Training Your Cat Not to Bite

Training your cat not to bite is essential to curbing his natural biting instinct. While biting is normal behavior for cats, it should be discouraged, since biting leads to the spread of bacteria and infections. Here's what you should know about the reasons cats bite, and how you can train your cat not to bite.

Reasons Why Cats Bite

Many cats bite while playing, especially if they're allowed to play roughly with other cats or human members of the household. Cats also bite out of territorial aggression. Territorial aggression is more common in multi-cat homes.

Cats who primarily bite humans, rather than other cats, may have been poorly socialized in kitten-hood, or abused by a previous owner. These cats often appear fearful of humans, especially strangers.

Other types of feline aggression include:

  • Dominance aggression, in which cats to socially dominate owners or other cats in a multi-cat household
  • Non-recognition aggression, which may be turned against any household member who has been removed for a period of time and then returns
  • Maternal aggression, in which a mother cat feels her kittens have been threatened and defends them
  • Redirected aggression, which occurs when a cat becomes disturbed by an unfamiliar person, animal or situation, and takes out that distress on his owner in the form of aggression

Pain and illness can also cause feline aggression, so if your typically even-tempered cat suddenly begins biting, scratching and attacking other household members, your first stop should be the vet's.

Training Cats Not to Bite

Training your cat not to bite is largely a matter of discouraging aggressive behavior. Make a note of the circumstances under which your cat's biting occurs, so that you can nip his aggressive behavior in the bud.

If your cat's biting occurs during play, turn down the intensity of play when he gets excited. If he bites anyway, make a loud noise to get his attention, and end the play session. Training your cat in this way can help him understand that rough behavior is not acceptable during play.

If your cat is fighting with other cats, use a thick towel to separate him. Punish the aggressive cat by withdrawing your attention.

If your cat is aggressive towards humans, and especially if he fears humans, he'll need to be resocialized. Handle such a cat regularly, but briefly and gently. Speak softly to a fearful cat, offering rewards and praise when the cat refrains from biting. His biting problem should resolve itself as he becomes more comfortable with people.

To stifle redirected aggression, remove the cat from the upsetting situation. Often, cats redirect their aggression when they are so upset that they do not know what to do with themselves. Remove the cat from the situation to help it calm down.

To prevent maternal aggression in mothers, give the mother a safe, secure place to care for her kittens. Intruders, such as dogs, may be seen as threats. Keep them away from the mother and her kittens.

When to See a Vet

See a vet about your cat's aggression if it springs up suddenly, without apparent cause. It may be a sign of illness.

It your cat continues to display aggressive behavior despite your best efforts, a veterinary behaviorist may help you solve the problem.