Why does my cat chomp on my bare legs when I'm walking around?
November 12, 2013 9:00 AM   Subscribe

YANMC (You are not my cat), but why does my 2 y/o cat attack my legs? Bare legs = Wide, crazy kitty eyes and sideways CHOMP right into my calf. This has been going on for about a month. And I mean MY legs- we've tried to see if she will go after my husband's and she won't! This is not a serious problem; I'm just curious. I'm an experienced cat owner but this is funny and baffling. Snowflake details inside.

Special snowflake stuff: She only bites my legs when they're bare/I'm in shorts, jammies, etc. Doesn't matter if they're shaved or not. I've even varied the soap I use coincidently and it doesn't seem to matter. We play with her all day, she's well fed and a sweet cat. She doesn't attack my feet in bed. She doesn't seem to be in pain or in need of medical attention. She just gets all psycho kitty when she sees my pale, short midwestern legs. I don't tease her by tickling her with my feet or shuffling her around. This has been going on for about a month.
posted by ShadePlant to Pets & Animals (37 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Do you put lotion on your legs? Do you shave your legs and leave shaving cream residue on your legs? Do you sweat a lot?
posted by dfriedman at 9:08 AM on November 12, 2013

Best answer: My muffin does it for the reaction. Like all cats, she's a little bit sadistic, and I think she just likes to hear me yelp. It's all in good fun for her -- significantly less fun for me. I've found that ignoring her when she attacks results in fewer bites.
posted by Sullenbode at 9:10 AM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

Do you dump a cold glass of water on her head when she does this?

My guess is that she does this because cats are weird :) If it bothers you, one or two unpleasant (but not painful, of course) surprises are probably all it would take to break her of this habit, especially if it only began this month.
posted by valoius at 9:11 AM on November 12, 2013

Response by poster: No lotion or shaving cream residue. I do get sweaty sometimes but not always. And yes, she does usually get a good "EEEEEEK!"/howl when she does it, especially if it is a sneak attack. I try to block her and say NO firmly but I think she thinks I'm playing.
posted by ShadePlant at 9:11 AM on November 12, 2013

Best answer: My cat went through a phase of doing something similar - she would attack my feet if they were bare (sometimes I sleep in socks) and stuck out from under the blankets. I have no idea why, but she got bored after a while and stopped. I think that sometimes she just gets into something (sitting on a particular chair, jumping a particular way, attacking a particular object) because it's new and then the novelty wears off. It might even be that if you yelped in a fun way the first time she did it, she got kind of fascinated and is hoping to get a repeat reaction. I don't think it's sadism so much as curiousity.
posted by Frowner at 9:12 AM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

I have a cat who attacks bare toes/feet, and her motivation seems to be attention as she seems content if someone stops and pets her (which is wrong wrong wrong from a training standpoint since I do not want her doing that behavior!!). I am guessing part of it is that it has been successful in the past: if you attack bare feet, you are going to get a reaction and possibly what you want. Attacking shoes or socks on feet does not result in the same omg stop it reaction from the humans.

My parents have a cat who does what your cat does, and I don't know him well enough to suss out his motivations, but just so you know you are not alone. Cats do weird stuff.
posted by tweedle at 9:12 AM on November 12, 2013

My cat does THIS EXACT THING. I was thinking of asking this question myself! Obviously, I don't know why it's happening, either. But for my cat, it is somewhat correlated with how bored he is.
posted by Coatlicue at 9:13 AM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm sorry, I don't think we can possibly resolve this without pictures...

My younger cat is around the same age and she seems to kind of... invent games for herself because the older cat doesn't want to play with her. Some of them are really weird. She's taken to shredding paper and cardboard. Sometimes she wrestles with her own back legs, kicking herself in the face and everything. If your kitty's decided this is a great game, then you putting on shorts is basically like shouting, "TOY!" It may well wear off as she gets older and settles down, and if you made it less pleasant she'd probably stop.
posted by Sequence at 9:13 AM on November 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

My ten-year old Chelsea follows me all around the house to nip at my calves, and she's done it ever since I adopted her as a young cat. Our theory is that something big moving rapidly away from her at her level makes her attack instinct kick in.

Alternately, it is because she's a cat. The C is for crazy, after all. We'd probably have an easier time answering with pictures!
posted by timetoevolve at 9:14 AM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Nevermind; found out how to link pics in the FAQ. 'Cos ohhhh do I got some. :)
posted by ShadePlant at 9:17 AM on November 12, 2013

You're made of meat and your leg looks a giant drumstick.

Sleep with one eye open.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:20 AM on November 12, 2013 [12 favorites]

I know this is more a question for Metatalk but how do I post pics? 'Cos ohhhh do I got 'em. :)

Any photo sharing site - imgur, flickr. Then link over.
posted by sweetkid at 9:21 AM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

You just post pictures the way you post any link.

I got a hunch it's a "just a phase" thing going on. I'd have a squirt gun handy for an instant "no" response to hasten her getting tired of it.

As to why - who the hell knows. My cat got obsessed with used emery boards for a couple years - he would dig them out of my roommate's handbag and just sort of roll around on them like they were catnip. But within a couple years....no more.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:21 AM on November 12, 2013

Best answer: The howl and 'no' response is more interaction than she gets just with you walking around wearing pants.

If you want her to stop, walk around with a spray bottle and say 'no' with a quick spray of water. She'll probably figure it out rather quickly.
posted by barnone at 9:24 AM on November 12, 2013

I get this at times from my cat. It's usually when he's in a playful mood - he's hunting me, in the absence of any interesting bugs, noises, or other things that don't require his instigation to move. I figure I'm another animal to him, so... *pounce* He gets yelled at when he does it, since I'm afraid one day he'll trip me and I'll end up somehow hurting him as I fall/catch myself/knock something over/etc, but I'll generally get on the floor and play at that point so he gets the outlet he's looking for.
posted by AthenaPolias at 9:25 AM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: The bad, heedless beast in question... Miss Veda. She's basically a psycho killer, as you can see.
posted by ShadePlant at 9:44 AM on November 12, 2013 [17 favorites]

I had a cat who did the same thing when she wanted attention.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:03 AM on November 12, 2013

I agree with the "just a phase" thing. Cats are like toddlers in this regard, in my experience.

I bet if you bought that sweet preshus widdle baby some new toys, her psycho killer instinct would have a different outlet than your legs.

The SuperSquirrel Feline Squad approves of Da Bird.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 10:15 AM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm thinking boredom, as a couple other posters have said. She wants to play and for whatever reason, your legs seem like the most fun toy around. I recently got my cats a Go Cat Da Bird string toy, which they instantly loved more than any other toy I've ever gotten them, and which really tires them out after about 10 minutes at a time. I think the key is that with the stick/string type toy, I can really make it hold their attention, get them running and jumping around, compared to a smaller toy that they'll kind of bat around for a couple minutes and get bored.

With your cat, I'd try getting this or a similar toy and getting some really focused play in at least once a day. That might help turn her energy towards appropriate hunting play and away from your legs. If the leg thing continues, the spray bottle's probably a good idea too - just a quick spray and 'no' when she does it. Like you mention, any kind of positive attention that she finds playful (tickling, pushing with feet) will probably reinforce it, so you want to make sure you're mostly ignoring her or doing something mildly annoying (spray bottle) when she's doing something you don't want her to do.

Also awwwwwwww she's cute!
posted by augustimagination at 10:18 AM on November 12, 2013

That is a really cute kitty. Yeah, she wants to play with you. My kitties stalk each other. It really does look cloak and dagger. Behind walls, under the bed, etc. You're just a big kitty and an object to be played with.

I enjoy spoiling their fun, "SO MALCOLM, WHO YA STALKING????!!!???"
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:21 AM on November 12, 2013 [14 favorites]

Best answer: My cats do this when they want to play-fight. The best course of action is not to react. Spray if you've got the bottle handy, but otherwise stand still and extract yourself as calmly as you can. Wait a minute or so - give her time enough to forget about the attack - and then play with her.

Even if she already plays a lot, she may be chomping your ankles because she's looking for either sneak-attack or grab-and-chomp style play. For sneaking, you might want to slowly drag toys around corners and out of sight for her to pounce on, or get a cat tunnel. (I have that tunnel; it's a little noisy and crinkly, but my cat thinks it's the greatest thing.) For chomping, get a larger toy that she can wrestle with, like the Kickeroo or this catnip banana.
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:30 AM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

D'aww, what a cutie.

Nthing this is just a phase/cats be cattin'.

My cat went through a looong phase where he would jump up on my office chair and bite me on the head. You ever tried to do work with a cat vertically jumping onto the crown of your head and trying to nom-nom on your scalp?

Thank goodness that phase is over.
posted by sm1tten at 10:36 AM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Cat thing, deffo. Our recently departed Prudence came to us from the Cat's Protection League as a 1 (-ish) year old and for the first few years of residence would gnaw (mostly gently) on any available finger within an 18-inch radius. Not meanly - she always had this sort-of contemplative look as she did it - but we suspect that might be why she ended up in a shelter, gnawing fingers not being the most attractive trait for many people.

Also, moving things! Friendly-smelling soft moving things! I am a Cat and therefore I Just Must.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 11:00 AM on November 12, 2013

Response by poster: Well it sounds like the ShadeCat needs some new toys and that we have further circumstancial evidence that cats are weird. Thanks all. (And you think she's cute? Can't you see the homicidal glint in her eyes? j/k)
posted by ShadePlant at 11:25 AM on November 12, 2013

Just came to say, at least be glad your cat doesn't sneak up and bite your arm (drawing blood!) when it's pitch black and you're trying to sleep! My cat usually bites me when he wants to play and has no idea that he's hurting me. A squirt bottle solved that problem eventually.
posted by photoexplorer at 11:39 AM on November 12, 2013

Every single picture looks like she wants to play. With you.

I recommend Clicker Training for Cats. She will love it and become more sane.

When she gets bigger, the leg attacks will hurt more. Also if she gets some kind of painful condition, or is frightened, she could "play" attack your legs with more ferocity -- it's really worth addressing this so she won't do it anymore. Good luck!
posted by amtho at 12:15 PM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: The pic by the food dishes is, "Halp I haven't been fed in MONTHS I tell you!" and the other two are definitely play invites.
posted by ShadePlant at 12:25 PM on November 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

Looks like you've definitely got a player on your hands, which probably explains the leg chomping. Definitely agree that new toys are in order. That second photo of Veda girl is to. die. btw.
posted by sweetkid at 2:00 PM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

The answer is that cats be crazy.
posted by Justinian at 2:06 PM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'd vote for 'cat phase' as an explanation. Mine used to do this, and he was definitely not a bored creature. He'd spend all day long roaming the streets having wild adventures, yet still come home and attack our legs with gusto. Luckily his reign of leg terror was a temporary phase. (But extra toys are always good!)
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 3:36 PM on November 12, 2013

Is she an only cat? Getting a second cat would help with loneliness and boredom.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 4:35 PM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Surely that homicidal beast's photos need to be added to the Cats of Metafilter Flickr group for easier identification, yes? Wuzza wuzza wuzza! Pretty girl! Who's a pretty girl? You're so bad. Yes you are…
posted by Lexica at 7:08 PM on November 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: And you think she's cute? Can't you see the homicidal glint in her eyes?

"Cute" and "homicidal" are not contradictory aspects of the feline form.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:33 PM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also, calicoes are extra feisty because they're really two cats in one body.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:34 PM on November 12, 2013

Jackson Galaxy knows.
posted by Shoggoth at 6:03 AM on November 13, 2013

Response by poster: Are we sure Jackson Galaxy isn't just David Cross playing a joke on us? They look alike! Also, miss Veda got some new toys last night and I think I successfully tired her out. We had some good plays and there was no biting of legs.
posted by ShadePlant at 7:51 AM on November 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

Good for you! That looks like one pooped kitty.
posted by amtho at 8:43 AM on November 13, 2013

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