11/7/2013: Cats biting the hand that feeds
A friend of mine has a kitten named Zorro that has taken to biting her. This behaviour is obviously something that owners want to deter early on before it becomes a learned behaviour. This behaviour can be very common in kittens that were raised without any siblings. They don't get bitten back during play time and learn how much it can hurt to be bitten, nor get to act our their natural instinct to play with siblings so decide to use our hands/feet instead.
It's important to remember that every cat is different and not everything will work for everyone but here are some tips that may help:
- The most important thing to know is that punishing cats never works, if they are doing something wrong you need to distract them with something else or remove them from the situation completely. e.g. if you are patting your kitten and it starts biting simply place the cat somewhere else (e.g. bathroom and stop patting them i.e. stop rewarding them).
- Reward them for good behaviour - as you are patting them and they are behaving well i.e. not biting, reward them with words 'good Zorro' or if they respond to food then reward them with treats.
- Never play games with your cat using your hands, if you are pretending to 'stalk' the cat with your hands of course they will pounce and bite. As mentioned above kittens will naturally play out these games with their siblings, if there are no other cats around they will use your hands instead.
- Provide plenty of toys that they can act out these natural instincts to play and pounce and bite with. Soft toys that are the same size as them can represent siblings, balls they can chase, the fish on the end of string is good as it keeps your hands well away from the cat.
- If possible you can foster kittens/have visits with your friends kittens whilst your cat is growing up, as long as you know the vaccination history of all cats it is safe to do this and your cat can act out all of these play behaviours with another kitten instead of your hand.
Consistency is key, ensure everyone in the household is training/treating the cat in the same way or else the cat will get confused with what it a desired behaviour and what is an unwanted behaviour based on what its encouraged to do.
If you are still experiencing problems then feel free to phone us at the hospital and book an appointment with a vet/nurse to help you and your kitten work through this behavioural problem.