How to Train a Cat Not to Bite

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If your cat is biting you, you'll need to train her not to by ignoring her when she bites you and redirecting her behavior onto more appropriate objects. Most cats learn bite inhibition from their siblings and mother by the time they reach 12 weeks of age, but some don't, especially if they are separated from their litter mates earlier in life. With consistent training from you, your kitty should learn that biting won't get her what she wants, but playing nice will.

Why Cats Bite

Cats bite for a number of reasons, including aggression and their natural instinct to chase and catch prey. Once you determine the trigger for your cat's biting, you can avoid it.

  • Your cat may view your hands, feet or other body parts as prey and will chase and bite them as part of a perceived game. This is especially common in cats younger than 2 years old, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
  • Some cats may bite out of fear or a desire to protect territory.
  • Petting may induce your cat to bite because the repetitive motion may irritate or excite her. 
  • If your cat is in pain, she may bite because she doesn't feel good. 

Warning

  • Visit the vet if your cat is biting you, especially if this behavior has recently started. An illness could be to blame, making her feel irritable.

Hands Off When it Comes to Play

When playing with your cat, never allow her to use any body parts as chew toys, warns the Humane Society of the United States. While this behavior might be cute when she's a kitten, as she grows up, her playful bites can become painful. Instead, give her a variety of toys to play with, like small stuffed animals that she can bite and kick when she wants to play rough.

Interact with your cat during playtime using wand toys that will keep your hands safe and out of her grasp. Encourage your kitty to pounce and play with these toys by dragging them in front of her.

Ignore the Biting

While your first reaction will be to pull away when your cat bites you, instead freeze and push slightly towards her instead, recommends cat behaviorist Pam Johnson-Bennett, owner of the Cat Behavior Associates practice in Nashville, Tennessee. This will cause your cat to let you go. It also prevents your kitty from biting down harder on her moving "prey." Leave the room and wait a few minutes for your cat to calm down before interacting with her again.

Warning

  • Don't scold your kitty by yelling or hitting her when she bites. This will cause her to fear you and could make her more aggressive long-term.

Redirect the Behavior

Redirect your cat's biting onto toys when she attempts to bite you, but only when she's calm. For example, if she attempts to bite your hand, instead give her a toy to play with after a few minutes so that she doesn't view the toy as a reward for her biting.

Training Tips to Consider

Play with your cat regularly because a well-exercised feline won't have the energy to chase and bite you.

Cover your hands or ankles in a nontoxic substance like a taste deterrent, found in pet supply stores, or hot pepper sauce, recommends the Humane Society of the United States. This way, if your cat bites you, she'll taste the icky substance and it will discourage her from doing it again.

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