Aggressive Kitten – Kittens who bite and scratch

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Why are kittens aggressive?

Kittens play aggressively because that’s what comes naturally to them. Many people get a kitten believing that they are sweet cuddly little pets but be aware they have their moments. Kittens can be all teeth and claws! You have to remember that kittens have an instinct to play rough. It is part of a normal kitten’s development to play aggressively because they are learning the predatory skills that a cat in the wild would need to know for survival. On a reassuring note, most kittens grow out of the aggressive stage and grow into adorable, sweet natured cats who would never dream of biting or scratching you.

It might be useful to research the different breeds of cats before getting a kitten as far as kitten aggression goes. Some breeds such as Burmese or Siamese can be more boisterous than a Persian, Birman or Ragdoll.
(Cat Breed Profiles for a description of different cat breeds)

What is Play Aggression in kittens?

Kittens begin play behavior at an early age. It begins with lots of rough and tumble play with their siblings and also with their mother. A young kitten will pounce, chase, stalk, wrestle, bite and scratch its siblings and mother. This is generally regarded as ‘mock’ aggression. The kitten is not intending to hurt anyone, it is just intent on having a good time. This is all normal behavior for a kitten.
Kittens become socialised within their litter and learn to inhibit over-aggressive behavior. If a kitten gets too aggressive with its sibling the sibling will usually correct the aggression either by a growl, retaliation or it will simply stop playing because it is hurt. All the offender wants to do is play so he learns that being over-aggressive may stop play. The kitten’s mother also warns him if he becomes too aggressive, often with a growl or a swat. Kittens continually give each other signals to indicate that the interaction is meant as play and not as aggression. From these interactions with it’s mother and siblings a kitten learns subconsciously how to control its aggressive behavior.

How do I stop my kitten biting and scratching me?

Biting and scratching usually occurs as a result of the owner’s actions. Some owners find it nearly impossible to resist wrestling with a tiny, playful kitten, They will wrestle the kitten with their hand letting the kitten bite and scratch them. This might be cute when the kitten is little but as it grows and the kitten’s strength increases it can become very painful and the kitten will often draw blood.

To stop your kitten biting and scratching you can try the following tactics

This behaviour is quite normal for a kitten

A kitten craves your attention and wants to play with you but you should try diverting his attention away from your body parts by having a soft toy (or selection of toys) of about his own size handy. Shake the toy or move it in an enticing manner. Encourage your kitten to wrestle with the toy that you are holding.

Withdraw play if things get really rough and the kitten begins to bite or scratch you. Just as a kitten learns from his siblings and mother he will also learn from you. If he bites or scratches and becomes overly aggressive you simply end the game. Tell him in a stern voice ‘NO’ and with a loud clap of your hands walk away from the situation and ignore him.

If the kitten catches you unaware and latches on to your arm or leg you might not have a toy at the ready for diversion. Try not to move too much, (this can be difficult when you are in acute agony) because if you do, this will give him the impression you are participating in the game and it may incite him further. As gently as possible disengage the kittens teeth or claws from your body. Then tell him NO, scold him and walk away. Make it clear to the kitten that you will not be a party to these rough-house games.
You can grab your kitten by the scruff of the neck and hold him down briefly and growl at him if he gets too rough but sometimes this can backfire on you. Your kitten may interpret this action as a cue to become more aggressive because he thinks you are joining in the game.

Don’t allow your kitten to play roughly with you if you want to discourage biting and scratching. Be consistent and don’t give your kitten mixed messages. Don’t allow aggressive behavior one day and then the next day punish him for it. You need to get the message across to your kitten that this behavior is not acceptable every time he gets rough. Be very firm and make it clear to him that drawing your blood is not the type of play you wish to engage in. You need to use a stern voice with a loud ‘NO’ and a clap of your hands if possible. (That is if he hasn’t got his teeth and claws wrapped around them)

Use techniques such as squirting the kitten with water from a spray bottle only as a last resort if nothing else works. This is a harsh a punishment for a little kitten. Loud clapping and a loud NO should be enough.

Be Aware at all times. Look out for aggressive signs

You will soon begin to notice certain behavior signs that your kitten is leading up to an attack. A pointed stare, laid-back ears, dilating pupils, swishing tail and the wiggling rear end. If you see these signs stop what you are doing and walk away from the situation.

Kittens Pouncing and attacking

Ambush and surprise attacks are common and one of a kitten’s favourite games. Heaps of fun for kitty but it often scares the living daylights out of you. The best advice here is to get to know your kitten’s favourite ambush spots and be aware when you enter the danger zone. If you see the kitten waiting to pounce, give a loud clap of the hands and a firm NO. You could also put a bell on his collar so you always know where he is at all times.

Other Strategies to stop kittens biting and scratching you

Provide him with toys that keep him amused. Ping pong balls, a ball of silver paper, a feather, a toy mouse or even a scrunched up piece of paper can keep him amused for hours. Kittens will often find their own toys around the house so you don’t have to spend a lot of money on toys for them. (Cat toys to make or buy)

Give your kitten lots of attention. That is what he craves. Praise him when he is gentle and scold him when he bites and scratches you.

Provide him with a scratching post. All cats need to scratch.
Some great ideas on Scratching Posts

Be patient

Play aggression will eventually go away. Don’t give up on your kitten because he is doing what comes naturally.

Get another kitten

Just a thought. Have you considered having two kittens instead of one? Two kittens can practice all of their predatory skills on each other instead of you.

I really enjoy playing rough with my kitten, it’s just that he hurts me and draws blood

OK.. you just can’t help yourself. You want to play rough with your kitten. Try doing what I did. I bought a pair of gardening gloves and put them on when playing with kittens. This enabled me to have great fun playing with the kittens with minimal blood loss. I have to add that despite the fact that I rough-housed with my kittens on a regular basis they still managed to grow up into well adjusted and non violent cats.

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