give them a toy instead. Of course, with this method, it's essential to never use your hands or feet to play with your cat since it reinforces the idea that it's okay to bite people. 

Use a Scratching Post

A scratching post is a useful tool for both you and your cat. Since cats enjoy scratching, scratching can be a good mentally stimulating activity that prevents them from biting you. When engaged in another activity, they won't use biting to get your attention or try to get you to play. Instead, your kitten's scratching post will give them something else to do and tire them out to prevent the excess energy that leads to unwanted behaviors like biting. 

Ignore Unwanted Behaviors

When your cat bites you, try to ignore the behavior completely. In many cases, your kitten is biting you to get your attention, but ignoring them will show them that biting isn't the right way to get what they want. Of course, you can't always ignore your kitten's biting. If your kitten bites and it breaks the skin or hurts, you'll likely look at them or make a sound. Unfortunately, looking at your cat or making sounds when engaged in unwanted behavior can reinforce the behavior by giving them exactly what they want—your attention. 

If you can't ignore your cat's biting, stop playing with them as soon as they bite you. Then, you can get up and walk away from your kitten and ignore them to let them calm down and prevent further aggressive play. 

Tips to get a kitten to stop biting

Visit the Vet

Many pets, including young kittens and adult cats, will bite when they're in pain. In addition, animals experiencing illness or pain may bite their owners when they get too close or touch them where it hurts. Since your kitten might be biting you because they're experiencing pain, you should always take them to the vet to rule out underlying health conditions that might cause them to bite. 

In addition to physical health conditions, your vet may also discuss your cat's emotional health. Like humans and dogs, cats can get stressed and anxious, causing them to behave more aggressively in certain situations. For example, a scared cat might bite strangers in your home to get them to leave. Some cats hide when they're scared, and others react aggressively. Since your cat can't tell you how they're feeling, you can look for signs of anxiety and stress and work with your vet to make your cat calmer in stressful situations. 

Play More

If your cat bites, they may be bored. Kittens who are left alone all day or don't get enough physical or mental exercise can engage in undesirable behaviors because they have a lot of pent-up energy. However, playing with them and ensuring they get enough mental stimulation can prevent boredom and keep your cat content to prevent biting. 

Of course, whenever playing with your cat, avoid using your hands or feet. Instead, use toys to keep them engaged in play and show them they can bite toys but not humans. Engaging your kitten in more play with interactive toys can keep them active without needing to play directly with your hands or feet. If your kitten continues to try to bite you, you can ignore them or walk away until they're calm and re-engage them in play later.4

Avoid Punishment

How do you get a kitten to stop biting? Many people might become angry with their kittens when they get hurt, yelling at and scolding them for their behavior. However, it's important to remember that your kitten doesn't know when they've done something wrong; you must be the one to teach them good and bad behaviors. Therefore, you should avoid punishing your kitten because they won't understand what they're being punished for. 

In addition, yelling at your kitten may increase any anxiety they already feel, contributing to fear-based aggression that causes them to bite more. Since you want your kitten to feel safe and calm in their home, you should avoid punishment. Instead, ignore unwanted behavior and give your cat time alone to calm down whenever they start playing too rough. In addition, you can begin training your cat on good behaviors with positive reinforcement and treats. For example, whenever your cat plays with a toy instead of your hands, you can give them a treat to teach them good behavior. 

Invest in Training

Like dogs, cats can be trained to tolerate certain situations that may cause them to bite. For example, if you're learning how to bathe a cat, you might be worried about your cat biting or scratching you to run away from the running water. Meanwhile, some cats may bite when they have their nails trimmed. You should invest in quality training to help your cat tolerate regular care and grooming. You can do this by rewarding good behavior and ignoring bad behavior. 

Of course, training takes time, but it will make caring for your cat much easier by helping them associate different experiences with treats. 

Cat playing with toy

Final Notes

All kittens bite, but you can easily teach your cat to stop biting so they don't take this unwanted behavior with them into adulthood. Of course, even as an adult, your cat might bite when fearful, but you can prevent your cat from injuring others and yourself by investing in training early in life.

Of course, even the most well-behaved cat might bite you if they're not feeling well, which is why it's so important to have a vet by your side. If you believe your cat is biting because they're in pain or experiencing behavioral problems like anxiety, a Dutch vet can help. We can diagnose and treat several medical and behavioral problems in cats to reduce biting and help your cat live a healthy, happy life. 

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References

  1. "Cat Bites and Scratches." Cat Bites and Scratches, https://www.poison.org/articles/cat-bites.

  2. "Aggression in Cats." ASPCA, https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/cat-care/common-cat-behavior-issues/aggression-cats.

  3. "Aggression to Humans." International Cat Care, 6 Oct. 2019, https://icatcare.org/advice/aggression-to-humans/.

  4. "Teach Your Kitten How to Play Nice." The Humane Society of the United States, https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/teach-your-kitten-how-play-nice.

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