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Healthy Cats

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Aggression, Biting, and Rough Play in Cats

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How to Reduce Your Cat's Rough Play Behavior continued...

What NOT to Do

  • Do not encourage your cat to play with your hands, feet or any other body part. While it may be fun when you have a tiny kitten, it becomes painful and dangerous as your kitten grows up.
  • Do not use toys that teach your cat to play with your hands, such as gloves with balls hanging from the fingers. If you do, your cat will be encouraged to direct his play at your hands and won’t understand that it’s only okay to attack your hands when you’re wearing the toy gloves.
  • Do not physically punish your cat for rough play. If you hit or slap your cat, he may perceive your actions as play and become even rougher. Alternatively, he might become fearful of your hands and respond by avoiding you or changing from play to real aggression.
  • Never run from your cat or try to block his movements with your feet. These actions can cause your cat to intensify his play or become aggressive.

Additional Tips

If your cat insists on directing his play at you, despite your best efforts to encourage him to play with toys, you can interrupt his rough play behavior by squirting him with water from a spray bottle. A short blast of compressed air (no sound) from a can might also be an effective deterrent. You’ll need to carry your water bottle or air canister with you at all times when your cat is likely to ambush you so that you can deliver the spray the instant he starts to run at you. If your cat pounces on you and you don’t have your water bottle or air canister handy, try clapping your hands loudly to startle him. As soon as he stops, throw a toy away from you to direct his play behavior toward the toy. Small wads of paper kept in your pocket or in likely ambush places around the house often work well as substitute toys.

It may take a bit of time and effort, but if you’re consistent and patient, you can teach your cat to direct his playful energy toward appropriate toys instead of you. If you need help, don’t hesitate to contact a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB) or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist (Dip ACVB) for assistance. Please see our article, Finding Professional Help, to locate one of these qualified experts in your area.

WebMD Veterinary Reference from the ASPCA

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