Kittens bite because they’re following their natural instincts to stalk moving objects and attack them. Biting a moving object in the wild is how they would kill their prey and eat. However, when they’re kittens, stalking, hunting, and attacking are part of their play.
In most cases, a kitten’s biting is playful. But there are times it may be cause for concern.
And you do want to teach your kitten not to bite other humans because they can cause harm when they get older.
Is it normal for kittens to bite?
It is completely normal for kittens to bite. Biting is a form of play and prepares them for hunting. Your kitten likely won’t need to hunt prey for food, but they still possess natural instincts to stalk, chase, and bite moving objects.
If your kitten were still with their littermates or mom, they would be biting each other. Another cat not only directs biting away from you, but the other cat will also help teach a kitten how hard they can bite during play.
If you’ve adopted a kitten and they don’t have another animal to play with, they’ll naturally direct their attention to you. It’s important to teach your kitten, from the start, not to bite you, as it becomes more dangerous as they get older and stronger.
Do kittens grow out of biting?
Kittens do grow out of biting around 4 – 6 months, as long as you discipline them properly and they don’t feel a need to bite out of aggression or protection.
If you don’t react in the right way when they bite you, they won’t learn that biting isn’t appropriate and will continue to bite as an adult cat.
When a cat is in the kitten stage, they’re learning right from wrong.
We brought our kittens home around the two-month mark. They have always bit each other when playing and did occasionally bite our hands or feet, attack them when they moved under blankets, and try to climb our legs or backs (ouch).
However, from the very beginning, we taught them not to bite (or attack, or climb legs).
They’re now close to nine months old and almost never bite us (and they never attack us or climb our legs). On the rare occasion they do nibble our hand, it’s very light and playful, and we still teach them “no” and remove our attention from them.
However, if a kitten feels threatened, agitated, or isn’t taught that biting is bad, they will continue to bite humans, and won’t grow out of it.
Why do kittens bite?
Your kitten is biting you as a form of play. Their natural instincts are kicking in to stalk a moving object, play with it, and (later in life) kill it. At the kitten stage, their mom would be providing food for them, so they’re not trying to kill their prey, it’s more playful. But if you allow this behaviour to continue, it can certainly become painful if they bite you when they’re older.
It is completely normal for a kitten to bite your fingers, their siblings, other animals, and toys.
But a kitten’s biting isn’t always playful and normal.
Let’s take a look at all the reasons kittens bite, so you can identify the cause of your kitten’s biting and how to correct it so it doesn’t become a problem.
1 – Play
In most cases, a kitten biting is their way of playing. They’re born with natural instincts to hunt objects that move and if they’re prey, kill them.
When they’re kittens, hunting is just a form of play. As they grow up, if they’re required to catch their food, biting is how they would kill the prey they’ve hunted.
If they’re a house cat and don’t have to catch their prey, they need toys to be able to hunt and “kill”.
Expecting a kitten or cat not to chase moving objects and bite them would be like expecting a hungry human to not reach for food and bite into it.
Sure, a toy or your hand isn’t a food source, but hunting and biting are a part of their natural eating routine. Almost like humans’ routine to cut and cook food before eating it.
If your kitten was with their littermates, they would be playing with them and biting them. By playing with each other, they learn how hard they can bite, both through another kitten’s reaction, as well as what it feels like when they’re bitten by another kitten.
If your kitten doesn’t have another kitten or cat to play with, and they’ve started biting you, you’ll need to teach them that biting is not an appropriate way to play with humans.
Here’s the correct way to teach a kitten not to bite: How To Teach a Kitten Not To Bite (the proper method)
2 – Aggression
A kitten may be biting as a form of aggression. They’re letting you know they don’t appreciate the way you’re handling them, that they don’t want to be touched, or even that they’re afraid of you.
Biting out of aggression can even happen out of the blue when you’re simply petting them. They may be sitting next to you, purring and enjoying being petted, when all of a sudden, they become overstimulated and they’ve had enough. Biting is their way of telling you to stop.
You’ll be able to determine the difference between a playful bite and an aggressive one by their body language. Your kitten is showing signs of aggression when:
- their ears and/or whiskers go back
- they try to make themselves look big by turning to the side (although sometimes this move is playful)
- their fur stands up on their back and/or their tail
- they’re moving their tail swiftly
If your kitten is showing signs of aggression, it’s important to back off and leave them be.
You must do so calmly so they don’t view you as a threat and attack. This may not sound scary when your kitten is a few months old, but an older can can lunge at you, latch on, and hurt you.
3 – Illness
Just as you’re not yourself when you’re sick, your kitten may also act out of character when they’re not feeling well.
They may be biting because they feel off and don’t know what to do with the unfamiliar feeling.
Or, they may be feeling discomfort when you pet them, play with them, or pick them up and they’re biting to get you to stop.
If your kitten’s biting seems out of character, contact a veterinarian immediately. Cats hide their illnesses well. Many cat behaviours that seem odd are often linked to a health issue.
4 – Teething
As a kitten’s adult teeth are growing in, it can feel good to chew on things.
Teething is easier to spot because they tend to chew on things, rather than bite. A teething kitten will also chew on objects using the side of their mouth, rather than trying to wrap their entire mouth around an object and chomp down.
You may notice them chewing on the corner of a cardboard box, or worse yet, cords and plugins.
In this scenario, give them something that’s safe to chew on. There are several cat chew toys on the market.
Look for one that’s a similar texture to the objects your kitten is chewing on. They typically like something a little harder they can sink their teeth into, such as softer plastic or rubber toys.
5 – Taken away from mom and littermates too soon
A kitten’s mom will teach them what type of biting is acceptable, as will their littermates.
If a kitten bites their mom or sibling too hard, they’ll get a hard bite or swat back, and the mom or sibling will typically walk away and ignore them.
This is how kittens learn the difference between play biting and biting to kill their prey.
If a kitten is taken away from their mom and/or littermates too soon, they won’t learn that valuable lesson from them.
Not to mention, when a kitten plays with their siblings, they’ll bite them. If your kitten doesn’t have another cat or animal to play with, they’re more likely to try and play with you and bite your hands or feet.
6 – Showing affection
If your kitten is quite gentle when they bite you, it is possible they’re showing you affection. A gentle nibble can be their way of getting your attention.
These types of bites will be more like nibbles with their front teeth. They’re not trying to chomp down and puncture the skin.
If you watch two kittens together, they’ll often give little bites when they’re cleaning one another, which is also a sign of affection.
Why does my kitten bite my face?
A kitten will bite your face because they’re playing with you. Your kitten would bite other kittens or cats in the face when playing, so they don’t look at you any different.
Kittens don’t understand that one area of your body is off-limits for biting, which is why it’s important to teach your kitten not to bite you at all.
If you allow your kitten to bite your face, you’re teaching them it’s okay, and they’ll continue the behaviour as a cat, when a bite can be much more painful.
If your kitten’s face biting seems to be more aggressive than playful, it’s likely they’re fearful of your reaction, or they’re being overstimulated by you and are trying to communicate that they want you to stop.
Each cat is different and some become over-stimulated when simply being petted. Watch your cat’s body language and leave them be if they start flicking their tail or their ears go back. If they’re trying to show you they want to be left alone, and you don’t listen, they’ll resort to more aggressive tactics.
Why does my kitten bite my nose?
A kitten will bite your nose when they’re being playful and exploring. A nose is a good shape for a kitten to get their little mouth around, and the protruding object makes it hard to resist.
Why does my kitten bite me while purring?
A kitten will bite while purring when they feel overstimulated and want you to stop touching them. A telltale sign of overstimulation is when your cat is seeming to enjoy you petting them and all of a sudden, they get aggressive.
On the other hand, if your kitten is less restful and giving little nibbles between pets, it’s more likely they’re biting while purring to be playful.
Why does my cat hug my arm and bite me?
When a cat hugs your arm and bites you out of the blue, it’s because they’re feeling overstimulated and no longer want to be petted.
One of our cats, Josh (who was an only cat while we had him) would sit next to us on the couch, or even on our laps, and get pets. The more we petted him, the happier he seemed to be. His purr would even get louder and he would roll around or rub against us as though he wanted more attention.
Then, all of a sudden, his ears would go back, he’d wrap his paws around our arm, and he’d bite…hard.
We thought his loud purrs were indicating he wanted more pets, but finally realized he was actually feeling overstimulated.
Once we paid attention we learned exactly what to watch for and knew the right time to stop touching him. At which point, he would simply slow his purring and go to sleep next to us.
Keep an eye on your cat’s body language so you learn when they’re feeling overstimulated. These will be subtle signs at first, their ears may go slightly back or their tail may swish a little.
They may even be trying to get themselves into a position to hug your arm. We knew when Josh was sitting next to us and trying to get his upper body behind our arm, that we’d better move or we were going to get bitten.
As soon as your cat shows signs, stop touching them completely.
Why does my kitten bite me when I pet him?
A kitten will bite you when you pet them because they want to play and are trying to encourage you to play with them. Biting and chasing is how kittens let each other know they’re ready to play.
Kittens need lots of playtime.
If your kitten doesn’t have another cat to play with, or you haven’t played with them throughout the day, they’ll be looking to bite any moving object to initiate play. Take their nibble as a sign to get out a cat wand and spend time playing with them.
If the bite feels more aggressive than playful, then your kitten is likely biting you when you pet them because they’re feeling overstimulated and don’t want to be touched.
Each cat is different and some feel overstimulated after just a few pets. Others love to have cheek and chin scratches, belly rubs, and pets for hours. Get to know your cat and what they prefer.
My kitten keeps biting me at night
Your kitten is biting you at night because their natural instincts to hunt are kicking in. Cats are crepuscular, which means they’re most active during twilight hours, which is when they would be hunting their prey.
Although your kitten likely doesn’t need to hunt their food, their natural instincts are still alive and well within them.
At night, their instincts are telling them to hunt. During the kitten stage, that’s playtime. They want to chase something and bite it.
If your hands and feet are the only things moving in the room, they’re going to bite them.
Why is my kitten biting everything?
If your kitten is biting everything, it’s most likely they’re teething. Just as babies like to chew on a variety of objects when they’re teething, your kitten wants to do the same.
A kitten will go through teething when their first set of teeth come in around 3 weeks, and as their adult teeth come in around 3 – 4 months of age.
Try giving them kitten chew toys and redirect their attention to the chew toys every time they’re chewing on an object you don’t want them to chew on.