Cat attack!
September 19, 2005 6:41 PM   Subscribe

Why does my cat hate my legs?

My indoor/outdoor, neutered, one year old cat regularly attacks me. Specifically, he hides until I walk by and then rips the hell out of my legs. This isn't playful behavior--his ears fold back and he draws blood. I've talked to the vet about it and she basically laughed it off as his "personality."

I'm the one who feeds him, combs him and lets him in and out every day, yet I'm the only one he attacks like this. What is going on? And more important, how do I get it to stop?
posted by jrossi4r to Pets & Animals (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My big guy did this for several years. Then I got another cat and he started attacking her instead. Best think I ever did.

Now he's really cuddly with me. And after five or seven years, the little cat learned to stand up to the big cat, and all is well.

posted by mudpuppie at 6:45 PM on September 19, 2005

buy a spray bottle and be consistent with how you use it.
posted by stokast at 7:05 PM on September 19, 2005

Wow, and I thought I was the only one whose cat did this. Same deal, young (about 2-years-old now) neutered cat who shreds my legs from the knees down.

I got him at a shelter in December and he used to do this A LOT when it started getting warm and I'd wear shorts or skirts (it wasn't as much of a problem in pants). He gradually started doing it less and less as the summer went on so I figured it was just that he didn't "recognize" my bare legs. So basically I'm thinking it's something he's growing out of as he learns.

I also keep a few cans of compressed air strategically located around my apartment so whenever he's on the attack there's one within reach.

Unfortunately, I don't think there's one magic solution for this. Age seems to help though.
posted by awegz at 7:05 PM on September 19, 2005

playful behavior is not playful behavior for a cat ... he's practicing hunting ... on your legs

you need to give him something else to practice on ... and spend some time "playing" with him and those toys

it's an instinctual need ... he's got to let it out somehow
posted by pyramid termite at 7:07 PM on September 19, 2005

I'll second mudpuppie and say that another cat will keep him from getting so excited when you move about the house. Also, trim his claws. Even if you can't stop him from climbing your legs, you can keep from having them torn to shreds. If you have been trimming his claws, trim a little further back. I was surprised how far you can go without cutting to the quick. He'll fuss at first but by now my 4 month old kitten doesn't even wake up when I do his claws.
posted by jaysus chris at 7:17 PM on September 19, 2005

I second pyramid's comment. I have a cat who did that with my hands sometimes while petting. He bit and scratched in a very serious way.

I ended that behavior by grabbing his scruff, the loose skin and fur behind his neck, thus letting him know that I was his mom/dad. There is no pain or fear involved, it's just a matter of Kitty communication. You are not a play thing. My cat is an indoor/outdoor cat, so I don't trim his nails, he does that himself with his scratcher, (a mat made of cardboard).
posted by snsranch at 7:47 PM on September 19, 2005

my brother's cat, which i am cat-sitting, does this all the time. she is usually an outdoor cat, but is now confined to the indoors all the time, which probably has something to do with it. i just wear pants around the house and know when to jump.
posted by Hackworth at 8:31 PM on September 19, 2005

snsranch - I concur. Establishing yourself as Alpha Kitty in the house is the best way to end bad behavior - whether its through a spray-gun, compressed air, or physical means like grabbing by the scruff of the neck or physically pinning the cat when he gets too aggressive (rereading your question, I wouldn't reccommend that last step unless the cat is pretty small for her age).
posted by muddgirl at 9:16 PM on September 19, 2005

This behavior does wane as the cat gets older. I'd suggest, as a countermeasure, that you note the spot she springs from when she does this, and make it less attractive for lying-in-wait. Make it wide open, or put something there to block the space completely. They like hidden nooks where they can sit and wait for something to go by.

A good disciplinary technique is to pick the cat up and blow in its face. They hate that, but it doesn't hurt them any.
posted by scarabic at 10:22 PM on September 19, 2005

Your kitty is a pawn of Satan. Sorry. They all are.

A others have said, you have to condition your cat not to do this with immediate counter measures. It doesn't matter so much what you do--water spray, compressed air, etc.--as that you do it every time the behaviour occurs, right away. Some people use tin cans with a few marbles (or anything really) inside. Throw it next to the cat. The blowing in the face might work fine as well.
posted by LarryC at 10:31 PM on September 19, 2005

Our cat does that, though not painfully. It's how she plays and it doesn't hurt.

But yours is hurting you. Teach him that it isn't fun for him at all, that it is in fact the opposite of fun for him.

Otherwise, wear chaps while at home. Tell surprise visitors that you're in an off-Broadway production of "Village People: The Musical, The Experience, The Life" and walk away humming YMCA.
posted by pracowity at 2:05 AM on September 20, 2005 [1 favorite]

Like pracowity's cat, mine does this playfully - he'll run and jump at my legs, but never scratches. It took me awhile to figure out that the reason he would ambush me, then flee to the other room and stare expectantly, was that he was waiting for me to chase him back.

Sounds like your cat has gone beyond playing into sparring. Spray bottles and the like may work to discourage him; playing with him (with something safer than your legs) may get out some of those stalking/hunting energies. (But don't wait for him to ambush you and then get out the toys, or he might come to see drawing blood as a way to get positive attention!)

I try to play with my cat at least 15 minutes per day, and up to 45 minutes as often as I can. This really cuts down on his pestering, aggressive behaviors. He particularly loves the Cat Dancer.
posted by hilatron at 7:13 AM on September 20, 2005

Read and learn ...
posted by clearlynuts at 10:19 AM on September 20, 2005

My parents' cat used to behave somewhat like that - just leaping out when they were passing by. When I was staying there for a bit I inadvertently cured her of it, mainly by playing with her a lot and possibly impressing on her the abilities of a big human. I did find that a hefty pair of gloves I had came in handy - otherwise I could easily end up with so many scratches on my arms it looked like I'd started cutting myself...
posted by Auz at 1:50 PM on September 20, 2005

Response by poster: I'm tempted to give best answer honors to clearlynuts, but I think I'll try picking the cat up (if I can get ahold of him) and blowing in his face. We've tried spray bottles, but he literally doesn't care. Compressed air may work and I can holster it in my chaps.

Thank you, good people of Metafilter. I knew you'd come through for me.
posted by jrossi4r at 6:13 PM on September 20, 2005

Beware of the compressed air. Too close, and it can give kitty frostbite.
posted by mudpuppie at 1:06 AM on September 21, 2005

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