I wrote an article titled, How To Properly Feed A Weaned Kitten
a few weeks ago for AC. I told about a stray kitten that I adopted, and how I was feeding it so she’ll grow up to be a healthy cat. Soon after I adopted my cuddly little ball of fur, she turned into a biting, aggressive small monster. After a few days of bite marks and scratches on my flesh, I knew I had to figure out how to cure a kitten’s biting and attacking.
Kittens aren’t normally aggressive animals unless someone has played rough with them and taught them to be mean. My little Jasmine isn’t mean. She just had a tendency to play rough…too rough. When I say she “bites us”, she doesn’t even break the skin. However, this type of behavior is still unacceptable, and it’s painful!
One of her favorite activities is what I call, “Sneak Attack On the Humans in the House.” When Jasmine hears a human approaching, she hides behind the nearest door or piece of furniture. Then, when the human enters the room, or walks by, she jumps out with with her paws in the air and wraps herself around the human ankle. If we have long pants on, which is rare in the the hot summer months of Ohio, we respond to the attack with a laugh and a playful gesture back to her. But, if we have shorts on, which is the family’s normal attire, the attack often produces painful screeches from the human victim.
According to the experts, biting, scratching, or performing sneak attacks on their human owners goes back to a kitten’s natural predatory instincts. For their own survival, kittens have a built-in desire to hunt. When a kitten is kept inside the house all the time, like Jasmine is, they don’t have the opportunity to hunt natural prey. Therefore, other moving targets like humans become their “prey.”
Play Aggression, as it’s commonly referred to, is normal in kittens. When a kitten doesn’t have at least one feline sibling to play with, it plays with its human companions instead. However, sometimes they don’t realize how their little milk teeth can jab like needles into a human’s skin. And, their claws, although small, are sharp as well.
So, to cure a kitten’s biting and aggressive attacking we’ve employed a few successful tactics:
1. The Spray Bottle
We have a small spray bottle I bought at the Dollar Store years ago. The bottle contains plain, old tap water. It’s used when my adult cats do something wrong and refuse to take “No!” for an answer. If they jump up on the dining room table, for example, and just stand there looking clueless, despite my screaming at them.
I found out that The Spray Bottle is also an effective cure at making Jasmine stop biting and scratching too. It gives her a sense of a “time out.” Because, once I tell her to stop biting/scratching, and she refuses, I reinforce my command with a squirt of the bottle.
Jasmine then immediately stops her aggressive behavior, and she high tails it to a safer place in the house. One where the spray bottle and I are NOT located at.
2. The Nose Hold
A friend of mine who has taken in stray cats for years, taught me this cure several cats ago. Recently, when I was wracking my brain about how to teach Jasmine not to be so aggressive, I remembered this tip: whenever a kitten bites, or sets their teeth on you, place your forefinger gently over their nose. They don’t usually like this, so they’ll let go a lot of the time. If they’re biting your fingers, use your thumb to cover their nose instead.
This tip has worked for Jasmine as well. She likes to bite at my fingers. But, she hates it when I cover her little nose.
3. Provide Plenty of Toys
Jasmine has plenty of store-bought toys to keep her occupied and entertained. She also has toy mice that she can work her aggressive playfulness out on.
While kittens normally love the toys you can buy, they also love homemade toys. Sometimes, Jasmine, as well as the other cats, play with homemade things more. Jasmine has a “cat condo” that she absolutely loves. (Find out how to build one here.)
She also loves to play with rattly paper bags, shoestrings, feathers, empty plastic bottles, (the smaller ones), and ping pong balls.
4. Time Outs Aren’t Just For Kids
Jasmine has a large cardboard box that she sleeps in at night. I cover it with a window screen to keep her corralled at night. That way, I’m not waking up with a playful, aggressive kitten jumping on my head in the middle of the night.
I’ve found that, when she gets tired and sleepy from playing, Jasmine becomes even more aggressive. It’s similar to a child battling fatigue and the need for a nap. So, when nothing else seems to cure her biting and attacking, I simply place her in her cardboard box for a “time out.” She meows and resists at first, but after a few minutes, she finally settles down and takes a needed nap.
When I turn her loose again, Jasmine is much calmer and more loving.
When kittens become adult cats, their biting and aggressive attacking behavior usually tends to calm down. Unless you promote this type of behavior, that is. If you often play rough with your kitten, he or she will keep this behavior up well into their adult years.
But, to cure a kitten’s biting and aggressive attacking, all you normally need to do is to give them some diversions like toys, and gently teach them that this type of nasty behavior is not okay.
If your kitten doesn’t respond to these cures, you can talk to your veterinarian about recommendations he or she has. Or, you can contact an animal behaviorist for further advice.