There are many cats that will be sweet and lovable one minute while you’re petting them and the next they’re attacking you with their nails and sharp teeth. If you’re dealing with this type of behavior, then it’s important to learn how to stop a cat from biting immediately, since this can lead to behavior problems in the future, and more painful cat bites. In this article, I’ll go over the best tactics that can stop this behavior, signs your cat is about to bite, and how to guide your pet through this training process.

cat biting a hand

Why Cats Bite

Many cats engage in this type of biting behavior during playtime no matter how hard you try to deter them. Bunny kicking and biting are actually very normal for kittens and done to brush up on their hunting skills. But if this behavior isn’t corrected, this can continue for several years.

Bunny kicks and biting are how kittens tend to play with their littermates. This type of play mimics how a cat will bite, grab, and pounce on their prey.

How Kittens Play

When littermates are playing with each other, they actually teach each other how to gently use their teeth and when a bite is too hard and painful. If a kitten bites their sibling too hard, that kitten would bite back, swat at the biter, or yowl loudly. The bitten kitten would then refuse to play with the other kitten. A mother cat will also bite her young if the kitten bites too hard.

A cat that is removed from their littermates too early will not learn how to appropriately moderate their biting. However, even if they do learn this important lesson, in some cases, they may still bite too hard for people. Because of this, it’s important to teach your pet that using their teeth as a form of play is not acceptable and it’s painful and unpleasant for people.

How to Stop a Cat From Biting

Below, you’ll find all the best techniques that can help you stop cat biting:

  • Avoid wrestling with a cat that’s being aggressive with their teeth during playtime and do not use your feet or hands to play with them in this manner. Doing these things is the biggest reason why biting behavior escalates. You’ll also want to avoid using toys that hang from your fingers or wearing gloves because it will not teach your cat not to bite your hands. While kittens will need toys to exercise their hunting instincts and play hard to burn off excess energy, try using other types of toys, such as feather wands, balls, or other objects that do not focus on chewing your hands or feet.
  • Never hit or yell at your cat for biting you during a play session. This will stress your cat out and cause them to be anxious or fearful of humans or escalate the behavior.

Redirect Bad Behavior

Some older animals and all kittens will find hand movements irresistible while we’re typing or writing. If your cats try to attack your hands during this time, say no, firmly, and remove your hands. Redirect them by throwing appropriate toys their way.

If you can help it, try not to pull away. While this may seem counterintuitive, doing so will only trigger that hunting instinct in cats to go after their prey and bite. Instead, gently push your pet away. This is not how prey would react, so they will become confused and will immediately let go of your hand.

Playing With Your Kitten

cat biting while playing

Don’t wait for cat bites to be painful to start training your cat not to bite. Teach them as early as possible that this is not acceptable. A kitten bite may not hurt as much as a dog bite, but once they reach that juvenile stage and their hormones are raging, these cat bites can be very painful.

During a play session, as you play with toys, if  your cat isn’t biting you, offer small treats or their favorite food. They will soon catch on that biting means an end to playtime and no biting will result in treats. Choose their favorite toy, one that allows them to play independently. You can use a ball or catnip filled toy. As they play, join in on the fun and remember to stop playing with them the minute they bite you.

Information on Aggressive Behavior

If you don’t handle this biting issue while they’re kittens, it can get much worse by the time they reach adulthood. Some cats will have aggression toward other animals, including other cats. You may find yourself making a trip to the vet if your dogs and cat get into it and  the cat bites them. A cat can become aggressive if a dog invades their litter box during use or eats their kibble.

Watch how your animal interacts with other animals in the home and pay attention to their body language. If they puff up, flatten their ears, or start to growl, remove the other animals from the room. Contact your vet for information on how to manage aggression in felines or request a referral to a pet trainer.

How to Stop A Cat From Biting When Giving a Cat a Pill

Some pets just do not take medication well. Some cats bite, while others will be more likely to bolt or struggle. If you’re trying to give a cat a pill and they bite, you may need a friend to lend you a hand. Fortunately, there are some ways you can get your pet to take their medication and walk away unscatched.

Carefully Restrain Your Cat

If you have an animal that’s a biter, roll them up in a towel and have a friend hold the animal securely on their lap when you administer the medication.

Next, you’ll need to carefully and gently pry the cat’s mouth open and pop the pill as far back in as possible. Close their mouth and keep it closed as you rub their throat to encourage them to swallow. After your cat has swallowed their pill, you’ll need to open their mouth again to check and make sure the pill isn’t stuck on the side. If your cat has taken the pill, have your friend set them on the ground and give them a treat. This will help a cat to remain calmer the next time you give them a pill, since they will expect a treat afterward.

If you’re still having trouble administering meds, speak with your veterinarian for advice.

General Training Tips for Cats

playing with cat

Bites hurt. Fortunately, most cats are trainable, as long as you keep a few things in mind:

  • When you’re training your cats, make sure you’re always kind and very patient. Keep in mind that you’re asking a pet to do something that does not come naturally to them, so try to be more understanding.
  • If you have an older cat that you have adopted that bites out of fear or aggression, you may need to hire a cat trainer who specializes in aggression, or you can speak with your veterinarian for advice. Unfortunately, when you adopt a cat, you don’t know many things about their past or what has caused these types of behaviors. With an experienced trainer, you can get to the root of the problem and teach your cat that biting humans is inappropriate and painful. They may also recommend pheromone products to help keep your cat calm and soothed.
  • If your cat is biting other animals in the home, such as the family dog, you may need to separate them or only allow them to interact under close supervision. This type of behavior may also require the assistance of an experienced cat trainer, especially if the bites are taking place between cats fighting over territory.

Final Thoughts

Cats have filthy mouths loaded with bacteria. A cat bite or scratch on the hand can lead to cat scratch disease, which must be treated with medication. This is just one reason why you need to break this behavior. With proper training, patience and consistency, it’s totally possible to teach a cat to stop biting, especially if you use plenty of positive reinforcement. Whether you have a kitten, a juvenile, or adult cats, the techniques that I’ve included here can help you teach and train your cat not to bite, how to play appropriately, and can result in a happier household where you don’t have to worry about painful bites that can require medical intervention, once the cat has reached adulthood.