Stopping A Cat Biting You

We are reliably told by cat behaviorists that to stop a cat biting you, you should train her when she is a kitten by immediately and gently tapping her on the nose and saying in a firm voice, “No” after she has bitten you. When she grows up she won’t bite you. The idea is to send a clear-cut message to your young cat that your hands or yourself are not an acceptable target for a cat bite.

Stopping a cat biting you
This was a bit of play. Photo by pat00139. The scratches were the admitted fault of the photographer. Sensible bloke.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

I have read this before a number of times. And I’ll be honest with you, I have no idea what this technique is based on. If you want to train a cat to do something it has to have its foundations in wild cat behavior. That is natural cat behavior. The motivation for not biting has to come from some sort of natural situation that occurs in the wild. And in the wild a mother cat would never try and train a cub to not bite. Certainly not by a tap on the nose and meowing “No”. Quite the contrary. In any case, kittens learn how hard to bite when playing each other. Biting is very natural for a cat and is nearly always in play. If she bites you hard it is because you have played too hard.

The technique is a rebuke and a mild form of punishment. I don’t think a cat understands any form of punishment because the whole concept of punishment is a based around human behavior and cognizance. However, cats do understand when their owner is unhappy with an aspect of their behavior. This does not have to be punishment but using a voice which indicates annoyance combined with appropriate behavior can work.

For me the best way to stop your cat biting you is to neither encourage your cat to bite you nor put your hand or another part of your anatomy in a position and under circumstances where she might bite you. In short, it is down to us to behave in a way that precludes the cat bite.

It is about (but not 100%) as simple as that and it has always served me well. I have never been bitten other than as a gentle love bite until recently as about four years ago I adopted a kitten who was raised feral by his mom. I domesticated and socialised him but he retained a desire to attack from time to time but rarely. I have trained it out of him by both positive reinforcement and by making it clear that it is unwanted. I explain how I did it (crudely if I am honest) on this page.

The identical rules and common sense applies to getting scratched by your cat. It should never happen. There may be exceptional occasions under emergency conditions when a person may be scratched. But this will be the rare exception. In day to day interactions with a cat neither a bite nor a scratch should ever happen.

One other situation where a person may be bitten is when handling a feral cat. Once again it is down the person handling the cat. If a cat is feral you treat the cat with the respect it deserves. Care should be taken and precautions put in place – common sense again and no punishment not event a tap on the nose and a firm “No”.

Original photo on Flickr

17 thoughts on “Stopping A Cat Biting You”

  1. I have a female black kitten..she is a 10 old bobtail kitten. I’m new to cats/kittens..I already have a corgi male dog whos 7 years old. I thought that getting a kitten would be better for our household, than another puppy/dog. Anyway, I don’t know if there’s a big difference BTW a bobtail kitten & any other kittens? & what can I do to get her from biting me around my face area,plus a lick with each bite, lol. Than she takes those bites & licks to my neck area, my arms also. No matter where I’m at she will jump off the floor up in the air for me I think to catch her or hold her. She wants everything I eat & she does this to any and everyone that comes over..this isn’t what I wanted.. But I read a lot and want to learn to show her love, but no matter what I do she’s not having it..I’ve tried a rolled up news paper don’t work..she’s not afraid of anything.. I tried to tap her nose, that’s not good, that pissted her off even more so..I do understand not to do that.. So please help us, I want to keep her for life..oh yes I forgot since bringing her home she keeps her nail out, no matter what’s going on, she is constantly hunting in the house, lol..I do realize she a kitten on her way to be a full grown cat one day, and a lot of things she do is her nature.. But her nature is not good for me or my dog. Please help, I love her wild crazy self, lol.

    • Hi Linda. Thanks for commenting. There is no difference between a bobtailed kitten and a kitten with a tail in terms of the behavior you have described.

      Your cat is showing affection. She has formed the habit with your assistance (no criticism meant) to show her affection through licking and biting (love bite) your neck area and arms. The way forward is to retrain her. In effect she has been trained to do this. Training should be by positive reinforcement only. Never use punishment as a means to train your cat.

      This habit will subside anyway as she becomes more adult. It is a more a baby thing to play bite and lick. Adult cats do this less in my view.

      What I’ll do it is convert your comment to an article and invite comments from experienced cat caretakers to help you get through this phase.

  2. Michael, I think any kind of “negative” training is not at all appropriate for ANY species- We don’t want our kitties (or any other animal in fact) to learn through fear. Tapping – even with the lightest touch- is not appropriate. The cat’s nose is incredibly sensitive, and I feel strongly that causing any pain erodes the cat’s trust of their human.

    Some “unenlightend” people use their hands as toys for kitties and play roughly – which is also very inappropriate.

    Years ago I had a lovely ebony-smoke oriental named Gremlin- she had a habit of nipping at my ankles when she was hungry. This behavior may have been reinforced by the breeder- who knows. I simply ignored it- because I think that paying attention to the behavior only reinforces it- and just walked away and did NOT feed her at that time. I would wait about 15 minutes or so before I gave her any food- (certainly she would not starve to death), and eventually- repeating this pattern, she stopped doing it.

    Ignore is a powerful tool- and no one gets hurt. Just my humble opinion. GREAT post.


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