Cats bite for a whole variety of reasons, so understanding why they do it is the first step to preventing it from happening. An animalistic instinct, cats will often bite to assert their authority over a situation and show who’s boss. Your cat might also bite because they want something. A little nip on the ankle, for example, is a definite sign of communication. Here are the 6 steps you can take to stop your cat from biting people.
A fairly simple psychological technique that works with children as well as pets. Emphasizing when your cat does something good by praising, treating, or showing extra affection and attention, will encourage them to demonstrate more of that behavior. At the same time, showing clear disapproval when they misbehave, such as biting, by reacting negatively towards them will discourage them from repeating that action.
While you should certainly use negative reinforcement to help stop your cat from biting, be selective with when and how often you use it. Essentially you’re trying to reach out and communicate new behaviors with your cat, so if you press the punish button too much, not only do you risk alienating your cat, but the effectiveness of punishment may also wear off.
An effective way of punishing bad behavior - in this case biting - is by immediately ignoring your cat for a short amount of time. Through trial and error, work out the most optimal amount of time to ignore your cat, or maybe consider basing the amount of time on the severity of misbehavior. If your cat is trying to signal by biting, then ignoring them will force them to try a different signal, one that is hopefully less painful!
Just as you use negative reinforcement to change behavior for the good, establishing new forms of communication in a positive way is another great tactic. If your cat rubs against your leg or meow’s at you, be sure to act on what they’re asking of you. If you consistently react positively to this more mellow form of communication, then over time your cat will automatically make this the new normal.
Unlike dogs, cats aren’t overly receptive to verbal directions. Having said that, they do respond to the volume and tone of voice, so don’t be afraid to get loud and angry when necessary. It might feel cruel at first, but it will undoubtedly have the desired effect. You need to show your cat who’s boss, and taking control in a vocal, authoritative manner will stand you in good stead going forward.
This should be one of the last options you take, but if your cat is male then consider having him neutered. Male cats are naturally more aggressive than females, and taking this option will definitely calm them down. This is a fairly common practice for both cat and dog owners, so you shouldn’t feel terrible about your decision!