What is the best way to extricate yourself from the “cat bite and grab” in play?

Please tell me in a comment what you think is the best way to get your hand away from your cat who, in play, is sinking his teeth into your hand and has grabbed your hand in his paws as shown in the photos below. Sometimes they also rake your forearm with the claws of their hind legs! We know that cats are reluctant to let go and they can tend to become excited and get too rough, hurting their owner. At this point it needs to stop. How do you do it without incurring any scratches or bites? I have my way and it works 100%.

I realise that some cat owners will never get themselves in this situation. Is that a good thing by the way?

Cat Bite and Grab in Play

Cat Bite and Grab in Play

The best answer gets $40 to spend on Amazon (a winner has been announced as this competition took place in April 2016). I’ll decide what the best answer is but others can support comments in their own comments. This may influence me.

If there are only a few comments then I’ll have to abandon it! Sorry. I’ll decide within around 30 days who the winner is or if it is abandoned.

Update July 29, 2022: I have decided to update this page. As you can see Dee won the $40 prize for her answer which is to relax the hand, don’t force anything and don’t try and force your hand away from your cat while at the same time distracting your cat. You only have to momentarily distract your cat’s attention to provide enough time to release your hand. Using the other hand you can flick something around above your cat’s head. Fast moving objects always attract a cat’s attention as they are programmed to attack prey. They’ll loosen their grip and bingo you are free.

I asked the question whether it’s a good thing for your cat to grab your hand and be unwilling to release it. It is a bad idea because you should not use your hands as a play toy for your cat. For domestic cats, as you know, play is aggressive because it is built around predation. Play for domestic cats is “play-hunting”. And if by offering up your hand as a play toy you encourage your cat to develop a habit of playing with your hand it can be hard to unlearn that habit. Far better to use something else such as a cat tease. The classic cat tease is hard to beat as a toy and they can be home-made. In fact home-made toys are often the best.

The person in the photo below seems to be intent on self-harm and uses their cat to achieve this; not clever and it looks like a mental health issue but I don’t know.

Cat owner allows their cat to extensively bite and scratch their hand

Cat owner allows their cat to extensively bite and scratch their hand. Photo in public domain.

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Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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13 Responses

  1. In the 7 years I’ve had my cat, she’s only done this twice. Once, when I was carrying her back inside, when she was intent on chasing another cat. And another time when she was on her back, and I was rubbing her tummy. Other times, she tries, is when I’m trimming her nails, but now I wear a glove on the “holding” hand, and a long sleeved top.

    I feel lucky that she’s pretty tolerant of my petting and nail trimming.

  2. Dee (Florida) says:

    What always works for me is a small, attention getting distraction. I use one or a combination of snapping my fingers, smacking my lips, or whistling.

    • Michael Broad says:

      Dee, I have decided that you have won the $40 to spend on Amazon for your answer. Distraction combined with a completely passive hand is the best method in my opinion. The distraction is important.

      You’ll need to provide me with a delivery address – email me with that if you wish to receive the prize 😉

      Well done.

  3. Gail / Boston, USA says:

    I haven’t had to resort to any biting issues at home in a very long time; however, working at the shelter, we get grabbed frequently. What works for me (usually) is if it’s a quick, unexpected grab/bite with milliseconds to react, I just quickly blow at the cat’s face, particularly at the nose. That quick motion confuses the cat and it lets go. If the cat looks like it’s about to do it again before I can extricate myself from the situation, a quick low growl (like a momma cat) gets their attention and stops the action.

  4. Ruth (Monty's Mom) says:

    I just let my hand and arm go completely limp and I don’t move at all or make any sound. Monty thinks his “prey” has been killed so he gets bored and is no longer interested. Then I very quickly and purposefully get my hand out of his grasp and out of his sight and as quickly as possible I move away from him. He gives up and looks for something else to do.

    If that does not work, I yell loudly like he’s hurting me, even if he isn’t. That has not been necessary in a long time, but when he was a kitten I would use that trick– pretend he was hurting me a lot even when he wasn’t really, but it would cause him to let go.

    He never really plays too rough now, but I think the trick is to stop the game and extricate yourself before it gets to that point. Any cat can bite or latch on if he gets overstimulated while being petted. But if you stop immediately it will not go on to the point that he hurts you.

    So I guess that is really three answers and I’m cheating: stop playing right away, play dead so that he loses interest and if all else fails pretend he’s hurting you really badly, even if he isn’t.

    • Susan Gort says:

      I use the same tricks. Works well.

    • Michael Broad says:

      Ruth, your answer with Dee’s were the best in my opinion. I decided to award the prize to Dee by a close margin. Many thanks for your excellent comment. Hope u are keeping well.

  5. Arnette says:

    Lightly pinch the cat’s nose, closing the nostrils, will instantly result in the cat opening it’s mouth. No harm done to the cat!

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