Question from Ceilidh:
Hi, I have a ragdoll who is almost two years old. She’s very sweet and typically well behaved. She has this very bad habit of nibbling on me! She did this when she was a kitten and it was cute then, but now its annoying, and sometimes it hurts. I’m pretty sure she is being affectionate when she does this, as she does it when we’re cuddling or at night in bed. Any ideas on how to stop this? Thank you for your time.
Answer from Amy:
Thank you for coming to LoveMeow.com. Many cats like to nibble on our fingers, hands, or even nose while cuddling with us. Cat nibbling could be attributed mainly to two reasons:
- trying to get our attention
- trying to play with us
They are just being cute and playful, but it can be a hassle for us since we do not have the coat they do to protect our skin. Also, cats do that sometimes at night when we are asleep, trying to get our attention to either play with them or feed them. Unfortunately, this nocturnal habit can really throw off our sleep schedule and get us cranky in the morning. Don’t fret. There is definitely hope.
When your cat starts nibbling on you while you are cuddling or resting with your cat on your lap, stand up immediately and walk away. Ignore the cat completely for a short while. You are giving her a message, saying “I am walking away from this behavior.” You can also redirect her energy or activity to toys when she does nibble. Have a stuffed mouse or animal handy. When she grabs your hand and starts nibbling, bring her a toy and allow her to engage that activity with the toy, not you.
Cats are very smart animals and can learn through trial and error very quickly. After a few tries, she will get the idea and will refrain herself from doing it.
The same method can be applied when you are sleeping. When your cat tries to get your attention with her mouth, you can remove her from the room and keep the door shut for a while. If you can bear one or two nights of imperfect sleep, I would open the door after 20 – 30 minutes to let her back in. She will most likely come back to nibble on you, so you will need to repeat the same process for perhaps a few times until she finally learns.
Some cats are more aggressive and persistent and may continue to grab or attack you while you are walking away. With those cats, cat owners need to keep themselves calm and never yell at the cat. A minimal amount of harmless startle can help stop the behavior by clapping your hands or blowing an air horn. If cat owners continue applying the method to create a loud sound after each undesirable behavior, soon the cat will associate that behavior to an annoying sound. This will discourage her to keep on doing it.
It is all about being consistent and patient. Do not give your cat mixed signals by giving in to her negative behavior because she may misinterpret your response as play. Reward her when she is being calm or doing well by talking to her calmly, rubbing her tummy or even giving her some treat.