Q: What about cats play biting? My foster is doing this and I’d like to help resolve the problem before he goes to adoption. Thanks! A. H. S., Chicago, Il
A: Are you certain that this is play biting? Often rescued kittens weaned early and without the benefit of their real mom, were never instructed in a lesson of inhibiting their bites. Whether in play, or that they just don’t know what else to do. Mother cat wasn’t around. And humans are a poor substitute for teaching this lesson, no matter how hard we try. The best answer is to offer various toys (never your fingers), particularly interactive cat toys to entice chase. And watch the kittens signaling to pre-empt the biting with play. I
Adult cats can play bite for various reasons. Some cats just like to chew and bite things, as many dogs do. This isn’t actually true playing biting, and can be curtailed by offering the cat something to chew on, such as stuffing canine prescription dental chews (they’re large and take some time for cats who like them to work on), or a dental chew for dogs called C.E.T. – both these items available through veterinary offices. Cat grass is also safe to chew on, and some cats will even chomp away at rawhide made for dogs (soften the rawhide by adding a few drops of water over it, and then microwave for about 20 seconds).
Adult cats may play with human fingers because growing up as a kitty, someone felt it was fun to play with cats this way. Cute for kitties to chase and nibble at fingers, not so cute when adult cats bite at fingers – though the cat is just playing. The answer here is – for starters – never use fingers as a toy. Use an interactive cat toy, such as a fishing pole toy with feathers or mock insect at one end – far from fingers. When the cat does head toward fingers, pull out the toy with one hand. If you need to, even sit on your other hand so the cat never has the chance to bite at fingers.
Cats are born with a prey drive, a need to chase and pounce on anything that is moving, even if it is a human being who isn’t in the mood to play.
One idea is that when a cat goes after your legs, toss a little mouse toy or ping pong ball (that you’re keeping in your pocket for such an occasion) in the opposite direction. Definitely don’t engage your cat – walk (don’t run) into a room and close the door, leaving your cat on the other side. Cat will learn, biting at people is no way to garner attention.
Also, instead of feeding your cat from a bowl – toss the bowl, and instead invest in the Doc & Pheobe’s Bowl-Free System. It’s the bowl-free system to feed your cat from little mouse like toys. The cat learns ultimately learns to search for the food found inside the mouse-like food dispenser, and to move the mouse like vessels around so kibble tumbles out. The feeding system activates your cat’s prey drive. Also, if the cat is busy searching for food, he’s not biting people. And then, the cat is doing what all cats do following a scoring on a meal – catnapping. Learn more https://docandphoebe.com/.
And if you use the discount code (at checkout), ‘CatsWinn,’ you help support funding cat health studies from the non-profit Winn Feline Foundation (the world’s only non-profit dedicated solely to funding cat health).
Here’s another reader asking about a biting cat, with Dr. Elizabeth Colleran chiming in.