Back To School Lessons in Cat Behavior: Bite Me!

mondays with merlin-lessons

It’s Merlin here for another Mondays with Merlin but you can call me professor today. With back to school around the corner it’s come my attention that some kids and adults could use some lessons in cat behavior. This is an issue that drives my mom Layla, a holistic cat behaviorist crazy. To illustrate today’s lesson may I present a funny video with a message. It’s a perfect example of how NOT to play with a cat. Pee Ess: If your name is on the detention list, please see me after class.

We see an adult and a child, probably father and son, taking turns placing their hands in front of a cat. The cat very cutely presses down on their hands. While the humans are thinking the cat is playing with them, they are mistaken. Cats are hardwired to hunt and perceive wiggly fingers and hands as prey. It’s the movement that triggers the hunting sequence. Sure the cat may play cute, but one day they will bite or scratch and once that behavior begins it’ll become a habit. It’s best to teach young children early on to never use fingers, hands or toes as toys. Always play “hunting” games with a toys that can be thrown like calls and mice or those with wand attachments like Neko Flies or da Bird for safe swiping at a distance. Have fun and play safe. Bandaids are not a cool fashion statement.

Lesson # 1 Bite me! Or how not to turn fingers into hamburger

If kitty has developed some bad habits like biting and scratching, there is no one to blame but the human, but you can reverse it by what I call: Reward the best and ignore the rest. It’s simply and consistently over time exchanging unwanted behavior with positive behavior, in this case, appropriate interactive play.

1) Obviously stop using your hands or feet to tease or play with your cat. That means everyone in the family must be in agreement.

2) Use wand toys and other interactive toys for vigorous play time, once or twice a day for about 15 minutes. this will help drain pent-up aggressive energy. Keep kitty’s claws trimmed.

3) Watch for changes in body language. A cat about to pounce, swat or bite will be hyper-alert, ready to spring into action with their head down, claws unsheathed, torso contained or flattened down, the tail swishing or twitching. Don’t wait until they strike. Re-direct by distracting them before they show signs of aggression.

4) Keep toys handy by keeping them in different areas. If you don’t have anything to distract them with i.e. a wand toy, a small pillow to throw near them, then back off and give them space. Walk out of the room. If the cat makes contact, immediate say a sharp, No! and slowly back off and leave the room for a short while. I don’t believe in using squirt bottles water as a deterrent. A purposeful hiss, like a mother cat teaching her kittens works as well.

When kitty is playing in a healthy way, reward them with what they most love: a treat, or a cuddle. It won’t be long before shredded arms are a thing of the past.

Class dismissed.

28 thoughts on “Back To School Lessons in Cat Behavior: Bite Me!”

  1. Is it unusual for cats to have an extra claw on front paws? I have a long hair Siamese,gray-tipped ears and tail, her name is Precious, her last two litters have had extra claw on front paws. I now have seven kittens with this extra claw. How cool is this?

  2. Yep professor Merlin,stick your head in the lion’s mouth and you’ll probably get bit!
    Then there is the thing about people talking about “dumb” animals……..geez we as humans can only hope for 1/100 th of the sense that cats have. Thank you Merlin for todays lesson!
    Luvs Skeeter and Izzy and the Feral Gang >^..^<

  3. Detention! Detention? What did I do?

    Okay, there was that business with the… oh, and that other business… oh yeah, and…

    Wait a minute! How did you find out ’bout all that stuff? MO– — — USES!


    PS. Took me a while to find the ol’ list of detentionees. Was THAT what I did? This is what comes of home schoolin’ in the garden, I think. purrs

  4. dood….we wood like ta take a dee tenshunz for missin lunch brake…see ewe in de caf a teera in like 49 minitz

  5. Well of course my cats bite me as I’m the guilty party and pester them! However all of them (except Grayce) are gentle gnawers–the only time I’ve been bitten seriously I did NOT read the signs. I know better and it was entirely my fault. I like to blow a puff of air as a distraction.

  6. Um, hi. Waffles here.
    Glogirly was trimming my nails and she kept sticking a catnip mouse in my mouth.
    Is that cuz I kept biting her???
    I only wanted her to stop with the mani-pedi.
    I wonder if SHE gets a catnip mouse in the mouth when she gets HER nails done.
    ; ) Waff

  7. Good lesson, Merlin. Our dad-guy will play with us with his hands and the mom is always telling him to stop…because we’ll bite or scratch…we don’t know that those are his hands when we get going. The dad-guy is a so learner. 😉

  8. Hi Professor Merlin! I agree with Sparkle…..humans can be a bit dense sometimes. If you keep poking me, I’m gonna poke back! Yeah! I do try to behave all the time though….sometimes if I’m in a cranky mood I may accidentally scratch my Mom but I immediately apologize and honestly I’m not doing it on purpose!!

    Happy Monday Professor
    Kitty Hugs, Sammy

  9. This is all easy-peasy stuff and I am always so surprised that it is not second nature for humans… but then, they are pretty dense! And hey, what is up with ME being on the detention list? I’m perfect. I’m like Molly Ringwald in The Breakfast Club and don’t belong there.

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