3 Easy Ways to Stop a Cat from Biting and Scratching
Cats love playing, and they love being petted. As you have probably seen from some of your less than sturdy cat toys that get gnawed and clawed to shreds, playing for cats often involves a little rough and tumble. Whilst cats are perfectly capable of appreciating the difference between some gentle petting and all-out play, one of the ways that you can really confuse your kitty is by using your hands for both petting and playing.
Let me explain! Let’s think of two ways that you can use your hand: as ‘pet hand’ and as ‘play hand’. Pet hand offers gentle caresses and those tickles around the ears that felines love. Play hand tries to engage cats in play, of course! But, cats cannot always tell the difference between when you are using play hand and when you are using pet hand. All they see is a hand – and often, when they are confused because you have used your hand for both petting and playing, they may not know how you want them to respond.
Are you confusing your cat? Hands are for patting not playing
Cats often bite as part of play, and if you use your hand for rough play with them, it may end up getting bitten or scratched. As a result of the confusion described above, your kitty may also end up biting your pet hand too. So, you go in to give your cat a gentle stroke on the head and they clamp their jaws down on it instead. Ouch!
How can this confusion be avoided?
Avoiding this conclusion is simple. Just avoid using your hands for playing, and keep them only for petting. That way, your kitty will associate your hand with gentle strokes and tickles alone, and they will not feel the urge to bite and scratch your hand when it approaches.
But…how do I play with my cat if my hand is just for petting?
Simple! Just use a ribbon, or a catnip mouse on a string – or any other cat toy that you can dangle in front of your kitty at enough distance for it to be distinct from your hand. Then, your cat will know that they can chomp and tear away at their toy to their heart’s content (to get at that heady catnip!) whilst continuing to associate your hand only with gentle patting.
What if my cat is already confused?
This is a good question. The above tips are great for owners who have got new kitties and who want to train them from the outset to distinguish between pet hand and play hand. But what about owners whose cats are already confused, and who are thus biting down on, or lashing out at, their hands whenever it approaches.
Luckily, help is at hand (sorry, pardon the pun!) as you can retrain your cat to distinguish between pet hand and play hand. To do this, you simply need to switch to using your hand only for petting, and reserve toys for playing with.
Chances are, your kitty may continue to try and play bite or play scratch your hand, when you are using it for petting them. The thing to do then, is to instantly stop the petting and to say ‘ouch’ distinctly. When your kitty feels the petting being withdrawn and hears you saying ‘ouch’ they will soon learn to connect their biting or scratching behavior with the end of that lovely petting that they were enjoying so much. Soon enough, they will learn not to lash out at your hand (i.e. not to play with your hand) but just to lie back and accept the wonderful petting that your hand offers.
You have successfully made the switch from the ultra confusing ‘pet and play hand’ to the simple and non attackable ‘pet only’ hand! Now go reward yourself!
Many people think that cats cannot be trained: that this is something that we humans can only do with animals like dogs. However, as this straightforward exercise about pet hand and play hand has demonstrated, in actual fact you can train your kitty to modify their behavior.
As with any feline training exercise, the key here is to be clear and consistent. If your cat is lashing out at your hand, it is a good idea to try out these tips: chances are they feel no malice towards you at all – they are just confused!
Let us know how you went with these simple training techniques.