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How To Train a Cat Not To Bite: Why Kittens Bite & Teaching Tips

reviewed by a veterinary box

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

Odd behaviors like your cat eating your hair or biting can sometimes cause owners a certain level of concern. It may be a good idea to understand better what your cat is trying to communicate.

Let’s explore 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 Your Cat Not To Bite in Certain Scenarios

I’ve mentioned that cats are known to bite from time to time, be it their owners, strangers, or other cats. But before training them, we need to find out why they bite.

Well, there are several scenarios in which a cat may 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

Reason 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, but especially when looking after kittens, means adding play to their daily routine.

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

How To Teach A Cat Not To Bite When Playing

If you do not like 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 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 scratches and bite marks in the process.

British blue cat chewing red ball of threads

Reason 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 they’re uncomfortable is biting to avoid anyone touching the area experiencing pain. Even if they’re not an aggressive breed, they may even become combative in anticipation.

How To Teach A Cat Not To Bite When In Pain

If you come too close, expect jaws or claws – or both! If you think your cat is in pain contact your veterinarian for proper advice, diagnosis and treatment. You can read more about signs of pain in cats, in this article.

ginger cat biting hand of owner

Reason 3: Fear or Stress

Apart from hissing and other physical behaviors, biting is one way cats communicate they’re on edge or expressing aggression. In most cases, when they feel scared or threatened, they will likely hiss, growl, arch their back, puff their fur, or 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 and unknown environment (possibly from moving)
  • Loud noises or quick movements
  • A stressful event, such as a ride in the car or a visit to a veterinarian
  • Overstimulation from petting or touching them

How To Teach A Cat Not To Bite When Stressed

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

If this is an environmental stressor like moving house, you can try to enrich their surroundings with a cat tree, as the elevation allows them to see the area better. It may also help to add scratching posts, exercise wheels, or interactive toys to help them ease tension.

tabby cat with mouth open side view

Reason 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. 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.

How To Teach A Cat Not To Bite When Showing Affection

It helps to know your cat’s body language and what it means. This way, you should be able to gauge what they’re trying to communicate.

If you anticipate a bite, try not to pull away too fast, as they could misinterpret it as play. Instead, voice a firm ‘no’ and stop petting them.

grey cat with mouth open being held by woman

Reason 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.

How To Teach A Cat Not To Bite When They Want Attention

How to train a kitten not to bite starts with redirecting their attention. A stimulating chew toy and fifteen minutes of your time is all it takes to satisfy their need for attention. Once they interact with the toy, praise this behavior instead.

grey cat holding person's hand

Reason 6: Overstimulation

If a cat rubs against you, that means they want attention. But, as much as they love attention, cats can sometimes become agitated when they’re overwhelmed with more sensations or activity than they can handle.

When agitated, cats generally give several subtle warnings before eventually biting. 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!

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

How To Teach A Cat Not To Bite When They’re Overstimulated

Bites are generally not intended to harm you but rather to communicate their unhappiness with your actions. So, avoid yelling or hitting your pet. Instead, retreat from the petting or playing session by gently pushing them aside. This will set a boundary, and both will know the session is over.

How to Treat Cat Bites

Serious cat bites can quickly become infected if not treated. If you do experience a relatively serious or painful cat bite, make sure to thoroughly wash it with soap and water for a few minutes if possible.

If the bite is more serious, seek medical attention to reduce the chance of getting an infection. Signs of infection include redness, swelling, throbbing and pain.

ginger tabby cat with mouth open and paw grabbing finger

FAQs About How To Teach Cats Not To Bite

If you still have a few questions on how to train a cat, perhaps you’ll find the answers here.

How Do You Discipline a Cat for Biting?

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.

Why Do Ginger Cats Bite?

Ginger cats are more likely to be aggressive, but they typically bite you for the same reasons as any other cat.

Young woman with allergy holding cat on grey background

Do Cats Learn Not To Bite?

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

Why Does My Cat Keep Biting Me?

While a cat bite may sometimes seem like it’s coming from nowhere, the action is always justified in the eyes of a cat. 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 How To Train Cats Not To Bite

Wondering how to train cats not to bite? You can start with a firm “no” alongside simple withdrawal techniques. This 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

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
charlotte photo

Meet the Veterinary Expert

Charlotte recently became a doctor and studied at the University of Zagreb, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. She’s volunteered in her university’s obstetrical clinic, and equine clinic, and is dog mum to 14-year-old Chiki. Charlotte loves to travel and has completed externships in Austria, Spain, and Belgium.

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Truly Fair

Saturday 26th of August 2023

Why does my cat continuously bite my ankles with each step I take?????

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