Cats bite for a variety of reasons. Adult cats bite out of fear, to show dominance or to demand attention. Kittens explore their world by biting, biting, and pawing—all natural behaviors.
It’s important to understand why cats engage in playful biting in the first place. Biting and rabbit kicking are normal play behaviors in kittens. This is how they play with their littermates and mother. The play mimics how cats later pounce, grab and bite their prey.
Play with cats on and around the cat’s scratching device
When littermates play, they teach each other how to use their teeth gently and master bite techniques. If a kitten bites a sibling too hard, that kitten will yelp and fight back or bite, then refuse to play with the other kitten for a period of time. If the kitten bites too hard, the mother cat will also discipline it.
How to stop a cat from biting you
While you probably won’t be able to stop your cat from biting again, there are a few techniques you can try. You may need to tailor your response based on the age of the cat (big vs. kitten) and the reason for the bite (dominance vs. communication).
Be consistent in your answers and make sure all family members and visitors follow the same rules. If the cat is getting mixed messages, you will find it harder to complete your training.
Never allow your kitten or cat to play with their bare hands, fingers or toes. All cats should be taught that hands are not toys. When you use your hands as toys, you encourage a habit of taking risks.
Give the cat a suitable, interactive toy to chew on. Plush toys are popular with many cats. A variety of toys (at least three) should be on hand to keep your cat from getting bored. Toys that provide treats are a great way to enrich their environment and encourage appropriate play behavior by rewarding play with appropriate items.
Continually and gently praise your cat for soft paws (paws pulled back) or soft mouth by saying “good paws” or “good mouth!” Another cat or kitten will end the game. Use it as a distraction to deter the behavior, not as punishment.
If your cat bites you and won’t let go, grit your teeth and encourage the cat to let you go by pushing your hand and arm in the direction of the bite. Withdrawing the bite will encourage your cat to bite more. Also, treat your clothes as an extension of your skin and make them a no-no, otherwise your cat won’t know the difference between scratching your jeans and nailing your bare legs.
Train replacement behavior. For example, if your cat becomes overly excited and attacks your feet when you enter the room, teach her to sit and reward her for doing so. Then when you enter a room, he’ll want to sit down for a reward. You can train clickers by combining rewards such as food with the clickers’ clicks. Eventually your cat will learn to associate the click with the reward, and the treat will no longer be necessary.
Avoid physical punishment, this will only make the cat more agitated and more likely to fight back and defend itself or engage in rough play.