Kittens are playful and curious creatures, which may result in them attacking you. It can be cute when they’re a few months old, but become more dangerous as they get older and stronger.
It’s important to address the behavior now to ensure they don’t continue to attack you.
There’s a difference between a kitten biting you, and attacking you. Biting is completely normal for a kitten, but it’s important to learn and teach the difference between “good biting habits” and “bad biting habits”. This article will help.
Follow the steps in the article to get your kitten to stop attacking you.
Why does my kitten attack me?
Your kitten will attack you because their natural instincts are kicking in and they want to hunt a moving object. In most cases, a kitten chasing after your moving feet or hands is playful. However, if they’ve been taught to fear humans, attacking you may be a sign of aggression.
It’s important to understand that your kitten isn’t evil or mean, and they don’t hate you. If they’ve been treated poorly in the past, they may be more aggressive towards humans as a means of survival.
But if a cat doesn’t feel threatened, they won’t be aggressive.
Why is my kitten so hyper and aggressive?
Your kitten is hyper and aggressive because they have pent-up energy they need to get out and they don’t have the proper outlet to do so.
Kittens need a lot of playtime.
If they were around their littermates, they would be either playing, eating, or sleeping (with a little bit of time dedicated to using the litter box and attempting to groom themselves).
When your kitten is awake, they want to play.
If they don’t have another kitten or cat to play with, and you’re not dedicating enough time to playing with them, they’ll take matters into their own paws, and try to play with any moving object.
The less they’re stimulated with play throughout the day, the more energy they’ll have to burn. Instead of calmer play throughout the day, they’ll have bursts of hyper energy when they’re attacking anything that moves.
How to get a kitten to stop attacking
To get a kitten to stop attacking you, you must spend more time playing with them and teach them which type of objects are okay to attack, and which aren’t. If they’ve already developed bad habits and have learned the only way to get their playtime in is by attacking you, you’ll have some behaviour to correct.
Follow these steps.
Step 1 – Build Trust
If your kitten’s biting seems aggressive, you will have some behaviour to correct. If they lived in an environment that taught them to be fearful of humans before you adopted them, it will take some time for you to teach them they can trust you.
Even your reactions to their attacks can encourage them to become more aggressive.
If your kitten has attacked you in the past and you’ve reacted by yelling or chasing them around the house, you’ve taught them to be fearful of you in that situation.
Their natural instincts are kicking in to chase a moving object, they go for your feet when you’re walking to the bedroom, and now, instead of it being playful, they’ve learned through your behaviour, that they need to go on the defense.
Your kitten’s attacking may have started as playful, but has gotten more aggressive as they try to follow their natural instincts to hunt, but also protect themselves.
Imagine a cat in nature. When their instincts to hunt kick in, they’ll look for small moving objects to chase, such as a mouse.
Once they catch that mouse, they would play with it before eating it.
Now imagine a cat had to hunt a small dog instead of a mouse. That dog would fight back and the cat would learn to be more aggressive when hunting.
When you react to your cat’s attacking with aggression, you’re like the dog that fights back. Your cat is going to be more aggressive when they “hunt” you.
You’ll now need to teach them not to be fearful of you by reacting calmly if/when they do attack you.
However, if you get ahead of their attacking by following the steps in this article, you shouldn’t be attacked by your kitten anymore.
Step 2 – Increase playtime
If possible, never be the one to end playtime with your kitten. Let your kitten show you when they’re done playing. They’ll do so by losing interest in the toy and no longer chasing it.
The younger your kitten is, the more they’ll want to play.
If they’re not sleeping or eating, they’re probably playing.
Spend as much time as you can playing with your kitten and invest in a variety of toys to keep them busy when you can’t.
Never use your hands (even under a blanket) to play with your kitten. Otherwise, they’ll learn that your body parts are an acceptable “toy” to attack.
Dedicate one-on-one time with your cat at least twice a day; morning and night.
This should be time you spend sitting on the ground moving a toy around for them.
They need this attention and interaction, and it will help strengthen your bond with them.
Outside of that time, find other ways to stimulate their need to play.
If you’re on a call or watching TV, you can wave a cat wand around to keep your kitten busy.
If you’re away during the day, lots of motion or touch-activated toys will help stimulate your kitten. Even simple toys that create a lot of movement will be useful. Our kittens love these springs. They roll and bounce all over the place.
If your kitten is hyper and needs to run around but you can’t leave your desk, try a laser pointer to get them moving while you sit still.
If you have very limited time to spend with your kitten, seriously consider adopting another kitten. Your cat will be so much happier and healthier if they have another cat to play with, groom, and keep them company.
Step 3 – Create a calm environment
Your kitten may be overstimulated and their aggressive playtime is a reflection of their environment.
If you want a calm cat, you must create a calm environment for them.
If there’s constantly music blaring, kids running around, people screaming, or other stressful situations in the home, your cat is going to feel overstimulated.
And that energy is going to come out in an aggressive way.
Create a more relaxing home for your kitten and when you do play with them, make sure it’s gentle.
If you use your hands or even a toy to rough house with your kitten, it’s uncomfortable for them. They’ll learn that they have to be more aggressive when they play.
When a kitten grows up around their siblings, they teach each other how to play without hurting one another. If one bites too hard, the other will yelp and walk away, or bite back hard. This is how kittens learn the difference between play biting and biting to kill.
If you’ve adopted a kitten on their own, you’ll have to teach them how to play in a gentle way.
Step 4 – Follow a schedule
If your kitten knows when to expect their next playtime, their behaviour will become more predictable. They won’t feel the need to attack your feet in the middle of the night because they’ll be used to the pattern of playing right before bed and first thing in the morning. That schedule will help them expel their energy.
There will be a certain level of accommodating to your kitten to start. When they want to play, you should do your best to play with them.
As your kitten moves into adulthood, they’ll require less play.
However, each cat is different. We adopted two brothers, and even though they’re from the same litter, one requires much more play than the other.
Step 5 – Use positive reinforcement
Cats won’t learn a lesson through punishment. Getting mad when your kitten attacks you and locking them in a room, won’t work. They’ll come out of that room with more energy to burn and looking for more attention.
It’s very hard to teach a cat what you don’t want them to do.
It’s much easier to teach them what you do want to do. They’ll move towards spending more time doing what gets rewards.
When your kitten is playing with an appropriate toy, use a reward to teach them that behaviour is good.
The reward doesn’t have to be a treat. Your attention and acknowledgment is often a more desirable reward to your cat.
When they’re playing with a toy, give them your full attention. Watch them play, talk to them, pet them, and get excited.
For example, when our kitten Charlie is playing with a wand toy, we talk to him in an excited tone and tell him “Good job Charlie! Get it Charlie! Good job!”.
We watch him play and cheer him on.
Although our kittens did attack our feet and hands when we first got them, they don’t do it anymore because we taught them that type of play isn’t rewarded.
When Charlie would attack a hand when he was younger, we would tell him “no” in a stern voice and give very little attention to the behaviour. That might be setting him down if he was on our lap and decided to bite, or walking away if we were playing with him and he turned his biting to us.
We’ve found it has helped greatly to teach our kittens the contrast of good and bad, immediately.
For example, if Charlie decided to attack our feet, we would say “no” in a stern voice, then move him in front of a toy. As soon as he started batting at the toy, we would go over the top with encouragement (e.g. “Good job Charlie! Yes Charlie! You’re such a good boy”).
Step 6 – Increase attention
Cats consider your love and attention a reward. If you don’t give your cat (what they view as) enough attention, they may resort to attacking you or acting out to get your attention.
When your cat wants your attention, they won’t be picky. Although the attention they get from you may be in the form of scolding them, they’ll take what they can get.
When your cat is acting out, one of the first things you should try (next to ensuring there isn’t a medical condition they’re dealing with) is giving them more attention.
You should already be playing with them more to reduce their attacking. But also try talking to them more and giving them eye contact.
I even find our kitten Charlie wants me to follow him sometimes. He’ll meow at me and once I give him attention, he’ll walk a few steps and then turn back to see if I’m following. I know he’s looking for attention and enjoys the one-on-one time he gets when I follow him to a different spot because he starts purring, will rub against me, or flop over and roll on the ground for tummy rubs.
Pay attention to your cat’s body language and do your best to respect their wishes (for attention or to be left alone).
Is it normal for kittens to be aggressive?
It’s normal for kittens to want to play, however, it’s not normal for that play to be aggressive. If your kitten is aggressive and it seems as though they’re biting to hurt rather than play, you should talk to a veterinarian to rule out any health issues.
If a kitten is in discomfort, they may be aggressive as a way to protect themselves or simply because they don’t know how to deal with the pain.
A kitten may also be abnormally aggressive if they feel they need to protect themselves from other animals or humans. They may have come from a feral mom and not trust humans yet, or they may have been in a situation before they were adopted that taught them not to trust humans.
It could even be that a small child in the house is making your cat think that humans are unpredictable.
Will my kitten grow out of attacking me?
A kitten will grow out of attacking your feet and hands if you teach them that attacking you isn’t an appropriate form of play.
You must teach them properly, following the steps in this article, and you must be consistent.
If you allow them to attack your hands when they’re under the covers, they won’t understand why they can’t attack them outside of the covers.
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