They may be cute as can be but kittens seem to have an overwhelming desire to bite anything and everything. Although a kitten’s nip might not draw blood, their teeth will get bigger and their jaws stronger.
If kittens don’t learn that it’s inappropriate to bite a person when playing, it stands to reason that they’ll carry on doing it in later life. That can lead to problems for both you and your cat.
The bacteria in their mouths can lead to infections that are hard to treat, for example. So, what can you do to wean your kitten off its biting habits? Read on to find out.
Why Does My Kitten Bite Me?
Biting and mouthing are normal types of behaviors in young, developing kittens. They are rarely signs of aggression. Here are some common reasons why kittens bite:
- To communicate or achieve a result
- They are playing with a sibling
- They have associated biting with an instinct to hunt
- They are teething
- They are learning and gathering information about food, toys and the environment
By biting, a kitten might be trying to tell you something such as, “No! Stop it. I don’t like that!”
If you have two kittens, it’s very likely that they’ll play and wrestle together, often using their mouths. Playing with each other as kittens is fine, but you shouldn’t mimic their behavior directly with them.
Kittens will sometimes want to sharpen up their hunting skills. This will include movements known as the “pounce and bite” and the “grab and bite.” In order to practice, a kitten needs something to put their teeth into.
How to Manage Biting in Kittens
There is one golden rule. Never punish a kitten for biting. Punishment, particularly for normal behavior, can stop a kitten from learning normal skills such as play biting and hunting skills. It never works as a way to teach appropriate behaviors.
It can also affect the bond between a pet parent and the kitten. That can result in fear, aggression and stress. Never reprimand your kitten by squirting it with water or using a shock mat. These things may make the situation even worse.
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You must always be consistent in the way you train and persevere with patience. At its best, training works by encouragement and not by scolding. Here’s what you should be doing:
1. Work on the Relationship Between You and Your Kitten
It’s best not to encourage play-biting between yourself and your kitten. Do not use your hands to engage in rough play or wrestling with your pet. You need to find other ways to meet any instinct to chew and bite.
2. Keep Your Kitten Calm
Take time out to minimize biting and mouthing behaviors by putting your kitten at ease. You can do this by:
- Talking gently to your kitten
- Making eye contact
- Stroking your kitten
Start playing again once your kitten has calmed down and has stopped biting. An anxious or stressed kitten is more likely to display biting or scratching behaviors.
Make your kitten feel at home. Ensure you provide sufficient hiding spots, food, water and litter trays as well as a scratching post.
3. Speak Firmly and Use Rewards Wisely
Talk to your kitten in a firm but non-aggressive way to distract them from biting. Reward them when the biting stops. Be sure to only use a firm voice when biting is happening in order to maintain consistency and to avoid creating unnecessary fear.
Remember that an angry reaction could cause your kitten to get nervous or afraid. The consequence of that could worsen their behavior. Always step away and ignore your kitten straight away when they display unwanted behaviors.
When appropriate, you can also try and mimic the sound a sibling might make when they’ve received a bite that’s too hard.
4. Toys and Withdrawing Attention
If your kitten bites your hand or nips your foot, redirect them to a more appropriate object such as a squeaky or chewable toy. Experts will tell you that playing with kittens using toys will help stop them from biting people once they’re adult cats.
If your kitten becomes overly aggressive, show them that this is not all right. You can do this by stepping away and staying out of biting range. Withdraw your attention and avoid fussing over them.
Leaving your pet to calm down with no interaction for up to 10 minutes is one of the best ways to bring an end to aggressive play. Responding to this type of behavior by walking away and ignoring your pet will reinforce your message. This simulates the action a mother cat would take if play became too aggressive.
5. Play With Your Kitten Every Day
Routine is important for kittens. Set aside at least 10-15 minutes every day for play sessions. This will help build a bond between you and your cat. It will make them feel relaxed in your home and reduce any inclination to become aggressive.
Showing your kitten how to play in a calm way is an important part of your lives together. The key to this is spending time teaching them not to bite or scratch. Reinforcing appropriate behaviors, and ignoring unwanted ones each day will lead to a better future for both you and your kitten.
6. Talk to Your Vet
Vets have a great deal of knowledge about all types of pet behaviors. If your kitten seems unusually aggressive, check with the vet to ensure there are no underlying health issues.
Pain or illness can cause kittens to feel defensive, and make them more likely to bite as a preventative reflex. If you’re struggling to control your kitten and cat from biting, your vet may recommend a veterinary behaviorist to help you.
A Happy Kitten Becomes a Happy Cat!
The sooner you can train your kitten the better. They are then likely to behave well as they grow older. Remember that negative reinforcement may raise anxiety levels in your kitten. Always encourage rather than scold.
We’ve lots of other articles about kittens and cats in our blog section.
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