Young kittens, particularly kittens that have been taken from their litter at a very young age may be prone to excessive biting and scratching.
Most kittens will grow out of this as they grow up but there are plenty of things you can do right now to discourage this behaviour.
Reasons Why Your Kitten May Scratch & Bite You
Although often it may feel like your cat has bitten or scratched you for absolutely no reason this is rarely the case.
Cats behave instinctively so in order to prevent your cat from hurting you it is important to understand their instincts, what drives them and how to manage their behaviour appropriately.
They Are Predatory Animals
Cats are prolific predators who love nothing more than a good hunt.
Hunting is part of their DNA.
If you stroke them and then they scratch you it is instinctive to withdraw your hand.
However doing this stimulates their hunting instinct as it is similar to injured prey seeking to escape.
They will therefore often pursue the hand and attempt to bite or scratch it again.
Read on for some tips on how to avoid encouraging this behaviour.
They May Have Been Taken Away From Their Litter Too Early
If you notice that your kitten is in the hard of biting very hard to the point where it is painful and may even draw blood then there is a strong chance that your kitten was taken away from their litter when they were too young.
Kittens learn from play fighting with their siblings how to bite appropriately.
If they are taken away from their litter when they are still very young then they will be unaware of how much their bite hurts and may consequently bite you too hard.
They May Be In Pain
If your kitten’s biting and scratching is uncharacteristic of them it may be caused by illness or injury.
If you suspect that your cat may be acting aggressively because they are in pain then you should contact your vet immediately.
Ways To Discourage your Cat From Scratching & Biting
Scratching and biting can turn a cute little kitten into a big problem…particularly if you have young children.
Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do to train this behaviour out of them. Here are some useful tips to stop your kitten from inappropriate scratching and biting:
Don’t Use Your Hands During Play
Kittens are cute, fluffy and irresistible it is natural to want to caress them and play with them using your hands however doing so is asking for a scratch or a bite.
If possible we strongly recommend avoiding using your hands when playing with your kitten, by all means stroke them using your hands but hands but when it turns to play you should withdraw your hand and use a toy instead.
Make It Clear That You Don’t Like Their Aggression
When your cat hurts you make it clear that you dislike this behaviour so that you do not encourage it.
A simple way of doing this is to say “no” or “ow” clearly and firmly (don’t shout) then very slowly pull your hand back.
Redirect Their Predatory Behaviour Towards A Toy
Always have a toy at the ready, leave them strategically around your home so that when your cat is ready to play so are you!
Any toy that your cat enjoys will work though typically things like a dangling feather cat toy work well.
When playtime begins keep your hands well out of the way and encourage your cat to interact exclusively with the toy.
Ideally you should play with your kitten 2-3 times a day for 2-10 minutes each time.
Cat food puzzles help to exercise your cat and, most importantly, help stimulate their hunting instinct, meaning they are less likely to view your hand as prey as they have already been stimulated.
Food puzzles also have the added benefit of giving your cat some extra exercise and mental stimulation too which is great for your cats all round health and well being.
Ensure that you keep scratching posts available in your kittens favourite rooms so that when the desire to scratch, stretch or expend some energy comes upon them then they have an immediate outlet for it even if you are not there to play with them.
Have a look at some of the best cat scratching posts here for some ideas.
Use Gardening Gloves
It sounds ludicrous but gardening gloves can really help train your cat not to scratch.
The purpose of wearing gloves isn’t primarily to protect you instead it means that if your cat does attack you then instead of instinctively withdrawing your hand you can freeze and leave your hand there.
Withdrawing your hand will make your cat think it is a fun game, however staying still and freezing will make them realise that it is not a game and that your hand is not a toy.
When they do scratch your glove keep the gloved hand still and with your other hand distract them with a toy, this will reinforce the important message that the toy is the fun thing – not your hand!
Speak To Your Vet
If your cat is particularly aggressive and you have tried all the methods above with no success then you should speak to your vet.
There may be underlying reasons for your kitten’s excessive aggression which your vet will be able to give you some help with.