This ankle-nipping problem is probably familiar to many kitten owners, including me. Kittens begin life playing with their mother and siblings, and it is during that time that they learn how to play nice. If a kitten is separated from its mother too early, it doesn’t learn this valuable skill and can act out later, even into adulthood.
According to The Humane Society of the United States, you can discourage ankle-nipping and other overly aggressive kitten behavior by doing the following:
- Drag a fishing pole–type toy on the floor when your kitten wants to pounce. You can also try throwing a toy that will require her to chase it. The point is to redirect her attention away from you and to the toy.
- Encourage play with a toy your kitten can wrestle with, such as a tiny stuffed animal, which you can gently rub on her tummy. She can then grab the toy instead of you.
- Don’t yell or otherwise punish your kitten when she pounces. She won’t understand your anger. Cats have a remarkable ability to understand rewards, but not punishment. Reward her good behavior instead.
- If you do want to say something when a kitten nips at your ankles, try a sharp, “Uh-uh,” and then offer her an acceptable toy. Don’t present the toy when she is still focused on you, or else she will consider it to be a reward.
- Set aside time each day to play with your kitten. She wants to play with you, and not just be left alone with toys, so your quality time with her will help to use up some of that explosive kitten energy.