Donna is a writer and lover of cats. She has been a cat parent for many years. She loves sharing her love for all cats big and small!
How Do I Teach My Kitten Not to Bite?
"How do I stop this behavior before it becomes a bad habit?" Biting is normal for kittens while they play and socialize with their littermates. When a kitten plays, it includes the following: biting, scratching, and tackling each other, all the while they are purring and cuddling.
A kitten that bites is an entirely normal accepted behavior with their littermates and their mom. And it takes time for mom to teach them otherwise. So, the question is, how do you get your kitten to stop biting when playing with you?
In This Article
- Signs Your Kitten is About to Bite
- 4 Reasons Why Kittens Bite
- Steps to Follow to Prevent Your Kitten from Biting You
- When Do Kittens Learn Not to Bite?
- Is Your Kitten Teething?
- How to Help a Teething Kitten
- All You Need is Patience!
Signs Your Kitten is About to Bite
One of the most common behaviors for a kitten (or cats in general) is biting. It is your kitten's way of letting you know they are too stimulated by what you are doing to them.
Look for universal signals that indicate your kitten is about to bite:
- Excessive purring: While purring and receiving love, your kitten may become overstimulated when petting them. Cats can only stand petting so much until it starts to "hurt, " prompting them to give you a warning bite or scratch.
- Tail flicks: Tail flicking back and forth indicates the beginning of over-stimulation; your kitten may be preparing to give you a warning nip.
- Flattened ears: When your cat flattens their ears, it often indicates they are irritated. It's time to walk away.
- Dilated eyes: They happen during playtime, but if you notice this while trying to pet your cat, it's best to wait until they have calmed down.
4 Reasons Why Kittens Bite
1. Play Aggression
Play aggression is part of growing up in the feline world, but only when your kitten is practicing their hunting skills and playing with its brothers and sisters.
Otherwise, this can and will make the kitten overly aggressive/stimulated.
However, it's important to note that this behavior is genetic. It's passed down from big cats in the wild. Felines learn this type of play from generation to generation.
Thus, domestic cats have inherited these skills. Cats may even be predisposed to aggressive behavior, thanks to their parents.
2. Age and Immaturity
Kittens bite and scratch their parents and littermates as part of normal play behavior. Usually, this stops between 4 to 12 months, depending on the individual kitten.
Despite this behavior, it's natural for kittens to act this way, which isn't a sign that they're mad or upset with you.
It's normal behavior for kittens to:
- Chase and play-hunt
- Roughhouse and play-fight
- Attack, bite, and scratch
- Pounce, stalk, and spar
Did You Know?
"That petting-induced overstimulation. The hair follicle receptors in a cat can only take so much petting before it hurts."
3. Stress and Environment
Undoubtedly, cats, in general, are susceptible to human emotions. They sense when emotions are high or low and when there is laughter or crying.
Have you ever noticed that your cat would come and sit with you when you're crying or sick? What about if there's arguing in the home? Your cat feels it and may react to it or run and hide.
During times like these, does your cat stay by your side or hide until they feel it's safe to come out? Animals know, feel, and sense what we do and can tell when tensions are high or low.
Our behavior can affect their behavior and temperament, so be careful. Stress in the home environment may be causing your kitten to act out.
4. Practicing Hunting Skills
Cats, in general, are natural predators due to their ancestors in the wild, and they need to practice this inherited skill.
And kittens are no different.
Practicing hunting skills is especially common with indoor cats. Because they are indoors, they don't have access to the outside world that would allow them to practice their stalking skills, hiding in the brush to pounce on unsuspecting prey, even if it's insects, butterflies, and other things.
So, offer them a variety of toys that they can play with to practice their hunting skills.
Steps to Follow to Prevent Your Kitten from Biting You
Reward all good behaviors and withhold during "bad" behaviors! Be consistent to prove you mean what you say, and your kitten will eventually get the hint.
Here are a few additional tips that you can do to stop your kitten from hurting you:
Don't Play with Your Hands
When roughhousing with your hands and fingers, your kitten will associate your hands with toys. Using your hands as toys is confusing for them, and you are teaching your kitten to bite you.
According to cat behaviorists, you should switch from using your hands or fingers to using toys. This way, they won't mistake your hands or fingers for toys.
Teach Them "No" With a "Time Out"
If your cat is still biting aggressively, remove yourself from the situation and "ground" them for a day. Do not reward the behavior; withhold treats, snacks, and playtime.
Then let your kitten know why you are doing this with a firm "no!" Cats are smart and see what you're saying when you talk to them.
Learn How to Hiss
When your kitten continues to bite you, hiss at them. Hissing is what mama does to their babies and their littermates when they play too rough.
Hissing in cat language means "back-off!"
Just be sure to use this trick sparingly and appropriately; don't abuse it! You don't want your cat to learn to fear you.
Did You Know?
A cat wagging its tail means the exact opposite of what a dog is communicating when it wags its tail.
Provide the Essentials
- Trim their claws: Trim their claws or take them to the vet to have it done—the veterinary team will do it for you if your kitten makes it hard for you to do it.
- Provide scratching posts: Teach good behavior by rewarding your kitten for using a scratching post.
- Offer interactive play: Teething kittens need to work out excess energy by playing with you. Provide your kitten with lots of toys; it teaches kitten toys are for biting, not mama's fingers.
When Do Kittens Learn Not to Bite?
When kittens play too rough sometimes, their mama gives a nip. She teaches them when to hold back and when they're biting too hard. But what if a kitten didn't get the chance to experience this vital learning phase with its mom?
What if they were taken from their mama too soon and didn't get this needed interaction?
According to Pam Johnson-Bennett, a certified cat behaviorist and owner of Cat Behavior Associates:
This is the time when each kitten learns how to use an inhibited bite so as not to cause injury. . . . [a] kitten who bites too hard is either reprimanded by the queen or gets an extremely negative reaction from a littermate. This social play is important, and each kitten soon learns the rules.
It's up to you to teach your kitten these things. Remember that as your kitten learns to socialize, they will test boundaries with you just like their mom.
Be persistent, and soon, they will know what behavior is acceptable and what is not allowed.
Is Your Kitten Teething?
Kitten teething starts around nine weeks old and can last for several months. To ease their discomfort and pain, they chew on anything they can get their paws on - including you!
Kittens lose their baby teeth around 12 weeks old, and during this time, they are in a lot of pain and need your help to relieve it. You can help your kittens by providing them with teething toys and even ice cubes.
Rest assured, they will usually lose all their baby teeth by the time they reach 6 to 9 months of age. And hopefully, the biting will stop!
How Many Baby Teeth Do Kittens Have?
Cats have twenty-six baby teeth, and their first set is called deciduous teeth. Their baby teeth start coming in around two weeks of age.
The ASPCA reports that kittens start losing their baby teeth around three months, about when their adult incisors begin to erupt.
When Do Kittens Get Their Adult Teeth?
Adult teeth start erupting around 6 to 8 months of age. By one year, all thirty adult teeth will come in. Depending on the individual kitten, you can expect the teething process to last 3 to 6 months.
"Kittens started losing their baby teeth at around three months, about the time their adult incisors began to erupt."
How to Help a Teething Kitten
- Offer plenty of chew toys: Offer animal-specific chew toys (binkies) for teething pets. You can also offer cold washcloths for them to bite on.
- Teach them not to bite: Know when to discipline your cat and remember that hissing at your cat tells them to "back off!"
- Reward good behavior: Reward good behavior with treats or goodies, extra playtime, and lots of hugs and cuddles!
All You Need Is Patience
In summary, the time required to train a kitten is well worth it. All you need is to remember the different signs that lead up to your kitten biting you and the patience to teach them what behavior is allowed and not allowed.
Your kitten won't be a kitten for exceptionally long, and soon your kitten grows into an adult, and before you know it, your kitten becomes a cat!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2019 Donna Rayne
Donna Rayne (author) from Sparks, NV on February 25, 2020:
They sure can get a little feisty, that's for sure. Thank you for reading my article, Devika!
Have a lovely day,
Devika Primic on February 25, 2020:
I didn't think of teaching a cat to not bite. You have informed me of this topic in detail. A well written and informed hub on a unique title. Cats can be aggressive for different reasons.
Donna Rayne (author) from Sparks, NV on February 22, 2020:
Thank you very much, Denise.
Blessings to you too,
Denise McGill from Fresno CA on February 22, 2020:
This is very helpful. I just thought that it was cat nature passed down from the big cats and you had to live with it. These tips seem very understandable and easy to implement.
Donna Rayne (author) from Sparks, NV on January 15, 2020:
Thank you Brenda and RoadMonkey, I love kitties and mine is 8 months now. I got her when she was 6.5 weeks old and I plan on living my senior years with my cat.
Thank you so much!
All my best,
RoadMonkey on January 15, 2020:
What a lovely article. We have had a number of cats. They were great pets but we are getting old now and have decided not to have any more but your article reminds me of how much fun they are.
BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on December 29, 2019:
I love kittys and I have been taking care of one while his parents are away.
He is a biter...but still a kitten. I have tried a few things like substituting a toy.
I will try hissing tomorrow. I hope it works.
Thanks for sharing.
Donna Rayne (author) from Sparks, NV on December 29, 2019:
Thank you Flourish, bless you for taking the kitty in and they all do have different personalities, but one thing in common that all cats have is the ability to make us all laugh when they act so silly!
FlourishAnyway from USA on December 29, 2019:
We have a kitten that "found" us a few months ago so we kept her. She just showed up at our front door tiny and skinny for her age and starving and begged to come in after gulping down our outside cat's food. Originally she hissed and growled at our other cats and nibbled out of fear on our hands when she got overstimulated, but with enough consistency and patience, she has learned what is appropriate Everyone has different little personalities and just needs their own focused.attention,
Donna Rayne (author) from Sparks, NV on December 02, 2019:
Thank you, Brenda! I have a kitten and thankfully she is getting out of the biting stage. She still bites, yes, but not as much :)
BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on December 02, 2019:
A very good an informative article.
I have been around alot of cars in my day and you have the information correct.