Cats & Biting - Why They Do It & How To Stop The Behavior
In this article, I'll explain the 4 main reasons why cats bite, and how to stop the behavior.
4 main reasons why cats bite:
They are injured or in pain. (The most obvious reason)
If your cat is suddenly showing aggression and wasn't before, this can be a sign of injury or illness. Take your cat to the vet as soon as you can.
A frightened cat will become aggressive because of a fear response, triggered by the brain. Your cat is just trying to stay protected, not trying to intentionally hurt anyone. Once you remove whatever is causing the fear, your cat should calm down and return to normal.
This happened recently to me when I brought a new kitten home. I had shut my dog in a bedroom so I could bring the kitty in and place her in her room – but apparently I didn't shut the door all the way and the dog came speeding toward us to investigate the newcomer.
The kitten panicked and began frantically scratching my arms to get away. As soon as the dog was put away she calmed down and was fine.
Some cats get excited or angry when they see or smell an 'intruder' cat outside. They have an automatic territorial response to attack. But – since the cat can't attack the outdoor intruder, the attack is redirected at the closest moving target.
Remember this isn't because the cat wants to hurt you, but rather because the brain has triggered an automatic response and the attack must be redirected somewhere.
The best way to solve this problem is find out what's causing the response and eliminate it. If your cat is constantly being aggravated by an outdoor cat, simply block your cat's view by closing the blinds or curtains – Or keep your cat away from the window where that cat is usually seen.
You can also invest in a Feliway Comfort Zone plug-in or spray. The spray mimics the friendly pheromones cat's leave in the air – and it does wonders when it comes to calming agitated and stressed cats.
Play Biting (one of the most common)
In this case, it's important to remember your cat isn't trying to intentionally harm you. Your cat just hasn't ever learned that it's wrong. This problem is actually much more common than you may think, simply because most people don't know the information I am about to share with you.
What you need to do is teach your cat to only play with toys, and not with your hands or feet. If you have a kitten, never ever use your hands or feet to play with the kitten – only use toys to play so the kitten never learns that hands are okay to bite.
Also, and this is crucial, make sure no one ELSE ever uses their fingers to play with the cat. (This is very common, I have found most people like to wiggle their fingers in front of kittens - do NOT let anyone do this because it teaches your cat that fingers are toys.) Make sure to strictly enforce this rule.
When playing with your cat, always use an interactive fishing pole toy, to keep your fingers completely away from the cat all times. (using the interactive toy in the way described in Cat Behavior Secrets Revealed will stimulate and satisfy your cat's natural "prey drive".)
It also completely removes your hands and fingers from being associated with play time at all.
Personally, my very favorite interactive toy is called "Da Bird", and you can get it at most pet stores or order it online by clicking here. It does an excellent job of mimicking a real bird, and drives cats absolutely wild with delight!
Stimulate your cat's "prey drive" as much as possible, by having the toy scurry along the ground and hide behind boxes, around the corner, etc.
Have your cat chase the toy around, catching it every once in a while - and once the cat begins showing signs of slowing down and being tired, let kitty have a final victory and catch the toy.
Then feed a treat that is high in protein. (By following this plan, you are mimicking your cat's natural instincts. Hunt, eat, groom, sleep.)
If the cat does bite you at any time – immediately freeze, do not pull your arm or hand away – because this behavior is similar to prey trying to escape, and triggers a natural response to bite even harder.
To loosen the grip, you should move your hand toward the back of the cat's mouth – rather than jerking away. Since prey would never move toward it's predator, this causes confusion and causes the cat to loosen it's grip.
Now, you need to teach your cat that biting people is NOT a fun game.
To do this, start with some preparation.
Find something that makes a very loud noise, that you can carry with you. What I use is an aluminum can, full of either small rocks or pennies. (Put tape over the opening.)
(The buzzer from the board game "Taboo" also works pretty well!)
Or, another effective choice is slamming a shoe against the wall.
Lastly, you can shout “OUCH” in a loud, high pitch tone the second the bite happens, (this will probably come naturally!)
Think of the sound a cat or dog makes when it is injured by a litter mate – it is very high-pitched, like a yelp. I've found that when I yell “Ouch” in a very loud high pitch voice, it is effective. The louder and more painful it sounds, the better.
You can do this instead of or in addition to using the other items mentioned.
The next time you plan to pet your cat (or participate in the activity that usually provokes the biting), make sure you are prepared with whatever item you are going to use.
Watch your cat very closely , and the second your kitty gets close to biting you (or does bite you) shake the can as loudly as possible (or yell/use the buzzer/etc. whichever you chose).
The goal is for your cat to associate the act of biting you with this loud, scary sound.
The noise will shock and startle your cat, interrupting the bite and creating a negative association with the biting behavior.
Your cat does love you, and doesn't want to hurt you. (Your cat also doesn't want to continue being scared by loud noises...)
Sooner or later, your cat will learn that biting causes a loud, scary sound and the behavior will stop.
(When you combine this method with being aware of your cat's pre-attack signals and effectively anticipating a bite [this information can be found in Cat Behavior Secrets Revealed and also will be covered in future newsletters], it should take no more than 2-3 times to stop the behavior for good)
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