Some people may think playful kitten nips are cute…but it’s not so cute when they get older and the bite lands you in the hospital with a nasty infection. Cats, especially kittens, need to hunt/play but some may not have been taught what are appropriate play objects and what are not.
You can help prevent play aggression by using a teaser toy or wand toy when playing instead of using your hands. By using your hands, you are teaching your cat that your hands are play objects and they will nip or chew on your hands when they feel the need to hunt/play. Remember, in play aggression, your cat is not trying to hurt you, he is just doing what comes naturally. Your job is to give him an outlet for his play drive-with appropriate toys
If your cat is already exhibiting play aggression by biting your hands or feet, here are some tips to stop the nipping!
What NOT to do:
NEVER use physical harm if they bite or scratch you. A cat can be seriously hurt by those actions, and will become frightened of you because he sees you as aggressive. The cat may also start biting more because he will see your hand and be afraid that you will hit him again. Squirting cats with water is also not effective. Although it may stop the biting momentarily, chances are you will just end up with a wet cat, and your cat will not learn what to do when the need to play arises again.
Simple behavior modification along with redirecting the play urge to more appropriate objects will work. And in some cases, it works in just a few days.
- For most kittens and cats, just giving a loud “ouch” is all that’s needed. If he nips at your hand or foot, try not to move your hand away-your cat will see it as prey and continue to chase it. Instead, just keep your hand still…it is no fun chasing a dead object.
- If the “ouch” doesn’t work, then a “walk away” time out is the next step. Simply walk away from the cat or kitten, after yelling “Ouch!”, and ignore your cat for several minutes. By walking away, you are teaching your cat that he will not get rewarded for biting.
- If your cat follows you and nips at your feet, then the next step is a true time out. Again, yell “ouch” and put your cat in another room behind a closed door. Don’t scold or direct any anger toward the cat; do it calmly with a matter-of-fact attitude. The room needs to have cat toys in it so that your cat will have something to direct his exert onto. By giving him toys, you are training your cat that toys are acceptable and hands and feet are not. Your cat will always have a prey drive so you must give him an alternative substitute. By giving your cat toys while he is in the hunting mood, he will learn that toys are great to hunt. If you don’t supply alternative “prey”, he will most likely continue to hunt you once he comes out of the room. Ten(10) minutes is an appropriate length of time for a time-out.
- You will also need to redirect your cat to toys whenever you see him in a playful mood. If you notice him stalking you or if he is hunkered down with the wriggly butt, grab a toy and toss him a toy. By giving him a toy before he touches you, he is learning to find toys when he feels the need to hunt.
- Scheduling a routine play session once or twice a day will also help your cat learn to enjoy toys…plus you will find it fun too!!
Remember, be consistent with the above techniques and it will work!
Article authored by Katie Tontala, CFMT