Categories: cat bite

Should we play with our cats like kittens do?

It occurred to me that when kittens play they discover the limits of their aggression towards other kittens. They can play quite roughly and if a kitten is bitten too hard she complains with a scream. The kitten who did the biting takes heed of the scream and learns the limits of her aggression during play. You could argue that it is part of the socialisation process.

Kittens social playing. Photograph: Melanie DeFazio/Stocksy United

Humans play with their cats and sometimes it goes wrong because the cat goes a bit too far (perhaps because the human has gone too far) and bites the person’s hand or the arm or some other part of the person’s anatomy. Also petting can lead to feline petting aggression if the petting goes too far or the cat has had enough. It might not be a very hard bite but if the person doesn’t like it perhaps they should scream too.

In other words, it might be a good strategy if the cat’s human caretaker shrieks theatrically like kittens do when bitten. This may achieve two objectives, (1) distracts the cat so they stop biting and loosen their grip and (2) teaches them that they’ve bitten too hard and that you don’t like it.

Picture for illustrative purposes only. This is a cat in play. Photo in public domain.

It is a gentle way of training a cat I would suggest. I do it myself in various ways but I think the key element of this is to make it clear to your cat that you are upset about being bitten and the body language should demonstrate that you are upset as well. Cats can read a person’s body language in my opinion. And I think cats learn from the combination of body language and the theatrical shriek.

It’s just an idea that came to me as a way to train a cat. You might not like it but certain aspects of feline behaviour need to be trained in order to make the animal-human relationship more successful.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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