Cat bites are a normal part of having a kitty, because cats mouth and paw objects to explore their world. You can't stop it. But kitties can learn to inhibit the force of the bite and to use soft paws without claws. She won't know that teeth and claws hurt, unless you explain to her in kitty language the way Mom-cat would. She can still play-smack you with a soft paw, and enjoy a kitty-correct game without drawing blood.
Kittens develop good manners through interaction with other kittens and their mother, because other cats won't put up with being hurt. Too often, though kittens go to new homes before they've learned these important lessons and you need to teach them. Begin training as soon as you get your kitten or cat. A well-socialized adult cat teaches the best lessons to kittens, but you can help, with these tips.
9 Tips to Stop Cat Bites
- Never allow your kitten or cat to play with your bare hands, fingers or toes.
- Offer a legal toy for the cat to bite and bunny kick. Stuffed animals are a hit with many cats.
- Gently praise Sheba for soft paws (claws withheld) or a soft mouth, saying, "Good paws, good mouth!"
- HISS! if the claws come out or the mouthing hurts, just as another cat or kitten would to stop the games. Use this as an interruption to stop the behavior, not as a punishment. Used too often, the HISS will stop being effective.
- If she bites and won't let go, grit your teeth and push your hand/arm IN toward the bite to prompt Sheba to release you. Pulling away from the bite stimulates her to bite even more.
- Treat your clothing as an extension of skin and make it off limits, or the kitten won't learn the difference between clawing jeans and nailing your bare legs.
- If the kitten bites or claws during play, and doesn't react to a HISS, instead use a very short, loud, high-pitched EEEK! Warn the rest of your family before doing this, though, so they won't call for help. WARNING: A high-pitched shriek could trigger an aggressive reaction in an adult cat so reserve the EEEK! for kitties under a year of age.
- Physical punishment only makes cats more determined to fight back and protect themselves, but they often understand the emotion of hurt feelings. Tell Sheba, "You hurt me," with as much angst and tears as you can muster.
- Very friendly cats understand a "time out." If Sheba can't contain her teeth and claws, send her into a room alone for five minutes to tell her she's exceeded the proper bounds.
Teaching bite inhibition to your kitten helps not only today, but in the future when he's an adult. Bites are dangerous to you and to other cats. And the kitty able to pull his paw-punches and play nice avoids causing injury to others--or instigating reprisals. And that ultimately keeps the peace.