You're petting your cat, and then all of a sudden, you feel a chomp on your hand. If you've experienced this scenario, you're not alone. Biting is a common behavioral problem in felines, but these nips may not mean what you think they do. There are a plethora of reasons cats bite, and we'll delve into each one of them.
The Root of the Behavior
Cats rarely bite for no reason. If your cat has been nipping lately, you may want to explore what else is going on in the moments before the bite.
Cats are predatory creatures that practice their hunting instincts by play biting. Unfortunately, play biting is one of the most common causes of cat bites. Biting may happen when humans use their hands for play or when they try to take a toy away from their cat. Play bites can happen even if you aren't actively engaging with your feline. Moving your hands or feet in a way that attracts your cat may trigger their predatory instincts and make them more likely to bite.
Fear can lead some cats to bite. Startling a kitty or waking them up from a deep sleep may cause you to get bitten. This is especially true for cats with poor eyesight or those who are hard of hearing.
Some cats also bite to “groom” their parents. Cats may lick their human several times and then bite their hand, the same way they do when trying to detangle their own fur.
Kittens who are still getting their adult teeth may nibble fingers as a form of relief for sore gums. Cats lose their baby teeth around 11 weeks, and it can take a few weeks before all their adult teeth come in.
Overstimulation may also cause felines to nip their humans. Loud noises, brushing, and rough play are just some of the reasons a cat might experience sensory overload. Experts aren't sure why, but we know that cats are prone to overstimulation when petted on their abdomen.
Remember, no two cats are alike, and what one cat will tolerate might result in a bite from another. Since cats can't speak, biting is a way to tell us that something is uncomfortable.
Encouraging the Behavior
Before you can deal with biting, you must figure out what’s causing it. Different types of feline aggression require different techniques to discourage the behavior. First, let’s discuss play biting.
There are a few ways to deal with play biting. You can stop the play session immediately when your cat starts biting. This will show your cat that you will not continue playtime or condone the behavior if they bite. Alternatively, you could use positive reinforcement like treats when your cat uses only their paws to play.
What about biting due to overstimulation? Avoid overstimulation by not petting your cat in certain zones that lead to biting — like the abdomen. It can also help to watch your cat’s body language when petting or playing. If your cat starts thumping their tail or lowers their ears, it’s probably time to end the session.
If you have a teething kitten, try getting them a chew toy or dental stick to ease their sore gums. There are tons of fascinating kitty chew toys that can prevent you from getting bitten while Fluffy’s adult teeth come in. Eventually, you should be able to phase out the chewies when your kitty is feeling better.
Dealing with fear biting can be tricky and might require some careful observation to see what is triggering Fluffy. Announcing your presence before you approach may prevent fear biting in startled cats — especially those with poor hearing or eyesight. Keeping noise levels down and not making sudden movements may also lower your cat’s stress levels.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Pain can also cause some cats to bite, especially if they are being handled after an injury. If your cat has never bitten before and all of a sudden they are acting strange and biting, it might be time for a check-up.
Never hit or yell at your cat for biting. This can worsen the behavior and possibly injure you or them in the process. If your cat is biting all the time and nothing is helping, you might need to seek out an animal behaviorist for help.
If your kitty’s bite breaks the skin, wash it immediately with a tepid saltwater solution. After washing, dry the wound off and apply an antibacterial ointment to the skin. Keep a bandage over the area until scab forms. If the wound begins to swell or form pus, seek immediate medical attention. This could signal an infection and may require antibiotics.
While biting is definitely a nuisance, there’s usually a reason behind it. Once you figure out why your cat is biting, you can start implementing techniques to hopefully eliminate the behavior. We hope these kitty troubleshooting tips will help you to figure out a resolution to your cat’s biting.