How to stop a cat from biting

Cats are complex animals with many different behaviors, a variety of vocalizations and specific body language. Learning to understand all of this is key to developing a happy and healthy relationship with your cat, in which both him and yourself feel comfortable and content.

This article will discuss the main reasons for biting and explore possible ways to prevent it.


Whilst many cats are incredibly affectionate and cuddly, we all know someone who has been bitten by a cat. Sometimes the reason for a bite is clear, but other times it can be seemingly unprovoked. As is generally the case with animals, a cat will not really bite for no reason. However, the type of bite that he delivers will vary depending on what he is trying to tell you. Some common reasons for biting are discussed below.

  • Playful nips

New pet owners will likely be familiar with the sharp teeth of their young kittens. The playful and excitable nature of kittens often results in them nipping their owners during enthusiastic play. This is nothing to worry about, so long as it is not encouraged. Toys should be provided to deter the kitten from targeting your hands, but he will generally grow out of this with age.

  • Warning bites

If a cat feels unsafe or is annoyed, he is likely to deliver a stronger bite, serving as a clear warning that you should back off and give him his space. The reason for such a bite should be obvious from the situation. As a responsible pet owner, you should avoid this situation from occurring again, if possible, since it indicates an unhappy and stressed cat. Such bites may occur if you are overly affectionate and demanding cuddles from him; or if you are encroaching his personal space, for example. Additionally, a cat might deliver a warning bite if he is in pain; again, signaling that something is not right.

  • Seemingly unprovoked bites

Cat owners often seem to receive bites ‘out of the blue’ from their pets. In fact, there will always be a trigger behind a bite, even if this is not so apparent to us humans. Most commonly such biting occurs during petting; you might be grooming or cuddling your cat and he seems to be enjoying it, but then suddenly he snaps and tries to bite you. This happens because cats are very particular and there is a fine line between what they enjoy and what, instead, becomes annoying. This is simply in the nature of cats and it is something that you, as a cat owner, will have to learn to understand via body language and communication.

Preventing biting

There are many ways to prevent cats from biting, depending on the nature of the behavior (i.e. why it is happening). It is important to understand, however, that punishment is not a good option. Cats cannot understand and process this as we might intend and so it is ineffective. Instead it is likely to damage your bond, which is detrimental in the long term. Here are some ways to try to overcome problems with cats biting.

  • Read body language

Cats are complex animals and understanding their body language and behavior signals is critical for the development of a stable and healthy relationship. As discussed, it can be difficult because there is a very fine line between them enjoying your attention and affection to it being too much and annoying. However, even in these fast-paced situations, there will always be small warning signals that you should look out for. Common signs of distress in cats include an arched back, body rigidity, a twitchy tail and flattened ears. Signals such as these should indicate to you that your cat is no longer enjoying your affection or feeling comfortable in the given situation; you should give him some space.

  • Provide suitable toys

Particularly with young kittens, providing stimulating toys and allowing them to exercise their natural instinctive behaviors is incredibly valuable. Toys that enable them to chase objects along the floor, catch objects in the air, and grasp objects between their front paws are vital. These can be used when kittens (or cats) are particularly playful, ensuring that their energy is directed towards these behaviors rather than simply biting and scratching your hands.

  • Reinforce good behavior

As with most animals, training involves a lot of positivity and the reinforcement of good behavior. This could include positive play, where a kitten is friendly and playful without using his claws or teeth. And the best methods of reinforcement will depend on your cat. If he is food focused, you can use delicious treats to encourage this behavior. Alternatively, a cuddly, friendly cat may simply prefer strokes or cuddles as a positive reward. Getting to know your cat and understanding what he likes and dislikes will allow you to determine the best and most effective rewards for reinforcing good behavior.

  • Provide coping mechanisms

As mentioned, feelings of stress and anxiety in cats can often trigger unfriendly behavior, such as biting. This may be caused by something small – for example if another cat is spotted in your garden through the window; or something more significant – for example an internal grumble or injury.

Coping mechanisms for smaller triggers are, of course, easier to introduce. Providing a distraction inside, such as toys to play with, should bring your cat’s attention away from what is going on elsewhere, for example. Giving him your time and attention, making him feel comfortable and happy with you, should ensure he is relaxed.

If the trigger is bigger, however, such as an internal upset, short-term coping mechanisms can be provided just to put your cat at ease – this might be as simple as providing additional bedding for comfort. Ultimately, however, the necessary medical help should be sought.


Cats bite for many reasons; reasons which are often misread and misunderstood. Learning to understand the body language of your cat and how best to communicate with him is key to developing a positive and friendly bond. And, once you know the common reasons behind biting, it is generally quite straightforward to provide necessary distractions and implement correct behaviors in order to ensure your cat is happy and, therefore, unlikely to bite.


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