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How to Train a Cat Not to Bite: 7 Tips and Tricks

black cat biting womans finger
Image Credit: dashtik, Shutterstock
Last Updated on November 16, 2023 by Christian Adams

Is your cat constantly biting you? You are not alone. This behavior is typical for both kittens and adult cats, although they do it for different reasons.

Adult cat bites are painful and potentially dangerous. But kitten nips and bites shouldn’t be tolerated either. Although they might seem cute, they won’t be painless or harmless when the kitten matures in a few months.

Don’t worry, though. It is possible to train your cat not to bite, regardless of age.

Below, we offer seven tips and tricks on how to do that. But first, let’s look at some of the most common reasons cats bite.

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Why Your Cat Bites You

Cats bite for different reasons. Understanding the motivation behind the bites is the first step in learning how to stop this behavior.

Play Aggression

Kittens learn vital communication and hunting skills through play. Due to their predatory instincts, they usually engage their siblings in rough play, which often involves claws and teeth.

The mock-fighting is an opportunity to test the limits, and it helps the kittens learn valuable social skills. For instance, a kitten can only know bites hurt because of the reaction they get from their sibling playmates.

Seeking Attention

A cat can do several things to get your attention when hungry, bored, or craving affection. It can meow, rub against you, or stare at you. But it can also bite you.

cat biting owner
Image Credit: Anna Kraynova, Shutterstock

Asserting Dominance

Some cats want to assert dominance in the household and demonstrate that through physically aggressive acts such as biting, scratching, and swatting. They usually do that with other cats in the home but can do it with you.

Cats usually assert dominance when they feel threatened, and sometimes they accompany the biting with a hiss or growl.

Biting could also be a form of expressing agitation when a cat wants you to stop doing something. Perhaps it has had enough of the petting and grooming. After giving off several warnings, it can make good the threat by biting you.

Stress or Pain

A cat biting you could also be a reaction to stress or pain. It could be a way of expressing discomfort when other visual and verbal forms of communication fail.

A cat will also bite you if biting has helped it ease other forms of discomfort before. For instance, biting you might have saved it from an unpleasant trip to the vet, nail clipping, or bath time. So, it might try its luck the next time it feels uncomfortable.

The 7 Tips How to Train a Cat Not to Bite You

Training a cat to stop a behavior may require time and patience, especially when dealing with an adult feline. But it is possible if you do it with care and persistence.

Here are seven tips and tricks you can try.

1. Don’t Jerk Your Hand Away

When a cat bites you, the instinctive reaction is to jerk your hand away. But that is a bad idea. A cat will instinctively bite harder if you do that, the same way it would if a prey under its grasp tried to escape.

Instead of pulling away, try pushing the hand further into the cat’s mouth. That may seem counterintuitive, but it could mean the difference between getting free and excruciating pain. The move will catch the cat by surprise, prompting it to let go.

a red domestic cat bites its owner's hand
Image Credit: Irzhanova Asel, Shutterstock

2. Don’t Punish Right Away

You might be tempted to discipline the cat by shoving or yelling at it after a bite. But that will only add fuel to the fire. Your cat might interpret that as rough play and keep returning.

Moreover, you might overdo it and end up scaring the cat. That could trigger stress-related behavior such as aggression, withdrawal, or urinating outside the litter box.

The best reaction in this situation is to leave the scene for several minutes. If you do that enough times, the cat will learn that biting interrupts playtime and stops.

Beautiful gray cat lying on the floor_OlhaTsiplyar_shutterstock
Credit: OlhaTsiplyar, Shutterstock

3. Redirect Them With a Toy

Never use your hands or toes when playing with the cat. Moving them around for the kitty to chase will only reinforce the behavior. Next time it might pounce on and bite them when you are not even looking.

Physical play and mental stimulation are essential. So, if the cat is using your hand for play, consider buying some toys.

Ensure you get several interactive ones (at least four) so your cat doesn’t get bored. You can use them to redirect the feline’s attention whenever it goes for your hand.

Cute persian cat playing toy
Image Credit: ANURAK PONGPATIMET, Shutterstock

4. Reward Good Behavior

One of the most effective ways to change or influence a cat’s behavior is through positive reinforcement, where you encourage good behavior by offering rewards and treats.

You can utilize this technique when training your furry friend to stop biting. For instance, whenever the cat goes for the toy instead of your hand, you can encourage the behavior by cuddling it, speaking softly, or offering it a treat.

You can also offer treats and praise when your cat uses its soft paw to get your attention instead of biting.

calico cat having treats
Image Credit: Andriy Blokhin, Shutterstock

5. Keep Your Cat Calm and Relaxed

One of the reasons why cats get stressed or frustrated is change. Kitties love the familiar and will act out (sometimes through biting) when there are changes in the routine or environment.

You can remedy the situation by keeping things consistent, including the time for meals, napping, and playing. Only make changes if necessary. Otherwise, keep the schedule predictable to ensure your cat remains calm and confident.

A cat can feel stressed without adequate food, play, or sleep. So, feed it a healthy and balanced diet and set away time during the day for mentally stimulating play. Also, ensure its nap schedule is not interrupted.

cat owner feeding her pet cat
Image Credit: Milles Studio, Shutterstock

6. Be Consistent

All the tips and tricks above will not work unless you’re consistent. If you plan to leave the scene every time the cat goes for your hand, you should do that every time.

Other household members also need to be onboard since the training won’t work if you are not all doing the same thing. If someone is reacting differently, the cat could get confused.

Visitors can complicate matters. So, it’s better to let them know as well.

white cat with the owner
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

7. Visit a Vet

Your cat can quickly lose its temper if it’s sick or injured. That may provoke it to act aggressively by scratching, growling, or biting.

Consult a veterinarian if you suspect your cat’s sudden change in behavior could result from an underlying medical condition. The aggression could be pain-related, and it’s difficult to tell since cats are good at hiding pain.

If your cat is stressed, the vet could also recommend wellness tools and supplements to help the kitty remain calm and relaxed.

cat and vet
Image Credit: Stock-Asso, Shutterstock


How to Treat a Cat Bite

Cat bites are dangerous to humans and other pets. Since the punctures are small, they usually seal up quickly, trapping the bacteria inside. One of the most common bacteria is Pastuerella multocida, which is present in 70% to 90% of cats.

If your cat bites you, you need to act fast by doing the following:

  • Press on the wound to flush out the bacteria
  • Wash the wound with soap and water
  • Dry and dress the wound
  • Visit a doctor
  • Monitor the wound for infection

The doctor will assess you to determine whether you need additional treatment. They might rewash the wound, stitch it up, and prescribe antibiotics.

If you suspect an infection might be spreading, visit the doctor immediately for treatment. Signs of infection include:

  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Oozing
  • Fever
cat bite marks
Image Credit: LS92, Shutterstock

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Cat bites can be painful and potentially dangerous. Luckily, it is possible to train your cat to stop the behavior. It’s not a walk in the park, though. It requires a lot of time and patience.

Moreover, it won’t work unless you do it consistently. That means everybody in the household, including visitors, should be on board with the plan. Remember, rewards work better than punishment. So, you’ll have a better chance of succeeding if you employ positive reinforcement techniques.

Featured Image Credit: dashtik, Shutterstock

About the Author

Christian Adams
Christian Adams
Christian is the Editor-in-Chief of Excited Cats and one of its original and primary contributors. A lifelong cat lover, now based in South East Asia, Christian and his wife are the proud parents of an 11-year-old son and four rescue cats: Trixie, Chloe, Sparky, and Chopper.

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