Does your cat bite you for no reason? They don’t tell you why, and you know it’s not personal, but it does hurt—a lot. It may hurt your feelings, and it also just plain stings! And for good reason –  cat bites are dangerous! Read below for some ideas on how to stop a cat from biting.


Did you know a cat’s incisors can push bacteria deep into a puncture wound? That’s why 80% of cat bits to the hand become infected, and some even require hospitalization.

 

Let’s talk about this behavior:

• Why cats bite
• How to stop a cat from biting
• What to do if your cat’s bite draws blood

Why Cats Bite People

Cats are natural hunters. In the wild, they survive by alternately hiding from predators, and stalking prey.

Inside cats possess the same instincts but have no natural predators or prey. Instead, they hide in cardboard boxes and hunt ankles. 🙂

Most of the time, a cat attack is just play aggression. Cat behaviorist Jackson Galaxy defines play aggression as an “act of cat playing in a predatory manner, often through pouncing and stalking.”

If you have an otherwise playful cat, biting may simply be a form of overactive play.


Not all cat biting behavior results from playfulness, however. Sometimes, cats bite out of status-induced aggression. They’re asserting dominance. In a colony of wild cats, one bossy animal may rule over others in what cat theorists call “despotic hierarchy.

If your cat is a colony leader deprived of her subordinates, she may be turning that behavior on you. Is she twitching her tail, narrowing her eyes, or giving your hand furtive glances before she chomps? It could be status-induced aggression.

Other cats bite while being petted especially around the belly. Though dogs adore full-body pats and belly scratches, cats don’t. Petting-induced overstimulation aggression occurs when a cat gets irritated from excessive physical contact with humans.

As the storytelling vet James Herriot remarked, “Cats are connoisseurs of comfort.” But they aren’t big on a lot of physical touch. If you’re used to interacting with dogs, you’ll want to curtail how much you pet your cat until you get a sense of her tolerance level for touch.

Cats are natural hunters. In the wild, they survive by alternately hiding from predators, and stalking prey.

Inside cats possess the same instincts but have no natural predators or prey. Instead, they hide in cardboard boxes and hunt ankles. 🙂

Most of the time, a cat attack is just play aggression. Cat behaviorist Jackson Galaxy defines play aggression as an “act of cat playing in a predatory manner, often through pouncing and stalking.” If you have an otherwise playful cat, biting may simply be a form of overactive play.


Not all cat biting behavior results from playfulness, however. Sometimes, cats bite out of status-induced aggression. They’re asserting dominance. In a colony of wild cats, one bossy animal may rule over others in what cat theorists call “despotic hierarchy.

If your cat is a colony leader deprived of her subordinates, she may be turning that behavior on you. Is she twitching her tail, narrowing her eyes, or giving your hand furtive glances before she chomps? It could be status-induced aggression.

Other cats bite while being petted especially around the belly. Though dogs adore full-body pats and belly scratches, cats don’t. Petting-induced overstimulation aggression occurs when a cat gets irritated from excessive physical contact with humans.

As the storytelling vet James Herriot remarked, “Cats are connoisseurs of comfort.” But they aren’t big on a lot of physical touch. If you’re used to interacting with dogs, you’ll want to curtail how much you pet your cat until you get a sense of her tolerance level for touch.

How to Stop a Cat from Biting

First understand why your cat bites. Is it playfulness or aggression? Temperament or environment? Is the cat under stimulated or overstimulated? Does your cat suffer from anxiety?

Once you know why your cat is scratching, attacking, or biting, you can figure out how to put a stop to it. In all cases, you’ll want to refrain from hitting, chasing, shouting, or losing your temper with your cat.


A. If Your Cat Is a Playful Biter

To control playful biting, spend time every day playing with your cat. Engage him in active play that uses his energy. Try a fishing pole game or bring out the laser pointer. Get your cat moving. But stop the play before any biting activity begins. You may be able to see the behavior change in your cat before they actually bite. Then you’ll know it’s time to pull your hand away.

Also start your cat on puzzles like the Trixie Fun Board Strategy Game. You can even try building your own puzzle game. This kind of play stimulates your cat’s mind, using up that mental energy that would otherwise be expended on plotting a strategy for capturing your toes. Some cat parents even take playtime to teach their cat to how to play the shell game or get him running through an activity course.

For the times you can’t play directly with your cat, make sure she has a scratching tree, a box, and a high place to enjoy. By enriching your cat’s environment, you’ll help alleviate stress-related biting caused by boredom.

The point is, an active cat living in a stimulus-rich environment is less likely to play bite than a bored cat.

For more ideas, check out our best tips to get your cat playing.


B. If Your Cat Is a Serious Biter

Cats who bite out of anxiety, overstimulation, or a desire for dominance may need a more direct approach.

To start with, take your cat to the vet. Biting can be a sign of illness, injury, or other medical problems. If your cat is biting out of pain, your vet should be able to help.

Next, make sure you aren’t using your clothes or your bare hand as a toy, and that the cat has plenty of activity to relieve her energy and emotions.

Once you’ve covered those concerns, here’s some ideas for how to address the undesirable behavior.

1. Try Feliway spray, an odorless calming cat pheromone, it might help relieve anxiety. You can use a plug-in dispenser, or try spritzing the air with some before interacting with your cat.

2. As soon as she bites, stop playing with your cat. Turn your back on her, and ignore her for about one minute, then resume playing with her. If that doesn’t work, put your cat in another room for a few minutes.

Eventually, she’ll understand that to enjoy playtime, she needs to use a soft mouth. Make sure you’re scratching your cat’s neck and face instead of giving a full-bodied stroke when you pet her.

3. We recommend reading The Trainable Cat by John Bradshaw and Sarah Ellis for more tips on how to stop a cat from biting.

First understand why your cat bites. Is it playfulness or aggression? Temperament or environment? Is the cat under stimulated or overstimulated? Does your cat suffer from anxiety?

Once you know why your cat is scratching, attacking, or biting, you can figure out how to put a stop to it. In all cases, you’ll want to refrain from hitting, chasing, shouting, or losing your temper with your cat.


A. If Your Cat Is a Playful Biter

To control playful biting, spend time every day playing with your cat. Engage him in active play that uses his energy. Try a fishing pole game or bring out the laser pointer. Get your cat moving. But stop the play before any biting activity begins. You may be able to see the behavior change in your cat before they actually bite. Then you’ll know it’s time to pull your hand away.

Also start your cat on puzzles like the Trixie Fun Board Strategy Game. You can even try building your own puzzle game. This kind of play stimulates your cat’s mind, using up that mental energy that would otherwise be expended on plotting a strategy for capturing your toes. Some cat parents even take playtime to teach their cat to how to play the shell game or get him running through an activity course.

For the times you can’t play directly with your cat, make sure she has a scratching tree, a box, and a high place to enjoy. By enriching your cat’s environment, you’ll help alleviate stress-related biting caused by boredom.

The point is, an active cat living in a stimulus-rich environment is less likely to play bite than a bored cat.

For more ideas, check out our best tips to get your cat playing.


B. If Your Cat Is a Serious Biter

Cats who bite out of anxiety, overstimulation, or a desire for dominance may need a more direct approach.

To start with, take your cat to the vet. Biting can be a sign of illness, injury, or other medical problems. If your cat is biting out of pain, your vet should be able to help.

Next, make sure you aren’t using your clothes or your bare hand as a toy, and that the cat has plenty of activity to relieve her energy and emotions.

Once you’ve covered those concerns, here’s some ideas for how to address the undesirable behavior.

1. Try Feliway spray, an odorless calming cat pheromone, it might help relieve anxiety. You can use a plug-in dispenser, or try spritzing the air with some before interacting with your cat.

2. As soon as she bites, stop playing with your cat. Turn your back on her, and ignore her for about one minute, then resume playing with her. If that doesn’t work, put your cat in another room for a few minutes.

Eventually, she’ll understand that to enjoy playtime, she needs to use a soft mouth. Make sure you’re scratching your cat’s neck and face instead of giving a full-bodied stroke when you pet her.

3. We recommend reading The Trainable Cat by John Bradshaw and Sarah Ellis for more tips on how to stop a cat from biting.

What to Do If Your Cat’s Bite Draws Blood

If your cat won’t stop biting and it draws blood, make sure to take care of the wound right away.

Wash the area thoroughly with soap and water, rinse it, apply antibiotic ointment, and cover it with a dry bandage. You may want to consider having a doctor, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner check the wound. He or she could prescribe a precautionary antibiotic.

At the least, keep an eye on the area for the first 12-48 hours. If it starts to swell or develops red marks, go to the doctor at once. If you’re not up-to-date on your tetanus shots, you might need to get one.

If the cat is not current on its rabies shots, report that information to your physician. Cat bites can be serious injuries, so even if a bite seems small, please do take it seriously.

If your cat won’t stop biting and it draws blood, make sure to take care of the wound right away.

Wash the area thoroughly with soap and water, rinse it, apply antibiotic ointment, and cover it with a dry bandage. You may want to consider having a doctor, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner check the wound. He or she could prescribe a precautionary antibiotic.

At the least, keep an eye on the area for the first 12-48 hours. If it starts to swell or develops red marks, go to the doctor at once. If you’re not up-to-date on your tetanus shots, you might need to get one.

If the cat is not current on its rabies shots, report that information to your physician. Cat bites can be serious injuries, so even if a bite seems small, please do take it seriously.

Final Thoughts

It’s important to figure out how to stop a cat from biting before you, a family member, guest, or other pet suffers a serious wound. Plenty of energetic playtime, a stimulating but peaceful environment, and a cat-friendly attitude can usually do the trick.

If your cat continues to bite, seek advice from a veterinarian or cat behaviorist.

Does your cat bite? What have you done to get her to stop? Let us know in the comments below!

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