Kittens are some of the world’s cutest yet most ferocious predators. They are natural hunters who love to show their playful dominance by chasing, pouncing, and biting their prey. Kittens are basically incredibly hyper, mini, jungle cats who seek to let out their excitement by biting. It’s just a part of their nature. But how does one calm a kitten down and avoid an unwanted bite or chomp from this pint-sized predator?
Before we get ahead of ourselves, we should understand that biting, especially play biting, is an essential part of a kitten’s early developmental stage. Kittens, just like babies, go through a teething phase, so if your kitten is going around biting things such as your furniture, they’re using their teeth to explore the world around them. In a litter, kittens and their siblings use play biting to communicate with each other and their mother. Now that you’ve adopted a kitten, they’ll have the same tendency to do that with you. While you should definitely promote play biting, using your hands or feet as targets is a big no-no! Trust us, you don’t want that behavior to continue in adulthood. Adult cat bites hurt a lot more! Luckily, it’s fairly easy to train a kitten to stop biting you and other humans.
Here are some tips on how to get kittens to stop biting you and start nibbling on something else!
Use Your Voice
Picture this: you’re sitting at your desk reading a PrettyLitter article about how to celebrate National Cat Day with your brand new kitten on your lap. You’re absentmindedly petting them when all of a sudden they get overstimulated and bite your fingers. OUCH!
The first thing you should do is let out a short, loud noise like “ow!” or “sss” to let the cat know (like a mother cat would) when you’re upset. Using your voice is important in training your kitten when a love bite has gone too far. Make sure it's not an overwhelming sound by making it as short and curt as possible. Your kitten will begin to take the hint that their biting bothers you. Also, not showing aggression after being bitten is one answer to how to calm a kitten down.
Remove Yourself From the Equation
Next, you should slowly remove your hand from their grasp. Do it as slowly and as non-threateningly as possible to prevent another playful pounce from your little predator. An overly excited kitten may misinterpret a quick removal of your hand as you wanting to continue to play with them which will probably trigger them in trying to “attack” you again.
Redirect Their Focus
This next step is very important. Place them on the floor facing away from you and redirect their attention with an alternative to your hands. Wand toys and laser pointers are truly ideal for this situation. Using these toys as alternatives are a great way for you to pawsitively reinforce the idea of “toys, not hands” while releasing their instinctively playful hunting energy in a healthy way. And a laser game pointer for cats is one way of preventing them from damaging your other belongings. If not a laser pointer, a chew toy is a great alternative because they at least have something they can sink their teeth into.
Reward Good Behavior
Cats of all shapes, sizes, breeds, and ages are only able to learn right from wrong with pawsitive reinforcements. They’re unable to understand punishment for bad or unwanted behavior. Rewarding good behavior by speaking in a soft voice, and saying things like “good job” are a great first step but giving them treats when they hunt the right prey goes a long way. Rewarding them after playtime is also very important for their developmental growth.
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Remember To Be Consistent
For them to learn that they shouldn’t bite your hands, fingers, toes, or ankles you’ll have to show consistency by playing with their appropriate toys. Consistency is key because they’ll eventually understand that biting you isn’t okay and, in turn, this behavior won’t linger into their adulthood.
Schedule Daily Playtime
Consistency and routine go hand in hand and a daily playtime routine is important for your teething kitten. Scheduling playtime with them for at least 20 minutes, two or three times a day promotes an essential bonding time between the two of you. Recognizing you as a family member will make them happier and more relaxed at home. Recurring daily playtime will also help lower excessive energy in an overly hyper kitten.
Make Sure They’re Healthy
There's a difference between rough play and feral behavior. If you believe your kitten is acting unusually aggressive and the biting (or scratching) continues, seek professional help. Underlying medical issues or pain can cause hostility in cats, making them more likely to attack. Unusual biting behavior may be a symptom of an underlying problem.
Make a Kitten Safe Space
Making sure your kitten’s environment is a safe space for them with all of the resources they need (ie: food, water, scratching posts, litter boxes, places to hide) will greatly calm them down if they’re biting out of stress and anxiety. This is especially true when you've adopted a stray. Allowing the new kitten time to adjust to your home is another form of positive reinforcement.
Raising a young cat is an enjoyable, fun, and exciting time in our lives as cat parents! It doesn’t have to be painful or annoying if they turn out to be a habitual biter. Always remember to schedule playtime with them and give them a variety of toys to curb unwanted behavior. Your kitten will learn that people are friends, not food! We know that playtime can sure work up an appetite and it’s important to provide your kitten with healthy food they’ll love. PrettyPlease, our ultra-premium nutrient-rich cat food, has everything your kitten needs to feel their best.