When my former pet, Leroy, was a kitten, he loved to pounce on anything that moved — including hands, feet and the legs of people (or animals) passing by where he crouched. In fact, he liked biting our hands as much as he liked biting his toys. What seemed cute when Leroy was tiny soon became painful as he became more agile and a little bigger. What was the fascination with biting us? He loved being around us and enjoyed our company — so why bite the people you love? Why do kittens bite and how do you stop kitten biting appropriately and effectively before the cute kitten biting becomes serious cat biting?
Kitten biting: Why kittens bite
It turns out that kitten biting is part of the play behavior kittens learn when they are with their littermates. “This is the time when each kitten learns how to use an inhibited bite so as not to cause injury,” explains Pam Johnson-Bennett, certified cat behaviorist and owner of Cat Behavior Associates. “A kitten who bites too hard is either reprimanded by the queen or gets a very negative reaction from a littermate. This social play is important, and each kitten soon learns the rules.”
How to stop kitten biting
Laughing and smiling at Leroy’s kitten biting behavior when he was little encouraged him to continue it. We soon learned to give Leroy appropriate toys and to stop playing with him immediately if he bit us during playtime — but as we later learned, we should have employed these training methods from the very beginning.
“The first and foremost rule when training a kitten to play gently is to not use your fingers as toys,” Johnson-Bennett says. “No matter how young your kitten is and whether it hurts when she bites or not, this isn’t the message you want to send to her. Biting flesh is never to be allowed.”
What toys should you use to discourage kitten biting?
A variety of toys are available to help correct bad kitten biting behaviors. “From the very beginning, have appropriate toys for your kitten to bite during play,” Johnson-Bennett says. “For interactive playtime, use toys based on a fishing pole design. That will put a safe distance between your hands and your kitten’s teeth.”
Dangling smaller toys from your fingers could entice your kitten to bite your fingers. “When using smaller toys, such as fuzzy mice, be sure you toss them for the kitten to chase,” Johnson-Bennett says. “During playtime you never want to send a mixed message.”
And that may have been where we initially took some missteps with Leroy. Sometimes he seemed to get so caught up in the act of playing that he forgot where his toys ended and our hands began. When we tried to grab our hands away, we inadvertently encouraged him to keep after his “prey.”
What to do if your kitten bites you during play
“If your kitten accidentally bites you during playtime, immediately stop all action and stay still,” Johnson-Bennett says. “If she’s biting your ankles, stop moving. She wants movement, so if you stay still, she won’t be getting her desired result.”
Johnson-Bennett further recommends that you gently push your kitten away from your hand if the bite is causing pain, instead of grabbing your hand away. “This will confuse her, and she’ll loosen her grip,” she explains.
An accidental bite from your playful kitten doesn’t mean playtime has to come to an immediate end. “When your kitten bites, it’s important to stop all movement and ignore her. You can restart play when your kitten goes back to being relaxed and calm,” Johnson-Bennett explains. “This will send the message that biting skin will mean an end to the game.” But be consistent so your kitten receives the same message about kitten biting each time.
What not to do about kitten biting
Negative reactions to kitten biting can have long-term negative effects on your relationship with her.
“If your kitten bites, don’t hit her, roughly push her away, squirt her with water or yell at her,” Johnson-Bennett says. “Although these actions may momentarily cause her to release her grip … your kitten may soon learn to become afraid of you.” Johnson-Bennett cautions that a physical response to biting may also cause your kitten to bite harder in a future incident or become more aggressive.
Though we made a few mistakes early on when dealing with Leroy’s kitten biting behavior, we made some adjustments that led to less biting — and more fun playing. It wasn’t always easy to ignore our cute kitten when he just wanted to play, but he soon learned that biting wasn’t acceptable and found appropriate outlets for his natural play biting activities.
Tell us: Does your kitten bite? How did you curb kitten biting?
Thumbnail: Photography ©BubblegirlPhoto | Getty Images.
This piece was originally published in 2018.
About the author
A lifelong cat owner, Stacy N. Hackett writes frequently about cats, cat breeds and a range of pet-related topics. The inspiration for her writing comes from her cats, Jack and Katie, and her Cocker Spaniel/Labrador Retriever mix, Maggie.
Editor’s note: This article appeared in Catster magazine. Have you seen the new Catster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting room of your vet’s office? Subscribe now to get Catster magazine delivered straight to you!
65 thoughts on “Kitten Biting — Here’s How to Stop It”
That worked immediately he would feel bad. I used the command”be nice” and I never allowed roommates to hand play or they would be sorry but Be Nice worked and sometimes he can get a little frustrated but rules are rules.
He is getting better and will put his mouth on my hands and I tell him no and he also responds to that
This does make him stop
When my cat bites I blow in his face,gently.
he could not taste or figure it out. When he did accidently bite me I would stop playing and fake cry showing him the blood. That worked immediately he would feel bad. I used the command”be nice” and I never allowed roommates to hand play or they would be sorry but Be Nice worked and sometimes he can get a little frustrated but rules are rules. Once he calms down things are back on.
I never let Buddy bite anything to do with hands! I used toys on long strings and balls or wadded up paper
My hands and arms are free from holes in them with this cat!
When my cat bites I blow in his face,gently. This does make him stop. He is getting better and will put his mouth on my hands and I tell him no and he also responds to that
I never let Buddy bite anything to do with hands! I used toys on long strings and balls or wadded up paper I could toss to him
Hi I’m 22 yrs and my cat chowder is 8 months and he was very aggressive when he was 2 months old when we got him.
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My a**. I whopped both of my kittens butts with a newspaper when they bit me hard for the first time, they never did it again in 5 years! So much for cats not understanding reinforcement, just reinforce their but with a newspaper when he starts biting, he’ll learn soon…
My 8 month old cat isn’t a big biter when we play (we keep our hands far away), but she does sometimes randomly “hunt” or “attack” my husband and I when we’re either done playing with her or just sitting around doing nothing. For example, I’m usually the victim of a foot pounce or two when I’m standing in the bathroom doing my makeup. She’s fairly gentle, it’s more startling than anything, but I’m not sure what triggers it. This usually comes after a long play session and meal time, when she technically “should” be calm and sleepy. Instead she sees a foot sitting there, and thinks, Fair Game!
What can I do to curb this behavior? Why does she do it? Is she just looking for attention?
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My kitten Luna always would try to bite my fingers when I went to pet her! Sometimes should would forget, but it was something she did quite often. I helped stop this soon by using a stick with a string attached for her to bite. I also used little springs and balls that she would chase.
My cat bites a lot when she wants to play. I’m trying to learn to stop movement and ignore her after if it becomes too intense. But, the rest of my household pushes her away, gives her baths, and a lot of other negative things if she bites. I also have a few anger issues when it comes to cat biting so I might yell at her for doing those things. Any suggestions on what to do?
Thanks for commenting! Here is an article that provides more information on how to get your cat to stop biting you during playtime:
Don’t take your anger out on the cat! Chances are you let her as a kitten chew & play with fingers. Instead use a toy on a pole or rope with toy from a pet store. Just say no if he goes for fingers then don’t use your hands. Use toy on pole. Repeat word No for any negative behavior. She will learn with love not punishment!
I have an 8 month old Tuxie and she bites…..alot! In the morning when she comes to snuggle she’ll be nice for 10 seconds as I rub her ears then out of nowhere she’ll grab my hand and starts biting. I’ve tried blowing in her face, but she just evades. I tried flicking her but she seems to see that as a challenge. I try to be completely still but she thinks that’s just a pause and picks up exactly where she left off. My only recourse is to cover up and push her away but I love my kitty! When she isn’t biting me she is super sweet and I want her to relax on my lap while I stroke her.
my 6 month old kitten will sometimes want to bit when he plays, sometimes it doesnt hurt this time it does. what do I do? because i dont want this to keep continuing I want hi to know that it isnt ok. How do I tell him or show him that this hurts?? I am a first time cat owner. PLEASE HELP
Thanks for commenting! You might find this article helpful on how to stop your cat from biting during playtime:
My first kitten was a biter, so I got another kitten! Worked perfectly, and they ended up being best buds.
According to the article, Johnson-Bennett cautions that a physical response to biting may also cause your kitten to bite harder in a future incident or become more aggressive. “If your kitten bites, don’t hit her, roughly push her away, squirt her with water or yell at her,” Johnson-Bennett says. “Although these actions may momentarily cause her to release her grip … your kitten may soon learn to become afraid of you.”
When I was young it wasn’t unusual to be around a litter of kittens, in the 60’s & 70’s. I observed that when siblings played rough, including biting, the kitten being bitten made a loud yowling to screeching noise, that usually resulted in the biter backing off. With my few kittens over the years, I have always ‘yowled’ Owww!!! in response, and Be Nice!!! in a higher pitched voice. After a few times of genuine strident sounds from me (from being bit), the kitten has learned how much they can play bite, and not hurt me with teeth or claws, and avoid any disciplining from me. After a while “Be Nice!!” is all it takes for them to play at a level that doesn’t hurt me and elicit a verbal response from me.
You should not have an animal!!!! You are abusive and stupid. He’s probably now so fearful of you he stays away. Ammonia can blind if sprayed in or near the eyes, and since it remains on his fur, you dummy, when he cleans himself that goes directly into his system!!! Are you really as dumb as you sound? You should be ashamed, I sure hope you don’t have children; can’t imagine what you have done to affect their unacceptable behavior.
Very good advice. Mr. DeanO appears to be another guy so insecure about his manhood that he has to abuse a kitten. I sure hope he has no kids.
Right On !!!
Right On !!!
Did you read “WHAT NOT TO DO”?
We adopted a kitten years ago who was a biter. When he’d bite my fingers, I’d gently bite his ear. It took a little less than a week for him to figure out that biting didn’t feel good and he stopped. He was a sweetheart after that.
We are rescuers, foster guardians and guardians. All our kittens were biters, one little guy came to us at three weeks, he was held a lot.He survived and when he was picked up we noticed he always needed to take a small bite on our arm. It was his way saying thank you. We NEVER hit him, set him down, but simply said, “no-no”. To this day we use this method on all our cats and kittens in any situation they need correction for. As soon as they hear a calm, no,no, they stop the behavior. And we don’t have to hit them with a fly swatter or spay them with an ammonia torture! I still cant believe what I just read from “DeanO” .
Congratulations! A humane pet owner , rescuer , foster, ❣ Exactly what I do and think.
To stop kitten biting, put soft puppet on left hand and gently pet kitt with other hand—as it bites puppet.
I used to have cats that were biters when I adopted them, and I learned that flicking their ears, with a similar swatting motion that their mom would use, discouraged them quickly. Puffing a breath into their face works too – they pull their face back but don’t completely stop playing.
Puffing a breath into their face can get you injured in a hurry. I got my lip opened up when I did that to one of my very sweet cats that I had had from the day he was born. You might not always get hurt doing it but the potential for some really painful injuries is there whenever you put your face into your cats face and act aggressively.
I recent got a 5 month old girl. She bitetes me in the morning and afternoon when she is snuggling with me. She grabs my arm with her front paws, bites, and kicks me. I’m yelling at her no, and if she doesn’t let go I grab her by the scruff of her neck and put her on the floor. Any advise?
My 4.5 month old kitten does the same. I have neen trying to gently push him away, but he resumes doing this again after a while.
Thanks for reaching out! These articles might provide more insight on raising kittens and kitten biting:
Animals are very, very aware of vocal tones. They understand happy, sad, pain and anger. When she starts the bite she is really attempting to communicate with you and you are obviously aware she is demonstrating her form of affection. As I said earlier, I have trained all my cats to a very kind and firm phrase of “no,no” and add a sad sounding ouch if she needs a bit more convincing she is hurting you. I guarantee she will hear and understand she is hurting you and stop. In the future when she attempts to start a bite, say “no,no. it works!
Say “no” firmly and put her down. Persistence and consistence. Like with a child. Eventually she’ll learn and she will stop.
I have the same thing but mine is blind suddenly at the morning he jumps at my hands and bite as hard as he can I don’t know why and when I scream he doesn’t stop I hold him from his neck and he bites harder I don’t know what to do
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We adopted a male kitten from our local Humane Society when he was eight weeks old. Willie is now 11 weeks old, and nearly the entire time he has been a little monster about half the time. This particularly occurs when my wife and I are lying in bed trying to go to sleep. He will crawl up on top of the foot of the bed, crouch down low, and charge (usually) my wife. He bites her hand most often, but he has also bitten her face and even her breast during these attacks. The last couple of days we have been giving him kitty timeouts by putting him outside the bedroom and closing the door. We later find him curled up on the couch or blanket sound asleep. I don’t really know if this is the right thing to do with the little guy. I am recently retired and am home alone with him most of the day. I will have interactive play with him a couple of times a day but he still attacks my hands, wrists, ankles, and calves. I don’t hit his nose or anything, but I have sprinkled a few drops of water on him when he attacks me in the kitchen. How can we reduce this undesirable behavior in him? Furthermore, we are going to be adopting another male kitten and bringing him into our home in two days. The new kitten will be eight weeks old — about three weeks younger than Wild Willie. The reason for the second kitty is for Willy to have a buddy/quasi-sibling who can keep him company. We will be getting both kitties neutered later this year. Any advice would be helpful. Thanks.
Thanks for reaching out and sorry to hear you’re dealing with this behavior! We suggest mentioning your specific concerns to your vet, but these articles might help as well:
Kitten biting, cat bites and cat aggression:
On the subject of two cats:
I’ve been trying to stop my kitten from biting for about a month like you said. I thought she stopped ( only accidently while playtime) But recently she started biting again this time i think she wants to rip my hand out or something. And she doesn’t play with anything unless I’m with her in the room. What should i do ?
My cat doesn’t bite flesh but she tries to rip my hair out while I am sleeping. It is her way of waking me up to get breakfast. I really don’t appreciate it. I cover my head with the blankets to stop her; if I push her off the bed she just comes back. I NEVER feed her following this behavior so I don’t know where she learned to do this, but I wish she would stop. Suggestions?
These articles might help. Please don’t push your kitty!!
My cat(not kitten)LOVES to give me what I call “love nips”; he doesn’t draw blood, and he is neutered.How do I stop this without punishing him? I tell him,”I’M NOT A PORK CHOP, I TAKE A BLOOD THINNER, AND YOU’VE GOT TEETH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I have a male kitty, about 4-5 years old, he has been neutered. He gives “love bites” on the tips of my fingers. He is the most loveable kitty I have ever seen. The nips are just to get my attention so I will pet him or cuddle. There have been a few times the nips are a bit harder, and have startled me and made me yelp. It scares him and then he will snuggle to say sorry. I love my baby very much and would never hurt him, he was abused before I took him in, and he lives to be loved. He sleeps cuddled next to my tummy at night and will sit on my lap when I sit down. He has his best friend (also a kitty) and 2 corgis for playmates, he does not play with toys, however, just his best friend, my corgis and me.
I find that when people try to discipline cat behavior, they always rely on physical actions and forget to talk to their animal. Not human talk, cat talk—some noise they can understand. Have you ever growled, hissed, yelped or whined at a cat? Meowed even? They have a rich vocabulary that we’re not using, and cats must think we’re pretty stupid not to make the appropriate noises when we interact with them….it does work.
A good friend of mine hisses loudly at his cats when they misbehave, and all of them have responded super-quickly that a hiss from him means the same as a hiss from another cat: you’re doing something that somebody doesn’t like, so quit it!!!
Just pull the fur from the nape of your kitten’s neck like the mother cat would do. Worked on my 4 month old cat in just three days.
We don’t suggest scruffing a cat. Please take a look at some alternatives: https://www.catster.com/cat-health-care/scruffing-a-cat-you-shouldnt-do-it-how-to-restrain-a-cat-safely
My kitty would open and close his mouth like a piranha looking for dinner. I would close his mouth and hold it for a couple of seconds while I told him, “No bite.” He learned very quickly to stop waiving his open mouth around. I also play properly with him. He has had the same set of stuffed plush Peeps since he was a baby. He beats them with his back paws and carries them around in his mouth. He loves it when I toss them to him and he catches them!
Hi I’m 22 yrs and my cat chowder is 8 months and he was very aggressive when he was 2 months old when we got him. As new cat owners we hadn’t known any better. We used negative methods as in smacking him on the noes to try to stop the bitting but ended up in him smacking us back in the face. This went on for 3 months until we got another cat Gizmo and is 6 months now, and bitting us was no longer our concern, it was him playing to aggressive with Gizmo. We figured smacking wouldn’t work so we had to come up with something quick. We didn’t have a spray bottle and the closest thing we had was a water bottle. I simply poked holes in the lid of the water bottle and Bam! Now, instead of him being scared of us he is now scared of the sound of a crushing water bottle. We are now using that as a training method as well. That commercial was right “no ones a perfect parent by thier first kid but by their second thier an expert.”. I don’t have kids but my cats are my kids.
Hi there — Please never smack or hit your cats. Here are more alternative methods to dealing with aggression in cats:
I never let Buddy bite anything to do with hands! I used toys on long strings and balls or wadded up paper I could toss to him and if I ever had to have hands involved I would cover them up so he could not taste or figure it out. When he did accidently bite me I would stop playing and fake cry showing him the blood. That worked immediately he would feel bad. I used the command”be nice” and I never allowed roommates to hand play or they would be sorry but Be Nice worked and sometimes he can get a little frustrated but rules are rules. Once he calms down things are back on. My hands and arms are free from holes in them with this cat!
When my cat bites I blow in his face,gently. This does make him stop. He is getting better and will put his mouth on my hands and I tell him no and he also responds to that