FunNature & AnimalWhy does your cat attack your feet and hands?

Why does your cat attack your feet and hands?


When we talk about any behavior in the cat, we must remember what its natural behavior is in the wild . Let us remember that the cat cannot be considered a domesticated animal, but rather has tolerance for living with humans. It is for this reason that natural behaviors and their instinct are so common in our cats.

Among these, we can highlight the hunting instinct. Our house cats do not need to hunt for food . They have food freely available, so going out to look for it is not necessary. Then we could think that by not needing food or hunger, the hunting instinct will be extinguished.

At this point, we must know that in nature the cat does not hunt when it is hungry. He does it before he has it. Cats are solitary animals, getting food can take several attempts. If they make these attempts when they are already hungry and weaker, it will be much harder for them to get their prey. For this reason, cats, even if they are not hungry, maintain their hunting instinct.

In our houses, except when a fly enters, few prey are going to be able to hunt, so they have to “entertain themselves” with whatever moves.

If we have done our job, and we have provided them with a good environmental enrichment, they will have different toys at their disposal, whether they are mice, balls, rods or interactive toys, which they will try to hunt down. If, on the other hand, we do not provide them with enough environmental enrichment, they will hunt our feet when we walk and even our hands when we move them.

It is important, therefore, that in addition to providing them with toys as we have seen, we avoid playing with them by moving our hands and feet.

Many of us have liked, at some point, to move our hands and fingers from side to side so that we can play with our cat. This, which may seem very innocent, especially when they are puppies, can eventually cause them to consider the hand as prey and try to hunt it not only as puppies, but also as adults.

And, on the other hand, we must think that our cats have a certain tolerance for human contact. That is, they like caresses to a certain extent . At that moment, they begin to show us signs, which in most cases go unnoticed in the eyes of the person who is caressing them and continues to do so. The cat, not achieving its objective, which is to stop petting it, begins to feel frustration that it shows by biting the hand of the one who is touching it . This behavior, if not recognized, can result in serious injuries to the owner’s hand. So we must let our cats be the ones asking for our caresses. Stroking a little and withdrawing your hand will help us to see if our cat approaches so that we give him more or if, on the contrary, he does not, we know that he has had enough and we will stop.

How to avoid, then, that our feet and hands hunt?

First of all, improving its environmental enrichment . The cat at home is bored. From the sofa, to the bed, to eating and to the sandbox all day. For this and many other reasons, we have a high percentage of obese, frustrated and bored cats.

It is no use buying them many toys and leaving them around the house. Cats, just like children, get bored of toys , but you don’t have to spend all day buying new toys either. What we can do is

  • Rotate them every so often . For example, one week we take out some, and at the end of the week we keep them for another 3 weeks. That way they won’t get bored of the same toys.
  • Play with them. It has been shown that cats need contact with us. Not only to pet them, but also to play or even train them. Trick training stimulates his brain and thus improves his bond with you.
  • Watch out for laser pointers . Using the laser to play with them can be counterproductive depending on how it is done. It’s so much fun to watch them run after the little red dot, but when that dot suddenly disappears, Cat’s frustration mounts. I was trying to catch something that was moving and suddenly it just disappears. If you want to use one of these pointers, it is important that the place where the red dot will disappear coincides with a prize, if it is a better sweet.
  • Use interactive feeders such as puzzles, mazes, in which the final prize for having achieved your goal is a tasty treat.
  • Use high areas where they can climb, areas where they can hide, scratchers…

Finally, the period from when the cat hunts our feet until we get it to stop doing so can be long. Especially if the behavior has been established for a long time. It is essential, in this period, never scold or punish the cat. These practices may exacerbate behavior rather than improve it. On the contrary, what we must do is, on the one hand, ignore the behavior that we want to eliminate and reward a new one that we want him to do, for example, changing the focus of attention from our legs to a toy.

On the other hand, we must differentiate what is aggression game. This differentiation has a very fine line, and once the threshold is exceeded, the most frequent thing is that the help of a professional is necessary to re-educate our cat and avoid more serious future incidents. So if you’re in doubt as to whether your cat is playing or attacking, it’s best to videotape it and show it to your vet.


Ellis, S. L. 2009. Environmental enrichment: practical strategies for improving feline welfare. Journal of feline medicine and surgery, 11(11), 901-912.

Grigg, E. K., & Kogan, L. R. 2019. Owners’ attitudes, knowledge, and care practices: Exploring the implications for domestic cat behavior and welfare in the home. Animals, 9(11), 978.



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