A few days ago, I was sitting on my sofa and watching the new season of Manifest. I was focusing on what was going on and then, all of a sudden, I noticed something strange. When I looked down, there was she, my kitty licking my feet. I couldn’t help but ask myself, “Why do cats like feet and is that normal?”
I always get anxious when I think something Ziggy and Pearl (my fluffballs) are doing might not be normal. What if it’s a sign of some huge issue? Or if they are the only ones who are doing that. I knew I couldn’t ignore what I just saw, so I paused Manifest and started digging for some answers.
After a few hours of surfing the internet, a few phone calls with our local vet, and a few of the cat ladies that I know, I finally got all the answers I needed. And since you’re here, I have to tell you that it’s your lucky day. Why? Because I’m here to help you out.
I wrote down everything I’ve learned. Spoiler alert, I’m going to explain to you why do cats like feet, how to recognize her obsession with them, but also how to stop her if things start getting out of hand. So, let’s start our quick and interesting feline lesson.
How do you know your cat likes feet?
It’s easy to say that she is constantly somewhere around them. But is it enough to say that she really finds them interesting? To help you figure that out, I made a list of the most common kinds of behavior that might show she’s a big fan.
1) She licks them
While every cat is different, it’s a pretty safe assumption to say that your kitty likes licking, whether it be her own body or yours. When it comes to the latter, her favorite licking areas are your hands, toes, and hair, in no particular order.
If she does favor one spot over the others, though, it’s usually your feet. It shouldn’t bring up any alarms to you, but if she does go to that spot particularly often, you might be dealing with a kitty who has a behavioral issue.
2) She attacks them
When your cat attacks you, she is displaying behavior that is representative of her predatory and playful nature. Owner’s feet are commonly their favorite prey since they are closest to the ground and are an easy mark.
More often than not, your cat will sneak up on them and start a surprise attack. This type of behavior can be the easiest to notice in the morning, right after waking up, and at night time just before it’s time to go to sleep, just like most attacks that happen in the wild.
3) She often sniffs your feet
Your cat is always checking out her environment, looking around for food, or trying to be aware of nearby animals, whether it be a friend or foe. Sniffing is their favorite way of doing exactly that. By sniffing your feet and your shoes, your cat can get some info on where you have been.
They even use it as a form of identification – your cat recognizes you by scent. And would you know, what part of your body has the largest number of pheromones? Your feet!
So your kitty will sniff your foot, often after coming home and taking the shoes off, since they can get a good scent from you at that moment.
4) Your cat bites them
Another way your cat is showing off her playfulness is by biting and your feet are again the easiest mark since they can be effortlessly reached. Usually, it happens when your feet aren’t moving. For example, when you’re sleeping or sitting still while getting some work done on your laptop.
Since she can sneak up on you without trouble, she can easily start biting. It’s more prevalent with younger cats that are still teething, and they should grow out of it after. But if it doesn’t stop, it might be further proof that your kitty is maybe too big a fan of your feet.
5) She rubs them
If you’ve been a cat owner for some time now, it should come as no surprise to you that your sweet cat loves rubbing herself against you. It’s their way of claiming their ownership of you. But also greeting you after you’ve been absent for a while, even if it’s only to go to work.
She might also like snuggling against your feet when you lay down in bed, which brings up the question of why didn’t she choose a softer and more cozy spot.
Why do cats like feet?
Now that we’ve learned how to recognize and categorize their behavior, it’s time for us to figure out why do cats like feet. There must be something specific that they can’t resist.
Trust me, even though some reasons are easy to guess, others will definitely surprise you. So, you’re in for a real treat!
1) They want your attention
If there is one thing that your cat will never stop seeking more of – it is attention. Cats are probably the biggest attention seekers in the pet community, and anyone that owns a cat can confirm that statement without a shadow of a doubt.
Physical touch is, right after vocalization, the most common form of attention-seeking that your feline friend likes to use. It is for this reason that it may seem like your cat is obsessed with feet.
She might just be trying to get your attention and your feet are the most accessible part of your body for her to show off her need for it. After all, nothing says “Give me some love human!” like nibbling on your feet while your focus is on something else entirely.
2) It’s their way of saying “I love you”
Cats sometimes get a bad reputation for being cold-hearted, independent creatures and not having much affection toward their owners, which is entirely untrue. Ask any animal behaviorist and they will tell you that cats are loving social animals.
The thing is, they don’t use conventional ways of showing that love. Every cat has a unique personality but generally speaking, obsessing over your body, or in this case, your feet, is a sign that your cat has created a bond with you.
Physical touch can be hard to come by if a cat isn’t feeling comfortable with her owner. So, if your sweet kitty is constantly around your feet, consider it not a nuisance, but rather her way of telling you that she loves you very much.
3) They are marking you
Cats have scent glands all over their body and boy, do they use them. They love marking their territory and “their” humans, aka the people they are comfortable with.
That way, they can smell their marked scent on you as soon as you walk in, which relaxes them because they know someone who they are comfortable with is coming into their environment.
Moreover, if you have been gone for a while, you have probably picked up a scent of the outside environment, which includes other animals. When they greet you by rubbing against your feet as soon as you walk in, they are making sure you smell the right way, and that means leaving their own scent on you.
4) Cats think they are hunting
Even though cats have been domesticated for quite a while now (some modern, groundbreaking studies theorize that humans had their first cat companions 12,000 years ago!), their predatory and hunting instincts remained in them in some capacity even to this day.
They still get triggered by moving targets. And their playful nature will switch on hunting mode inside their brain as soon as they find something that could be an easy target and your feet sometimes look just like that. Especially if you wiggle your toes!
There’s no need to worry, though. It is not a sign of aggression. Your fluffball is just in a playful mood, but it might just show that your cat could use some more exercise and playtime.
5) They smell interesting
Your cat’s most important sensory organs are her scent receptors. She has around 200 million of them (the number varies between different cat breeds). That is forty times more than humans have! So it’s easy to conclude that your cat’s sense of smell is a defining factor in her life.
Our feet are one of our main projectors of smell. And since cats love analyzing interesting or unknown scents, they spend a significant amount of time around our feet.
Your kitty will sniff your feet to collect and gather information, and if she finds the odor to be particularly interesting, she will pull back her head and open her mouth.
Don’t be alarmed. That doesn’t mean your feet are incredibly smelly. It’s just her way of doing further analysis of a smell that is interesting to her.
I guess you’re no longer asking yourself why do cats like feet. Instead, you’re eager to find out why do cats like the smell of feet. It’s weird, I know.
Playtime is greatly important to your pet cat, especially in the early stages of her life while she’s just full of energy and explorative behavior. Getting a handful of exercise every day is a great way for your cat to stay healthy and energetic.
Cats don’t really like playing alone though, so if you’re around while she gets that wave of playful energy, she will look to include you in her shenanigans.
Your feet are the most accessible part for a cat to interact with. So, your kitty will try to pull you into the game she is playing by attacking your feet. Jumping on your feet, clawing, biting your toes, those are all of the things she will do in order to get you to play with her.
7) Gathering information
Cats always try to stay on top of everything that is going on around them. They are always analyzing their environment and gathering all the information they can so they can stay one step ahead of everyone else.
Cat’s strong sense of smell is her main aid in that quest. And she’ll always go toward things in her surroundings that give off the most smell.
Like it or not, your feet are exactly that – a big source of the smell. They possess a bigger number of pheromones than any other part of your body. And there aren’t many things your cat loves more than pheromones.
She will detect even the slightest trace of scent that your feet give off and that will give her a lot of information on where you have been, what you did, and who you met. Watch out, they are particularly good at sensing other cats’ smells on you!
8) Stress or anxiety
It can be hard to read your cat’s behavior sometimes. That’s because cats tend to be subtle animals and it isn’t easy to conclude what your kitty is dealing with at any given time.
It’s in their nature to be good at hiding emotions. Especially, fear, stress, or anxiety, otherwise, their ancestors would be easy prey to predators.
But if you notice that your cat started paying some unusual attention to your feet all of a sudden, it’s possible that it could be a sign that she is dealing with stress or anxiety. And that she is trying to communicate that to you.
If your kitty starts to bite your feet or scratch them more often, don’t jump to conclusions and call her ‘naughty’ right away. Maybe she is dealing with stress and those actions are her way of telling you that she needs some relaxation.
Grooming is an action that cats pass on from one generation to the next, from a mother to her kittens. If your cat feels comfortable and safe around you, she will consider you a part of her family. Therefore, she will try to teach you how to groom yourself.
She will lick your feet to present those maternal instincts to you. But also to express to you that she considers you a part of her family.
Obviously, this isn’t how we humans clean ourselves. However, your cat sees you and herself as one of the same. It’s just that you just that you’re the bigger, clumsier version of her. And that’s why she will try to teach you how to groom yourself.
How to stop cats from obsessing over your feet?
And now that you know the answer to “Why do cats like feet?” and how to recognize their obsession, it’s time for you to learn just one more thing. Actually, it’s not only one but six tips and tricks. They might help you stop your cat when her behavior goes out of hand.
1) Distract her
One of the easiest ways to switch your cat’s attention away from your feet is simply to find her something else to do. No matter how interested she is in your feet, cats don’t have long attention spans and can easily be distracted.
You could do this by getting her a new toy so she can play with it instead of your feet. It should be something that’s of bright color and doesn’t resemble the color of your skin. That way, you would be subtly telling her that your feet aren’t a toy and shouldn’t be used as such.
These plush toy balls could be exactly what your cat needs. They’re fun, entertaining and look nothing like your feet (which is a plus).
You could also think about getting your cat a friend. It could be another cat, maybe a dog, or even some other animal. Once she gets to know the other animal(s), she will spend more time with them, and less time with your feet.
2) Reward system
The good thing about cats is that they are easily retrainable. Getting your cat to do what you want and to stop doing what you don’t want can take time. But it is definitely achievable! One of the best ways to make that happen is to establish a reward system.
Every time your cat does something that you like, give her a reward. It can be a snack or something else she likes. Any time she does something you don’t like, which can include biting or clawing your feet, don’t give her anything that she might consider a reward.
In other words, ignore her when she does something unpleasant, and reward her when she does something more desirable. Once she catches on, she will focus on the behaviors that get her a reward.
3) Don’t encourage her
The worst thing you could do, if you want your cat to stop bothering your feet, is encourage her to continue to do so. We’ve all been there. Your kitty does something you don’t like, but you love her so much. And that’s why you don’t want her to feel bad, so you just let her continue.
That may seem cute when she’s just a small kitten. However, when she grows up and attacks your feet with the same vigor and intensity as when she was young, only this time with much sharper claws and teeth, you will look at that behavior much differently.
The problem is, by that time, your cat may be fully convinced it’s okay to do it. And nothing you do will get her on the right path.
4) Never try to run away (she’ll think you’re playing)
You might think that running away from her is an option. And that running away when she’s attacking your feet will teach her to stop. Or show her you aren’t interested in your feet being all scratched up and bruised. The thing is – it won’t.
Cats love chasing humans and each other around. And they will think you are indulging in playtime with them by running away. Your cat will only get more excited if you run away. But that’s not all, she’ll think she can start playtime anytime she wants by bothering your feet.
5) Don’t yell at her (cats like revenge)
No matter how much you love your kitty, if she is really aggressive when playing with your feet, you might want to yell and punish her. That is a big no-no and should never be practiced.
The thing about cats is, they don’t connect the punishment with something they have already done. Your kitty will just think she is being yelled at for welcoming you home from work. Or for showing affection toward you.
As tempting as it may seem in the heat of the moment, yelling isn’t an appropriate response. It will just make your cat fearful, and even resentful. Cats really like revenge. So if you yell at your feline friend often, she will look for ways to make your life a living hell.
6) Check whether it’s a medical condition or not
One of the most important things you have to do, if your cat is attention-seeking more than before, is to check whether she is dealing with a medical issue.
Your kitty could be lashing out on your feet because she is in some sort of physical pain and she is trying to communicate that to you. If the signs are pointing to that, it’s best to take her to a vet. They can take a good look at her and see if she needs treatment or not.
If you are seeing some signs of stress, anxiety, or depression, taking her to a certified animal behaviorist is the best way to go.
Congratulations! You’ve just become a real feline expert on this topic. It’s not that you only know the answer to “Why do cats like feet?”, but you also know how to reach that conclusion and how to stop the little mischievous fluffball from bothering you.
I hope that you had fun and that you learned something new, interesting, and useful. At least, now you won’t have to worry about whether it’s normal or not. You know all the answers and you can even help your worried friends out!
You’re a great example of amazing pet parenting! Keep up the good work. I’m sure your fluffy roommate is proud and thankful to have you!