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The Danger Zone

The Secret Language of Cats

How To Stop a Cat From Biting!

By: Pam Johnson-Bennett, CCBC

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The best way to learn how to stop a cat from biting is to never let it happen in the first place. That means, training your cat from the very beginning about what is and isn’t appropriate to bite. That being said, sometimes even the most well-trained cat may bite, so it’s also important to know how to correctly handle it.


There’s a Difference Between Fingers and Toys

It can be easy to use your fingers as enticing toys, even if you just wiggle them under the bed in an innocent game to play with your cat. The problem is, you send a message to your cat that it’s acceptable to bite skin. No matter how convenient it may be, never use your fingers as toys for your cat. Never send that dangerous mixed message the first step in how to stop a cat from biting.

In addition to never using your fingers as toys, never tease or wrestle your cat with your hands. Cats don’t play by wrestling so if you pin your cat down or try to rub her stomach, you’ll trigger a defensive response.

Always make sure the message is clear that hands are for petting and never to be viewed as toys. In fact, when you play with your cat, use interactive toys that put enough of a distance between your hand and the cat’s teeth. Fishing pole-type toys work best for interactive play because they allow the cat to bite and pounce to her heart’s content without having to worry about coming close to your fingers. Small toys such as fuzzy mice should be reserved for solo play to eliminate the risk of your cat grabbing your hand instead of the toy.

Never Spank or Hit Your Cat

Never physically punish your cat or push her away because it could trigger a defensive response. Punishing a cat is ineffective and can ruin the bond between the two of you. A misbehavior is not an intentional act of disobedience so punishing only adds to a cat’s confusion and fear which could lead to biting. Instead of spanking or hitting, look at the behavior to determine the cause so you can address that. For example, if a cat eliminates outside of the litter box, don’t spank or punish and instead, figure out WHY the cat couldn’t eliminate in the box. You’ll find the reason makes perfect sense from a cat’s point of view – perhaps the box was too dirty or the cat is experiencing a medical urinary issue or maybe she’s afraid to use the box because another cat always ambushes her.

Be Aware of Body Language

If you aren’t paying attention to body language, you may also put yourself at risk of being bitten. Your cat is a master of communication and often uses body language to let you know whether interaction is desired or if she prefers for you to keep your distance. Give your cat the choice of whether she wants to engage or be alone and you’ll probably greatly decrease your chances of being bitten.

How To Stop a Cat From Biting Be Aware of Petting and Touch Preferences

Your cat may have specific preferences when it comes to where she likes to be petted, how she likes to be petted and for how long. She may start out enjoying the fact that you’re gently petting her on the back of the head but then you may move toward her spine and not pay attention to how her body language has changed to let you know she doesn’t like that. Or, perhaps you have been petting for too long and are missing the subtle or not-so-subtle signs indicating she has reached her tolerance level. The only way to get you to stop petting or holding her is to bite you. Pay attention to how your cat likes to be petted and held. Always end on a positive note rather than push her to her limit. That will help reduce, and hopefully eliminate any biting.

cat biting


What to do if Your Cat Bites

If your cat has her teeth around your hand, don’t try to pull away this will not help in how to stop a cat from biting! Because that’s how prey reacts and your cat will instinctively bite down harder. Instead, gently push toward her mouth. This will confuse her and she’ll release her hold on you. Then, immediately try to figure out what happened that caused her to feel she had to bite so you can avoid that situation in the future.

Pam Johnson-Bennett
Certified Cat Behavior Consultant & Best-Selling Author

Cat Behaviorist

Pam Johnson-Bennett is a certified cat behavior consultant and best-selling author of 8 books on cat behavior. She starred in the Animal Planet series Psycho Kitty, seen in Canada and the UK. She was a vice president of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants and founded their cat division. She has served on an advisory board for the American Humane Association as well as other animal welfare organizations.

Pam is considered a pioneer in the field of cat behavior consulting, having started her career in 1982. Some of her books have been used as textbooks for behavior courses and she has influenced many practicing in the field today. Her book, Think Like a Cat, has been referred to as the cat bible.

Pam owns Cat Behavior Associates, located in Tennessee. She lives with her husband, two children, a rescued cat, and a rescued dog.

By: Pam Johnson-Bennett, CCBC

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