How to Train your Cat not to Maul your Hands with their Claws and Teeth
Why do Cats Attack?
Have you ever wondered why your cat loves to stalk anything that moves, like your feet and hands, or pounce on you while you are sleeping? As you know cats were hunting creatures long before they were domesticated, so they still have the natural urges to hunt. They will lay in wait, stalk and pounce anything that moves near them, be it bird, mouse, hand, or toy. They love to pretend that small objects are prey and they practice pouncing on them.
While they are young, kittens will practice hunting by play attacking each other. They will learn quite quickly how far they can go with other cats because they will bite back when playing too rough. Unfortunately if they are adopted out too early and didn’t get that play time with siblings they might not learn when they go too far when “playing” with your hand. If you encourage this rough housing with your cat it may eventually get out of hand. Even though it is part of the learning process in kittens some adults will retain this attacking behavior for many years after maturity.
How to Stop your Cat from Attacking you.
Now is a good time to understand a little cat psychology. If your cat is not hissing or growling at you they have no intention on hurting you or defending itself, they just want to play. If your cat wants to play they may attack out of the blue because that’s how cats play with each other. You have to teach your cat how to play with humans, because they will not know the difference unless you teach them otherwise. However you decide to train your cat make sure that everyone in the house hold follow the same rules and not just some. If you are trying to break a pattern you need consistency, some discipline, and time, maybe 2 or 3 months even. Also remember to observe your cat you have to actually learn to listen to them through their body language, it is a two way communication that is needed to build a relationship with you and your cat.
Teach them Humans are delicate
When cats are playing with each other they normally play in silence. But when one goes too far and the other gets hurt you will hear it. The aggressor will automatically stop because they know they inflicted pain. So when you are playing with your cat and they bite or scratch just scream “OUCH” so the cat knows that they hurt you. They will understand that humans are delicate and they will go gentle on you. You want to teach them that you are delicate and can’t handle any kind of pain. If you are dealing with a kitten a mother cat will swat with her paw, hiss, or chase them off when they play too rough. You can imitate this behavior by hissing at the kitten, carefully pushing the kitten way (do not hurt them, just let them know the behavior is unacceptable), or chase them off and ignore them until they come back to you. If you do play with them like this a good set of cat nail clippers will be your best friend, your arms will thank you.
The most basic thing to do is not to encourage that biting or scratching no matter how cute it is when they are kittens, they will associate it as play or bonding with you. If you know where their favorite places to pounce are keep an eye out for them or place a bell on their collar so that you can hear them trying to sneak up on you. Discourage any rough play, biting or scratching when it comes to your body, you will just have to wait until they will out grow it.
The best way to change their behavior is to give them something else to do. When you cat is in the mood to play get out a toy and let them practice hunting that rather than your your hand. If you teach your cat to hunt your hand they will, they will practice going in for the kill, and it will hurt and it is totally your fault for encouraging this behavior. So when you notice your cat eying your hand make sure you get the toys out and get them to hunt that. The best way to change this kind of behavior is to redirect them towards something else instead. Try putting toys in every room of the house so there is always easy access to them. That way toys will be easy to reach when they are in the mood to attack, they will be redirected to the toys and start to associate the toys with play time and not your hand.
Satisfy the Urge to Hunt
Cats have a hunting instinct, it is biological and in this case you can’t fight nature. If your cat is an indoor pet they will need some way to get their fix. Again this is where toys are great, your cat may not gravitate to all the toys you get them, but when they do find their favorite ones be prepared to get replacements because the toys will be murdered. So satisfy the hunting instincts and they will not attack you as much or at all.
Pick the time to play
Cats are naturally most active during dusk and dawn, so play with them at these times of day and they won’t try to hunt you when you are trying to do something else. Also cats are used to hunting before eating,
so try playing with them with toys before feeding times. Since cats tend to sleep most of the day you can wear them out when they tend to be the most active. If you are in control of their activities they probably wont attack you out of the blue looking for attention. Positive reinforcement is great so give them treats when they do good things but wait until play time is over first. Get them to associate you and your hands as loving things not things to attack.
This is actually similar to redirecting their attention. When you see that they are in a mood to hunt you clap your hands or make a loud noise to redirect their attention. Warning if you use a technique that will startle them it can make your kitten shy.
What not to do
- Do not hit your cat. Your cat will see this as a sign of aggression and your relationship will just get worse.
- If your cat is in an aggressive situation and want to really attack you don’t put yourself in harms way and leave the poor cat alone.
- If you are playing with your cat do no pull your hand away, if you do they will think you deserve any scratches you get.
- Do not violate your cat’s trust. If you use force against them or every time you do something to them against their will, to try to teach them a lesson they will not like you very much, they will not trust you, and you may ruin your relationship with them.
Wrapping it all up
So there are several things that you can do to teach your cat not to attack your hands or maul you with their claws and teeth. Fist off teach them that you are delicate and that you can’t handle pain at all, any usage of the claws or teeth is unacceptable. Discourage them from form attacking you at all, don’t even give them an option to do so. Redirect them away from your hands and body by giving them toys to play with. Satisfy their natural urges to hunt with those toys and they won’t come hunting after you. Play with them when they are ready to play so you can determine how the play time goes. Most importantly try to understand how your cat communicates with you and how you can effectively communicate with them to build a strong and trusting relationship between you.