I bite. You have been warned. (Madeline, sister cat of Milo Fwancis)
Hi! It’s me, Milo Fwancis again. Today, I feel like I need to talk to you about a much-misunderstood cat communication tool: biting.
Yes, when cats bite, we are trying to tell you something! Not that I ever bite, of course! But other cats do bite because of instinct. I am an expert, so let me tell you more about how you can stop your cat from biting while playing.
Jeff (my human) is brilliant (who else could have thought up such as great concept as the ScratchLadder?), but even he is confused when my sister kitty, Madeline, bites unprovoked and out of nowhere.
Well, Jeff, sometimes biting is entirely justified!
For many, there is an exceptionally fine line between an enjoyable petting session and irritable handling. You humans may find it hard to understand. That bite did not come out of nowhere – you crossed a line.
A cat loves to use ‘bites’ as a communication tool– it is like a quick shoutout to us.
Why is my cat biting me?
I am glad you ask. We love you, humans (as much as the next dog), but we are different. We are not like dogs who can tolerate, say, infinite petting. (Eye-roll.)
There comes a time in every good petting session when some of us have had enough. (I must confess, some of us are more stroke-tolerant than others.)
Here is why we bite in a nutshell:
Typically, a cat who bites loves to use it as a communication tool because it is a significant warning. A quick nip, and it is all over. We don’t mean harm, and we just want you to understand us better.
However, there are some of my feline friends who might bite out of aggression. We will also give you some other signs if we are getting outraged: we might spit, hiss and arch our backs.
Why do we do this?
Sometimes we must! My territory is my territory, and sometimes I am forced to defend it. If it means that I must bite another cat (or dog), I will do so.
Sadly, some of us are aggressive because we may have been abused in the past We are frightened, and therefore we bite. (I know most of you love us, and I thank you for it.)
Cats bite when they play. Sorry, guys, they just can’t help it. It is part of their instinct.
Hey, we all had to start somewhere! Kittens bite, bunny-kick, and dive on things because they are playing. Just like you humans, kittens learn by playing. In effect, they are practicing for the big day when they must hunt for prey.
Don’t discourage a kitten from biting – again, it is that inherent call – they just can't help it. You can try to channel their energy to more appropriate biting objects, however.
(Hey, here’s an interesting inside-information fact – right from your favorite cat’s mouth: When littermates play, they actually teach each other gently biting. If one sibling bites the other too hard, the offended kitten will bite back or refuse to play any longer. In time, the first biter will learn what is acceptable and what not.)
How to stop your cat from biting you
Cat body language
The longer you have your cat, the more you are able to read your cat's body language. It is usually not that hard to see a bite coming. It is up to you to respect the message we are trying to send you. If you do, you most probably won’t get bitten again.
Let us do our own thing for a while. If you insist on further affection, we must tell (read ‘bite’) you again. It is our way of saying, ‘That’s enough!’
Tips and tricks
Here are some tips and tricks that might stop a cat from biting. As I said before, a cat loves a good bite to get a message across, but we can be discouraged from biting.
You can praise your cat for gentle play. If your cat uses only its paws (no teeth or claws!) for playing, reward it with plenty of hugs, kisses, or a treat. Some of us will get your message.
Give us toys! Yeah! Toys that I can bite and claw to my heart's delight will diffuse some of my natural hunting instinct and make me more docile when I play with you. Jeff and I usually don’t have a problem with the toy thing, because I’ve got a ScratchLadder, remember?
(That purple mouse at the top of my ladder is just so irritating! I love to bite him right in the middle of his chubby little body. Hard. It feels great, so sometimes I do it again. Just because I can.)
If you are playing with your cat and use a toy, try to keep the toy between your hands and their mouth. A wand toy can be great for keeping a playing cat, well, at arm's length. Move the wand like it is a prey – I can promise you, it is irresistible to most of us.
An aggressive cat: It might be hard to help one of us with anger issues to stop biting. You can try to reinforce good behavior with treats. Never hit us! Unfortunately, we won’t understand what you are trying to do. If you retaliate with more anger, it will only confuse us and make us bite you more.
Just tell a cat who loves to bite ‘No!’ If your cat grabs one of your body parts, firmly tell it 'no' and stop playing. Playtime is over. If your cat is as intelligent as me (I must admit, few are), it will quickly learn the concept. Biting equals 'fun over.' Remember, no yelling or hitting.
Kittens: Toes and hands are off-limits! Never give your kitten the impression that biting is ok. Again, provide it with plenty of toys to bite, scratch, and jump on. (Jeff, do you think we can mention the ScratchLadder again? Is it too soon? It is so great for kitten training!)
In fact, if you teach those young ones early in their social life that biting humans is unacceptable, they might never do it again.
Do you know how humans sometimes say prevention is better than cure? Another way to stop your cat from biting you is to be ready with an appropriate teaching response.
Say your kitten dives on your hands while you are typing on a keyboard. If you decide beforehand what you are going to do, you can use the cat’s behavior as a teaching moment.
Firmly say ‘no’ and remove your hands. Then, throw an appropriate toy in another direction. If your kitty runs after it and attacks it, lavish it with praise. (Preferably, give a treat, too. Jeff?)
I am such an overflowing well of wisdom today. It has been fun chatting with you about biting. I hope you understand a bit better now.
I, of course, never bite. Except when I am playing on my ScratchLadder. Who could resist? Have I mentioned that little disgusting purple critter yet?
I think it is time for a nap. I am going to leave you with a very last nugget of insight about biting.
Don’t pull away if you can help it!
Sounds impossible? Well, if you can practice to instead push into your cat gently, it will confuse the poor thing. See, our prey does not act like that.
If a human pulls away from a bite, it is like prey trying to get away. What would my friends and I do? Bite harder, of course. If you do the opposite and push, your cat will most likely let go.
Until next time!
Milo Fwancis the Cat