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Aggressive or Playful? How to Read A Cat’s Nibble

Kittens are sharp.It’s an unfortunate fact that even the friendliest cat will sometimes turn around and bite. If you’re lucky, these bites will be soft and few and far between, but if you notice the nibbles occurring more frequently or starting to be more painful, what do you do? The first step to preventing nibbles is understanding why your cat is biting.

Kitten Behavior

Is your kitty still a kitten? It may be that the biting is a way to deal with teething pain or that your kitty sees you as her mother and is biting you the same way she once gnawed at her mom as she went to nurse. If your kitten is biting at this young age, it’s important not to just let it slide. If you redirect her attention to more appropriated things to chew on—like toys or treats—you’ll help train her and prevent bites at an older age.

Play Time

Your cat may be biting your fingers or toes because he thinks that is how you two play. If you have encouraged this biting in the past or allowed it to go on and reinforced it in some positive way, you may have trained your cat to think that this is a great way to engage with you. Try to transition this play to other sources—perhaps if your cat is biting your toes, drag a feather on a string along the floor. Or if he is wrestling with your hands, find a stuffed toy for him to bite instead.

Gentle cuddles


You might not know that many cats experience anxiety. This may be caused by household stressors or by environmental changes. Some cats deal with this anxiety through obsessive chewing. If you notice your cat is not only biting you but also your shoes, your cords, and just about anything else he can reach, it might be due to anxiety. Try to keep a rhythm for your cat, including meal times and a clean litter box, and he will hopefully settle down soon. If not, take him to a vet who can treat this condition.

Aggression or Fear

This one may be what we all jump to first when our cat starts biting, but it is actually rare. If you notice your cat pouncing out at you to bite or accompanying biting with slashes of her claws, then fear and aggression may be the cause of the biting. If this is the case, try limiting your cats environment in your home. Make a safe space for her with a blanket under a bed or in a closet and don’t force her to engage when she does not want to. She will likely start to slowly integrate herself back into your household with less biting and more love.

The bottom line is that you want to respond to your cat’s biting with gentleness, consistency, and redirection.