If you have a cat, you have probably sustained a couple bites from your feline friend. However, oftentimes a cat’s bite is misinterpreted as aggressive when it was simply their form of play. Read on for tips to help you read your cat’s body language and prevent their biting from getting out-of-hand.

It Starts as a Kitten…

According to Margaret Schill, if kittens are separated from their mothers before they reach 12 weeks, they miss a crucial training period. It is during this time that both their mother and littermates teach them what acceptable behavior is. If a kitten bites its mother too hard, she will correct her baby by hissing or holding the kitten down with her mouth.When playing, littermates let out a startling squeal if their brother or sister is too rough. As a result, kittens learn early on what is tolerable and what is not.

Is it Play or Aggression?

If you are not familiar with cats, it can be difficult to discern what is considered play-biting and what isn’t. When a cat reaches out to grab your hand or leg and bites it, that is play-biting and is not meant to harm you. Your darting hand and leg can be similar to a quickly moving mouse or a small critter. When your cat lays waiting and then pounces, he or she is mimicking instinctive hunting behavior, the same behavior you may praise when your cat catches that pesky mouse that’s been hiding in your attic all winter. If there are no real creatures to be caught, your feline will use his or her surroundings, be it the drapes or your moving leg.

The Need for Toys

To discourage your cat from gnawing on your hand like a piece of tuna, don’t use your hand as a play toy. If you do, you will teach your cat that this form of play is acceptable when you really don’t want it to be. Instead, encourage playtime with fun cat toys like lasers, feathers, and stuffed mice. Make sure you devote a certain amount of playtime with your cat everyday so he or she does not get bored.

Read the Signs

Some cats are not fans of affection. They may like to be held and petted occasionally, but there is a time limit. This varies from feline to feline but all cats give subtle signs that you can learn to look for. If your cat is squirming, twitching their tail from side to side rather fast, laying their ears flat against their head, or stiffening up, your cat has had enough. Now would be the time to put Fluffy down. Respect your cat’s need for space and your cat will respect you!