If you’ve ever owned a cat, chances are you’ve been a victim of a scratch or cat bite. 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 will be born of aggression 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 might be able to do to change it.
- 1 My Cat Bites my Feet – Is It Ok or Not?
- 2 Why Does My Cat Bite My Feet? Here are 7 Reasons
- 3 How Do I Stop My Cat From Biting My Feet? 4 Things to Try
- 4 Insistent or Aggressive Biting
- 5 Are Cat Bites Dangerous?
- 6 Foot Attacks By Cats Aren’t the End of the World
My Cat Bites 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, on balance, 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 whole lot of fun, playing is a way of learning.
Cats are natural hunters, so they learn to hunt through play. It may be inconvenient for you that your feet happen to be very useful and easy prey. They’re always on the ground, after all.
And when you shriek or yell in surprise, it’s a sign that they’ve done it right. So try not to react in that way, and definitely don’t try to run off.
Most importantly, remember that your cat isn’t really trying to eat or hurt you. If it wants food, it will go elsewhere for that.
3. Your Cat is Practicing to Hunt
Let’s talk more about the hunting instinct. Yes, it’s a part of play, but it’s also vital for natural cat behavior. Young cats will do this a lot more than older cats.
If your cats are older and still attacking your feet, there may be another factor involved. If your cat is primarily indoors, it may not be getting 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. Some owners suggest that wearing fluffy nighttime footwear makes your feet even more tempting to catch.
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 get to 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.
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 also true – your cat might attack your feet or bite because you’re offering too much attention. In this case, it is simply 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 be affecting your cat’s mental state, making it overly aggressive or defensive.
Feline hyperthyroidism can cause aggression. Or, if a cat feels vulnerable, it may act in self-defense. In this case, your cat might lash out at your feet simply because they happen to be closest to it.
Lots of factors go into a cat feeling fearful. It can come from kittenhood, or it can be due to a traumatic event. Each cat is different, so if you have anxiety issues, try to isolate the cause and consult a behaviorist or a vet for advice.
7. There May be Latent Sexual Tendencies
Some male cats, even neutered ones, may display some latent sexual behavior. Cats tend to grab and bite during mating, and your feet may be providing 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.
How Do I Stop My Cat From Biting My Feet? 4 Things to Try
So you’re at your wit’s end, and you cannot walk around the house anymore for fear of a stealthy foot attack. What can you do?
1. Ignore the Behavior
One of the first steps to try is to simply ignore the behavior. That means not reacting with attention or any other direct interaction. Even better, simply 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 kind of 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 its initial intention 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, be sure to 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, at four in the morning, they’re ready to play again 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.
With all of the above, consistency is key, so practice your appropriate 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, there will be other cats 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 for some reason, you may be suffering 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 for advice or get medication to curb hyper-aggressive behavior.
Are Cat Bites Dangerous?
In the unlikely event that your cat has bitten you and pierced the skin – whether intentional or not – it’s essential to treat the bite immediately. Cat bites can cause infection, and in severe cases, they can be dangerous.
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 eventually 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. If possible, 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, 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 people, and children are most vulnerable to infections caused by cat bites.
Foot Attacks By Cats Aren’t the End of the World
Don’t be too panicked about your cat attacking your feet. 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 bear in mind 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.
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