I adopted an adult cat from a shelter. The cat had been seized (along with 20+ others) by Animal Control from a hoarder and there is no prior medical history. Age estimates range from 3-6 years and he was one of the older ones in the group. He had already been neutered when the shelter got him. Because of the circumstances we have no other pre-shelter history.

The cat gets along well with the people and other cat in the house, but sometimes he randomly "nips" (both people and the other cat), sometimes during play but sometimes just out of the blue. These nips are not hard enough to leave marks or draw blood, but it's still behavior that I would like to discourage. Hissing at him doesn't make any difference, and I don't always have a squirt bottle to hand. Years ago I had a kitten with this problem and was advised to hold his mouth shut and blow in his face to stop it; that worked on the kitten but has had no effect on the adult cat.

What techniques have others found effective in solving this problem?

I have not observed any territorial behavior (spraying) or true aggression.


3 Answers 3


I researched this awhile back when adopting kittens. It seems there are a lot of variables with cat biting. These are some tactics that I've had successful experience with (in slightly different situations):

If the cat was biting as a sign of play (your fingers, arm, etc. is like a toy) then ignoring the cat is recommended. First, play with the cat (Never let your body be a toy. You can hold a toy, but never make your body part a toy. Use a toy on a string, a long toy or throw a toy. If it's small just do the best you can. I'm just saying this for everyone that might read it.) If the play session ends naturally (cat gets tired or bored) give him a treat. This is a natural occurrence for cats - to eat after play/hunting. If the cat attacks your hand/food/etc (claws or teeth), pull back to yourself and try making a loud sound as if hurt (sharp short high-pitched yelp or hiss) right at the moment of the attack. Do not delay, animals have difficulty connecting your reaction to what they did unless it's immediate. (If you forget to make the sound - don't do it late.) Leave the room as quickly as possible. Take the toy with you. Try to shut a door between you. Ignore the cat as much as possible for at least 15 minutes, preferably longer, like 30 minutes. If you can't keep the cat out, just keep leaving whatever room your cat is in to signal you do not trust to be in the same room with it. Try playing again the next day. If the cat attacks again before the next play time, try to react as you did earlier, as much as is possible within your schedule.
I was trying to socialize a semi-abandoned outdoor kitten that lived in my landlord's barn. He had a terrible biting and clawing habit. This technique (modified for his barn area) worked amazingly well. (Of course leaving him really did mean leaving him for at least a day. Sometimes I only visited for 1 minute! But in just a week I noticed a difference. He stopped biting and started retracting his claws and focusing on toys and walking next to me instead of attacking.)

A vet on NPR discussed that nipping (gentle biting) is a natural cat-to-cat interaction that you may never be rid of. For example, during petting when your cat wants attention and suddenly nips. To the cat, it isn't really hurting you. But a lot of vets point out that you can sometimes predict these nips. The cat may be flicking their tail or turning their ears or head (signaling displeasure) before they do it. They are getting annoyed with your petting, it's too much or not in the right place anymore. To us a bite seems over-the-top, but to the cat it was a gentle correction. "I swear my cat enjoys it but then it bites." Then remember that it is possible for something to feel both good and bad, tickling is a common example for humans. Vets also point out that the cat may be anticipating a "bad petting" and biting when a person only walks near to warn off the person in advance.
Two of my cats tend to bite when they get so into petting that they frenzy. They purr like crazy and start rolling over and pacing back and forth. The more frenzied they get, the more likely they'll suddenly bite. When you walk off, they follow you and rub on you "asking" for more petting. The best we've been able to do is stop petting them but stay with them when they start getting frenzied (before they bite). We minimize the petting until they calm back down.

This is probably too late for you (I haven't read anything about it working with adult cats) but another tactic is to make sure the cat grows up with other cats. It's been shown that kittens that grow up with siblings tend to tuck in their claws and bite lightly. This is because they learn through experience with each other that claws and biting hurt. Basically, they learn to tone it down so they can continue roughhousing for fun. The cat grows up with "no-claws" as the default way to play, even with toys.

I've never heard of the "hold mouth closed and blow on face" thing for biting, but I have (since you asked about experience) blown on my cats' faces when they get near my food. I don't touch them at all, I just blow a little puff of air toward their face. It works surprisingly well. Anything else and they just came back, but one puff or two and they walk away for good. So I think that might have been a valid idea as a deterrent, not sure as a punishment. Perhaps kittens are more susceptible to being corrected than adults.

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    "pull back to yourself and try making a loud sound as if hurt (sharp short high-pitched yelp or hiss)" Vocalizing your pain like a cat would is the key in my experience. I just say "oowwwwwwww" an bit like a cat crying. I use a normal a speaking volume. It is so comical; they stop biting and look at me to make sure I am OK and then they adopt a more gentle approach.
    – Beo
    Commented Apr 11, 2014 at 6:29

Cats tend to nibble on you as a sign of affection. As long as they aren't latching on and trying to draw blood/chunks of skin it's not dangerous. If you are dedicated to stopping the behavior I have found that a spray bottle works, but since it may not always be on hand, reducing the opportunities for the cat to nibble on you may also reduce the behavior.

You may also find that the cat giving you bites is a cry for attention from the cat and if you regularly play with and pay attention to the cat, the bites may stop all together.


As it states on thesprucepets.com, your cat could be doing this because it is encouraged:

When kittens scratch and bite, it's likely that they've been encouraged to do so at some point in the past. This is especially common if you or your children thought the behavior was cute when the kitten was very small."

It also gives solutions of how to stop your cat from biting, scratching, or ripping, including:

Say "Ouch" loudly and clearly. While you have your cat's attention, slowly remove your hand from its clutches. Don't yank it away or the kitten will think the play is on, and they will try to grab it again. Instead, gently pull your hand out of your cat's reach.

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    pets.stackexchange.com/help/referencing: “ Do not copy the complete text of external sources; instead, use their words and ideas to support your own.” I would recommend adding the help center to your reading list.
    – Stephie
    Commented Apr 28, 2021 at 15:20
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    Hi, this answer is a bit short and close to being a link-only answer, please try paraphrasing some of the source material with your own words, optimally in a way that your paraphrase is aimed at the essence of the question; including attributed material from external sources is okay as long as you mark it as quotation and provide the original source, just please make it so your own words are not 0.1% of the answer's volume while all the rest being the quoted material; thanks.
    – lila
    Commented Apr 28, 2021 at 15:49
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    ... and the answer to how to stop the existing problem would be?
    – Stephie
    Commented Apr 28, 2021 at 16:27
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    – Stephie
    Commented Apr 28, 2021 at 17:06
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    @JosephCasey If you won't name the ways to stop the cat from biting, then it is not an answer. You don't get to be lazy. If you're gonna answer questions, do it right. Commented Apr 28, 2021 at 18:37

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