There’s nothing worse than giving your cat a little bit of love, only to get bitten by them. I am confident in saying that not a day goes by without our cat, Kalista, biting us.
For some reason, Kalista has chosen that biting is her favourite form of communication, though I will say the biting has reduced by over 10 fold over the past year of having her.
Although Kalista has been known to take part in a whole lot of biting, none of her bites have ever hurt or drawn blood. This helps let us know as the pet parents that Kalista is not trying to be malicious with her biting. If she was unhappy with us or wanted to hurt us, she could easily draw blood.
Due to the fact that cats have very limited ways to communicate with us, they tend to rely on three modes of communication: biting, meowing and scenting (including, but not limited to, kneading and headbutts).
Thing is, while forms of communication like scenting are always looked at as positive forms of communication, biting can actually be viewed as both positive or negative, similar to meowing. This is why it is very important for a pet parent to discern why exactly the cat is taking part in this behaviour.
Cats have been known to bite their owners in a variety of circumstances including moments of anger, hunger and even moments of happiness and joy. So, how do you tell why it is your cat is biting and how to do you teach your cat to stop biting?
It’s an odd thought to think about your cat feeling more dominant than you, but it’s actually much more common than you’d think it is.
I know it’s an ongoing funny joke that we aren’t the ones who own cats, but instead, it’s our cats who own us, but there is some actual truth to this statement.
Dominant cats will often bite their submissives, taking a firm bite and not letting go. If your cat continues to hold their grip on you instead of playing or cuddling with you, chances are they’re asserting their dominance over you.
In cases of dominance, it is up to the owner whether or not they want to take the steps to change the power dynamic. Some cats may never become submissive as this aspect of cats is heavily related to their personality and life history.
Cats may also show dominance over each other by biting each other’s napes and sometimes even mounting the submissive cat. This behaviour is commonly considered as acceptable, though cats should always be monitored to ensure that neither cats are being hurt.
Our general rules in the Pets Overload household are: if their tails are wagging, they are fine. If ever they yelp, make sure to keep a very close eye on them and if ever their tails stop wagging and/or there’s a lot of yelping make sure to throw a blanket on them.
It is healthy for there to be an Alpha or dominant cat in the household as long as they are not aggressive or abusive to you or any other animal in the household. If you notice any improper behaviour it is important to discourage this behaviour and speak to a vet if there is ever any further concern.
Note: Cats are not great with verbal commands, so using more volume, changing the pitch of your voice or making yourself appear larger will help a cat understand that you are asserting dominance.
YOUR CAT IS HUNGRY
My cats have a schedule for when they are fed. Actually, my cats have a schedule for pretty much everything in their lives. The thing is, sometimes things have to break out of that schedule, just because there are natural fluctuations in day to day life.
This is especially true of Kalista, who is easily distracted by any noises or movement in our apartment. Distractions include: me leaving a room, my partner shuffling, a bird flying by, Beau’s food, the tap dripping, the building’s pipes, the HVAC kicking in, a child talking in the hallway… seriously, do I have to keep on going with the insane list of things that distract Kalista?
If Kalista gets distracted while eating, chances are she’s not going to eat her full meal. She’s going to walk away from the meal. We’ll try to coax her into eating again, but you know cats… they can be stubborn! So, a few hours later, I kid you not… Kalista will be nipping at your legs to get you to feed her.
Kalista will never meow to let us know that she’s hungry, but she’ll always paw at your feet or bite you. As cute as it can be when she rolls over, bites our fingers and licks us, I’m not a huge fan of the biting!
For cats who share a similar form of communication as Kalista, it’s recommended that you pretend to be hurt by the action. Let out a quick “Ow!” and hold the part of the body which your cat bit.
Cats are perceptive and will begin to understand that biting you hurts you or is an unlikable behaviour.
Thing is, you have to make sure that everyone is on board with training the cat. If your cat gets away with biting one family member but is being reprimanded by another family member, your cat will likely not change their behaviour. This is why you have cats like Kalista who are still naughty, even a year later.
YOUR CAT NEEDS YOU TO OPEN THE DOOR
Let’s be honest, who doesn’t love to spoil their cats? My mom who was never a cat person, or an animal person, fell in love with her cat and does everything she can to make him happy. I recently mentioned that my mom used to open the door to her basement so he could hunt for centipedes, well in times where she wasn’t listening he would give her a little nip.
Now, the difference between my mom and me is the fact that anytime any of the cats nip her she overdramatically reacts. It’s like the cats have eaten off her arm or something! So, as you could guess… Walker got out of that behaviour really quick!
Many cats will use biting as a way to let their pet parents know that they need a door open. Whether it’s the door to a room they don’t normally have access to, the front door, the door to the balcony or garden or even the door to your basement so they could run and catch centipedes!
YOUR CAT WANTS TO PLAY
Sometimes we forget to play with our cats and so they try to remind us that they need to play.
You have also probably fallen victim to a cat’s “zoomies” taking place during hours where they aren’t appropriate. I know Beau used to jump at my toes and would bite them at 2 or 3 in the morning. He quickly learned that I wasn’t programmed to be up that early playing.
At times like this, it would be a good idea to get your cat into a routine or play schedule. This will help your cat understand that they will always be played with and will lower the chances of them wanting or begging to play at inappropriate hours.
It would also be a great idea to get yourself some passive toys for your cat. Things like springs,
YOUR CAT NEEDS TO CLEAN THEIR LITTERBOX
Beau is fairly good at letting us know every time he’s pooped or peed. Honestly, this guy gives us a little shout every single time he uses that litter box. It comes in quite handy.
Other cats will stay quiet until things build up and when they need to use the box next, they’ll give you a little bite on your ankle to let you know that the box needs changing! While this can feel like an annoying habit, it does come in fairly handy if you’re having a forgetful kind of day.
YOUR CAT IS OVERSTIMULATED
Ever pet your cat for a few minutes only to have them bite at you? I know my mom has fallen victim to this a number of times with both of our cats.
She absolutely loves petting the cats and they love it too, but they get overstimulated fairly easily. Especially Kalista. If Kalista gets over stimulated expect her to start chewing on your fingers. Beau tends to give a couple of warning fake-outs unless he’s very upset. Then he’ll take one semi-bite.
It is best to learn what your cat’s stimulation points are. Ensure that you are hypersensitive to any other signs that your cat is becoming overly stimulated. Oftentimes cats will show signs that they are not in the mood to be played with or touched before they bite their owners.
YOUR CAT IS TRYING TO GET INFORMATION
When I was visiting my sister, a neighbourhood cat had kittens in her backyard. Since then my sister has adopted one of the kittens.
In the majority of our Skype calls, my sister is always mentioning how Cleo bites at her to get her attention. While it is true that this is how Cleo is trying to get my sister’s attention, it’s also the way that Cleo is trying to get information.
Kittens and cats will bite on objects around the home, as another form of trying to figure out what they are. Is this food? Does this contain food? Does this feel good on my gums? Do I like the feeling of sinking my teeth into this?
In circumstances where cats are biting you to gain information about you, it is best to react as if the interaction really hurt. This will help the cat understand that biting is a behaviour that you do not appreciate. However, it is important that you are consistent. You must react negatively every time your cat bites you, even if they are doing it playfully or because you think it is cute. As mentioned, this is the main reason we haven’t gotten Kalista to fully stop biting us, because both of us give in to her cute face.
YOUR CAT IS TEETHING AND HAS SORE GUMS
Just like us, cats have baby teeth and when those baby teeth get pushed out by those big adult teeth our cats’ gums get sore. Cats who have sore gums will require a few chew toys to help with the ache, similar to a pacifier.
Chew toys can be frozen or just given to a kitten, though a kitten should be monitored as they have been known to destroy chew toys.
YOUR CAT HAS DENTAL DISEASE
It’s shocking how many cats experience dental disease by the age of 3. Diseases like gingivitis will cause a cat to have swollen gums, similar to teething.
Dental disease may require a vet to clean your cat’s teeth or if extreme enough will require a tooth pulling.
To prevent dental disease it is recommended that you brush your cat’s teeth with cat-specific toothpaste and provide toys to help maintain dental health.
Note that each cat is different. Even if cats are fed the same type of food and are the same age they may or may not develop a dental disease based on their genetics and circumstance. There are a number of variables that come into play when it comes to dental disease.
DON’T USE YOUR BODY TO PLAY WITH YOUR CAT
It’s so easy to play with your cat just by tapping onto the floor or by playing with our toes. Thing is, this teaches a cat that our body is a toy, which means that you’re going to get a whole lot of biting.
It is best to only use toys to play with your cat or using your body behind a blanket.
OTHER TIPS TO TRAINING YOUR CAT NOT TO BITE
Cats don’t all respond in the same way when training is implemented and thus some training is unsuccessful simply due to the fact that the approach was not received well.
If a cat is trying to bite you to get you to respond in some manner, whether it be positive or negative, it is better to ignore them to help solidify that their behaviour doesn’t get you to react. This will help make it clear to your cat that you do not appreciate this behaviour.
On some occasions, cats will use multiple methods to communicate the same thing to you. For example, they may try to rub their heads against you at first, then they may rub their whole body against you, and then they might choose to bite you. If they do something like this, always encourage the behaviours that they do that you like by petting them or giving them what they want immediately. This will help your cat associate the action you like to the response you want them to give you.
It is extremely important that you do not yell at or physically hurt your cat when they are acting aggressively towards you. Doing such will often escalate the situation and will, in turn, give you the opposite result of what you want.
Similarly, be sparing about how much you yell at or spray your cat with water. Methods of training like this may cause cats to feel uneasy or unwilling to let you know when they need something. This will also result in a cat who hides for the majority of the day.
At the end of the day, cats tend to bite their owners as a form of communication, usually letting their owners know that they are in need of something.
Although this is the chosen form of communication, cats can be trained out of biting their owners. Cats should be rewarded for their good behaviour and reprimanded with training words or sounds. This will help your cat understand what is considered acceptable behaviour and what is considered inappropriate.
It is recommended that you speak to a vet or a behavioural specialist if you are concerned with the way that your cat is behaving or if you are concerned with the dynamics your pets have with one another. Your vet will be able to recommend practices you can use to resolve the issue.
While it can be cute when your cat chews on your fingers or nips at your leg when they are hungry, it’s extremely important that you stay consistent with training. This means making sure that everyone is on board with training out the same behaviours. If your cat realizes that their behaviour is acceptable with one person, there is a high chance that they will continue to exhibit this behaviour with others.
The most important thing is to understand what it is your cat wants from you so you can provide it for your cat before they ask you. This will be the easiest and fastest solution to the majority of biting problems.
So, pet parents, I’m curious. Is your cat a biter? Why do they bite you? Let me know in the comments below!