How to Discipline Biting Cats

Gently push the cat off the chair if it bites while sitting in your lap.
Gently push the cat off the chair if it bites while sitting in your lap. (Image: Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Cats bite people for a number of reasons, including from fear or pain, for territorial control and for fun during playtime. Sometimes you need to alter your own behaviors to stop the biting. For example, if your cat bites when you pick it up, you should refrain from doing so and allow it to approach you on its own terms. Punishing the behavior by tapping its nose, yelling or smacking can worsen the problem. Handle the cat with care, and use behavior-modification techniques to show that biting is inappropriate.

Things You'll Need

  • Cat toys
  • Cat treats

Schedule a medical examination with the veterinarian. Do so to ensure the cat isn’t showing aggression because of pain or an underlying health condition.

Push in toward the cat’s mouth gently whenever it latches onto you. The cat isn't expecting this, so will loosen it grip.

Cry out in pain if it bites while playing. Do so even if the bite doesn’t hurt, and stop playing with the cat for a few minutes.

Provide “timeouts” by leaving the room if your cat plays roughly, recommends the ASPCA. Moving the cat out of the room can encourage more biting, so it’s better if you walk away.

Say “no” and ignore your cat if it bites to show you it wants to play. This teaches the cat that playtime only occurs with good behavior.

Redirect the cat’s attention to toys. Reward it with treats for playing with them.

Tips & Warnings

  • Respect the cat's personal boundaries. If it doesn't like your touching certain areas of its body, don't touch them.
  • Pet cats in the direction their fur grows, not against it, and avoid petting the same spot repeatedly for a long period of time.
  • If you try to pull away when bitten, you struggle as prey would, which encourages the cat to tighten its grip.
  • Don't tease the cat with your hands or feet.

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