Pet Talk: How Do We Get Cat to Stop Biting?

By Sally Salopek

Q. We have a cat that will bite us. Any suggestions to get him to stop?

A. The first thing you have to do is determine why he is trying to bite you. You didn’t give any examples as to when he tries to bite. Does it happen when you are playing with him and he becomes overzealous? Possibly when he is bored, frustrated or scared. Or are you doing something to him he wants you to stop?

If it is while you are playing with him, do not encourage your cat to play with your hands or feet. It is common for kittens and young cats to engage in rough active play. Feline play consists of mock aggression. They stalk, chase, swat, kick, scratch and bite each other all in fun. People often misinterpret this kind of behavior as aggression when it’s directed at them. Despite the playful intention of your cat, he can cause painful bites. Best to use toys that keep your hands out of harm’s way. Try using a long dangly wand toy or throwing your cat’s favorite toys for him to chase. If kitty is getting too rough and attempts to bite during play, have a time out. Turn your back on your feline, don’t say a word and don’t resume play for at least one minute or leave the room. Don’t attempt to pick up your cat and put him in another room as this may provoke more bites. After a few cycles of this he should get the message that his own overly aggressive behavior causes the abrupt end of an enjoyable play session with you.

If he’s trying to bite you outside of play, he may need to drain some energy. Try playing with him with a wand toy or possibly a laser toy until he appears tired. With a laser be sure not to shine it in the cat’s eyes where it can cause damage. Sometimes just the light from a flashlight in a darkened room will entertain cats.

Cats can experience anxiety and may direct their aggression to whoever is near them. An example is: seeing a stray cat in the yard may provoke an attack on you. I would recommend some cat pheromone diffusers in the home to help the cat feel more relaxed. A scared cat can also have aggressive behavior.

Another possibility is kitty is experiencing some pain, an example being arthritis in an older cat, and tries to bite when you touch a sore spot.

One thing that has always baffled me about cats are the ones who seem to be totally enjoying being petted, purring away, and then they turn to bite you. I do not think anyone knows for sure why they behave in this manner, but overstimulation could be a possibility. If kitty tries to bite after six strokes, only stroke him three times. Some cats do not enjoy being picked up and may attempt to bite to let you know they dislike it.

Learn to recognize when your cat doesn’t want to be handled and respect his wishes. Ears laid back, a whipping tail and huge pupils indicate a cat doesn’t want to be bothered or pet anymore.

Don’t ever hit your cat for trying to bite. He may become more aggressive or even learn to fear you and avoid contact with you.

If your cat is trying to bite you and you are not sure if he’s being playful or aggressive, remember cats usually play quietly and a cat who is being truly aggressive will hiss and growl.

Hope some of my suggestions can help determine why your cat is trying to bite and you can correct the problem.


Sally Salopek is the owner and operator of Attend-A-Pet pet sitting services in northern Door County. She has also worked professionally with animals in health care, pet grooming, training, wildlife rehab and rescue. Send your pet-related questions to her at [email protected].

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