Cats can’t say, “Hey, I’m good. You can stop petting me now.” So they often let their teeth do the talking. But there are other reasons cats might bite. Here’s what I told a reader who wanted to know about her kitten’s biting behavior.
Q: My 10-month-old cat bites me. Will he outgrow this?
A: You don’t describe the situations in which your cat bites, but a common one is when the cat feels overstimulated from petting.
Cats can’t say, “Hey, stop, I don’t like that anymore,” so they bite or scratch to send that message. If your cat bites when you pet him, pay closer attention to his body language. If the tail is whipping, eyes are dilated or ears go flat, sideways or back, stop! Let him chill before you pet him again.
Cats also bite if they don’t like where they’re being petted. Dogs love belly rubs, but cats … not so much. That is the last place you want to reach out and touch them. Even if your cat loves and trusts you, it’s instinctive for him to protect his soft underbelly with a bite or swat. Don’t make him do it!
If your cat nails you, freeze instead of pulling away. Struggling and movement will excite him; the action is like that of prey. If you hold still, though, he will likely let go. Don’t yell at him, but redirect his attention to a toy.
By becoming aware of your cat’s tolerance levels, reducing triggers that make him bite and not using your hand as a plaything — waggling fingers, for instance — you will protect yourself from his teeth and claws.
The sweet spots for petting a cat are beneath the chin, behind the ears, on the cheeks behind the whiskers and at the base of the tail. All of these areas are where scent glands are concentrated. Scritching your cat in these places spreads his scent and makes his environment (and you) smell familiar, which is all to the good if you want to have a happy, purring cat.
Read more in Pet Connection, the weekly nationally syndicated pet feature I co-write with Kim Campbell Thornton and my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker.