How to Stop a Cat from Biting

stop a from cat biting like this tortoiseshell cat biting someone's fingers

Those tiny cat teeth can cause more damage than you’d think. Especially when paired with claws! Luckily, there are three ways to stop a cat from biting and scratching.

Besides from cat bites hurting, they’re also easily infected. So it’s best for everyone if cat parents learn how to stop their cats from biting.

You can encourage healthy behaviour in kittens. That is, behaviour which doesn’t involve biting or scratching you. You can also make it clear to adult cats that being aggressive and biting won’t help them.

Find out how here.

1. React appropriately to stop a cat from biting

Reacting appropriately, in a way that your pet understands, is the key to good communication between human and cat.

But obviously, us humans need to know what reaction means “no” or “stop that” in cat language. And don’t think they won’t understand. Research shows that cats have highly developed socio-cognitive skills.

So, they’re going to pay attention to how you react to their behaviour, including biting.

Employ these tactics for a reaction that your cat will understand:

  • Stay calm: getting angry or flustered will confuse your cat.
  • Use firm words: choose a word like “no” or “stop” and when your cat bites, say it in a firm voice, but not an angry one. Don’t shout their name, just the “no” or “stop” or whatever word you have chosen. This way they don’t associate their name with being in trouble.
  • Point the finger: as you use your firm word, you can also point a finger and make steady eye contact with your cat.
  • Step away: leave the room and stay away until your cat is relaxed.
  • Don’t touch: if you’re touching, cuddling, or petting your cat and they bite you, stop touching them. Keep your hands away from them so they can’t bite your fingers. If that doesn’t work, physically move them out of your immediate space, and leave the room.
  • Give the cat right of way: a cat who wants to bite usually doesn’t like to feel cornered. Make sure they always have an easy way to get out of the situation, so don’t block exits or similar.

Noticing a theme?  

Essentially, your reaction to a cat biting should be to withdraw and ignore them. Let everyone have a chance to cool off.

To try and get ahead of any signs that a bite is imminent, read more on cat body language.

stop a cat from biting by encouraging it to bite toys instead, like this striped tabby cat chewing a toy

2. Use positive reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is the quickest way to encourage your pets to display appropriate behaviour. So to stop a cat from biting, you need to reward and encourage non-biting behaviour.

Treat your kitten or cat with both food and verbal praise when they’re modelling the right behaviour. But don’t go overboard on the treats: obesity is one of the leading causes of diabetes in dogs and cats.

Here are some ways you can encourage good behaviour:

  • Kittens: kittens explore the world with their claws and teeth. Think of how toddlers put everything in their mouths. Basically, this means that while your kitten is learning, some bites or scratches might work their way into play and cuddle time. Encourage your kitten to get those teeth and claws into the right targets by having regular play time with toys. Find out about this and other things new kitten parents need to know.
  • Cats: who says old cats can’t learn new tricks? To stop a cat from biting, try to get them interested in sinking those teeth into something other than your skin. Cat nip toys should do the trick. Experiment with different types, and praise your cat whenever he or she starts chewing and biting the toy.

Remember not to feed or stroke your cat after a biting (or scratching) incident. Wait for your cat to calm down before petting, cuddling, or feeding.

Otherwise, you’re inadvertently rewarding their biting behaviour and creating a positive association. If they get rewarded with food after biting you, you can be sure they’re going to do it again!

3. Get to the root cause

Although biting is an unpleasant behaviour, it’s still a way of communicating. Finding out the root cause of your cat biting is key to correcting the behaviour.

Consider whether your cat might be trying to communicate something, such as:

  • I’m excited. Sometimes your cat can bite when they’re overexcited and ready to play. Kind of like the cat version of puppy zoomies. Read about the importance of playtime for dogs and cats – break out the toys, and redirect them away from your hands!
  • I need company. Your cat might be feeling lonely and need more time with humans, or other cats. Undecided about a fur sibling? Read about whether one or two kittens is best.
  • I’m feeling broody! Your cat might be wanting to add to their little family. Eeek! Now is probably a good time to read up on spaying and neutering.
  • I’m anxious: Had a baby, moved house, got a new pet, or had lots of visitors over? Your cat has mood swings and nervous times too. Some of them are more sensitive to others, so if your circumstances have changed then they might be feeling stressed or scared.
  • I’m hurt or sick: Cats, like humans, sometimes get defensive and lash out when they’re injured or ill. If you suspect your cat might be in pain or feeling under the weather, take them to the vet.

Think about your circumstances, your cat’s health and social needs, and whether anything has changed lately. This and the above suggestions might give you some insights as to why your cat is biting. It’s much easier to stop a cat from biting when you know what’s causing it.

stop a cat from biting by moving away when they get mouthy

Third party liability and medical cover

If you’re hesitant to get your cat checked out – or adopt a kitty – because of the associated medical bills, consider our affordable cat insurance plans. This way, you protect your pocket and your pet with regular vet visits and for unexpected bumps in the road.

With PD Insurance you’ll also receive third party liability cover with your policy. So if your cat bites someone (who doesn’t live on your property) and they need treatment, we’ll help cover your liability.

How to stop a cat from biting – over to you!

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