Why Are Cats So Obsessed With Feet?

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Cat lovers will vouch for the fact that life with a feline family member is full of fun, silliness, and snuggles. Yes, your cat might scratch the furniture and you might occasionally find something unpleasant in your shoe, but they also give you kitty kisses, headbutts, and nibbles to make up for any feline faux pas.

Key Takeaways

Cats are attracted to the odor of human feet, especially if they’re unwashed or sweaty.

A cat's predatory instincts are triggered by feet that are wiggling, walking, or covered by socks or blankets.

If you don’t want your cat to attack your feet, cover them with tight-fitting socks or shoes, and redirect your cat's play elsewhere.

However, despite their loving moments, some of your cat’s behavior might seem strange, irritating, or even painful! Like if your cat bites, chases, or attacks your feet—ouch! You might even have to give out a warning to guests. But, why are cats so obsessed with feet? And can you stop this behavior?

So, What’s So Appealing About Feet?

If your cat likes your feet, you’re probably a bit confused as to why. After all, you don’t pet them with your feet, and feet can be sweaty, smelly, and a little unpleasant. The truth is, though, that our four-legged family members like feet for a few reasons.

1. Feet Are Easy To Reach And Have Wiggly Toes

We all know cats are playful creatures, and with many cats, it doesn’t take much to initiate playtime with them. A ball of tin foil, a laser pen, a piece of string, or a fake mouse on a rod, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to have their attention.

For some cats, feet are just another plaything. It’s unfortunate that a person’s ankles are at eye level for your cat, which makes them even more tempting. So, if you wander past your cat, your feet might get your cat’s attention.

Cats also love moving parts, which means anything can become a toy in their eyes. So, if you imagine looking at your foot through a cat’s eyes, you can see why the toes might make it seem like a toy.

Also Read: 10 Signs You Might Have A Clingy Cat

2. Feet Sweat And Smell Interesting

Sweaty feet might not sound very attractive to you, but to a cat, the salty taste and strong odor add to the appeal. To a cat, their owner’s scent is wonderful, even the smell of your stinky feet.

Cats have an amazing sense of smell and cat communication relies on pheromone scents. They have scent glands on their paws, cheeks, lips, body, and tail, and when they rub against furniture or people, or scratch carpet, couches, and scratch posts, they’re scent marking. The smell of feet actually encourages your cat to come and investigate.

You might notice them sniffing your feet when they approach you, then rubbing against your feet. This isn’t just to mark you as theirs, but to transfer their familiar scent to make them feel safe.

Also Read: What Are Cat Pheromones And Do They Really Work?

3. They’re Covered By Socks

cat biting socks

It’s fun for cats to pounce and play with your feet when they are “hidden” by your socks.

Cats love stalking and pouncing on things that move, even more so if they’re out of sight. Think about them attacking your feet under a blanket—always a favorite! So, if your wiggly toes are covered by socks, it’s double the fun for your feline family member.

Also Read: Do Cats Have A Good Sense Of Smell?

Why Do Cats Attack Feet?

Cats are playful, but they’re also predators. A cat that goes outdoors will often hunt small prey. If you walk past your cat, your feet will be moving right around their eye level, almost challenging them to have a go at chasing! This is why you might find that your cat springs out from behind the sofa and attacks your feet.

Also Read: Why Does My Cat Attack My Feet?

Why Do Cats Bite Feet?

It’s a cat’s natural instinct to hunt, pounce, and stalk. So, feet that are partially covered or wiggling enticingly are bound to encourage them to play, and this might include biting. However, even when a cat’s biting is playful and they’re not meaning to cause pain, they might  get a little carried away.

Also Read: Cat Love Bites: 5 Reasons Why They Do It & How To Respond

Why Do Cats Lick Feet?

Cats have a cluster of scent receptors on the roof of the mouth, known as Jacobson’s organ. These scent receptors translate the scent into a signal that tells the cat about their environment. So, by licking your feet, they’re picking up your scent.

That’s not all though, our feet are coated in oils and sweat that keep the skin barrier healthy. Although this might not sound particularly tasty, cats find this salty taste delicious. Of course, it’s also possible that they’re just caring for you by grooming and keeping you clean.

Also Read: Why Do Cats Lick You?

Why Do Cats Rub Against Their Owner’s Feet?

Cats have scent glands on their face and bodies that release pheromones when they brush or rub against surfaces. It’s their way of territory marking as well as helping them feel secure when they’re surrounded by their own scent.

So, it might look a bit odd when your cat is rubbing their face and lips against your feet but it’s just a way of showing cat love. Think of it as a cat’s version of saying “I love you.” You can find out more about cat scent glands if you read our article, Do cats have scent glands in their paws?

How Can You Stop Your Cat From Attacking Or Biting Your Feet?

cat rubbing agains owner's leg

Never encourage play that involves cats biting or scratching human body parts.

Now you understand some of the common reasons why cats love feet. But if they are prone to aggressive play, it might not be a fun game. It’s not necessary to put up with painful nips or scratches. Although it’s a natural cat behavior, there are a few things that might help:

1. Keep Them Busy

If your cat is feeling playful but has nothing around to play with and no outlet, they’re more likely to go looking for some fun. This could mean that your feet become a very appealing option! Providing plenty of toys and engaging in playful interactions with your cat will help to prevent boredom, redirect energy and hopefully give your feet a break.

Also Read: Is My Cat Bored? 8 Signs to Watch Out For

2. Wear Tight-Fitting Socks

Bare feet with exposed toes look the most fun from your cat’s point of view, so wearing socks is a good idea. But if your socks are too loose or ill-fitting, the extra fabric could get your cat’s attention, too. Also avoid wearing big, fluffy slippers, especially those that look like stuffed toys.

3. Don’t Encourage Foot Play

Some people find it funny to wiggle their toes or play a game where their cat attacks their feet. However, if you generally don’t want them to do it, it’s best not to confuse them by encouraging it sometimes. Keep things simple, keep your feet covered and out of the way, and use distractions to shut down any foot play if they show any interest.

Also Read: The 5 Best Interactive Cat Toys for Bored Cats

Final Thoughts

cat sleeping lap

Play with your cat using toys rather than your feet or hands, as this can confuse them and make them think it’s OK to play-bite your feet.

Cats do a lot of things that make us smile, and as long as they’re not too rough you might think it’s cute seeing them playing and pouncing on your feet. However, if they’re showing aggression, causing injuries or you’re finding it a bit frustrating, try some of the tips above to direct their play elsewhere.

Also Read: 10 Proven Ways To Show Your Cat You Love Her

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are my cats obsessed with my feet?

There are lots of things about feet that cats like, from the scent and sweat to the wiggly toes. They might enjoy practicing pouncing with your feet as the target, or they might enjoy licking your feet because of the salty taste.

Why does my cat prefer my feet to my hands?

Cats love the scent of feet because they have so many sweat glands. We wash our hands regularly throughout the day, so our unique scent won’t be as strong as on our feet. It’s this scent that often attracts cats to our feet and might even encourage them to lick them.

Why does my cat like licking my feet?

If your cat licks your feet, it might be that they like the salty taste! They might also be taking care of you by giving your feet a good clean. However, they might also be transferring their owner's smell to the scent receptors on the roof of their mouth, to give them information about their surroundings.

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About Dr. Hannah Godfrey BVETMED MRCVS

Hannah graduated from the Royal Veterinary College, UK in 2011 and began work straight away at a busy mixed practice. Initially, she treated all species, but as the small animal hospital became busier, she focussed on small animals. Hannah is an expert on cat behavior and nutrition.

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  1. Todd Winnick

    I’m sure most cat owners know all about having to constantly retrieve toys from under the refrigerator and stove. One of my cats, Diana, will be racing around playing with a ball until suddenly she is staring at the refrigerator and meowing. In the past, I would use a yardstick or broom handle to fish them out. I discovered that an inexpensive adjustable curtain rod effectively blocks the bottoms of fridge/stove. When something does occasionally evade my defenses, I can use the same rod to recover Diana and Rock’s toys. Now if only that would work for my furniture as well.