When your new kitten arrives, they are this bundle of highly active fur that interfere with everything, have hilarious experiencing discovering ordinary household items and take up quite a bit of your time. Playing with them is great fun but there can be a downside – biting. So why do kittens bite and what can be done to stop them?
From the first days of your cat relationship, understanding their mentality and how they think is a good idea. Cats are driven primarily by instinct and especially why kittens, will react to things at a basic level. If it moves, they will attack it and bite it. They will ‘kill’ things because their instincts tell them to.
Other reasons for biting can be over stimulation and fear. If your kitten has been raised in a quiet, adult only family and is suddenly introduced to other pets, kids and more activity, they may get a bit overwhelmed. This may lead to a nip or a scratch at anything close to them causing them fear. Cats can also become over stimulated when petted or played with for too long and their boisterous side comes out, often resulting in bites or scratches.
Finally, kittens will often bite and chew things in much the same way that toddlers do – their teeth are developing and they feel the urge to use them. They will bite to see if things are edible too and they need to be taught that, while soft and interesting, hands aren’t food.
First up, shouting at the kitten or smacking it will do no good whatsoever. All this learns them is that you are something to fear and perhaps even hate without any context. The aim of training is to let the kitten understand what it is doing wrong and what you want it to do instead.
Play fighting is a good example. Encourage them to play with a toy with you and have fun. But when they become too excited and begin biting and clawing, stop playing or ‘play dead’. This stops the game because there is no fun. If the kitten calms down, resume the game, following the same pattern.
If your cat bites you, a loud ‘ouch’ or ‘no’ is a good way to shock them into stopping. Of course, they don’t understand what the word means but it startles them into pausing. They will also learn that this reaction comes with the biting and will be put off doing it.
Don’t use your hands as a toy to prevent biting – most kittens will automatically bite their toys. If a hand is a toy then it too gets bitten. For this reason, use a toy such as a feather or mouse on a stick, a ball on a string or other toy. This allows you to play with them without your hands being directly involved. If they follow the toy and attack your hands, stop the game.
If the cat likes to sneak up and bite people, a bottle of water with a spray top can put them off this. The shock of a small spray of cold water will change their mind about the appeal of the game and will quickly learn what causes the spray – but don’t use it for other issues, as it will confuse the matter.