Cats have a reputation for being independent pets that do not need a lot of supervision or interactive care. Unfortunately, this information is slightly misleading because cats want and need to interact with their human companions.
Normal play for a cat or kitten often involves stalking, pouncing and biting their playmate. If that playmate is human, this can result in a lot of scratches and bites that tear tender skin. Understanding the reason behind why cats bite, whether out of aggression or play, will go a long way to helping people be able to prevent the behavior in the future.
Different Types of Bites
The answer to “Why do Cats Bite?” can have several answers. Cats can and do bite out of true aggression when they have been provoked enough. However, they bite out of innocent play more often, which leads to their behavior being misunderstood. Cats will also often give a gentle warning bite to signal that they have had enough of whatever the owner is doing, whether that is petting, brushing, or holding them. All of these bites need to be addressed in different ways, which makes it important to know exactly what is triggering the unwanted behavior.
Serious aggression will often be prefaced with some clear warning signs that the cat’s behavior is about to escalate to a physical level. A twitching tail, flattened ears, and growling and hissing are definite signs that a cat is irritated. If possible, the handler should cease whatever action has caused this reaction in the cat. An angry bite is almost guaranteed to follow the warning signs, and they should be heeded as soon as reasonably possible for the safety of the handler.
Any owner that thinks their cat has a true aggression issue should seek the help of a professional trainer. A trainer that is used to dealing with aggressive behavior in animals will be able to offer the proper techniques and methods dealing with the behavior. Once the reason behind the aggression is addressed, the cat is much more likely to become a happier and friendlier member of the household.
Inappropriate Play Biting
Play biting is more often a problem with young kittens that have not learned the proper way to interact and play with their owner. If this behavior is not corrected while they are young, it will continue to be a problem as the cat gets older and matures into adulthood. The stalking and pouncing behavior is often considered adorable during the kitten stage and is rarely corrected and redirected to an appropriate toy. A cat has natural instincts that include stalking and “capturing” moving prey. Unfortunately, without any real prey to stalk they are forced to become creative and often turn to their primary playmate as an unwilling participant in their game. When their playmate happens to be an unsuspecting human, the game commonly ends with the human receiving one or more playful cat bites.
Playful biting can and should be addressed as young as possible to encourage proper interaction between the cat and the owner. There are several easy ways to correct inappropriate play and to encourage good behavior with your cat. Providing a variety of toys will entice the cat to stalk and attack something besides its owner’s hands and feet. Offering different objects and items that are new and interesting will help satisfy the cat’s natural curiosity. Spend at least ten minutes at a time twice a day playing and interacting with the cat to expend some of its energy. A cat that has less energy is less likely to randomly attack ankles as a person walks by
Never encourage the kitten or cat to play with your hands. It is often considered cute when a tiny kitten stalks and attacks its owner’s hands. Unfortunately, this will lead to the exact same behavior when the cat is an adult because it has learned that hands are appropriate toys. End the play time immediately if the cat decides on its own to play with your hands. The best way to end the interaction is to make a harsh negative sound and calmly walk away. Never use physical punishment as this will only encourage a repeat attack.
Learning the different types of cat bites and how to discourage them will create a happier pet and owner as well as help promote a healthier relationship between the two. Cats have their own body language and instincts, and their owners will understand any inappropriate behavior better by learning how to pick up on the subtle communications.