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Why Does My Cat Bite My Feet? 6 Reasons for This Behavior

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	Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ, Veterinarian

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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As cat owners, we know that the price of being owned by a cat also means dealing with a lot of crazy and inexplicable behavior. But this is why we love our cats. Chances are, at some point in time, you’ve experienced a cat chomping down on your feet, toes, ankles, or shins.

Now you’re here, reading this article and looking for answers. We can probably understand why cats go after our fingers and hands, but the feet might seem a little, well, strange. We’ll do our best to explore this odd and yet rather endearing behavior.

We’ll cover six reasons we believe cats like to bite our feet. We’ll also discuss methods to help prevent it from happening. Unless you enjoy feet attacks and you just want to know why they do it…

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6 Reasons for Feline Foot Biting

There are various scenarios for the foot-biting behavior. Is it mainly occurring when your feet are under the blankets or when you’re walking around the house? Are the bites gentle or hard and accompanied by grabbing and even scratching?

Each circumstance will tell a different story into the whys, so this is something to think about when you’re interested in stopping the behavior.

1. Play

Play is probably the number one reason why cats enjoy nibbling on our tootsies. Your feet are accessible to a cat. They’re on the ground and are tantalizingly close enough that a cat might just not be able to resist lunging, grabbing, and biting them, especially because you’re moving. Cats have instincts that are triggered when they see a moving object.

What makes it even more fun is they usually will get a reaction from you. You jerk away, maybe jump and probably make a noise—shriek, scream, yell, laugh. The bites that accompany this kind of playful behavior aren’t typically hard and don’t usually penetrate your skin. Your cat is just having some fun, obviously at your expense.

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2. The Hunt

Hunting is also another top reason why cats enjoy attacking your feet. As we are all aware, cats are known to be superb hunters. This instinct is still quite powerful, even after centuries of domestication.

In this case, your cat might engage in stalking behavior before attacking your feet, and the bites might be more painful, even drawing blood. Keep in mind that this kind of attacking behavior isn’t personal. Your cat’s instincts have taken over, and your feet might as well be a mouse or a rabbit; your feet are prey at that moment. Your feet are also just the right size for your cat, and if you’re wearing fuzzy slippers or socks, they can appear even more prey-like to your cat.

This hunting behavior is more common with younger cats as well as indoor cats that might not be given enough opportunity to play and hunt.

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3. Boredom

If your cat is bored and hasn’t had enough opportunities to play, particularly with you, she might be attacking your feet out of boredom. A bored cat is likely to find ways of expending excess energy, which might include going after your feet.

This behavior falls somewhat into the playful category, so the cat’s bite might be gentle, but if your cat is frustrated enough, it might be a harder bite than usual.

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4. Attention

If you’ve noticed that your cat appears to attack your feet when you’re busy or not paying attention to her, it might be that she is looking to get your attention. Maybe she’s looking for food or a treat, or she wants to get into a room that has its door closed. In any case, this would be the worst moment to give the treat as the biting behavior will only increase.

Try to identify the scenarios when the biting for attention happens and engage in playing sessions or cuddles and treats BEFORE there is any sign that the cat will bite. Likewise, do not open the room after a bite if that is what the cat wants, as it will learn this is how it achieves its goals, and the biting will only increase.

Sometimes your cat might bite because you’re giving her too much attention. This is overstimulated aggression, in which your hands are usually the victims. You’re having a lovely petting session with your adorable cat when she suddenly turns on you, bites, and runs away. It also sometimes occurs when your cat is tired of playing and might lash out at the closest thing—your feet.

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5. Affection

Our cats love to bite out of love and affection. If you’ve been preparing your cat’s dinner and she gently bites your foot, she’s definitely showing you some love and appreciation.

Cats are known to give us love bites, which is believed to come from behavior learned from their mothers. Sometimes a mother cat will gently bite her kittens while grooming. Even in a litter of kittens, the siblings will bite while playing as a method of bonding, and it teaches the kitten how to be an adult.

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6. Medical Issue

Unfortunately, some medical issues might make your cat more aggressive than usual, and she might lash out at your feet since they are the closest thing to her. For example, hyperthyroidism can lead to more aggression in cats.

If you notice other unusual symptoms in your cat other than foot biting, take her to the vet to help rule out any health issues.

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How to Stop the Feet Biting

Cats are kind of like Goldilocks from the children’s story Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Everything has to be just right. Not too many pets, and not too few. Not too much play, but not too little.  So, if you would prefer for your cat not to bite your toes, here are some tips to help stop this behavior.

Ignore It

When they are kittens, they learn that playing too roughly is not fun. If a kitten bites her sibling too hard, the other kitten will stop playing and walk away. This way, they learn that biting hard equals no more fun.

If you stop reacting to the foot attacks and immediately and calmly remove yourself from your cat, she will learn to stop. This includes not looking at or speaking to your cat, walking into a room, and closing the door to separate yourself. Just for a few minutes to give your cat some time to calm down.

Redirect

Once you’ve removed yourself from your cat and have given her those few minutes to quiet down, you can redirect her energy to a toy. Another option is to study the biting scenarios and plan something else before the biting idea has even crossed your cat’s mind. Having a toy on hand and anticipating before there is the slightest sign of an impending ankle attack could make all the difference.

Also, toys that you can throw across the room for your cat will encourage them to take chase instead of biting. You may also find anything that your cat likes and will provide entertainment for redirection. Giving treats or praise to your cat for playing will make the positive behavior more rewarding and exciting. Ignoring the biting behavior combined with redirecting your cat’s biting will decrease it until it disappears.

Discourage

One problem with removing yourself is that you’ll be moving, and your cat might still continue chasing and attacking your feet. Another option is to crouch down and either distract her with an unusual sound or by snapping your fingers and clapping your hands. Once you have her attention, you tell her “no.” Again, consistency is essential.

a young tabby cat bites a woman's feet
Image Credit: Marina Demeshko, Shutterstock

Playtime

Be sure that you have enough options for your cat to keep herself entertained—toys that she can bite and kick, cat trees for climbing and scratching, access to windows, etc. You should also make time to play with your cat several times each day. Experts say that cats only need about 5 to 10 minutes of intense play every day, which will help to mentally stimulate and tire them out.

If you give your cat as much attention as you are able, then she’ll be less likely to lash out at your feet. However, if you are unable to give your cat the time and attention she needs, you might want to consider bringing another cat into your home, so she’ll have a playmate.

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Conclusion

Cats are wonderful, zany, and loving members of our families that we often need time to figure out. A visit to your vet might be in order; vets can provide advice if you are concerned about any behavioral issues.

You’ll also need to spend some time understanding your cat’s body language. The more you know your cat, the easier it will be for you to figure her out. Lots of love and attention (but not too much!) should help protect your feet, which will make you both much happier at the end of the day.

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Featured Image: Chomphuphucar, Shutterstock

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