Cats begin to bite and scratch at an early age. Play within the litter usually begins between 3 and 4 weeks of age. This consists of chasing, pouncing, biting and scratching. The claws come out during play simply because the kitten has not learned how and when to use them. In the litter, learning takes place by trial and error; a kitten will scratch or bite too hard and his little playmate will run away. If he doesn't change his tactics, he'll have no one to play with. Kittens will nip at your hands and bat you with their paws when at play with you. This is just an extension of the activity that took place within the litter; this is the only way they "know" how to play.
Kittens must be shown immediately that biting and scratching is unacceptable in human households. Don't set the kitten up to fail by using, your hands or feet as "play toys." Dangling fingers and scuffing feet encourage pouncing and subsequent biting and scratching. The longer you allow "cute" kitten misbehavior to go on, the more difficult is will be to change when you've finally had enough. It is much easier to teach a youngster. Once kittens reach adolescence (5 months), they can become very independent and are not easily impressed or anxious to please.
You must let the kitten know in no uncertain terms this behavior is forbidden. It is important that you communicate with the kitten by using a method that the kitten understands. Tapping a kitten on the nose with your index finger and saying "NO" in a deep, sharp tone, hissing or blowing several puffs of air in his face are just a few reprimands that the kitten will find offensive. If the kitten is on your lap and getting too wild, remove him by plucking him up by the scruff of the neck and supporting his bottom, then place him on the floor. Do not continue to touch or play with a kitten that persists in misbehavior. Remember, his littermates would have stopped playing with him and moved on. So should you.
Humane Society of Central Illinois
423 Kays Drive
Normal, IL 61761-1958