Kittens are adorable. Little fluffy balls of fur you can hold in your hand, looking at you lovingly with their big ol’ kitty eyes- until they take a chomp out of your hand and grip onto you like there’s no tomorrow, rabbit punching your hand into a bloody mess.
If you’re tired of your kitten chewing and clawing at you, don’t just assume they’ll grow out of it. Rough kitties turn into rough cats, so it’s best to curb this behavior now so you can have a calm and happy household, and a calm kitty cat that enjoys your company beyond torturing you.
My kitten was one of those little demon cats that lured us into her false sweetness for about a few weeks and then let her true side shine. She LOVES nothing more than clawing, biting, and chewing on pant legs and any motion. In the middle of the night if you turn in your sleep she will pounce on you like a cougar on flailing prey and chew to her heart’s content. While her behavior was adorable at first (“oh look, she’s playing!”), as she’s gotten older and larger and more aggressive it’s turned into less of a fun game and more of a fearful cat-and-mouse with us tip-toeing around the house anticipating her latest ambush.
We are slowly but surely curbing her behavior, and I will tell you it takes a whole lot of patience. Since we played with our kitten when she was young by urging her to play with our hands in her face so she could swat and bite, it’s no wonder she thinks it’s acceptable now. So we are nipping the issue WE caused in the bud so we can have a playful kitty, just not one that stalks us all the time.
It starts by changing how you play. We now only play with her with objects, such as a string tied to a small stuffed toy, or her favorite- a fishing pole with a catnip toy tied to the end of a fishing line that we cast out in the living room and lure her in. We call it “cat fishing”- yeah, ultra creative, I know. We limit her play time to only objects she can chew on, and when she gets a hold of a finger or lurches at us to play with our hands and legs, we immediately drop the toy we are playing with and leave her alone. She is slowly learning that when she interferes with our playtime by biting or scratching skin, she has to play on her own.
When we pick her up is when our patience has to kick in. She immediately wants to play, and will attempt chewing at the slightest touch. In these cases, we hold her close to our bodies where she cannot have room to bite (without squeezing) and coo and cuddle, petting gently until she relaxes. However, if her tail twitches or she begins to growl, indicating discomfort, we immediately gently put her down. I am now to the point where I can pick her up and set her on my lap and pet her without her swatting right away, and she purrs contentedly. If she begins chewing on my knee, I pick her up and set her on the floor, where she scampers off to play with a toy.
For night-time when she loves to pounce, we keep a spray bottle on both sides of the bed. This has worked wonders. She has only pounced one time while we are sleeping since she took a water spray straight to her face after landing on my boyfriend’s ear (to which I giggled hilariously in my sleep apparently- she got him good).
The key is to not encourage direct play with human skin. Cats are not ignorant creatures, and know when they do something they shouldn’t be. Our kitty now flees if she bites when we are holding her all on her own, and we let her. She knows what she did was bad. We don’t yell at or strike her, we just simply set her down, and when we do play with her (which is often, several times a day) we don’t rough house with her with our bodies so she is not confused as to what is OK and what is not. When she gets too rambunctious, we let her alone.
The other key is to not distress the cat. Our kitten does not enjoy being held involuntarily. We respect that. If she growls or squirms or twitches her tail at being handled, we set her down, and normally within a few minutes she is jumping into our laps to cuddle.
We only have had to use the spray bottle tactic once, as we don’t enjoy punishing her. It’s just simply the only way to get her to stop harming us at night short of locking her out of the room, which we refuse to do. As I said, we’ve only sprayed her once, and she no longer pounces randomly through the night, or at least not noticeable enough to wake us up, which works for us just fine.
Within a few weeks you can also have a calmer, playful, but not too rough kitty that you can enjoy as well. It just takes a little time, patience, and mutual respect. Your kitty (and older cat) can learn, you just have to make the rules.