Some cats can be more aggressive than others. Cat attacks are a fairly common problem. Approximately 400,000 cat bites are reported annually in the United States. Many times this behavior happens simply because of a lack of training from the cat’s mother, but there may be other reasons behind a cat attacking people. Jim Hanophy, CEO of Operation Kindness, the oldest and largest no-kill animal shelter in North Texas, says, “Cats are hunters by nature. They will attack a leaf or shadow or piece of string on the floor. If you wiggle your toes or at them or push them away from you, they may feel like you’re challenging them. If you play rough with a kitten or cat, they’re going to play rough with you.”
Why Does My Cat Attack Me When We Play?
To a cat, play is all about prey. Body postures of play aggression are the behaviors a cat shows when searching for and catching prey. She stalks her target from behind a door or under a chair. She crouches, twitches her tail, flicks her ears back and forth, then pounces, wrapping her front feet around the prey, chewing it and kicking it with her back feet.
Seeking out prey is playtime for kittens and some cats. Hunting, pouncing, and body postures of play aggression are the types of behaviors displayed by cats when in search of prey. We’ve all smiled and taken delight in watching our kitten sneak out from behind the furniture and then slowly stalk her toy. Then with an arched back the kitten jumps and pounces on the toy. Before the toy can get away, she bites, claws come out and with her back feet she kicks away until the toy is dead.
Sometimes our hand or foot takes the place of the toy. You must teach your cat when it’s too rough – there should be limit to their strength of the bite and kicking when at play. Otherwise the play aggression could intensify.
How To Stop Your Cat From Biting
Make an appointment with your veterinarian first to ensure there are no medical reasons for your cat’s aggressive behavior.
Fix it with toys! Always have a cat toy (or five) on you or near you. When your cat attacks pull the toy out and play with her. This will help her understand that she should play this way with her toys, not people. The best ones for this are cat toys on a stick – the ones that look like a fishing rod with a toy on the end of a string. This tactic is best used with kittens, but can be used with adult cats too. Do this every time your cat attacks until the attacks stop. Make sure you also set aside daily playtime (at least an hour or until she is tired) with your cat so she can get rid of her extra energy. If the cat goes to scratch or bite any part of the body, try to redirect the attention back to the toy. If she continues to go for your hand or body parts then stop the game. Do not yell (nor hit).
Cats can sometimes be overstimulated during play – so stop playing and don’t resume until she is calmed down.
Kathrynn Primm, DVM and Author of Tennessee Tails: Pets and Their People, advises “Be sure that you never reward undesirable behavior with attention. If you squeal and react, this might be what your cat was looking for. Try to create an aversive stimulus that you know will not be a reward to the cat.” Use these tactics to get your cat to stop attacking you and you can walk around your house with confidence again.