Why do cats bite ankles?
If you share a home with a feline, you have probably already been surprised by an attack on the ankles. Many caregivers worry about this habit of their cats to observe in it a possible symptom of aggressiveness. Usually, however, a cat that nips at its keepers’ ankles is simply bored and finds no other way to positively exercise its natural hunting instinct.
Factors that influence the cat to bite the ankles
Although they have been «domesticated», cats maintain innate hunting instincts , as do all felines. However, unlike their wild relatives, our kittens stopped exercising their hunting skills so noticeably, since they do not need to catch prey to feed.
On the one hand, this home life protects them from numerous diseases and environmental adversities, but when due attention is not paid to the environmental enrichment that a feline requires to remain healthy and balanced, different behavioral problems appear. You may wonder why your cat attacks you for no reason, however, all the behaviors manifested in the feline have a cause and are carried out to achieve certain objectives: feeding, releasing stress, asking for attention, etc.
Why do cats throw themselves at the legs and bite?
Most cats that bite their handlers’ ankles show one of the 5 symptoms of cat boredom . By spending a lot of time alone and not having an enriched environment , or not receiving proper attention from their keepers, a kitty may find the perfect opportunity to exercise their natural hunting instinct at the ankles of their guardians. Furthermore, it is important to remember that a bored or sedentary cat becomes vulnerable to a number of illnesses and behavioral problems.
We may not perceive it, but when we play with our kitties, we give them the opportunity to exercise their innate instincts. For example: the classic game of the wand or fishing rod aims to imitate the movement of a bird to stimulate the hunting instinct of felines. If we stop playing with our kittens or do not provide toys and accessories for them to remain active during our absence, it is very likely that they will find an outlet for their boredom by biting our ankles.
Other causes that cause the cat to bite the ankles
Although the bite on the ankles usually shows the boredom of a feline that does not have the necessary toys to positively exercise its instincts without hurting its caregivers, cats can bite for different reasons. Depending on the circumstance, a pussycat can bite as a sign of social interaction , for being overexcited during a game , as a show of affection , for poor socialization, for fear or mistrust, for feeling vulnerable, among others.
If a cat gently bites you when you give it food or play with it for a while, it is probably showing its love and appreciation. It is important not to reinforce this behavior and ignore it and teach him to express his affection in a safe and calm way, using positive reinforcement to recognize only the desirable attitudes of him. Remember that punishing, pushing away or scolding him are also ways to reinforce behaviors, since if the cat is looking for our attention, he is getting it.
To extinguish a behavior, it must be completely ignored, only in this way the cat, not getting any response, will stop carrying it out. On the other hand, if a feline is sick or feels vulnerable in some context, he may bite as a form of self-defense, to avoid possible damage to his well-being.
If you notice that your cat shows symptoms of weakness, hides for a long time or isolates itself and uses the bite as a form of defense, it is very important to go to the vet quickly. Some illnesses can cause changes in your behavior, and pain makes you feel more vulnerable.
Because cats are owners of a unique character, there is no exact interpretation for each sound, gesture or expression that cats use to express their feelings, desires and moods. Your cat is a unique and singular being, for which there is no previously established definition of his personality. Therefore, to interpret the meaning of the bites and the various forms of expression of your pussycat, it is very important that you take your time to discover his character and pay attention to his body language .
However, if you notice that your cat has become aggressive or shows negative changes in its behavior, it is important to consult a veterinarian specializing in feline ethology. Together with this professional, you will be able to find out the cause of these alterations and establish a treatment based on specific guidelines.
What can I do to prevent my cat from biting my ankles?
Although we can understand that the act of jumping towards our ankles is instinctive and natural in our cats, the truth is that bites in this sensitive region can be annoying and very painful. For this reason, we summarize some practical tips so that you can avoid these attacks by your cat and generate a healthier coexistence in your home.
- Environmental enrichment: Surely, you have to go out to work and fulfill your responsibilities. This also means that you will have to leave your cat alone at home. To avoid behavior problems and symptoms of stress or boredom such as attacking the ankles, it is essential to enrich his environment with toys, scratching posts, climbing shelves, hiding places and other accessories that allow him to stay physically and mentally stimulated during your absence.
- Quality moments: although you offer many toys so that your cat can have fun alone, it is essential that you set aside time exclusively to play with him and share quality moments. Even if you come home tired, remember to spend a few minutes with your feline companion.
- Consider Giving Him a Companion – If you notice that your cat is getting bored playing alone and bouts of boredom persist, you may want to consider giving her a «little brother» or «little sister.» However, remember to pay attention to your cat’s temperament and analyze how social he is. If you consider that the presence of another individual can improve the quality of life of your feline, remember to socialize it before abruptly imposing a coexistence and correctly introduce the new cat to your cat.
- Preventive medicine: as we have mentioned, some pathologies can cause stress and modify the behavior of your cat. Therefore, to keep your feline healthy and balanced, it is essential to provide him with adequate preventive medicine throughout his life. Remember to make regular visits to the vet every 6 months, respect his vaccination card and regular deworming, as well as offer him a balanced diet of excellent quality and keep him physically and mentally stimulated.