Kitten peeking from under a blanket
Kitten peeking from under a blanket

10 ways to teach kittens to stop biting and scratching

They may look wide-eyed and wonderful, but our cute kittens can still give us
quite a nip or a nasty scratch when they want to. Biting and scratching are
natural kitten behaviours, and it’s up to us as pet parents to teach them that
we’re not here to be their playthings. Here are our experts’ top tips to nip the
nipping and scratching in the bud.

Try these tips

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1. Make play dates – keeping them busy with regular playtimes a few times each day is a great way to bond with our cats, as well as helping them feel relaxed and happy in their new home. What’s more, it’s a brilliant way to show them which things are toys and which are off limits (such as our fingers!).


2. Give them some toys – waggling fingers and bare toes can look pretty tempting to kittens, so it’s important to have toys for them to pounce on instead. Encourage them to jump after toys on strings or anything that can be held at arm’s length.

Black kitten playing with shoelace Black kitten playing with shoelace

3. Tailor our behaviour – some cats are naturally cuddly and playful, but some are more reserved. It’s important we get to know our kittens as the individuals they are, so we can respond appropriately to their body language. When cats become overstimulated, it’s best to stop playtime and give them a bit of space.

4. Give them something to scratch – scratching comes as naturally to cats as sunning themselves on a warm windowsill. Give them something strong to sharpen their claws on such as a scratching post, and redirect them to it whenever they scratch anything else (you or the furniture!). Look out for signs they’re about to pounce, such as their ears flattening and tail wagging, pre-empt what’s about to happen and get them to the scratching post pronto.

kitten having chin scratched
kitten having chin scratched

5. Anger or frustration which can make matters worse – be firm and patient, speak clearly and calmly. Walk away from bad behaviour (see how below) but praise and reward them when they play nicely.

6. Say ‘No’ to nipping and scratching – when kittens bite or scratch while playing (intentionally, not just an accidental nip), firmly and without shouting tell them ‘No’, then step away to give them time to calm down. They quickly learn that biting and scratching means they’ll be ignored by one of their favourite humans. And that’s no fun for anyone!

7. Help them settle in – a kitten with enough food and water, a scratching post, plenty of toys and comfy places to curl up will soon start to feel secure, which will lessen any anxious biting or scratching. Give them time to settle in and keep to a routine.

8. Let them know they’re safe – cats usually bite to show aggression, so if they’re unsettled they can take it out on us pet parents. Whether it’s a rival cat prowling in the garden and invading their territory, or there’s a new person around in the house, biting can be a sign that a cat is feeling insecure. When we’re consistent in our behaviour towards them, they quickly learn they’re safe with us.

9. Keep them healthy – if a kitten suddenly becomes abnormally aggressive beyond what you’ve seen before, it’s worth taking a trip to the vet to find out if there’s something wrong. If the poor cat is in pain, they’re more likely to feel defensive and lash out.

10. Trim their claws – to keep a kitten in tip-top condition, it’s important to trim their claws regularly. It’s good for their wellbeing – and a nice bonus is that if they do scratch, it’s less painful!

To be a good pet parent, we need to learn to see things from our kitten’s point of view. Putting ourselves in their shoes can help us to understand their behaviour and teach them how to do things right. A consistent pet parent equals a happy household when it comes to kittens!

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