Why Does My Cat Try to Bite Me?
Is It a Love Bite?
It can come without warning. You're petting your sweet kitty, she purrs, looks at you dreamily, and then out of nowhere she bites you!
What's going on here? Why did she go from lovey-dovey to Vampire Kitty in a split second? There are different factors at work.
Why Do Cats Bite?
There are many reason why cats bite:
- Cats will bite when they're afraid, angry, annoyed, or stressed.
- They might bite when they're feeling playful or overstimulated.
- Biting is even part of feline "courtship."
- If your cat is sweet one minute and biting you the next, he may be telling you that you've crossed the line somewhere: Maybe he's tired of being petted, or maybe you found a sensitive spot.
There are subtle warning signs that your cat is getting agitated. You just have to be alert to them:
- Watch for a flicking tail or flattening ears.
- Notice if your cat starts to stare at you, or if his head starts to follow your hand.
- She may release a little growl.
All of these can be signs that he's just about had enough.
Biting and scratching are part of your cat's predatory instincts. You can help him release a lot of energy by playing with him for a few minutes at least twice a day. It can be as simple as dragging a piece of string around for him to chase. This can help reduce unwanted biting!
Training Your Cat not to Bite
You need to teach your cat that biting is unacceptable. This will be easier if he's a kitten, but it can also be managed with an older cat.
- Now, this is important: Do not strike your cat! This will only teach him to be afraid of you.
- Whenever your cat bites or scratches you, do this instead: Shout "Ouch!" or "No!" then simply walk away and ignore your cat. This is an especially powerful reprimand for kittens and young cats, since they love to play.
- Learn to recognize the warning signs, too. If your cat always takes a swipe at you after five minutes of petting, don't push him to the limit. Pet him for three minutes instead.
- Praise and reward your cat for good behavior. Give him a tasty treat after petting him. This will give him every reason to think of petting as a positive thing.
Start Training Your Cat as a Kitten
Cats can pick up a lot of bad habits when they're kittens. When cats see human hands as toys to bite and scratch, it is often the owner's fault.
- This usually sets in when the owner roughhouses with the cat when he's still a kitten. A kitten's claws and teeth don't cause much damage, so you might think nothing of encouraging him to chew on your hand and "attack" it, so to speak.
- Those little claws and teeth will grow. It's not so cute when a full grown cat playfully bites and scratches your hand, is it? But if you let him do it as a kitten, he'll think it's okay!
Start early: Don't train your kitten to think of your hand as his personal toy.
Other Ways to Train a Kitten
Kittens are babies who need play-time, and they don't really understand when you're not playing. While some people have success with telling their kitten "No!" and walking away, others prefer a more gentle approach:
- You could try blowing in your kitten's face whenever she bites you. She'll make a funny face and won't like it.
- You could also try distracting your kitten with a toy. She may be telling you she wants to play, so you might want to give her something she can chew on.
- Another method I've heard about but never tried is pressing down on the kitten's tongue with your finger. I imagine your kitten won't enjoy this at all, and it will probably encourage her to go away for a while.
- Again, don't strike your kitten or respond aggressively, and don't use a spray bottle. Spray bottles are traumatic for kittens, and they could make them a bit neurotic.
- If the problem is really bad—your kitten seems to have boundless energy and "attacks" you all the time—you might consider getting her a playmate. Two kittens at this point might sound insane, but it could be just what she needs.
The good news is that if you're persistent and don't encourage your kitten to think of you as a cat toy, they usually outgrow their nippy tendencies.
Has your cat been declawed? Sometimes cats get more "bitey" after declawing because they've been robbed of their other natural defenses. They can also exhibit other strange behaviors.