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Cat Bites: How To Prevent Biting

Updated on February 8, 2014
Cats bite for a variety of reasons
Cats bite for a variety of reasons | Source

If you have a pet cat, it is likely that at some point in your relationship you have been bitten or nipped by your pet. Even docile and domesticated cats sometimes bite. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they are a problem cat, that they have temperament problems or that you need to get rid of them. According to Jo Singer of petside.com, cats can bite to show love or to give you a warning.

Here are some common reasons cats bite and ways to control the behavior.

Communication

Cats are intelligent creatures and they want to communicate with their owners. They will use a variety of methods to get people’s attention. They may weave around legs, meow loudly, swat at you with their paw and even take a quick nip at you.

When your cat does this, he is likely just trying to get your attention. He is saying “hey I’m here and I’d like to be noticed, fed or petted.”

Playing

If you watch kittens and even grown cats playing with each other, they will often rough and tumble. Their games include biting and nipping at the other’s ears, tails and body.

Your cat may try to also nip your when you are playing with her. If you have a toy or are otherwise acting in a playful manner towards your cat, she takes that as a message that you want to play. Part of playing, for her, involves nipping at the foot or hand.

She may also nip if you touch parts of her that she prefers you don’t pet such as tail, belly or feet. Different cats have different areas that are sensitive. Learn what your cat prefers.

When your cat nips during playtime she will not usually bite down all the way or break the skin. Usually the bite is light with very little pressure behind it. She is either playing or reminding you that she doesn’t like to be petted in that way.

Anger and Fear

Your cat may also bite when he is angry. Most cats will give multiple warnings before they bite. These warnings include:

  • Puffed tail

  • Hissing

  • Arched back

  • Extended claws

If your cat is angry and you continue to provoke him, he may feel that he has no alternative but to bite. Cats that feel cornered or trapped may also bite out of fear and frustration.

Pain or Illness

If your cat is usually even tempered but she suddenly becomes more irritable, hides, and hisses or claws and bites if you try to disturb her, she may be sick or injured. If your cat’s behavior changes drastically, take her into your vet’s for an evaluation. They may be able to evaluate if pain is causing her to lash out and bite.

How to get your cat to bite less

If your cat bites to get your attention or during play and you would like him to not do it, stop giving him attention immediately. If you withdraw your hand and your attention, the cat will learn, over time, that biting and nipping gets him less attention, not more.

You can tell her “no” in a firm voice. You can also get a little bit of water on your fingers and spritz it at her whenever she is biting.

When my cat plays with me and begins biting, I immediately turn away and stop giving her attention. Over time the number of times she bites me has lessened.

What is your cat trying to say to you?
What is your cat trying to say to you? | Source

Don't provoke

I also try not to provoke her. If I know that she doesn’t like to be petted in a certain way or picked up, I don’t force her to endure it. Remember she has no other way of telling you when she doesn’t like something.

If she is angry and lashing out, you may have to wait until she calms down. If you must acquire her when she is angry, a towel or blanket placed over her may help you to gain control of her and keep you from being scratched or bitten.

It is best to consult a vet about the behavior and about the best way to handle her.

Never handle angry, stray cats

If the cat is not yours, is not vaccinated or is a stray of unknown origin, make sure you do not approach him if he is angry and hissing. Cat bites from animals in the wild may cause infection or worse, rabies. If you are bitten by a stray cat, you should call animal control and your county rabies control office for instructions. You may want to go to the hospital or doctor for antibiotics or a tetanus shot.

Animal bites can be serious

Animal bites can be serious. According to the ASPCA, cat bites can cause a range of illnesses including the appropriately named Cat Scratch Fever.

This is why it is important that you learn what your cat is trying to tell you and the difference between a communicative nip from your cat and a serious leave-me-alone bite.

Talk to your vet

If you continue to have behavior issues, speak to your vet about alternate methods and ways to help your cat to bite less.

Cats give many signals through body language, tail movement and hissing. Listen to what the cat is saying and act accordingly. Cats don’t bite to be bad. They bite to communicate.

Does Your Cat Bite?

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How To Avoid Cat Bites

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    • LCDWriter profile image
      Author

      L C David 10 months ago from Florida

      Yes. Playful cats are sometimes the smartest too!

    • profile image

      Ragnortheruffian 10 months ago

      My 3 month old is a Norwegian Forest too. He is hyper and started stalking me from day one. Biting my feet and hands. Hard. Loves pouncing He has calmed down considerably but he does get uncontrollable at times. Particularly at night. I was very worried he was a problem child but he's just an overly playful lad I think. The vet did say he is simply energetic. Although wegies are supposedly calm :/ ...hmm

    • Gloriousconfusion profile image

      Diana Grant 2 years ago from United Kingdom

      My cat sometimes sits there letting me rub her ears and head, and then suddenly nips me. Sometimes I think it's a love bite, and other times I think she is saying "that was nice, but you should stop now".

    • LCDWriter profile image
      Author

      L C David 4 years ago from Florida

      Those are beautiful cats! He sounds like a lot of fun. :-)

    • animalinformation profile image

      animalinformation 4 years ago

      He's a 'Norwegian Forest Cat'. Yeah, I've had cats for ~8 years now. I think the reason why he does it is because he's just a very rowdy cat ;)

    • LCDWriter profile image
      Author

      L C David 4 years ago from Florida

      It does sound like he has a short temper. Is he a particular breed? Sometimes cats have trigger spots that they don't want petted such as on their back or their tail.

      I guess all cats have different personalities.

    • animalinformation profile image

      animalinformation 4 years ago

      I think my biggest problem with my cat is the fact that he goes from being a cute little kitty who wants to be petted to a vicious killer in 1 second.

    • LCDWriter profile image
      Author

      L C David 4 years ago from Florida

      No, I'm not familiar with the band. I just thought the name sounded cool in general. I"ll have to find out about them. Ha, yes. Poor cats. They get a bad rap. ;-)

    • nArchuleta profile image

      Nadia Archuleta 4 years ago from Denver, Colorado

      Just out of curiosity, do you know who the original Lindemann is? (lead singer of Rammstein.) Just watched "Cat from Hell" and thought of this Hub -- you have great advice!

    • LCDWriter profile image
      Author

      L C David 4 years ago from Florida

      Yes, most of the time cats really are not trying to hurt us. I love the name of your cat, btw. Fantastic choice. Thanks for stopping by NArchuleta.

    • nArchuleta profile image

      Nadia Archuleta 4 years ago from Denver, Colorado

      Lindemann only ever nips. He's placed his teeth on me and just barely put pressure; I don't provoke him at that point. He's scratched me quite a bit during play, but that's my fault. Thanks for the great advice!

    • LCDWriter profile image
      Author

      L C David 4 years ago from Florida

      Yes, cats do have a way of "letting you know" when they don't like something.

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 4 years ago from America

      Our cat loves to be combed but if I hit a knot in his hair he lets me know by biting me. Interesting hub voted up.

    • LCDWriter profile image
      Author

      L C David 4 years ago from Florida

      Thank you Kathy. I have friends and family members express dismay over the fact that their cat "bites," but upon investigation I find out that they just don't realize that this is how cats talk to you and yes, let you know that you are theirs.

    • KathyH profile image

      KathyH 4 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      Great hub! I have a cat who will nibble on my arm, usually when she is also rubbing the side of her mouth on my arm. I've learned that she is "marking" me with her scent to let our other cat know I am her Mommy! Ha!! When she nibbles right after that, I always say she is giving me "love nibbles" :) It's good to be able to figure out the reason for their biting, and like you've said here, many times they never even break the skin, they are simply trying to communicate! Voted up and useful! :)