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Feline Behaviors: Why Does My Kitty Do This?
Part 3: Ankle Attacks


Cats are playful at any age. This is Macqui, one of the author's Bengals, making a game of "hide and seek."

Attacking Your Ankles as You Walk By

This behavior usually signifies a kitten or cat who is bored! Cats need to play and to practice their hunting techniques. An indoor cat, without adequate toys, cat furniture and other objects and situations to stimulate him, may well feel that his only chance to practice these skills is on you. They may start making up elaborate prey games whereby they hide behind furniture or out of your sight, and wait for you to walk down a hall, or in to their "lair" where they can ambush you.

It is important for you to realize that your cat is not trying to hurt you, and is probably unaware that he may be hurting you. A cat doing this behavior needs more scratching and climbing toys and furniture around, and also may benefit from stuffed animals to drag around, animal-style cat beds which can give them the illusion of company and the security of "mom" or a sibling.

A cat that continues with this behavior may well benefit from having another feline friend, who will be able to wrestle and play with him, and help burn off some of that energy he feels. Most often, the cats who exhibit this behavior are males, and there may be some sexual impulses involved, even if the male is neutered.

A possible way to avoid this behavior turning in to a bad habit (and your legs and ankles turning in to a war zone) would be to have one of your cat’s favorite rubber balls or mouse toys in your hand, and before reaching the spot where your cat usually ambushes you, try throwing the toy down the hall or in another direction. The idea is to recognize that your cat wants to engage you in a play game ritual, but to make the ritual more fun and safe for you.

Trying to "Bury" the Area Outside the Box
If your cat is scratching around the floor or area around the outside of his litter box, especially if this is right after he has used the litter box, he is most likely trying to tell you that something is not right to him about his litter box; either he is displeased with the feel of the litter; the smell of the litter; the type of box; the location of the box; or something to that affect. The only way he can think of to demonstrate this to you is for him to try to "bury" the area outside of his box. If all was well to him with his litter and litter box arrangement, he would jump in to his box, do his business, bury his urine or feces, then jump out and go back to what he was doing.

Nursing on Clothing or Other Fabric
This behavior most often is displayed by a kitten or cat who was taken or weaned from his mother too early. Keep in mind that just like humans, cats are individuals too, and some may need more time with their mothers for emotional reasons, than others. This behavior often is one that the cat will outgrow as it gets older; however, some cats never seem to outgrow this special babyish behavior. The way to avoid your cat "nursing" on an item of clothing or household item you don’t want him to suck and chew on, is to put something on the item that is distasteful to your cat, such as paprika, hair spray, or citrus-smelling agents. This also works well with cats who like to chew on electric cords. Be aware though that chewing electric cords is often thought to be directly related to your cat’s anxiety due to being separated from you.

Collecting and Hiding Small Objects
Cats who exhibit this behavior (and it seems some breeds are more prone to this than others) are usually trying to utilize their natural instinct to retrieve. In the wild, cats hunt their prey, then they bring their prey back to a safe place before they consume it. With house cats, the challenge often becomes how to create safe and meaningful ways for your cat to be able to "hunt" and to "retrieve". Therefore, some cats seem to develop an enjoyment of taking small objects such as their toys, but often small objects such as jewelry or other possessions of their owners, and collecting them in a particular spot.

Trying to Bolt Outside

Cats that have this figured out and are consistent with this behavior are probably strongly attracted to the sights, smells and sounds of the outdoors. Cats like this may do well if you can build a small, safe enclosed area right outside your back door, or if you can try adding a greenhouse window type of enclosure to his favorite window. Of course, ensuring your cat is fixed is the first line of defense, but even neutered and spayed adult cats can still feel their deep instincts to find a mate, and this can be triggered by them hearing or smelling another cat outdoors.

If you have a cat like this, getting a companion feline for them is probably a very good thing to do, and they definitely will also benefit from being entertained by having the radio on, the television, hiding their toys around your living room while you are gone, providing several tall pieces of cat furniture, possibly hammock style cat beds at your windows. Try using different doors to enter and exit your house, so that your behavior is not so predictable. Your cat can’t be waiting and watching 2 or 3 doors at the same time!

Next page> Non-stop Talking > Page 1, 2, 3, 4

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