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Help! My cat attacks my hands and feet

Is your kitten attacking your hands and feet? Out of the blue, or maybe during playtime. This can be cute as long as they’re still little, but it’s very important to counteract this behavior as soon as possible. Most of the times, we see this behavior in kittens that are growing up alone or aren’t socialized well. Kittens learn boundaries from their brothers and sisters and are being “punished” by the other kitten when they’re playing too rough. Now you have to set those boundaries! And we, as humans, just can’t do it as good as other cats. Be clear from the beginning: your hands and feet aren’t toys. So, for example, also don’t move your feet under the covers to play, because then they do see it as a toy.

It’s very important to realize that a cat is a predator with accompanying needs. Time that a cat normally spends on haunting, we have to fill in for them with other activities (especially for cats that never come outside). And that’s not attacking and biting you!


  • Play actively with your cat. Just throw down some toys is not interesting or challenging for a cat, especially when they already know the toys.
  • Don’t use your hands as toys! Preferably play with toys that look like a prey. For example a piece of rope with feathers at the end are very popular.
  • It’s better to play several times a day 5 minutes, than once a day 15 minutes in a row.
  • Play at times that your cat is active, don’t wake them up.
  • Move toys away from the cat (a prey would never walk towards the cat).
  • Vary in speed (i.e. don’t constantly wave quickly with the feathers in front of the cats face, but also move it slowly over the ground).
  • Make sure that in every game, the cat catches the “prey” sometimes. At the end of the play session you can reward the cat with a treat. Don’t stop playing when your cat is still very high in his energy level, because then they will look for another way to release this energy (for example scratching furniture, or bite you anyway).

Cat rod


To continue with the haunting instinct: it’s very interesting for cats to “work” for their food. Of course it’s very easy to just put the food in a bowl and give it to them, but it’s not challenging, and believe it or not, they like this kind of challenge! Therefore, try a food game like a food ball some time. This keeps the cat busy physically and mentally and it’s very rewarding when they accomplish to reach to the food. Of course you can buy a food game in a store, but you can also make one yourself, for example with an empty kitchen or toilet paper roll.

Cat food toy

Cat food toy (Catit®)

Enrich the environment

Cats that stay indoors live in a small world. Besides you coming and leaving, everything else at home stays the same. How can you make your cat’s environment more interesting.

  • Cats like high spots. Make sure you have a high scratching pole or a smaller one next to a high closet for example, so the cat can jump up there. Or hang several (Ikea) shelves on the wall with a nice soft cushion or blanket.
  • Take a cardboard box home from the grocery store, cats always like playing or sleeping in it.
  • Make sure you have enough spots for your cat to scratch and pay attention to the placement of these spots. The connection between two different rooms, or from his favorite sleeping area to his food bowl are popular places to scratch. This is because cats have the urge to mark “on their way” and this is exactly what they’re doing while scratching; give their scent to the object.
  • Some cats prefer to scratch horizontal, others vertical. Take this in consideration when you buy or make something.

Enrich environment for your cat


The most important thing to do is to ignore the cat when they’re attacking your hands or feet. Stay still, and pick up the cat without saying something or make a sound. Put him aside like a ’time out’. If your cat comes back immediately to do it again, do the same, but put him in a different room. This reaction is boring for the cat, so there’s no fun for them anymore in continuing this behavior. Every reaction that you do give (even getting mad) will make him do it again next time. Attention is attention. Mission accomplished!

Don’t give up too easily, it requires a lot of patience and effort.

Do you still have problems with your kitten’s behavior despite these tips, don’t wait too long to call a behavioral specialist. To a lot of people this sounds exaggerating, but they really can help with almost every problem! Unfortunately it still happens way to often that cats end up in a shelter or worse because of this (or other behavioral problems) and that’s not necessary at all.