Fingers Aren’t Toys
The first rule is to never use your fingers as toys. Even if your cat doesn’t bite hard it sends a mixed message that chomping down on flesh is acceptable.
Use only fishing pole-type toys so that there’ll be a safe distance between your fingers and your cat’s teeth. Even small toys aren’t good for interactive playtime because your cat can easily get too excited and lose track of where the toy leaves off and the skin begins. Safe those fuzzy little mice toys for kitty’s solo playtime.
Don’t even get in the habit of using your fingers as toys when they’re covered by a sheet or blanket. It still sends the wrong message to the cat. Additionally, if he’s allowed to bite the fingers that are wiggling under the bed sheets, he’ll think it’s allowable to bite toes as well and that may happen when you are moving your feet in your sleep and NOT during a game with kitty. Imagine what an unpleasant surprise that will be!
When Kitty Bites
If your cat has his teeth on your hand, don’t pull away because that will cause him to instinctively bite down more. Prey tries to pull away and you don’t want to imitate prey when your hand is in your cat’s mouth. Instead, freeze, say a high pitched “ouch” to momentarily confuse your cat and let him know this has caused pain and the game is no longer fun. At the same time, gently push your hand toward your cat’s mouth. This will cause your cat to disengage. Moving your hand in the direction of the cat is totally confusing to him because prey would never act that way. This action is what will cause your cat to release his hold on you.
Educate Everyone in the Family
Be consistent with what your cat is and isn’t allowed to bite on during play. Have a supply of small toys (such as fuzzy mice and Mylar crinkle balls) for solo play, and a supply of fishing pole-design toys for when your cat will be engaging in interactive playtime with family members. The best way to train a cat not to bite is to not put him in that position in the first place. Make sure all family members know the rules as well so the cat’s training process will be consistent.
Need More Help?
For more specific information on proper playtime techniques and how to engage in fun interactive play sessions with your cat, refer to the book Think Like a Cat. If you’re having cat behavior problems or cat training issues and would like a consultation with cat behaviorist Pam Johnson-Bennett, contact our office for more information.
Pam Johnson-Bennett is the star of Psycho Kitty airing on Discovery UK. She is author of seven best-selling books on cat behavior including Think Like a Cat: how to raise a well-adjusted cat – not a sour puss. Think Like a Cat has become known as the cat bible. Pam is considered a pioneer in the field of cat behavior consulting. In addition to her television series and public speaking engagements, Pam owns Cat Behavior Associates, a private veterinarian-referred behavior company in Nashville, TN. Cat Behavior Associates offers private cat behavior appointments on a limited basis. Pam Johnson-Bennett is a Certified Cat Behavior Consultant.