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Why Do Cats Attack Legs?

Posted: 04/29/2024 | BY: Jenna Bruce | Categories: Behavior , Cat

Does this scenario sound familiar: You’ve just sat down on the sofa to stream your favorite TV show when your cat suddenly runs up and pounces on your legs, his sharp claws digging into your skin. Why do cats attack legs, and what can you do about it so you never have to feel that pain again?!

why do cats attack legs?

Why are Cats Obsessed with Feet and Legs?

Our feline friends are amazing hunters. If something moves, they want to chase it! It is simply in their nature as predators. Some cats’ innate instinct is so strong that your moving feet and legs can trigger the behavior. Even when they see your legs and move under the bed covers, everything in them shouts, “ATTACK!!!”

But this isn’t the only reason cats attack legs. In fact, there are quite a few explanations for why your cat pounces!

A Sign Of Affection

Cats are weird little creatures and as such, they tend to show their affection for us in odd ways. Licking our hair, bringing us dead chipmunks, and yes, attacking our feet and legs. While it may be hard for us to appreciate, biting is one way cats will show their affection. Cats actually learn this behavior from their mothers when they are kittens. Mother cats often give their kittens an affectionate nibble when grooming them. Kittens also affectionately bite each other during play.

And speaking of play…


Our pets never really grow out of a desire for play, which makes them superior to humans! Play aggression is a real thing. You may notice your cat is sweet one moment, gratefully accepting your pets. And then when you are finished loving on him and go to walk away, he playfully attacks your feet.

When cats are little they learn a lot of important things through play. They learn to hunt by throwing themselves at anything that moves. Your feet provide the best target practice because they are somewhat small and on the move!

When your cat attacks your feet or legs, there’s a very good chance they are simply playing, trying to engage you to join them in the fun!

They’re Bored

Cats, especially young cats, can become bored from a lack of stimulation just like we can! If you haven’t been playing with them, and/or if they are the only pet in the house, there’s a good chance they are bored.

Should your cat attack your feet or legs, they may simply be searching for something, anything, mentally stimulating to occupy them.

If you think your cat may be attacking out of boredom, try giving them more of your attention and spend time each day playing with them using proper cat toys.


Cats need attention like fish need water. But their body language can sometimes be hard to read because they’ll use the same tactic for two entirely different things.

For instance, they’ll attack your feet because they want you to pet them; but they’ll also attack you when they are overstimulated and no longer want to be petted.

In addition to wanting attention and pets from you, cats will also attack when they want something else, like to be fed or have the water faucet turned on. 

Be careful you don’t fall for this tactic. If you always give them treats to get them to stop attacking you, they will always attack you to get treats.

A Health Issue

One common reason a cat may suddenly attack their human when they do not have a history of it is if they are in some kind of pain. An underlying and undetected health issue can make a cat feel vulnerable and threatened when touched or engaged with. 

Hormone changes are notorious for causing cats to become more territorial and aggressive, which can result in more ankle biting. Hyperthyroidism is a common health condition that can lead to increased aggression.

How to Get a Cat to Stop Attacking Your Legs

If you have a cat that attacks your legs, don’t worry, it doesn’t mean you have an aggressive cat. As you can see, there are plenty of reasons why your cat may suddenly pounce on you.

What you need to do is try to understand what is going on with your cat at that moment to discover why they may be attacking. In most cases, spending more time interacting with your cat for some serious play time will eliminate 4 out of the 5 reasons listed.

If your cat does not have a history of attacking your legs and they have suddenly started, they may have a health issue going on. Contact your veterinarian to get your cat checked out. 

The bottom line is, the more you understand your cat’s behavior and love language, the better able you’ll be to know which behaviors are normal and which are not. This will ultimately lead to more pawsitive interactions with your cat!

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The information contained on this blog is intended for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. It is not a substitute for professional veterinary care. Always consult with your veterinarian before making any changes to your pet's health care or treatment plan.

The authors of this blog are not veterinarians and do not claim to be experts in pet health. The information provided here is based on our own experiences and research, as well as information from reputable sources. However, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of this information.

We encourage you to do your own research and consult with your veterinarian before making any decisions about your pet's health.

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