Lions, tigers, panthers…and your adorable kitten. Yes, they all descended from one feline family, and your kitten hasn’t forgotten. Admiring your kitten’s agility and stealth from afar might be fun, but most of us are less fond of their other predatory play habits like pouncing on and gnawing our hands, feet, and clothes.

Stop your kitten from biting

Why do kittens play rough?

Stalking, pouncing, and grabbing with teeth and claws are all part of your kitten’s repertoire of play-hunting skills. When these mock attacks and play fights occur with kitten siblings, who have the luxury of fur for protection, kittens do learn vital social skills. However, an over-excited kitten may direct these behaviours toward human family members too, which can be painful and frustrating.

Kittens are curious and energetic and need gentle and consistent guidance to learn appropriate interactions with the human family. Here’s how you can support your kitten’s natural play style while keeping yourself safe from sharp claws and teeth.

How to prevent biting and scratching in play

Fingers, toes, and clothes are not toys

Play is an essential part of your kitten’s day, allowing them to express natural hunting behaviours in a safe environment, and keeping them mentally stimulated. While it can be tempting to wiggle our fingers or toes and watch our kitten prepare to pounce, your human hands, feet and clothing should not be used as toys. Encouraging grabbing or biting of hands can lead to unfavourable behaviour as your kitten grows up, including ambushing and rough play in response to handling of any kind.

Provide appropriate toys

Providing a variety of toys and play stations such as a scratch post or cat tower will help your kitten develop safe play habits. Toys for independent play, such as balls and soft mice, can be offered throughout the day for your kitten to engage with by themselves. Setting aside time each day to actively play with your kitten will also ensure they are kept mentally stimulated. Toys with long handles on a string make great interactive toys, keeping your hands safely away from kitten claws and teeth.

End play sessions when they’re too rough

If your kitten becomes over-excited during play, using their claws or teeth on your skin, try redirecting them back to a toy. Having a few different toys in reach during the play session can be helpful, as you can offer a different toy to entice them to scratch and bite appropriately. If your kitten is unable to stay focused on the toy and continues to bite or claw your hands, calmly stand up and move away from your kitten. Keep your body relaxed and don’t look at or speak to your kitten as you move away. This action shows your kitten that ‘the fun stops’ when they use claws or teeth on your skin.

Have patience

Remember that your kitten is young and learning, so have patience and be consistent with gentle and supportive training. It is natural for kittens to use their claws and teeth to play as they are, after all, little predators. Offer your kitten plenty of opportunities to play with appropriate toys and avoid using your fingers to entice play. With practice, your kitten will learn to focus on scratching their scratch post and gnawing their toy mice, leaving your hands, feet, and clothes safely out of the equation.

For additional expert advice, speak with your local local Greencross Vets.