Why Does My Kitten Bite Me?
How Do I Teach My Kitten Not to Bite?
You have a new furry addition to your family—a brand new kitten—and to your dismay, you notice that they bite a lot. You may be asking yourself, "How do I stop this behavior before it becomes a bad habit?"
Biting is normal for felines while they live with and socialize with their littermates and mom. It is accepted behavior within the litter and it takes time for mom to teach them otherwise. Kittens bite and scratch while playing, purring, and cuddling, and to cats, this is completely normal behavior. Unfortunately, human cat-parents aren't gifted with a beautiful fur coat, so all these love nibbles can surely hurt. So, how do you get your feline companion to stop?
"It's called petting-induced over stimulation. The hair follicle receptors in a cat can only take so much petting before it hurts."— cat whisperer, Jackson Galaxy
How Do I Know When a Cat Will Bite?
Look for universal signals in the cat world 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 so much petting until it starts to hurt, which prompts them to give you a warning bite or scratch.
- Tail flicks: Tail flicking back and forth rather 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.
Did You Know?
A cat wagging its tail means the exact opposite of what a dog is communicating when it wags its tail.
3 Reasons Why Kittens Bite
1. Play Aggression
Play aggression is part of growing up in the feline world, but only to a point where your kitten is practicing hunting skills and stalking prey. Otherwise, this can and will result in them getting 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
Young 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 felines to act this way and isn't a sign that they're mad at you or upset with you. It's actually normal for young felines to do the following:
- Chase and play-hunt
- Roughhouse and play-fight
- Attack, bite, and scratch
- Pounce, stalk, and spar
3. Stress and Environment
Undoubtedly, cats 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 act out 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.
How to Stop a Kitten From Biting You
If we understand why kittens bite and learn what to do to stop it, then that's the first step. Simply, reward all good behaviors and withhold during "bad" behaviors! Be consistent to prove you mean what you say and your cat will eventually get the hint. Here are a few additional tips that you can use to stop your kitten from hurting you:
Don't Play With Your Hands
When you roughhouse with your hands and fingers, your kitten will associate your hands as toys—this is confusing for them and you are actually teaching them to bite. According to cat behaviorists, you should switch from using your hands or fingers to using toys. This way, they won't mistake them for toys.
Teach Them "No" With a "Time Out"
If they are still biting too 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 cat know why you are doing this with a firm "no!" (Yes, I am serious!) Unquestionably, cats are smart, and they know what you are 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 get 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 cat makes it hard for you.
- Give them a scratching post: Teach good behavior by rewarding your cat for using a scratching post. This will encourage them to stop scratching you or your furniture. Perfect solution! Right?
- Offer interactive play: Teething kittens work out excess energy by playing with their parents, so entertain your cat with lots of toys; kitten toys are for biting, not mama's fingers.
When Do Cats Learn Not to Bite?
When cats 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 littermates or mom? What if they were taken from their mama too soon and didn't get a lot of 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 a very 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 mama. Soon, they will know what behavior is acceptable and what is not allowed.
How Long Do Cats Teeth For?
Felines go through a biting stage when they are teething; just like human babies, they bite on everything. Cats start to lose their baby teeth around 12 weeks of age. During this time, they will be in a lot of pain and will need your help to relieve it. Keep a close eye on your teething companion. Soon, they will lose all their baby teeth by the time they reach 6 to 9 months of age.
"Kittens started losing their baby teeth at around 3 months, about the time their adult incisors began to erupt."— ASPCA
How Many Baby Teeth Do Kittens Have?
Cats have 26 baby teeth. The ASPCA reports that kittens start losing their baby teeth around 3 months of age—about the time their adult incisors began to erupt. Their first set of teeth are called deciduous teeth. They start coming in at 2 weeks.
When Do Kittens Get Their Adult Teeth?
Adult teeth, on the other hand, start erupting around 6 to 8 months of age. By one year, all 30 adult teeth will come in. You can expect the teething process to last 3 to 6 months depending on the individual cat.
What to Do During the Teething Phase
Here's how to help your feline companion during the teething phase:
- 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!
In summary, all you need is patience and love as your companion grows into an adult and before you know it, your kitten becomes a cat. If you speak and act gently and lovingly, you will have a loving, gentle kitten. Good luck!
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