How to Stop a Kitten from Biting

Three Methods:Dealing with Misdirected Play BehaviorControlling Fear-Induced BitingDealing with an Agitated Kitten

To stop a kitten from biting it helps to have an understanding of why she feels the need to attack in the first place. Different animals are driven to bite for different reasons so the key to successful retraining is identifying your kitten’s motivation. Kittens generally bite for three main reasons: she is agitated for some reason, she is caught up in the heat of playing, or she is afraid. With a little patience, however, your kitten can be taught better habits. Scroll down to Step 1 to learn more.

Method 1
Dealing with Misdirected Play Behavior

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    Understand that kittens learn how to play gently from their littermates. A vital part of a kitten’s early life is play with her littermates. It is through bites and scratches from her fellow kittens that she learns what hurts and how to be gentle when she is playing.[1]
    • If a kitten is deprived of this early experience, for example if she is hand-reared, or a lone kitten, then she is less likely to have a concept of what is painful and what isn’t.
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    Be aware that a kitten will chase and bite your feet because she is dealing with her natural hunting instincts. It is a kitten’s natural instinct to chase anything that moves in training for hunting prey (even though she will most likely never have to hunt). As she reaches around twelve weeks of age instinct tells her to bite prey to kill it. Eventually, the scenario arises where she chases moving objects, such as human feet or hands, and then bites them.
    • Unfortunately, the kitten’s behavior can be reinforced by the reaction of her victim. You are bitten and react with fear, it reinforces your young cat’s instinct to chase and bite her quarry.
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    Tire your kitten out by playing games with a toy on a string to keep yourself safe from bites. Kittens are geared for bursts of wild energy and this is when they lose their inhibitions about biting. The trick is to channel this energy safely away from your hands and feet, by getting the kitten to play vigorous games of chase with a toy on a string. Tire her out with the toy while keeping your hands and feet at a safe distance.[2]
    • A kitten can normally play in bursts for 5 to 10 minutes and then she will have to stop and lie down. Only pet her once she is calm again, and then reward this calm behavior with small food treats.
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    Keep your kitten from getting bored as much as possible. When kittens get bored, they build up excess energy that can lead to wild bursts of biting frenzy targeted at your feet. Provide her with plenty of toys and switch up which toys are available for her to play with so that the toys seem new and exciting each time you rotate them.[3]
    • There are lots of automated toys on the market that are battery operated and can be programmed to start moving at certain times, hence catching her attention and keeping her mentally stimulated even when you are out.
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    Stare your kitten down if you do happen to get bit. If you are unfortunate enough to get bitten, do not react with fear because this sends the message that you are prey (which might seem funny since your kitten is tiny, but can lead to more biting problems later on). Instead hold your ground and stare your kitten down. Cats recognize a direct stare as a sign of dominance and it will make her think twice before attacking you again.

Method 2
Controlling Fear-Induced Biting

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    Never cut off your kitten’s escape route. A trapped kitten will feel overwhelmed and bite as a means of defense. If she has gone to ground, leave her be. Pulling her out from under a bed will only intensify feelings of fear and reinforce that she is right to be frightened.[4]
    • If your kitten is hiding because she got scared, place some food or a treat within her reach and leave the room. When she perceives the threat has gone, she will then have a reason to come out that will also reward her ‘bravery’ for coming out of her hiding place.
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    Try to build a relationship between your kitten and children. As odd as this may sound, kittens and children can have a hard time getting along. This is because children have a hard time understanding that kittens don’t always like to be picked up. If your kitten is frightened of children, help her get over these feelings. You can do this by:
    • Feeding the kitten in one half of the room, while the kids sit in the other half of the room and ignore her. Explain to your children that they should never disturb the kitten when she is eating because she might see them as a threat.[5] By learning that the children are not a threat (to herself or to her food), she will gradually view them with less fear and begin to associate them with nice things (like eating food).
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    Ignore your kitten to build her confidence. Cats interpret direct eye contact as a challenge. Thus, an anxious kitten may misinterpret you looking at her as a threat, rather than as affection or concern. To help build your kitten’s confidence[6]:
    • Lie flat on the floor. A human standing up is an intimidating thing for a small animal.
    • Turn your head away from your kitten. If your kitten approaches, do not turn and look, but let her investigate in her own time. This will make her more comfortable with you.
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    Reward ‘brave’ behavior. Positive enforcement of exploratory behavior will help teach the fearful kitten that new experiences can be good. To do this carry a bag of cat treats with you. If you notice the kitten venturing out from behind the sofa, casually drop a treat within her reach so that she associates the big, wide world with nice things like food.

Method 3
Dealing with an Agitated Kitten

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    Understand that redirected aggression is one of the most common reasons for your kitten to be agitated. Redirected aggression is responsible for half the attacks by cats on people[7]. It occurs in kittens when they get frustrated. When a kitten becomes aroused to the point of attack but cannot to do anything about it so she redirects her pent up emotion to the next closest thing. Often this is the person who disturbs her, and she lashes out and bites.
    • For example, if your cat sees a bird out the window but can’t attack because there is a window pane in the way, she may redirect her anger to the next thing that moves or disturbs her, like your foot.
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    Redirect your kitten’s agitation with a toy. When you recognize signs of agitation, you should also try to redirect your kitten’s frustration towards a toy. Once that pent up frustration is channeled in a more appropriate direction, she will become her friendly kitten self once more.
    • Toss your kitten a catnip mouse or get her chasing a toy on a string.
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    Recognize signs that your kitten has become agitated in the future. The key to remaining bite-free is to put some distance between yourself and your kitten when you notice her becoming agitated, frustrated, or scared. Signs that you cat is agitated and may bite include[8]:
    • Flattening ears.
    • A flicking tail.
    • Skin twitches.
    • Wide, staring eyes.
    • Fluffed up coat.
    • Vocalizing low growls.


  • Reward your kitten’s good behavior with small food treats and affection.
  • Never, ever shout at or hit your kitten. This is animal cruelty and should avoided at all costs.
  • Play with your kitten with a toy that is on a string so she does not accidentally bite you while playing.


  • Do not leave small children and kittens alone together because there is a good chance that your child will do something that will frighten the kitten, resulting in a bite.

Sources and Citations

  1. Cat Behavior and Training. Ackermann. Publ: TFH Publications.
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Article Info

Categories: Cat Training