It is normal for cats and kittens to bite and scratch. If a cat is frightened or feels threatened, it will naturally try to defend itself. If you touch your cat in a sensitive area, you may be bitten or scratched as a way of telling you to "quit it."
There is a very fine line between pleasurable petting and irritating handling. When your cat has had enough, the only way it knows how to say "stop it," is with its claws or teeth. Cats and kittens will also scratch and bite when they are playing and acting out their hunting instincts.
How to Teach Your Kitten to Stop Biting and Scratching
Teach your kitten to enjoy being touched and handled so it doesn't feel threatened, defensive or irritated. Start the lessons when your kitten is relaxed.
- Begin by handling the kitten in pleasurable ways such as scratching behind its ears or stroking the top of its head.
- Gradually lengthen the strokes to include more of the kitten's body.
- Stroke down the back, down hind legs, tail, and along the side of the kitten's body. See if your kitten will roll onto its side or completely roll over to accept a tummy rub.
- Use plenty of praise, reassurance and an occasional food treat.
- Work slowly and gradually increase the area of the body that may be stroked.
With one short handling session you will be able to locate your kitten's sensitive spots that may require additional attention. Usually these areas are the mouth, paws, ears and tail. When working around these sensitive areas, touch your kitten for just one second and immediately reward with a favorite food treat. Then touch your kitten for two seconds. Gradually increase the time of contact required for a food treat. Your kitten will learn to happily tolerate prolonged contact in these areas.
Gently take hold of your kitten's paw and scratch behind its ear, then give a treat. Then let go and ignore your kitten for a while. Repeat this routine several times. Your kitten will soon look forward to having its paw held. Carefully try to spread the toes. Continually praise and stroke your kitten with your other hand as long as the kitten appears relaxed. Examine each toe and nail.
Facing your cat, scratch behind its ear with your fingers and use your thumb to gently fold back the ear to examine inside. Similarly, when examining your kitten's mouth, continue scratching behind the ear and with your thumb, gently flip up the upper lip to expose the teeth.
Work slowly and gently, always reward and praise your kitten for good behavior.
Cats are predators. Even though you provide your kitten with all its meals, its hunting instinct still exists. It is normal for cats to continually practice and fine-tune their hunting skills. Therefore, it is essential that you provide an outlet for this behavior or your kitten will practice on you!
Three 15-minute play sessions a day will give your kitten enough opportunity to vent its energy. Make these sessions active and fun. Tie a toy to a length of string. Drag it in front of your kitten, alternating between slow pulls and sudden jerks. Let your kitten stalk and play-attack its toys instead of you.
If your kitten becomes overly excited, tone down the play session. Do not resume until your kitten has calmed down. If your kitten begins to bite or scratch you, immediately cry "OUCH," stop the play session, walk away and ignore your feline. Curtailing a play session is an extremely potent punishment. Your kitten will soon learn that its rough behavior causes the abrupt end of an enjoyable play session.
If your kitten attacks you in play, encourage an "attack" when you are prepared with a plant sprayer. A few repetitions of an attack that results in a squirt of water will convince your kitten to attack its own toys instead of you.
If you have questions about training your kitten, feel free to call us at (978) 453-1784.