Cats Who Nip: Why Cats Bite (and How to Get Them to Stop)

October 25, 2017
feline behaviour

Nothing ruins a sweet kitty cuddle session quite like those sharp little feline teeth on your skin. Cats bite for a few reasons, and knowing which reason is your first step to discouraging the behaviour. Here’s everything you need to know about getting your cat to stop nipping at your fingertips.

Wild Instincts 

Biting is often due to a cat’s predatory instincts (particularly in young indoor cats). In the absence of prey such as birds or mice, these cats may begin to “stalk” the people they live with. They may suddenly leap out from a hiding place to playfully attack someone who is watching TV, walking past, or even sleeping.

Playful Distraction 

One way to stop this behaviour is to divert the cat’s attention to a more appropriate target such as a catnip mouse, laser pointer, or a feathered toy, especially if the toy moves or can be thrown for the cat to chase.

Regular play sessions of 10 to 15 minutes several times daily may be enough to fulfill the cat’s need for entertainment and will often reduce the biting behaviour. Food dispensing toys can also be helpful.

Kitty Cues 

Another common reason for biting behaviour is a cat’s intolerance for being petted. These cats may at first appear to enjoy being petted (and may even seek out attention) but after a short time become annoyed and may bite. Often these cats will show subtle body language as they make the transition from “want to be petted” to “I’m getting ready to bite you” – ears going back, the tail swishing, the cat becoming tense. If you are petting a cat and you see these signs, it’s time to stop!

Expert Diagnosis 

If these simple measures don’t stop the biting behaviour, it may be time to consult with a veterinarian who has experience in treating cats with behaviour problems. They can rule out medical problems that could be causing the aggression and suggest training strategies, medications, and/or environmental management using pheromones and food supplements that may alleviate the biting behaviour.

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