Why do kittens bite?

Lea Jaratz

kitten biting finger

When they’re sleeping, kittens are precious little darlings. Nothing cuter on earth. But when they’re awake, they can be like little velociraptor ninjas, attacking your feet and hands without warning, never letting on who their next victim might be. That’s just the nature of kittens. But if you’re wondering why your kitten is attacking you and how to stop that behavior, we’ve got answers.

Why does my kitten bite me?

Kittens bite as part of their social play. The good news is that if your kitten is biting, she’s probably developmentally normal. It’s all part of the rough-housing she would normally do with littermates; giving nips to each other and exploring their surroundings with their mouths. Normally, if a kitten bites too hard, a momma cat or the littermates would correct the behavior, teaching the kitten to use her mouth in a constructive way. But sometimes a single kitten is slow to pick up on the queues from humans. We’re obviously not able to bite back, so we have to train them to bite appropriately instead.

How to Stop a Kitten from Biting

The best way to keep from getting bitten during play time is to make sure your hands aren’t part of the play. Don’t tickle or wrestle your kitten when she’s excited or use your hands as a lure or bait for her to attack. If she bites you during play, say a clear “no” and offer appropriate chew toys. Use a fishing pole or other toy on a string set-up so your hands are removed from the action when you’re playing. If she’s getting feisty, rub a toy on her tummy to encourage her to bite that instead.

However, that doesn’t stop the stealthiest of kittens. If you’re being attacked out of the blue, there are some things you can do to provide redirection and reinforcement of good behavior. It’s important to be consistent and make sure all family members have the same rules.

If your kitten bites you, freeze right away. Shouting or making a yelping sound might make her fearful of you, but freezing and ignoring not only her makes you uninteresting, it removes any possible reward in the form of your attention. If she’s causing you pain, push her away, but don’t react in an excitable way. You can leave the room to remove yourself, but it’s probably better that you not touch her at all. When she calms down, pay a little attention to her, but stop if the biting starts again.

Eventually, with some consistency and redirection, your kitten will likely stop stalking you. Once you notice your kitten is following you but isn’t biting, make sure to praise her and give a special treat.

Continue to make playing with your kitten a regular part of your routine, and she’ll learn how to get attention without using those razor-sharp fangs.

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