Kitten biting is a natural behavior that kittens enter into when they reach the “teenage” phase of about 5 or 6 months old.
This is the age where they display play aggression, which is part of their developing hunting instinct.
Kittens play with their litter mates to practice the hunting skills that they will need later as adult cats.
They learn from each other when they’re wrestling. When kitten biting has gotten too rough, their playmate may squeal, or otherwise end the play session.
If they get too carried away around mama cat too, they may get a growl or a swat across the face from her.
The most important thing for stopping kitten biting behavior around humans is to teach your kitten that this play is not acceptable.
Kitten Biting Reason #1: Play Aggression
One common mistake people make is “hand-wrestling” with their kittens. This means using a bare hand to play, letting the kitten bite and hold and kick at it.
This is cute and harmless when they’re really small, but this is a bad habit for when they are big strong cats!
You want your kitten to think your hand is only for being pet with, not biting. If you have a family member that doesn’t want to stop playing this way, then at the least use a leather glove or something like that so the bare skin isn’t a “play trigger” for kitten biting behavior.
Really though, the best thing you can do is never use your hand to play, but toys only.
Using Kitten Toys as a Diversion Tactic
The most success comes from fishing wand-type toys that have either feathers or fabric strips attached, or even throwing a crumpled ball of paper for him to chase.
Laser toys work great too for a lot of kittens. It’s a lot of fun seeing your cat chase the little red dot across the floor and up the wall too!
This is a great way to get your kitten to burn off tons of energy.
Stop Playing When it Gets Out of Hand
Another way to stop kitten biting behavior is to walk away when she starts to get too riled up. Just stop playing and let her settle down on her own with a “time out.”
Kitten biting behavior doesn’t just happen during play sessions, however.
If you’re dealing with mild cat aggression issues, such as she goes from snuggle time to play mode quickly and begins biting you while you’re petting her, there are a few things you can do.
Try not to tense up or make jerky motions—she may think you’re responding positively and joining in the play.
Stay calm, tell her firmly “no” and put her down or walk away. If she won’t let go with her teeth, you can also apply firm pressure to the top of her nose.
You’re not cutting off her air when you do this, you just want to press gently on her pressure point because cats don’t like the feeling.
If this doesn’t stop your kitten biting you, you can scruff her. Don’t overuse this method, consider it a last resort. It doesn’t hurt when you do this, you’ll notice she goes into a bit of a trance. This should do the trick if nothing else makes her let go.
Avoid Pounce Attacks from Your Little Hunter
Another way that kitten biting becomes a nuisance is if she enjoys pouncing behavior.
If you have a little stalker that likes to hide under the staircase or behind the bookshelf only to launch himself at your leg as you walk by, then you know this is not a fun surprise—especially if you’re bare-legged!
So what can you do about these kitten biting sneak attacks?
First of all, if you find yourself attached to five ends of a kitten, use one of the techniques I explained earlier to gently extract yourself.
You may need to scruff him in this case to get him to let go on his own and to save yourself even more pain of him digging in further.
To avoid these kitten biting attacks in the future, you can try one of a couple things:
For one, if possible just avoid walking past his favorite ambush spots until he grows out of the behavior. If this isn’t possible, then divert him ahead of time.
If you suspect he’s hiding in one of these spots, either call his name to you and he may come running. If not, throw a toy like a crumpled piece of paper or a jingle bell ball across the path to see if he pounces that instead, or again the laser or fishing wand toy, or whatever you have handy. You can find out more ways to play with your kitten here.
Stop Kitten Biting Before it Starts
There are body language indicators you can look for to stop cat and kitten biting before it happens.
One is a twitchy tail. Cats don’t wag their tails out of happiness like dogs do. If a tail is twitching, she is getting ready to attack. This is true whether she is in play mode or if she’s annoyed.
Also, the pupils will dilate when she is really getting in the hunting and pouncing mode. She may also get into an attack stance or her tail may puff up.
Other Reasons for Kitten Biting
This article has focused mainly on play aggression to this point, but what about other reasons for kitten biting?
This occurs when you are petting your kitten, and seemingly out of the blue he goes from loving it to hating it and taking it out on you!
There are clues here too to be aware of.
One thing is his body will start to tense up. If you have him on your lap you will feel this. Also, the ears may flatten, showing that he is annoyed.
If he starts lashing his tail, then it’s really gone too far. The best thing to do in any of these cases is to stop petting him altogether and walk away, or if he’s on your lap, allow him to leave.
Why does this happen?
Sometimes their skin might get too tender from too much petting, and it just starts to not feel good.
Also, as you get to know your kitten you will find there are certain parts that are just off-limits, usually the feet and tummy, and sometimes near their tail or chest. So if he wants to leave, I strongly advise you let him!
Other causes of kitten biting that are not related to play aggression are misdirected aggression.
This might happen if he sees another cat out the window, or he’s at the veterinarian’s and is very nervous about it or something else agitates him.
He may start biting you if you just happen to be in the way. Hopefully, occurrences like this don’t happen frequently. But when they do, the best thing is to stay out of his way and let him settle down on his own.
(If your cat is not at the kitten biting stage and suddenly starts acting strange or over-aggressive for no apparent reason, there could be something going on. Don’t take chances, consult your vet.)
An unseen injury, an illness, or even a reaction to a parasite or a chemical he may have ingested in your home could be responsible for his sudden aggressive kitten biting.
Even if there is no vomiting or diarrhea, if your cat is not acting like himself just take him to the vet to rule out an underlying medical issue.