Maine Coons are a curious feline. Sometimes they are the most relaxed and affable pets you could wish for. As a paradox though, they are also considered one of the best mousing breeds out there. So when it comes to biting, what is going on? Is it a common problem with Maine Coons and when does play turn into aggression?
There’s quite a few questions to answer when it comes to this subject.
In short though, Maine Coons are called ‘gentle giants’ for a reason, With owners they are not considered to be a problem breed for biting and scratching. Individual cats aside, they tend to have gentle play rather than producing painful experiences. All kittens bite and chew as they learn, but they should grow out of it into adulthood. A Maine Coon that has a propensity for unprovoked attacking and biting is quite rare and not indicative of the breed. Unprovoked biting is behaviour that should need careful remedying. Most incidences seem to occur when playing turns into aggression.
My Maine Coon Alita, isn’t a big aggressive biter. What I tend to get is that gentle gnawing and play chewing rather than anything painful. I think this is pretty typical, certainly from any of the Maine Coons I have known.
Not having a large problem with Maine Coon biting I had to do a bit of research to find out if there is a big issue with this. And if it is, what you should do about it.
When your Maine Coon bites you, it can be tough to figure out what’s wrong. In most cases among kittens this isn’t a sign of aggression but instead that they’re exploring their environment. The mother or their litter’s members usually teach a baby cat that this isn’t good behavior, but sometimes they don’t learn this lesson.
The problem might seem to be worsening if a cat keeps biting into adulthood. However, adult cats usually bite for different reasons than kittens. It’s about the cats’ response to their environment instead of their development.
The key is to figure out the likely cause of your feline’s biting if they seem to be doing it more than normal. Here are some of the main reasons adult cats bite:
Sometimes cats bite because they want to show dominance over other cats. Or you. This is more likely among male cats since they tend to be more aggressive than females.
In other cases, your cat is responding to a threat. This is likely to happen if a cat bites then doesn’t back off from the perceived threat.
In other cases, the cat bites to show they need attention. For example, your Maine Coon might nip at you then try to get you to play with a toy. In this case, they’re using the bite instead of meowing to communicate with their owner.
To a Maine Coon kitten the world is a very new and fascinating place. They also come into the world with a whole evolutionary set of instincts that they will eventually grow out of.
The obvious jump on anything that moves phase of a kittens life will produce much biting, clawing and pouncing. This is natural and nothing to worry about. If a kitten is constantly biting your toes, then this isn’t strange. It’s still learning about the world.
Thousands of years of hunting instincts are coming to the fore here, even though they will probably do very little hunting in reality. Certainly for most domestic cats now this is the case.
At some point in the kittens development you are going to have to make a decision that it is no longer acceptable to aggressively bite fingers and toes. Providing plenty of toys for the kitten to chew and gnaw on will help you accomplish this.
This is the question that I think most cat owners seem to want to know about.
Cats don’t technically bite for no reason at all. There’s a reason, and several factors can trigger it. Some cats and kittens do this rarely while others do it frequently. It can be caused by a wide range of reasons. Here are some of the most common ones:
One reason is your Maine Coon might simply like the sensation of chewing on fingers or plastic, for example. There are no bad intentions. It’s like humans nibbling on a pen or pencil.
A good option is changing your cat’s behavior instead of stopping it. For example, you could give your kitty-cat a chew toy/stick. This will give them something else to nibble on besides your digits.
The fancy name is “social biting,” and it involves animals (and humans). For example, it’s like the urge to pinch a cute baby’s chubby cheeks lightly.
In fact, it’s not really a bite. Your cat is showing that you can trust it to bite without hurting you. Try offering your feline friend a chew toy after they give you a little nibble. If they’re not interested, then you’re probably dealing with love bites.
If your kitten chews on your fingers or other stuff, it might be teething. Think of it as a type of pacifier for baby cats. If your kitten nibbles on a lot of stuff and that includes your fingers sometimes, then it’s likely the cause is teething.
Here’s a test you can do. See if your kitten enjoys nibbling on a baby pacifier. If that’s the case then the cause of the biting is likely teething.
Kittens tend to bite people more than adults do. It appears to be an instinct. However, that doesn’t mean ‘Max’ or ‘Fluffy’ won’t bite when they grow older. It might be surprising why stroking a resting cat would cause this reaction.
Here are some of the situations in which your cat might chomp on you for no apparent reason:
Cats tend to be much more independent than dogs. They can be loving and caring, but sometimes they just don’t want to be bothered for whatever reason. This can cause them to bite the hand that feeds them–literally. It’s also more likely if you don’t pick up on meows and body language that they’re annoyed. Keep an eye on that tail.
Another possible explanation is your cat is over-stimulated when you pet them. If you pet your cat strongly then they might need a break from the belly/back rubs.
They’ll probably try to send you the message through a less aggressive way than biting. However, if they want to stress the issue, they might nip your hand. The poor thing basically just wants a time-out from the petting.
This is an ironic situation since you and your pussycat are having fun. Why would they bite you? It often is a result of their hunting instinct. Try to train them to play with you only using their paws and not their claws or teeth. If they play without being aggressive, then reward them with a cat treat to encourage their behavior.
You can provide them with catnip-rubbed chew toys, scratching posts, etc. for biting and clawing. These are normal activities for cats in the wild, so this option gives them the chance to do them without getting your fingers and hands involved.
If you play with your Maine Coon, a good question to ask is whether you are being too rough with them. You are considerably bigger and stronger than them and may be causing discomfort. Try being a slightly defter touch next time, and see if the biting stops.
It’s one thing if your pet cat soft chews a few fingers. It’s quite another story if they start to bite and claw. This might cause visible marks on you like scratches and punctures. Why would a Maine Coon engage in such behavior?
This action takes a warning nip to another level. If your cat nibbles at you while you’re playing, it’s different than aggressive behavior.
Whether your cat shows this behavior to another animal or human, it shows they’re in fighting mode. The biting might also include hissing and spitting. They could also get into an arched posture.
Essentially this is showing a quickness to aggression.
It’s critical to stop aggressive behavior in cats towards you. They must learn that it’s unacceptable behavior. If you don’t do that, they’ll keep using it as a way to show they’re afraid or upset.
Keep in mind the training might take some time. Make sure to avoid physical discipline. You should also reward them with snacks to reinforce good behavior. If they forget from time to time, it’s natural.
One of the best ways to prevent aggressive behavior is to prevent situations when that might happen. This includes Maine Coons that have been frightened easily because of past experiences or outdoor cats that are trying to defend what they believe is their territory.
If you own an indoor cat, then the aggression could mean they’re sharing too much space. Give them more areas to hide, climb, and perch. You should also provide more:
You should also avoid rewarding bad behavior. If your cat is starting to get ‘hissy’, change its behavior by offering an interactive cat toy.
This is perhaps a common complaint amongst many cat owners. You are safely petting your cat one minute and then suddenly, without warning, you receive a nip. Maybe something worse, maybe suddenly the claws have come out.
As a quick question, were you paying attention to your cat’s body language. It might be tired, irritable and trying to get to sleep. You constantly stroking them might not be what they want.
Maine Coons like their owners and as well as following them around, are quite happy to sit down and lie on you. Alita does anyway.
However she might not want petting every time. If it’s consistent biting with your cat, just refrain from petting them. I know it’s hard. But it might be the cause of the annoyance.
Some petting is fine, but every cat has an invisible annoyance line. Alita, seems to like her ears being fondled. Gently rolling them around my fingers seems to do wonders.
I am sure she would let me do it all day.
However, could it be the biting is a way they are trying to communicate they are not enjoying the constant physical attention.
This is pretty easy to fix. Just stop petting them. Let them come to you if they want it.
With a story that comes from the Sunday Morning Herald, Jackson Galaxy a 51 year old cat behaviourist postulates that you are over stimulating them if they suddenly bite you in an unprovoked bite. Over stimulating seems to be a polite way of saying too much petting actually hurts your Maine Coon. Their hair follicles can only take so much.
When dealing with aggressive cats should you prevent or fix the behavior? This isn’t a problem with some cats so you won’t have to deal with it.
Whenever possible try to prevent aggressive behavior. Here are some options:
Even if you take such steps remember that “stuff” happens in life. After taking the right steps you still might have to deal with aggressive behavior from your Maine Coon.
One step you should certainly take is to consult with your veterinarian. They know your cat and can provide suggestions for your situation.
A good approach is to use a combination of preventing and fixing aggressive behavior. By dealing with it in the early stages, it will be easier to correct. This starts knowing the signs of an aggressive feline.
If you have to fix serious aggressive behavior make sure that you’re patient. The process will involve the cat unlearning that their behavior isn’t acceptable. In fact, the process could take months.
The goal should be to changing your cat’s behavior instead of ending it. For example, wildcats get lots of exercise hunting prey for their meals. It’s a lot more physical activity than eating a bowl of kibble.
If you decide to cure your cat’s aggressive biting, you can take some practical steps. Here are some of the best options:
This should be a total of 20 to 30 minutes per day. This can include multiple play sessions depending on factors like your cat’s attention span and energy levels. It should be gentle and fun. Avoid aggressive interaction and try to read your Maine Coons body language. If you think it might have had enough, then stop. And give them a treat.
Your pet may have to learn that these aren’t toys. It might seem ok and natural for them to bite your digits, but it shouldn’t be that way. Make sure to offer toys to bite on instead of your fingers/toes. These can be as basic as stuffed toys.
When you’re not home or unable to play with your cat, this will provide them with tools to release stress and energy. Make sure to provide different ones like chew toys.
If your cat decides it’s ok to bite/claw you then put it in a room for a 5-minute time out. This will teach it that its behavior has crossed the line.
If they bite hard or use their claws, then hiss at them like another cat would. They’ll get the message they’re doing something wrong.
This actually stimulates the cat to bite more. It’s better to push the hand/arm inwards toward the bite. If you pull away, it will encourage the cat to bite harder.
It’s important for everyone in the household to follow the same rules about how they respond to biting. This will prevent mixed messages.
As a general rule, male cats are more aggressive than female cats, so neutering can work to calm them down.
Essentially, immediately after the bite, so the Maine Coon can connect the two incidents, consider a very light punishment such as tapping the head with a rolled up magazine. Another option, as cats are known for not liking certain smells like citrus is to dip your finger into a citrus juice and stroke their nose. Quite quickly the cat will associate biting with a smell they don’t like and can’t get rid of.
Your Maine Coon may just be trying to get your attention. Perhaps they are hungry or need to be let out. They are biting you as a signal. When you react they conclude that the bite has worked. They may get frustrated that you aren’t doing what they want, but the act of biting has served its purpose. Thus they will bite and then try to figure how to get what they want. Ignoring them may force them to conclude that biting isn’t a signal you react to.
If your Maine Coon ends up biting or scratching you it’s important to treat it effectively. Like other injuries, if you don’t do that then the situation could become worse.
Here are the steps to take:
Place the injured body part under the faucet and wash the wound for 5 minutes. Make sure to avoid scrubbing since this could damage tissue. Then put an antiseptic cream/lotion on the wound.
This includes a spike in redness, swelling, drainage, or pain. If you or your household member develops a fever, then contact a doctor immediately. This is a sign there’s more than a bite/scratch involved.
If the bite is deeper and caused bleeding then first apply pressure to the wound using a clean towel/bandage until the bleeding stops.
Next, use soap/water to wash the wound for 5 minutes. After drying the wound use a clean dressing to cover it.
Contact a doctor if other treatments are needed like an antibiotic or tetanus booster. You should also contact them if flu-like symptoms like headache, fever, or swollen glands start. If you’re not sure about the cause of symptoms someone has after your pet has bitten or scratched them contact a doctor just to be on the safe side.
Always make sure your Maine Coon is up-to-date with this vaccinations and deworming. For example, rabies vaccines are needed every 1-3 years depending on the one used. This will help to prevent your cat from acquiring rabies then passing it on to your family members.
Your Maine Coon might bite you for different reasons. This is often a “love bite” because they want to play, don’t want to be petted, or simply want to experience biting stuff. It’s important to prevent aggressive behavior like hard bites and scratches as soon as possible. These behaviors will be tougher to change if they continue.
Keep in mind that these behaviors are often part of a cat’s hunting instinct. You can often prevent it through providing a personal feeding station or litter box, or giving your feline more play time.
Ultimately, it’s up to you whether it’s a problem or not. If you are concerned, then it probably is. Personally I’m OK, with the gnawing, and would be OK with aggressive biting every now and again.
Where I would draw the line is with unprovoked biting. If your adult Maine Coon bites when being stroked then I just wouldn’t stroke it. It may be in pain (a bad joint for example) so I would cease the activity that premeditates a bite.
A kitten I personally allow to chew and bite as much as it wants, but it should grow out of the behaviour.
Something to consider is to truly ask yourself whether you are a justifiable cause of the cat biting you. Are you too rough with playing with them? Are they in pain somewhere and you keep hurting them, unknowingly obviously?
If my Maine Coon ever decides to bite me for no reason on a regular basis then I would try and correct the behaviour. Currently Alita just rolls her head around my fingers and ‘play chews’ at them if I am stroking her. Which I am fine with.
I’m also more inclined to fight the problem, should it arise, with positive reinforcement rather than negative reinforcement. I would rather reward the cat for playful behaviour where they didn’t bite, rather than punish for bad behaviour.
I also try hard to create a stress free environment, where anger, and thus biting is less likely to occur. If your Maine Coon is stressed it may be reacting badly to it, and it comes through with biting.
Maine Coons are wonderful pets to have. These “gentle giants” are famous for being loyal and friendly. Taking some basic steps can help to prevent bites ranging from nips to chomps.
If you look at the video below you should be able to pick up on the body language;