Why Cats Bite and How to Stop It

Domestic (pet) cats bite for a variety of reasons. When they are kittens it might not be so much of a problem but as they get older their bites get stronger and are not so cute. There are four main reasons cats bite. Knowing what those are is the key to putting a stop to the problem.

 

Sexual Aggression

Male cats, and particularly those who are not neutered, are more apt to bite. It is a behavior that is natural in them as they would fight other males and bite into the females when mating. Neutering a male cat will help. This should be done between 8-10 months of age but each veterinarian may have their own preference of when to do it. It should definitely be done before the cat is one-year-old, but even if done later, neutering can reduce some of the biting behavior, although it will not stop it entirely.

Love Bite by jurvetson.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jurvetson/296195661/

 

Early Training

Many people allow kittens, and young cats, to bite their fingers in play. This leads them to thinking that biting is acceptable. In fact some people encourage their kittens, and cats, to play this way. When you teach a kitten that biting is a normal part of play it is a hard thing to unteach. This is a normal step in socialization. When kittens are removed from their mother too young (before 8 weeks), and put with humans who allow biting it will usually stick as a behavior for sometime. Normally mother cats teach kittens not to bite either by getting up and leaving them when they do bite, or by biting them back. In a litter when kittens play too rough with each other they are shunned and the other kittens don’t normally play with them.

I'll bite your nose off! by Dr. Hemmert.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/tommyhj/346075714/

It is not a good idea to punish a biting kitten in the same way the mother cat does, sometimes she has no choice. A human is better off to act like another kitten, and as soon as their kitten starts biting, put it down and leave. Play time has ended. Eventually the kitten will learn that if it bites, the fun is over. This can be done to adult cats as well. Do not even offer toys at this time because you are continuing play. Instead wait a while and then resume play with toys, or resume patting.

Remember kittens do need a certain amount of play, be sure to provide a variety of toys and rotate them often. This means hide some in the cupboard and switch them every few weeks to encourage interest. Cats like toys they think are new.

 

Incorrect Handling

Lila attack by Steve & Jemma Copley.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/copleys/4138270172/

Some people, particularly children, do not handle their cats, or kittens, correctly. Naturally the animals response is to bite. Children should learn to carry their pets by supporting them from underneath. They should be told that if it squirms it needs to be put down (not dropped). In this way the cat is not pushed to the point it bites to be set free. Children should be taught that when the cat is sleeping it should be left alone. This will help them avoid getting bitten by a startled cat.

 

Declawing

Attack cat by raindog.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/raindog/2175415551/

Finally it must be noted that a common side effect from declawing is that the cat becomes a nervous biter. This is considered a reaction due to the fact that these cats often develop a heightened “Flight or Fight” response. It is actually a survival response. Animals in weakened condition often put on shows of strength to avoid being targeted. Cats are no different. They either run, to avoid being attacked, or put on displays of aggression to demonstrate that they are not weak or defenseless. In declawed cats this means they are more apt to bite.

Declawed cats will seem to overreact and will bite at the slightest provocation.

Related Links

Declawing Cats

To Neuter or Not to Neuter Cats

Naughty Kittens

Rabies:  What Happens if you are Bit

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  1. ganeshgolha

    On March 5, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    Well Written

  2. Jenny Heart

    On March 5, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    I have multiple cats. Mine were’nt that agressive afterwards. Lucky I guess. Great article Brenda!

  3. K Kristie

    On March 5, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    I’m worried about kids when they’re with cats. It’s good to know about this.

  4. sloanie

    On March 5, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    Interesting article you obviously know your cats.

  5. sloanie

    On March 5, 2010 at 5:51 pm

    Interesting article you obviously know your cats.

  6. Wiggles18

    On March 5, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    Darn, I always played with my kitties when they bit me, Shucks.

  7. chefpete41

    On March 5, 2010 at 10:03 pm

    good info for cat owners.

  8. MartineP

    On March 6, 2010 at 7:51 am

    Great article. I have to notice that declawing is prohibited in Belgium, but one of my cats is a biter and when he snaps me during play, I do back off. It is improving, but still … I had bleeding fingers at first.

  9. nobert soloria bermosa

    On March 6, 2010 at 9:07 am

    nice and comprehensive suggestions…i was bitten by one of my cats a year or so…it’s scary because as I’ve learned, cats also have rabies

  10. gianne

    On March 6, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    I like cats but I don’t “get” them. Now I do a bit more. Thanks!

  11. papaleng

    On March 6, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    another good post to share. Though I’m more of a dog lover, but my other sisters do love cats, and I see them allowing my nephews to cuddle their cats. In so doing, they tend to allow their pets to bite their fingers. Now , I must restrain them once I see them doing this act.

  12. PR Mace

    On March 7, 2010 at 3:32 am

    This is one of those articles I will have to forward to my daughter as she has three cats. I am more of a dog person. Thanks for the good information.

  13. sambhafusia

    On March 7, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    great share..thanks for that

  14. AlmaG

    On March 8, 2010 at 8:07 am

    I agree with early training.

  15. standingproud

    On March 9, 2010 at 2:41 am

    Your so clued up on the animal kingdom.
    and wise:)

  16. albert1jemi

    On March 9, 2010 at 8:53 am

    nice share…thnx

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