Whilst it’s common for cats to bite, it can be unnerving if it is a new change in behaviour. Biting isn’t always a sign of aggression and can happen simply when playtime gets out of control. We take a look at some of the reasons your cat might be biting and the best ways to manage it.

The kitten phase

If you have welcomed a cat into your home at kitten age, this is a great time to set rules and boundaries on biting. It’s important to remember that for all cats when they play, pouncing and biting is a natural instinct and even more so for a kitten as they will naturally practice this behaviour (even if they are an indoors domestic cat). It’s ok to encourage this behaviour in your pet, but only with toys. Always reward them for practising biting and pouncing on their toys and never give the impression it is acceptable for them to bite your hands or toes. Don’t be afraid to tell your guests when they visit too, as lots of people will use their hands to play with kittens, which can confuse your cat if you are training them. Plus those kitten teeth might not feel like much during play, but if the behaviour continues, those teeth could cause some real damage as your cat gets older.

Biting when petting

This can be a confusing and upsetting one if your cat goes to bite when you are giving them affection. It’s a common occurrence for cat owners and can feel like a very sudden snap in their mood. It might be your cat feels vulnerable when you stroke a particular part of their body (tummies can be a very common vulnerable spot for cats) or a sign that they have simply had enough. Take time to learn their body language and respect their boundaries. When young children are petting your cat, encourage them to let your cat see their hand first so they have a moment to prepare and will be less likely to be surprised and in turn bite.

Aggressive biting

When your cat’s attempts to bite are accompanied by hissing or spitting and arched, defensive body language, it means they are in fight or flight mode. It can feel daunting knowing how to manage this behaviour, but it is so important to address this type of biting. It can occur more with cats who are territorial, or with cats who have experienced abuse and this is their way of expressing their fear. Never attempt to use physical discipline, as they are unlikely to understand the message and could feel more frightened. Stay calm, be patient and remember to reinforce their good behaviour with vocal praise, affection and treats. Don’t expect change overnight and even once they have largely stopped this behaviour if they feel scared or threatened it might flare up again, so try to avoid getting frustrated with them.

If you are struggling to manage biting in your cat, speak to your vet for more advice.

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