Play Biting – Cats

Play biting is normal kitten behavior. Play for kittens is really just practice for hunting, and hunting entails biting. Though your cat will probably never grow up and need to hunt, the play instinct is hardwired into your cat. Play biting may also be seen in adult cats who weren’t trained properly as kittens.

This type of biting usually occurs when a kitten or cat is being pet and she thinks it’s an invitation to play. Biting might also be an attempt by the cat to get a game started. The body will be fairly loose and the cat may flop down or be wiggly.

The first step to “curing” play biting is actually preventing it. Only use toys when you play with your cat. Hands and feet should not be viewed as playthings. Tickling and wrestling encourage the cat to grab hold and bite. Also, try to avoid handling your kitten while she is in the midst of playing. Wait until she has calmed down a bit to pet her or pick her up.

When your kitty does bite, stop moving and say “Ouch!” in a high-pitched tone. If she doesn’t respond to that, try hissing at her or making a sharper noise instead, such as slapping a table or saying “Ack!” The novel noise may startle her and cause her to stop biting. Praise her softly as soon as she stops biting. Wait until she is visibly more relaxed before resuming play or petting. If she starts to bite again soon after, all attention should be withdrawn for several minutes. This allows time for the cat to decompress while also, hopefully, teaching her that her fun ends when she bites.

In some cases, the cat is too full of energy to stop biting. Offer toys to the cat so she can bite those instead. Catnip toys and large wrestling toys, such as Kong Kickeroo and PetStages Wrestle and Romp, are excellent substitutions. Ensuring your cat gets enough play time throughout the day will make it less likely that she will get to the point of over-exuberance.

Never hit your cat for biting. She may still try to bite your hand, but with more pressure, as it is now a fast-moving object she is focused on (i.e. prey). You may also damage your relationship by teaching your cat to fear you.


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