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Why Does My Cat Bite?

This is my cat Loki's "respect my space," face.

I get asked the question a lot "why does my cat bite?" followed by "how can I stop it?" While each situation and cat is different I will list a few of the more common reasons cats or kittens bite.

1. Play:
  • Cats learn behaviors from an early age and one of them can be aggressive play. I see so many cases with people using their hands and fingers as a toy or they wrestle with their kitten, thus teaching them you are a fun object to attack and chew on. Once kitty is a full grown cat the game isn't that much fun anymore, for both the pet and pet parent because injuries can occur. I can't stress enough to never play using your hand as the toy. Nothing good comes from this type of game, trust me. That being said, teach your kitten to play with toys. Find out what kind of toy your cat or kitten likes better. All of my cats tend to favor wand based toys. It's also up to you to make a game out of the toys. You can't throw a few toys on the ground and expect your feline to be all that enticed. Sure, they may bat them around for a while but after a few minutes they will lose interest. Play with your cat/kitten. Get them chasing, rolling, running and batting at toys. Cats are predators. We may feed them but they enjoy the hunt. It's in their blood. Give them an outlet to burn energy and learn to play in a healthy injury-free way. You will both be much happier.
  • If you are playing with toys and kitty still intentionally bites immediately stop play and remove yourself from the situation. I call this kitty time out. No, don't go put them in a room and shut the door. Make them take a time out from you and the play. You can turn your back, leave the room, whatever you see fit in removing yourself from the play. After a few minutes resume play with your cat. If they bite again, repeat the time out. Your cat will learn after a few times that biting equals less attention from you and that is not fun for kitty.
2. Handling:
  •  Make sure you are handling your cat properly. If your cat doesn't like being picked up or held a certain way, don't do it. 
  • Try petting to the side of the face rather than taking your hand up over their head. For some cats raising a hand to the head can be a sign of aggression and they will either flee or bite. 
  • Over stimulation is common. Kitty loves affection but when kitty is done he/she bites. That is your cat's way of taking control of the situation. Learn your cat's affection limits when it comes to petting and stop as soon as you see the warning signs. 
  • Never discipline your cat by hitting them in any way, shape, or form. You will lose trust and create more fear and anxiety in your feline. A scared cat will lash out with both teeth and claws. 
3. Trust
  •  Learn your cat's boundaries. Like the above suggestion in handling, you can learn the type of affections and touch your cat will like and the ones he/she will not tolerate. 
  • Flicking tail and large pupils are two major signs that kitty is not in the mood. Add them throwing their ears back and you have a very mad cat. Some cats will also do these things when they are in play mode and that is okay, but be aware that your cat is frisky and remember to play with the appropriate toys. Not hands (I really can't stress that enough).
4. Anxiety and Stress:
  • If a cat is stressed or anxious all too often they will lash out whoever is closest to them. If you see that kitty is stressed out, stay away. Give your cat their space and respect it. 
  • A cat that seems constantly stressed and anxious may benefit from a pheromone diffuser like Feliway. You can find them in almost any pet store and various online retailers. 
  • Speak to your vet. If you have an overly stressed out and anxious cat all the time it might stem from an underlying medical problem. 
As always, these are just my suggestions. There can be all kinds of reasons a cat or kitten bites, but these are the most common I run across.

For the Love of Cats,
Bonnie

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