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4 Ways to Get Your Cat to Stop Biting You

July 15, 2013

One way or another we’ve all been there. Sometimes it happens during play, other times it happens completely out of the blue. No matter what the cause, at some point or another we’ve all been bit by a cat.

And it’s no fun.

Photo courtesy R3dShift.

But it shouldn’t mean the end of your relationship with your cat. Here are few ways to correct that undesired behavior:

1. Get to the bottom of the biting

Sometimes a bite can come seemingly out of the blue, so we don’t really think about why it occurred. But instead of getting mad or upset, consider what was going on prior to the bite and what circumstances may have led to it. For example:

Were you doing anything to encourage it? Perhaps you were petting the cat too hard, not paying attention to his body language, or encouraging rough-housing. You may have also done something unintentionally, such as shouted, moved suddenly, etc., which may have shocked or surprised your cat.

Could the bite have been misdirected? Sometimes when our cats get upset, they lash out at the one closest to them. Did something scare or upset the cat while you were nearby?

Sometimes all it takes is getting to know your cat and learning what makes him uncomfortable. Perhaps your cat gets nervous when you have house guests over. Maybe your cat gets anxious while you run your hairdryer or turn on your stove’s exhaust fan. Some cats do well with children, others may get aggressive.

The point is, some cats may lash out if they’re feeling upset or afraid. By examining what could have caused a bite, you can then learn and accommodate your cat in the future. For example, perhaps you should pay better attention to his body language, or provide him with a quiet space when friends come over.

2. Modify our behavior to improve theirs

Along the lines above, if you don’t want your cat biting you, it’s essential to make sure you don’t encourage rough-housing or biting during playtime.

I know this can be difficult, especially if you’re a pet parent to a rambunctious kitten. But the behaviors you encourage in a kitten can carry on years later.

The reason is simple: If we encouraging biting during playtime, we’re unintentionally telling our cat that biting is OK. They won’t understand our reaction if we encouraging biting some times, but get upset at other times. For them to understand, the message needs to be black-and-white: Biting is not OK.

Sometimes we don’t encourage it, and our cats still bite. Not a problem. If your cat tries to bite you during playtime, simply stop and walk away. Don’t give your cat any attention. If your cat pursues you, consider putting your cat in a quiet room for a time out.

3. Provide alternative outlets

Photo courtesy i g o r.

It’s also important for us to remember that our 10-pound balls of fluff have wild instincts at heart. While we don’t want them biting us, we can’t expect them to give up certain natural behaviors. Providing alternative outlets can help in this situation. If your cat loves to bite and wrestle, make sure you have toys that allow him to act on those behaviors in a healthy way.

Some love wand toys, others enjoy catnip toys. I’ve made “kickeroos” for our cats, and they just love attacking them. They’ll grab them at one end and bit them, and then kick away at the opposite end. It’s a great way for them to get their crazies out!

4. Be the alpha cat

And sometimes you just need to assert your dominance.

I learned my preferred method from my local shelter: Blow a small puff of air into the cat’s face. It’s meant to simulate a hiss. Note: You have to do this directly after the bite, or your cat won’t get the connection. You may also want to leave the room and ignore your cat for a few moments.

Some also suggest saying “No” firmly, clapping your hands, or staring at your cat in the eye.

You may want to base your reaction on your cat’s personality. If your cat is timid, don’t be overly aggressive. You’ll simply cause more harm than good.

While those reactions are OK, it’s important to remember that it’s never OK to shout at or hit your cat. The main reason is simply because those actions are not responsible or respectable ways to interact with your cat. Additionally, there’s good evidence that punishing your cat doesn’t work. It will only hurt your relationship.

As you’ll see, sometimes changing your cat’s behavior means changing your own as well. But don’t feel discouraged! With time, patience and dedication, you’ll likely see a change for the better.

For more on correcting unwanted cat behaviors, check out this series below:

Step One: Determine The Root Of The Problem

Step Two: Provide Options & Remove Problems

Step Three: Ignoring & Encouraging Behaviors

Bonus: More Solutions for Demanding Cats

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 15, 2013 8:37 am

    I once blew in my cat’s face (the non-CH kitty) and he swatted me in the face for the first time. A special behaviorial vet had me distract the cat with a treat when he had that “I’m about to pounce on you” look. I throw it in another direction, I thought it would be rewarding bad behavior but she said cats don’t think like that. I do practice a time out when he gets wound up as you are right, he likes attention and doesn’t like being by himself. I’m still having trouble with him licking my hand and arm, then chewing it and losing it and attacking it like what he would do with that toy you made. He was taken from his mother too young and we think that is part of his problem. He’s nine now so we’re not talking about a young cat.
    Strangely, he is more friendly to my CH kitty than he gets in return. Poppie always likes to take a swat at his tail or whatever just to torture him, it seems. Ficho tolerates him and tries to wash him.

  2. July 18, 2013 11:54 am

    Thank you Amanda! This is great info to share forward!

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