Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties,
My adult cat Misa wrote to you last year to help with her straw chewing habit. Thanks to your advice (her own whisk broom) we happily coexist again. The vet found no problems with her and said the whisk broom was a brilliant idea! For about 3 years now Misa has been an only cat.
One day my husband was mowing our yard and the cutest tiny little black kitten came up to him (with the mower still running … that should’ve been a clue), mewed at him and she’s been here ever since. She’s about 8 or 9 weeks old, the vet says. He thinks she was the runt of the litter and booted out so to speak, and that’s why she approached my hubby. She must have just opened her eyes when she invited herself in.
We named her Tuon and she’s a cute, funny and basically good little cat that Misa just adores, thank goodness. But she has this awful habit she’s picked up in the last couple of weeks. She bites everyone and everything non-stop. Those little teeth hurt! I realize she’s probably teething but we’d really rather she didn’t use us as teething rings. We don’t know what to do to make her stop. Telling her firmly, “NO!” doesn’t even faze her. Pulling our hands away makes her lunge for them. And of course, we wouldn’t ever dream of physical punishment. That’s just mean. But we’re at our wits’ end and full of little holes! Help!
Thanks in advance,
~Misa & Tuon’s Mommy
Siouxsie: We’re really glad to hear that Misa’s doing great with her own whisk broom. Sometimes it really is the simple things that do the trick when it comes to solving behavior problems.
Thomas: And the good news is, we think this may be another case of simple solutions and patience, too.
Dahlia: You’re right to think that little Tuon probably is teething. We cats start losing our baby teeth at around 9 weeks of age, and our adult teeth are pretty much fully grown in by 5-6 months of age. This is also the perfect stage of life to teach her about what’s appropriate to chew and what isn’t.
Siouxsie: The best thing you can do for Tuon is to get her some toys made just for chewing. You can find chew toys at pet stores and through online pet supply catalogs. PetStages makes a great selection of toys for a variety of cat needs, including chewing toys.
Thomas: When you play interactively with Tuon, make sure you keep your hands out of the game. Your best choice will be “thing on a string” toys like the Cat Dancer or even just a long shoestring with a bunch of cloth attached. You can stimulate her hunting and biting instinct, and she can chew the heck out of the toy without hurting you.
Dahlia: Make sure you keep appropriate chew toys on hand wherever you are. Then, if you’re sitting with Tuon and you see her getting in the mood to bite or chew, you can give her the toy and say, “Here, chew this.”
Siouxsie: The most important thing you can do is to keep on reinforcing the message that only certain things are appropriate for chewing and biting … and people are not among them!
Thomas: When you pet Tuon, make sure to keep your hands away from her mouth. Teething kittens will chew on everything under the sun, as you well know. If she does bite you, say “Ow!” in a high-pitched (but not necessarily loud) voice and put her on the floor. When cats play together and the play gets too rough, the victim will utter a high-pitched cry and this will cause the aggressor to back off.
Dahlia: I know you mentioned that saying “no” doesn’t have any effect, but the “ow and down” technique might help. It’s very important that you keep giving her the notion that biting hurts, and it leads to no petties and no playing.
Siouxsie: The behavior training you do now will set the stage for the rest of your lives together, so it’s really important to keep reinforcing good behaviors and not allowing bad behaviors.
Thomas: This is where the interactive play will come in helpful, too. A good, satisfying play session with a toy that Tuon enjoys will help her get plenty of exercise, use her instinct to hunt, build her agility and strength, and build your relationship too.
Dahlia: As an extra added bonus, a 15-minute play session just before bedtime might tire her out enough to keep her sleeping all night without waking you up.
Siouxsie: And just remember, teething does end eventually. Tuon won’t be a biter for the rest of her life as long as you take care of the problem now while she’s still a kitten. Good luck to all of you!