How To Teach Your Kitten Not To Bite and Scratch

Photo of Karen Dell

Karen Dell

Senior Editor • Backyard Cat Enclosures

17 April 2019

Small gray cat bites human hand Why does my kitten scratch and bite?
Kittens usually bite and scratch while they’re playing, but biting or scratching could also be a sign that they are frightened, angry or in pain.
If you’re worried that the biting and scratching is not just over-eagerness during playtime, note the following:

  1. Is someone else playing with the kitten roughly so that they think that they need to protect themselves and fight back? This is very often the case if it is someone else who is complaining about your kitten’s behaviour.
  2. Some kittens are very protective of their stomachs — and sometimes paws as well. Leave these areas alone and see if their behaviour changes.
  3. If your kitten is frightened of a specific room (or one of the other pets) they may scratch or bite when they are in that room or near that pet.
  4. Your kitten may be biting and scratching because it’s in pain. Remember that cat’s are very good at hiding pain and illness. One way to see if your kitten is hurting somewhere is to softly and slowly pet it. You might realise that they have a sore paw, stomach or even tail.

What if something else is wrong?
If you realise that your kitten is in pain, have them checked by a vet as soon as you can. It could be that they are injured somehow (perhaps someone stepped on their tail, for instance) and needs to have it properly looked at.
You may also realise that your kitten has been sneezing a lot and their eyes are a bit gunky. These are all symptoms of illness, along with such symptoms as diarrhoea and constipation, and need veterinary attention.
How do I teach my kitten not to scratch and bite when playing?
If, however, it’s just a case of your kitten being a bit over-eager and not quite knowing when it’s roughhousing too much, all you need to do is teach them what acceptable and unacceptable behaviour is.
It’s a kitten, not a puppy
It’s important not to roughhouse with your kitten as you would with a puppy. Kittens will think that hands equals toys — and toys, at that, toys that are good for biting and scratching!
When you are playing rough
When you are playing roughly with your kitten, always do so through toys like string with a toy at the end. Then your kitten can chase, pounce, and “kill” its prey to its heart’s content without your hand getting scratched up.
When petting your kitten turns to biting
If your kitten decides to “go in for the kill” while you’re petting it, say “ouch” loudly and slowly remove your hand. (Jerking away will make them think you’re playing.)
You can teach them how “hard” they can bite by always saying “ouch” when their bite hurts — or would hurt a child — and, if they are playing without biting, praising them.
Give them scratching posts
You should also give your kitten a scratching post where they can scratch all they want. This will not only save your furniture, but also keep their nails in good shape.
It may also be that your kitten is acting out because they are bored. Rather than them shredding your ankles or fingers, play with them using some favourite toys that they can chase and catch.
When you get guests: the house rules
When you get guests — whether adults or children — make it clear that your kitten may only be played with in the manner stated above. Especially those people who are used to dogs are not used to the “softer touch” that’s needed for kitties.
You can also put your kitten in their outside enclosure (if they are old enough) while you have guests. That will give them some peace from the guests while also giving them a safe space to play.

Photo by Crina Doltu from Pexels


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