Kittens treat everything as prey, thanks to their strong hunting instincts. This behavior often includes biting, which typically is discouraged by the mother cat or the kitten’s litter mates. If your kitten hasn’t learned not to bite, you can teach her how to play appropriately. Withdraw your attention every time she bites and give her plenty of affection when she plays gently.
Soothe Her Teething Pain
Just like humans, kittens experience discomfort when their adult teeth begin to come in. Between the ages of 9 weeks, when they start losing their baby teeth, and 5 to 6 months, when their adult teeth are completely grown in, they may chew and bite on anything that’s near their mouth, including their human caregivers. You can buy toys and chews designed for cats to keep your kitten occupied and keep her teeth away from your fingers and toes.
Only Use Toys for Play
Never use your hand, foot or other body part to play with your kitten. She may start to think of humans as playthings, not understanding that she can’t bite or chew them the way she does her toys. Give her something small and soft, like a stuffed toy, that she can wrestle with the way she would with her litter mates. Give this to her when she tries to nip at your hand to distract her. Take your hand away immediately after you give her the toy so she doesn’t associate your hand with play.
Don’t Punish Her
Don’t scold or physically discipline your kitten. This will scare her and could cause her to avoid human contact. She could become defensive and more aggressive with you out of fear. The Humane Society of the United States recommends saying “uh-huh” and taking your hand away. You can say “ow" in a high-pitched voice to mimic the cries other cats might give her if she played too rough. Give her a toy to play with instead, or simply walk away so she’ll learn she’ll lose your attention if she bites.
Offer Positive Reinforcement
While you’re training your kitten not to bite, reward her when she plays appropriately. For example, give her a toy or treat when she plays with you without biting. Just as she’ll learn to associate biting with losing your attention, she’ll learn to associate not biting with spending time with you and being rewarded. Kittens are highly active and need a nondestructive way to channel their boundless energy, so make time for plenty of play sessions to keep your kitten busy and reinforce the right way for her to interact with you.