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C2006-10

Dear Christopher Cat

I found Sasha when he was about eight weeks old. He’s a good kitten, but he bites me. He doesn’t break the skin, but it’s annoying.

Is this just a phase he will outgrow? How can I get him to stop biting me?

Christopher Responds

It sounds like Sasha is play biting. Even when play bites don’t break the skin, they can be painful if a kitten hasn’t learned bite inhibition through play with other kittens.

When I was a barn cat, I taught many kittens not to bite when playing. Here are my techniques, modified for human use.

Initiate play regularly throughout the day and evening with many different kinds of toys, but never your hands. Entice Sasha with dangling toys, laser beam lights and balls the size of ping pong balls.

Play fetch and other games that tire him. Vary the toys and games to keep him enthused.

Watch Sasha’s body language. When he flicks his tail, lays his ears back or stops purring, he’s about to bite, so cease your petting and playing.

Your objective is to stop interacting with him before he bites.

If he starts to bite, redirect him toward a toy. If that’s not effective, walk away.

If he chases you and tries to nip your ankles, leave the room and close the door behind you, giving him a short time-out.

When Sasha is calm and quiet, reward him with petting and praise. He should associate your hands with gentle caresses, not with roughhousing.

If he awakens you at night to play, keep him out of the bedroom until he learns that beds are for sleeping.

If Sasha is like the kittens I helped raise, he soon will be a gentle boy who is a delight to cuddle.

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