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 can include the following: biting, scratching, tackling each other all the while they are purring, and cuddling. This is completely 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 can be your kitten's way of letting you know that he or she is too stimulated by what you are doing to them. Keep in mind that biting is a way for your kitten to communicate with you and it's something to pay attention to.
Look for universal signals that indicate your kitten is about to bite:
- Excessive purring: While purring and receiving love, your kitten may become overstimulated while you are petting them. Cats can only stand petting so much until it starts to "hurt", which prompts them to give you a warning bite or scratch.
- Tail flicks: Tail flicking back and forth quickly indicates the beginning of over-stimulation; your kitten may be preparing to give you a warning nip soon.
- Flattened ears: When your cat flattens their ears, it often indicates that they are irritated. It's time to walk away.
- Dilated eyes: Dilated eyes are seen during times of play, but if you notice this while you are trying to pet your cat, it's best to wait until they have calmed down. Now is the time to stop petting them and to walk away.
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 their brothers and sisters. Otherwise, this can and will result in getting the kitten overly aggressive/stimulated.
However, it's important to note that this type of 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. Certain 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, but it depends on the individual kitten. Despite this behavior, it's natural for kittens to act this way and it isn't a sign that they're mad or upset with you.
It's normal behavior for kittens to do the following:
- Chase and play-hunt
- Roughhouse and play-fight
- Attack, bite, and scratch
- Pounce, stalk, and spar
Did You Know?
"That petting-induced over stimulation. The hair follicle receptors in a cat can only take so much petting before it hurts."
— cat whisperer, Jackson Galaxy
3. Stress and Environment
Undoubtedly, cats in general are especially sensitive to human emotions. They feel and sense when emotions are high or low and when there is laughter or crying. Have you ever noticed that when you're crying or sick, your cat will come and sit with you? 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 he or she feels 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.
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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. This is especially common with indoor cats – because they are indoors, they don't have access to the outside world that would give them the opportunity 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
Simply, 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 as toys. This 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 they are still biting aggressively, remove yourself from the situation and "ground" them for a day. This means you do not reward the behavior, no treats, snacks, or playtime.
Then let your kitten know why you are doing this with a firm "no!" Cats are smart, and they know what you're saying when you talk to them.
Learn How to Hiss
When your kitten continues to bite you, hiss at them. Their mama does this, and their littermates do too when they play too rough. Hissing is known in cat language as "back-off!" Just be sure to use this trick sparingly and at appropriate times, don't abuse it! You don't want your cat to learn to fear you.
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. This will encourage them to stop scratching you or your furniture.
- 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 does this to teach 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 important learning phase with their 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. Keep in mind that as your kitten learns to socialize, they will test boundaries with you just like they would with 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/or pain, they chew on anything and everything they can get their paws on - including you! This is the perfect opportunity to teach them that your fingers or toes aren't for biting or attacking.
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. Provide them with teething toys and even ice cubes to lick or play with.
Rest assured they will lose all their baby teeth usually 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 are 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 3 months of age, about the time their adult incisors began 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. You can expect the teething process to last 3 to 6 months depending on the individual kitten.
"Kittens started losing their baby teeth at around 3 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) made 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 very 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.