If you’ve ever owned a cat, chances are you’ve been a scratch or cat bite victim. It’s not always a violent affair. Cats love to bite gently when playing or to warn you of something. Sometimes, cats will focus on particular parts of your body to attack or bite, like feet. Why do they do this? Why does my cat bite my feet?
Cats bite for lots of different reasons. They also have different kinds of bites. A gentle nibble is a non-aggressive interaction, while a real bite is probably related to aggression, pain or fear. In the case of cats attacking your feet, it’s most likely the former.
Even so, there are plenty of reasons why your cat may decide to bite your feet. In this article, we’ll look at a few possible reasons for this behavior and what you can do to change it.
Why Does My Cat Attack My Feet? Is It Ok or Not?
Well, it is, and it isn’t. On the one hand, your cat (probably) loves you and needs mental and physical stimulation to stay well-balanced and healthy. Regularly stalking your feet could help contribute to that.
On the other hand, if a cat doesn’t understand how to be gentle or when to stop, it can cause serious injury. Also, visitors and other family members may not appreciate random sets of claws and teeth at their heels.
So, it’s best to consider this an undesirable behavior, and you should probably try to curb it sooner rather than later.
Why Does My Cat Bite My Feet? Here are 7 Reasons
There you are, minding your own business, making a cup of tea, or relaxing on the couch while watching the latest episode of that new Netflix show (Cat People comes highly recommended). Suddenly, the sharp, searing sensation of teeth sinking into your soft foot pulls you out of your daze.
Congratulations, kitty has just discovered your feet, and they’re fantastic! “ Why, kitty?” you may ask. If your cat could talk, these might be the reasons it would give for this behavior:
1. It’s a Sign of Affection
Your cat may just be telling you it loves you. Biting is a part of a cat’s life, even from a young age. When mothers groom their kittens, it often involves light nibbling. Cats learn to associate this behavior with showing affection.
You will even observe cats that grow up together doing this among themselves. It’s also more likely to happen if your cat knows you’re busy preparing to feed them. They begin to associate kitchen counter activity with possible food and treats.
2. Your Cat is Playing
For large parts of their youth, cats are very playful. As well as being a lot of fun, playing is a way of learning. Cats are natural hunters, so they learn to hunt through play. It may be inconvenient that your feet are very useful and easy prey. They’re always on the ground, after all.
Additionally, if you sit under covers on your couch, bonus points for providing an enticing hidden target. There’s something under that blanket, and your cat will get it.
⇒ If you are looking for more information on how to look after your kitties, check out some of my posts about the following: how to groom your cat, what is the largest cat breeds, why does my cat sit on me, and why do cats knead.
And when you shriek or yell in surprise, it’s a sign that they’ve done it right. So try not to react that way, and don’t try to run off. Most importantly, remember that your cat isn’t trying to eat or hurt you. If it wants food, it will go elsewhere for that.
3. Your Cat is Practicing Hunting
Let’s talk more about the hunting instinct. Yes, it’s a part of play but also vital for natural cat behavior. Young cats will do this a lot more than older cats.
Another factor may be involved if your cats are older and still attacking your feet. If your cat is primarily indoors, it may not get enough opportunities to stalk and hunt in its daily routine.
Cats that spend at least part of the day outdoors will be less likely to exhibit this behavior. They may get enough practice outside with birds, insects, and rodents.
Feet, especially those disguised within furry slippers are interesting for your cat because they are similar in shape and size to their prey in the wild.
4. Your Cat Might be Bored
Believe it or not, cats can get bored. And boredom is not great for anyone. This may occur if your cat doesn’t have enough activity to occupy its day. If it doesn’t go outside or regularly play with you, there’s a chance it is simply looking for some mental stimulation.
Other behavior associated with boredom may be if your cat takes to ripping furniture or jumping onto furniture and curtains inappropriately.
Providing your cat with some toys to play with is an excellent way to save your feet and your furniture!
5. Your Cat is Seeking Attention (Or Not)
Take note of when your cat is attacking your feet. If it’s when you’ve not interacted for a while, it may be seeking your attention. “Play with me!” might be what it is trying to say.
Bizarrely, the opposite is true – your cat might attack your feet or bite because you’re offering too much attention. In this case, it is overstimulated and expressing feelings of aggression.
6. There Might be an Underlying Medical Issue
On a more serious note, and in more extreme cases, there’s the possibility of an underlying medical issue. If the biting behavior is sudden and hasn’t happened before, your cat might be in pain. Such an issue may affect your cat’s mental state, making it overly aggressive or defensive.
Feline hyperthyroidism can cause behavioral changes such as aggression and vocalization. Pain or health conditions in cats can manifest in different ways. If your cat is out of character and attacking your feet, they may be trying to tell you that they’re not feeling their best.
If you think your cat might be unwell, contact your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis.
7. There May be Latent Sexual Tendencies
Some male cats, even neutered ones, may display latent sexual behavior. Male cats grab and bite during mating, and your feet may be a target for this instinct.
Similarly, if a female cat is suddenly clawing and biting at your feet, it may be mistaking your attempt to play with it for sexual aggression. Cats who have not been adequately socialized in their litter may display this.
This kind of behavior may disappear as your cat gets older. If you feel the behavior is persisting, consult your vet for advice.
Many vets recommend neutering or spaying cats to reduce the chances of some diseases and unwanted behavior.
How Do I Stop My Cat From Biting My Feet? 4 Things to Try
So you’re at your wit’s end, and you can no longer walk around the house for fear of a stealthy foot attack. What can you do?
1. Ignore the Behavior
One of the first steps to try is to ignore the behavior. That means not reacting with attention or any other direct interaction. Even better, walk away and distance yourself from the cat.
Avoid talking to or reprimanding the cat. Simply walk into another room and close the door, if necessary. After a short while, you can return and perhaps interact with your cat with a grooming brush or a cat toy.
One fantastic suggestion is some toy that they can play-attack. Perhaps they have a favorite stuffed mouse or something similar you can use. This cunning trick is known as a redirection technique.
2. Redirect the Attention
Speaking of redirection, have one of those stuffed chew toys for cats on hand if you anticipate a cat attack. When you start to see the initial stalking behavior, toss the toy to get your cat’s attention.
This may distract the kitty from initially intending to attack your feet and redirect it to chase the toy instead. After a while, the cat might completely forget about your feet.
3. Gently Push Away
If you do move away, do so without reacting like prey. That means not running away or making panicked noises. Instead, reach down and gently push the cat away from you. Then, move off calmly.
Do not otherwise punish your cat. This might trigger fearful behavior. If you’re unsure how to interact, here’s some excellent advice on how to pet your cat.
4. Don’t Encourage
Lots of us don’t realize that we encourage this biting behavior. When we’re ready to play, we like to tease the kitty with a game – sometimes one that involves our feet under the covers. At first, it’s cute when they react.
But then, they’re ready to play again at four in the morning while we’re asleep. Guess what? Your feet are moving under the covers! That’s a game they know how to play. So if you want to stop that behavior, don’t encourage it, even when you want to play.
Consistency is key with all of the above, so practice your reactions without fail. Remember that this applies to all members of the household.
Insistent or Aggressive Biting
There is a chance that your cat is indeed displaying slightly aggressive behavior. It may be trying to establish dominance in the household, especially if it seems to be biting hard or consistently attacking whenever it sees you.
Usually, other cats will be in the home, and the dominance is targeted at them. This may roll over to you, of course. Another somewhat related cause is fear. If your cat is very anxious or fearful, you may suffer the consequences of ultra-defensive behavior. In both cases, there may be some action you can take.
Try creating a safe space with a high cat perch. This might give your cat enough reassurance that they are not in danger. You may also need to consult a vet or animal behaviorist for advice.
Are Cat Bites Dangerous?
In the unlikely event that your cat has bitten you and pierced the skin – intentional or not – it’s essential to treat the bite immediately. Cat bites can cause infection and can be dangerous in severe cases.
Bartonella henselae, for example, is carried by cats. It’s a bacteria that can cause cat scratch fever in humans. Cat scratch fever is an unpleasant condition involving symptoms like fever, headache, and exhaustion.
Lymph nodes become swollen, tender, and painful. And your wounds can begin to leak pus and generally be unpleasant. If left untreated, the infection can spread to the heart and swell brain tissue. Cats also carry several other strains of bacteria, like Pasteurella multocida. You can see why a deep cat bite shouldn’t be taken lightly.
If you are bitten, wash the wound under running water immediately and disinfect the area. See a doctor as soon as possible, especially if the bite was deep and drew blood. Keep a close eye on any signs of infection such as pain, redness and swelling, as this might indicate that you need antibiotics or other treatment.
In severe cases, bacterial infections may cause a condition called cellulitis and sometimes even life-threatening septicemia. Frail, older or immunosuppressed people and children are most vulnerable to infections caused by cat bites.
Why Do Cats Attack Feet FAQs
If your cat is biting feet and you’re wondering how to stop a cat from biting feet, then there are probably more questions you have been asking yourself. These are some frequently asked questions about why cats bite your feet.
Why is My Cat Obsessed With My Feet?
Cats release a healthy dose of pheromones to communicate how they are feeling. They mostly come from glands on their head and face; this is often why they rub their faces against humans.
But when it comes to feet, this is where humans secrete most of their pheromones. Cats can pick up on the scent of the excreted pheromones, which draws them to feet. But a couple of other aspects of feet make them attractive to cats. The little wiggly toes are enticing things for cats to play with.
Why Does My Cat Attack My Feet When I Walk Away?
Cats are playful creatures who can mistake just about anything for a toy or prey. Often, they think it is a game when your feet start moving away from them, and they initiate the chase. Every movement from that point forward encourages them in their game.
If you move to avoid your cat’s attack, it is a further movement for them to attack. And if you squeal out of surprise, it sends the message that this is, in fact, a game. The best thing to do in that situation is to stop moving.
How Do You Discipline a Cat for Attacking?
It’s best to avoid any form of physical discipline as cats struggle to connect their behavior to the physical act of discipline. Instead, they make a correlation between the person and the physical pain, leading them to avoid you in the future.
The best thing to use is a species-specific discipline like hissing. If you speak to your kitty in a language they understand, the message will get through to them a lot clearer. You can also use a water sprayer or compressed air to disrupt and discourage the immediate behavior. However, it won’t discourage them from engaging in that behavior again.
Do Kittens Go Through a Biting Phase?
Like all small animals testing their newfound gnashers, kittens certainly go through a biting phase. They start play biting at around 3 weeks of age, and their biting phase reaches its peak between weeks 9 and week 16.
This is when they bite their mother and siblings, and their reactions teach them just how saw their bites can be. It’s a critical learning stage for the kitten. If you are hand-rearing your kitten and they start biting you, it’s essential to show them when their biting hurts you with a loud shout or scream so they learn how hard is too hard.
Why is My Cat Biting Me All of a Sudden?
If your cat doesn’t usually bite you but suddenly bites you frequently, this is generally classed as a sudden change of behavior. When cats exhibit this behavior change, it could mean they are in pain.
Even if there are no other signs of pain, such as limping, change in appetite, vocalization, or hiding, don’t be fooled. Cats are masters at hiding the fact that they are in pain. So, if you notice a sudden behavioral change, such as biting, you must take them to the vet to be checked out.
Should I Hit My Cat for Biting?
No, you should never be physically abusive toward your cat. As previously mentioned, cats associate physical punishment with the person administering it rather than the behavior that evoked it.
If you want your cat to stop biting you, hissing at them is far more effective. You can also use deterrents such as a spray bottle or a can of compressed air.
At What Age Do Kittens Stop Biting?
Kittens bite during play, and even when they progress into cat-hood, they will continue to bite while playing. But the amount of biting occurring generally decreases between the ages of 1 and 2.
What Are Signs of Aggression in Kittens?
If you want to stay out of the way when your kitty might be agitated and need to bite, then understanding their signs of aggression is key. Signs of aggression in kittens are similar to those in adults. So, if your kitty has dilated pupils and its ears are flattened and pointed backward on its head, they are likely feeling agitated.
If your cat has its tail stuck straight up in the air and the hairs on its back raised, these are pretty firm signs of aggression, too. At this point, it’s recommended to stop what you’re doing and let your kitty have a cool-off period before play resumes.
What Does It Mean if a Cat Bites You While Purring?
When your cat bites you while purring, believe it or not, it is a sign of affection. While some cat owners refer to this as a love bite, others consider it to be petting aggression.
Why Do Cats Bite Feet?
Don’t be too panicked about your cat attacking your feet or biting your toes. It’s not behavior that will necessarily be permanent, and you won’t need to invest in a pair of wellington boots to wear for the rest of your life. Check out this article for more information on why your cat is attacking you in general.
Assuming your cat isn’t biting to kill your feet, feel free to try any corrective techniques discussed above. Of course, there’s the possibility that you don’t mind at all. But remember that not everyone in your home will appreciate a surprise foot attack. It’s best to curb the behavior and resort to mutually enjoyed playtime with some awesome cat toys instead.
Meet the Veterinary Expert
Charlotte recently became a doctor and studied at the University of Zagreb, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. She’s volunteered in her university’s obstetrical clinic, and equine clinic, and is dog mum to 14-year-old Chiki. Charlotte loves to travel and has completed externships in Austria, Spain, and Belgium.