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How Do We Teach Our Kitten to Stop Biting?

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Q: We got a beautiful kitten a few months ago. She has been a joy to the two of us, a retired couple. We do have a problem, though: She bites when playing. We have yelled no, scolded her and batted her nose when she has bitten us. She still likes to plays rough. Any suggestions?

A: Punishing your kitten for biting is the complete opposite of what you should be doing, and it may make matters worse. When you fight back, you may escalate the situation, turning a rough-playing kitten into a fighting one. Instead, watch your kitten's body language carefully, and stop playing and petting the instant she starts to get aroused toward rough play. The tip of her tail is a key indicator: When it starts to twitch and flip, break off the activity and walk away.

If you miss the signs that she's getting ready to get rough when you're petting her and end up with teeth and claws around your hand or arm, just freeze. Don't yell, hit or otherwise punish her. If you just stop and wait, chances are your kitten will simply let go. Walk away and let her complete her cool down before interacting with her again.

When you return to playing with her, focus your attention on petting her on the area along the chin and at the base of the tail, and avoid more hair-trigger areas such as the tummy. I would also recommend substituting toys for fingers when you're playing with your cat. Cat "fishing poles" and other interactive games can burn off all that kitten energy she has without anyone getting hurt or angry.

If you're consistent in your responses, she'll mature into a well-mannered cat who saves the rough stuff for her toys and stays calm during the heavy petting.

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