What is Play Biting About? – Kat Talk

What is Play Biting About?

This article might be helpful for those who experience their cat biting them.

Why the cat might be resorting to this behaviour, which will indicate how to react to it.


 There are many reasons why a cat may bite an owner. If it occurs during petting, it may be petting aggression, which is best avoiding by limiting petting to a cat’s head and neck area, keeping petting sessions brief and stopping the petting session as soon as the owner senses that the cat is no longer content. A twitching tail is often a good indicator that it’s time to stop.

Attention-seeking biting can also occur with young cats. It is likely to occur when an owner is involved in another activity and ignoring the cat. The cat quickly learns that nothing gets an owner’s attention faster than a bite! In this case, the best approach is to increase environmental enrichment for the cat and be sure to set aside time for regular interaction, even on busy days.

Young cats may also engage in play biting. If the bites occur when the owner is moving around and is accompanied by pouncing-like behavior, play may be the cause. Play biting can be reduced by increasing enrichment and predatory play opportunities for the cat with fishing type toys. Puzzle feeders may also help the kitty to engage in more appropriate hunting and foraging type behaviors.

Some cats may bite their owners to demand a particular response. Cats may bite to guard resources such as the bed, or to hurry their owner to prepare food. In such cases, it is best to avoid triggers of aggression, for example, by keeping the bedroom door closed, and to teach the cat to obey a simple command such as ‘sit’ before providing valued resources such as meals.

Cats with this type of aggression can often benefit from clicker or other positive reinforcement training.

Stephanie Borns-Weil, DVM
Clinical Instructor
Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at
Tufts University