Why does my cat swipe at me when I walk by?

Nothing is as bitter as the betrayal of your beloved furry companion swiping at your feet when you walk by.  Here you are, minding your own business, walking around your home where you think you’re safe from any harm, when BAM, sharp claws and teeth to the ankles.

You’re left wondering, what did you do wrong?  Your kitty, who is usually such an angel suddenly attacks you?  Is this a normal weird cat behavior or should you be concerned?  We’ll answer all of those questions today.

Why they attack

There are two main reasons as to why cats may act aggressively towards humans: play aggression and status-related aggression.

Play aggression. Most often than not, cats will attack their owners when they are feeling playful.  They’ll either scratch or bite, without ill intent.  Still, our soft skin are no match to their sharp teeth and claws.

Here are the signs to look out for to see if your cat is about to strike: they’ll have flattened ears, swishy tails and dilated pupils.  Once you notice that your cat is exhibiting these behaviors, it’s best to move out of the strike zone.

Kittens and young cats learn how to hunt by playing rough with their litter-mates.  Sometimes, this type of play extends to humans.  Sooner or later, kittens will actually learn to be more gentle when they play with humans – however, if a kitten wasn’t socialized or was adopted too early, they might still play rough towards their adulthood.


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Play aggression is most common for three-year-old (or younger) cats who are the only cats in the household and are left alone for a lot of time in the day.  They start getting too enthusiastic about playing because they have a lot of pent up energy.

Status-related aggression.  This happens if a cat who had play aggression in their youth continues to carry their roughness and aggression as they grow older.  Status-related aggressive cats always want to dominate the people and situations around them.  One minute they’re asking for cuddles, but when you give it to them, they’ll reward you with some sharp claws.  It’s best to not let your cat get to this point

How do I stop my cat from being aggressive while playing?

We’ll tell you one thing that will never work: punishing your cat either physically or verbally.  Not only is it cruel to do that to any animal, it’s also simply not the way cats learn.

The best thing you can do to tame your cat’s play aggression is to play with them.  Tire them out as much as possible.  Just before they eat and before bedtime, set 20-30 minutes of playtime.

My cat bit/scratched me, should I be concerned?

If you’re dealing with a habitually aggressive cat, please seek veterinary help for you and your cat’s sake.  Some cats have been known to lash out because they are in pain.

If you have been bit or scratched by your furry companion, especially if blood has been drawn, please seek medical help as soon as possible because cat bites can get infected quickly.

Common questions about cat attacks

Why is my cat aggressive towards guests?

Cats are creatures of habit.  They just don’t do very well in situations of change – either in their environment, routine, or even people.

Cats, especially those that have not been properly socialized will feel very threatened when there is a stranger in their house.  At best, they’ll either hide away, soil themselves, the “intruder” or wherever this stranger’s scent still lingers when they walk away.  At worst, they’ll attack.

Why is my younger cat bullying my older cat?

There are three reasons as to why a cat may attack another cat: redirected aggression, play aggression, and fear aggression.

In most cases, the cats that fight with each other are intact same-sex cats.  They fight because they’re instinctually competing with each other during mating season.  This is one of the reasons why it’s a great practice to spay or neuter your cat before they are 1 year old.

Another reason why younger cats would fight older cats is if one of the cats think the other one is their inferior.  Submissive cats are often bullied.  The more submissive they become, the more the bully cats will want to keep bullying.

What are cat love bites?

Sometimes, when you’re having a particularly long petting session with your cat, they’ll eventually bite your hand.  This bite is often accompanied by a little lick from your cat.  This is one of their ways to tell you that they would like to stop the petting session now.  The lick is to soften the blow.  Love bites should never be excessively painful.  They also shouldn’t break skin.

If you are injured by a cat bite, please seek medical help.

Conclusion

In most cases, cats get aggressive when they have not had enough playtime to release their excess energy.  When they get too rough during playtime, it’s called play aggression.  To prevent this, regularly tire your cat out during playtime: just before they have their meal and before bedtime.

Why does my cat swipe at me when I walk by?