Why do cats bite? The short answer? For a reason. Like many other animals, feline aggression is based on various circumstances, history, and personality. A cat’s biting or aggressive behavior is often provoked, whether it’s clear to us humans or not. Below, we’ve outlined some helpful info on how to redirect unwanted biting, and a few tips for kitten owners. Read more below…

The saying goes: a tired dog is a good dog. With our felines, a happy cat is one who thinks he’s killed something everyday. Whether or not they actually have is not important, explains certified feline behavior consultant Sally J. Foote. What’s important, rather, is that they have had ample chance to engage in daily predatory play, “including the opportunity to grab, pounce, and sink their teeth into something to simulate killing.” If you have an active cat, make sure to schedule in a daily play session that engages their hunting instincts. 

If your cat has a bad habit of biting, however, it could be the result of unintentional reinforcing from their kitten years. During a cat’s youngest years, they are driven by the desire to practice their hunting skills as much as possible. This includes the artful “pounce and bite,” a hunting tactic that utilizes felines’ quick reflexes to catch prey. If you have a cat who is frequently nipping or biting you or a family member, experts agree that the best response, rather than a reprimand, is to disengage by simply turning away and leaving the room, or redirecting with a toy. This mimics how a mother cat would handle aggression by teaching the kitten appropriate social boundaries. Luckily, this tactic has been shown to work with cats of all ages, whether it’s a kitten or older adult cat. By leaving the room or abruptly disengaging with your furry friend, they’ll quickly learn that a “time out” is associated with biting. 

Lastly, be mindful of your cat’s body language. A thrashing tail, stiff body or pinned back ears are all signs that your cat is on edge, and they’ll be more likely to bite if they feel that their message is not being received. We wrote a blog post about feline body language here (include link). 

Of course, if you find your cat’s behavior worrisome or difficult to manage, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with your veterinarian or seek out a veterinarian who specializes in feline behavior who can help brainstorm possible ways to reduce anxiety. 

What do you think? Please feel free to share any tips or suggestions in the comments below!