Check out the Michigan Humane Society blog on Wednesdays to see common pet behavior questions answered by our Senior Director of Operations and pet behavior expert, CJ Bentley. If you have an immediate behavior concern with your pet, please call a qualified trainer or behaviorist! If you have a non-urgent question you would like answered on the blog, you can comment here or email us at mail(at)michiganhumane.org.

Senior Director of Operations CJ Bentley and her adopted dog, Rogue

Senior Director of Operations CJ Bentley and her adopted dog, Rogue

“I rescued a one and a half year old kitten from our local animal shelter. I noticed he likes to play bite a lot. How do I break him of that? He is not mean. He likes to bite when you pet him. The only time you can pet him without him bitting you, is when he first wakes up from a nap.”

Ouch! Yep, some kitties can get a bit over-excited when you touch them. The key to success here is to stop the biting before it starts and reward the behavior you want to be repeated. Let’s start with the good stuff. When he first wakes up, his arousal level is probably pretty low. I would grab tiny bits of his favorite treat (maybe little bits of tuna on the tip of a spoon to protect your fingers) and allow him to eat the tuna while you’re petting him. Just two or three pets…when he’s finished eating the treat – stop petting.

When you can, each time he wakes up from a nap work to slowly extend the length of time you pet him. To prevent him from getting pudgy, consider using bits of his breakfast or dinner on the spoon. Heck, if you can pet him once or twice while he’s eating a meal, that would work too. Other than petting him during specially “set up” times, I would avoid petting him. Once he’s comfortable being petted during his low arousal times, try to offer the food/petting scenario at times other than nap times. If he reacts poorly…stop.

The goal is to first get him to accept petting appropriately using food to distract him. Then work your way into needing the food less and less. You do that by offering the food…petting…removing the food…keep petting….as long as he’s good…give the food back…petting…remove the food….petting….extend the length of time without the food until you don’t need food anymore. Go slow. If he gets too excited and starts to bite. Best of luck!

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