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One minute you’re stroking a contented, purring cat alongside you, and the next minute your cat’s teeth are in your hand or arm. We’ve all experienced this puzzling phenomenon at some point, so what exactly does it mean? The good news is that it doesn’t mean your kitty is a psycho-cat; it’s actually perfectly natural behaviour. As long as you learn what triggers your cat to bite and how to change his behaviour, your relationship can happily continue without you having to wear gauntlets around the house.
Biting When Being Petted
The most common cause of cats biting their owners is over-stimulation. Your cat may have practically pleaded for you to pet him, and seemed to love it, but cats can get to a certain point when they’ve just had enough. If you didn’t spot the tell-tale signs that fuss time is over, such as a suddenly swishing tail or flattened ears, your cat may give you a firm bite to ‘restrain’ you from fussing over him any further. It may also be that you’ve touched a delicate spot, or a place where he just doesn’t like to be stroked.
To avoid being bitten when you’re petting your cat, it’s important to understand his tolerance and trigger points. If you start to see the signs that he’s had enough, simply stop what you’re doing and let him calm down. Your cat may appreciate your restraint and hop off your lap, and he’ll let you know when he’s ready for more fuss in a moment or two.
Biting During Playtime
As a kitten your cat would have experienced lots of rough and tumble play with his litter mates. This is an essential part of learning and development for young cats, but as they mature it should stop. So what do you do if your cat is using you as a substitute litter mate, and biting and scratching when you play? Firstly you should consider how you interact with your cat when you’re playing, are you playing rough and encouraging this behaviour?
What you shouldn’t do is start flapping your hands and making noise when your cat bites during playtime, as all you’re doing is making it seem like part of the game, and encouraging him to continue. If your hands are the only ‘toys’ that are involved then of course your cat is going to want to get his teeth into them. Try using a toy on a string to distance your flesh from the game, and your cat can scratch and bite the toy to his heart’s content.
A cat’s natural instinct is to hunt, and when you’re walking across the room your feet and ankles look like the perfect prey. No matter how many toys you leave lying around, a moving target is much more fun than an stationary one, so you’re going to have to do more than that if you want to stop your cat pouncing and biting your ankles. Wearing boots or big fluffy socks is one option if you want to avoid getting hurt, but the best thing to do is to make sure your cat has lots of stimulating exercise in your home without having to resort to attacking your feet or ankles.
Changing Biting Behaviour
As with all inappropriate behaviour, you should try to ignore the biting as much as possible, and give praise and fuss when your cat plays nicely. If you do get caught in a biting situation, try not to pull away or make too much of a fuss, as you’ll be acting like prey and it’ll only stimulate your cat more. In all of these situations your cat will likely be ‘play biting’, but if he does start to become more fierce and draws blood, it’s important to get your cat checked out at the vets to make sure that there isn’t an underlying medical reason for any aggressive biting behaviour.
Does your cat bite? What have you done to stop this biting behaviour?
Image: kniemla / Tommy Hemmert Olesen via Flickr
We have a biter here – Binga! She just likes to do it. My human knows not to push her. Me? I am very polite and have never bitten anyone, not even accidentally.