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C2008-51

Dear Christopher Cat

Our 5-month-old kitten bites our hands -– hard -– when we hold her. How can we teach her to cuddle without biting?

Christopher Responds

Many kittens playfully bite their people, just as they would their litter mates. Less commonly, they bite to say, “Leave me alone.”

If your kitten is play biting, she’s got way too much energy on her paws, and you’ll need to tire her out. Entice her to chase the dot from a laser pointer, bat at a feather on a toy fishing pole, or retrieve a cat toy tossed across the room.

Just keep your hands far away from her when she’s playing.

Even better, adopt another kitten who will roughhouse with her. The four cats in my family play hard with each other, and afterward, we’re content to snuggle quietly with our humans.

Once your kitten is tuckered out, pet her gently, so she associates your hands with tenderness. Reward good behavior with praise and cat treats.

If she’d rather not sit on your lap, pet her when she’s next to you on the couch.

If she begins to tense her body, twitch her tail or show other signs she’s about to bite, move away before she can nip.

If these approaches don’t work, seek advice from your veterinarian, who can ensure that she’s healthy and free from any pain that might trigger her biting.

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