Please Cat, No Biting!

CatChannel behavior expert Marilyn Krieger, CCBC, explains how to discourage a cat's biting habit.

Q: Our 1-year-old cat that we recently adopted likes to play bite. He is very sweet, but I really don’t like the biting. People have suggested using a spray water bottle or shaking a can with change in it. I have done both, and neither work. Any other suggestions?

A: Play biting can be stopped with management, proper play techniques and behavior modification. Never use your hands when playing with a cat. It is not uncommon for cats to chomp down when hands are used in play. A play glove isn’t recommended either because cats know that inside the glove is a hand. Instead, entice your cat with a fishing pole toy or a cat dancer. Safe little soft balls and paper crinkled up are just a few of the other toys that are intriguing to a cat. To ensure your cat’s safety, put the fishing pole toys and the cat dancers out of his reach when you aren’t playing with him.

If your cat does bite you, don’t pull your hand away. His instinct will be to bite down, inflicting a much worse bite. Instead, push gently in toward his mouth without hurting him. He should let go. Another method that works is to give him a timeout by turning around and walking out of the room. It’s important that you don’t pick him up or touch him. Timeouts don’t have to be very long. A couple of minutes is usually enough time for him to wonder why no one is playing with him anymore.

Don’t punish cats when they bite or do other unappreciated behaviors. Punishment usually results in the cat being afraid of his human companions. It’s important to build the cat-people bond and not break it. Also, punishment can result in the undesired behavior escalating and/or developing other bad habits.

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