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How To Train A Cat Not To Bite: 6 Things You Need to Know

Whether you’re a new cat parent or a seasoned owner, a biting cat is sure to raise some questions. While biting isn’t uncommon amongst cats, this may be painful or may indicate deeper behavioral issues. So how to train a cat not to bite?

Either way, like your cat eating your hair, biting can sometimes cause a certain level of concern. So it may be a good idea to get a better understanding of what your cat may be trying to communicate.

Let’s explore some of the main reasons why cats are prompted to bite and what can be done to avoid it.

ginger cat with human finger in its mouth

How to Train a Cat Not to Bite – Understanding Why

I’ve mentioned that cats are known to bite from time to time, be it their owners, strangers or other cats. But the question is why?

There are several scenarios in which a cat may feel the need to chow down. Sometimes it may be harmless, but other times it may catch you off guard. And on rare occasions, it may be indicative of an underlying physical or behavioral condition.

Here are a few of the main reasons you can expect your feline friend to chow down on an arm or ankle and what you can do about it.

two black and white cats with one having open

1. They’re In The Mood To Play

Every pet needs some good old playtime. And what better way to get your attention than a nibble? All cats, and kittens in particular, love play fighting as a form of play.

Not only is it a healthy release of energy, but it also prepares them for the real world. Not that indoor cats have much to worry about in that regard!

ginger cat playing with a toy Image by DarkWorkX on Pixabay 2

If you’re not a fan of having an arm gnawed at during playtime, try responding with a firm “no” and withdrawing from playtime for a few moments when they bite you. Don’t wiggle or pull, as this will likely excite them and therefore exacerbate the biting.

Alternatively, you could substitute your flesh with a chew toy or wand toy. This way, your cat can use their jaws and claws to their heart’s content. And you can spare yourself from a couple of scratch marks in the process.

British blue cat chewing red ball of threads

2. They May Be In Pain

Whether they’re sick, injured, or have any other medical condition, cats are masters at hiding pain. But one tell-tale sign that they’re uncomfortable is biting to avoid anyone touching or moving the area they are experiencing pain in. They may even become aggressive in anticipation of it.

If you come too close, expect jaws or claws – or both! Make sure they’re in a safe, comfortable environment until they’re healed or seek medical help from your local veterinarian.

ginger cat biting hand of owner

3. Fear or Stress

Apart from hissing and other physical behaviors, biting is one way cats communicate that they’re on edge or expressing aggression. In most cases, when they feel scared or threatened, they will likely hiss, spit, growl, arch their back, puff their fur and tail, or simply run away.

However, if they feel more aggressive and are backed into a corner, they may turn to swatting, scratching, and biting. Some triggers may include:

  • Encountering a strange person or animal
  • A new, unknown environment
  • Loud noises or quick movements
  • A stressful event, such as a ride in the car

You’ll need to identify the perceived threat and find a way to assure your cat that they’re in a safe environment.

tabby cat with mouth open side view

4. To Socialize and Show Affection – Or Not?

‘Love nips’ is the name given to those little nibbles your cat may give you mid-cuddle. Your cat may be calm and relaxed and decides to gently chomp on a finger while you pet them.

This may be a show of socialization and affection. But some believe it’s a gentle indication that they’re satisfied with the interaction and are becoming overstimulated.

This may vary from one cat to another. But make sure that you are aware of your cat’s body language and what it means. This way, you should be able to gauge what they’re trying to communicate.

grey cat with mouth open being held by woman

5. They’re Bored and Want Attention

No, you won’t have a cat’s teeth marks permanently scarred into your skin just because they have nothing better to do. Playful biting occurs when a cat is trying to get your attention, usually when they’re in the mood to play.

A stimulating toy and fifteen minutes of your time is all it takes to satisfy their need for attention and put a stop to the biting.

grey cat holding person's hand

6. Overstimulation

You may be wondering why you get a playful nibble for attention one moment, and then a surprisingly solid bite on the arm 5 minutes into tummy rubs.

As much as they love attention, cats can sometimes become agitated or over-excited when they’re overwhelmed with more sensations or activity than they can handle.

grey cat grabbing human hand with mouth and paws how to train a cat not to bite

When agitated, cats generally give several subtle warnings before they eventually bite. These can include flattened ears, dilated pupils, a stiff body, and a twitching tail.

So if you notice that your cat is displaying any of these behaviors, you may want to give them some space to avoid getting chomped on!

These bites are generally not intended to harm you, but rather to communicate that they’re unhappy with something that you’re doing. But this doesn’t mean they can’t hurt you if they felt severely threatened. And serious cat bites can quickly become infected if not treated.

ginger tabby cat with mouth open and paw grabbing finger

What Else Do We Need To Know About Cat Bites?

If you do experience a relatively serious or painful cat bite, make sure to gently wash it with soap and water for a few minutes if possible.

If the bite is more serious, seek medical attention to avoid developing an infection. Signs of infection include redness, swelling, pain and inflammation.

It’s important to note that while biting should be addressed, it must be done via a calm and healthy approach. Avoid ‘punishing’ your cat by yelling or hitting them. This approach will not get the message across.

Young woman with allergy holding cat on grey background

If anything, it will likely just place more tension on your relationship and cause them to become fearful or display truly aggressive behavior towards you.

While a cat bite may sometimes seem like it’s coming from nowhere, in the eyes of a cat, the action is always justified. So while you may think it’s for ‘no reason’, a more in-depth look at the circumstances surrounding it will give you a better idea of what your cat is really trying to say.

dark tabby cat grabs man's hand with his teeth

Final Tips For Training A Cat

A firm “no” alongside simple withdrawal techniques will quickly teach your cat that biting is not okay. Ideally, this should be taught sooner rather than later.

But as we mentioned before, avoid using ‘punishments’ or simply reprimanding them for their bad behavior, as this ultimately does more harm than good.

ginger cat on woman's lap stares at her face

Despite various kinds of cats – from more friendly cat breeds to cat breeds with blue eyes – cats are not inherently trainable or driven towards working in partnership with human companions, with a kind and patient approach, they can be trained to follow instructions. Be sure to give them plenty of praise for doing what it is that you want.

Ultimately, the most important thing to remember is consideration for your feline friend. Without the ability to talk, they rely on an array of non-verbal cues and behaviors in order to communicate. And as long as you keep that in mind, it should be smooth sailing.

black kitten biting a person's finger

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