Did you know that cats have up to 200 million scent receptors? To put it in perspective, humans have roughly 5 million scent receptors—needless to say, cats have us beat when it comes to smells. Cats’ sense of smell allows them to navigate the world around them, and their scent also helps them differentiate their humans from strangers.
That said, have you ever wondered why cats like our feet in particular? Join us in discovering the six likely reasons cats love feet and how to stop it if it’s a problem.
The 6 Reasons Why Cats Like Feet
1. Human Pheromones Are Driven by Our Feet
Does your cat pay close attention to your feet when you return home? If so, the reason is our pheromones are heavily concentrated on our feet, shoes, socks, flip-flops, and whatever else we had on our feet at the time. Your cat may rub her face all over your feet because she’s enjoying your scent, and she’s happy you’re her human. Cats also like to rub their scent on our feet to “mark” us as their own, as they have scent glands on their cheeks.
2. Showing Affection
Your cat may seem obsessed with your feet because it’s her way of showing you that she loves you. Since your pheromones are concentrated on your feet, your kitty focuses more on your feet to show affection. Your cat may even sleep by your feet at night because she feels safe and trusts you will protect and comfort her.
3. Seeking Attention
Many cat owners have experienced their cats biting or licking their feet. One reason for this behavior is your cat is simply trying to get your attention. Your cat probably knows she will get a reaction out for you if she nibbles or bites your toes. This attention may not be the exact reaction your kitty is seeking, but it’s a reaction nonetheless. Your cat may be telling you her food bowl is empty, or maybe she just wants to play.
4. To Gather Information
As we’ve mentioned, our pheromones are concentrated on our feet, and our kitties can gather a great deal of information by sniffing your feet, such as where you’ve been, who you may have been with, and if you’ve been around another animal.
5. Using Their Hunting Instincts
Cats are natural hunters and are attracted to moving objects, such as your toes. Has your cat ever pounced on your toes when you wiggle them? That’s because they are reacting to the movement, and it may enhance their play drive. Your cat pouncing on your toes isn’t a sign of aggression; it’s more so enhancing their play drive. However, if your cat constantly attacks your wiggling toes, you may want to give your kitty more mental and physical stimulation with cat toys.
6. Your Cat May Be Stressed or Anxious
When your cat licks something, it releases endorphins that relieve stress or anxiety. If your cat is obsessed with licking your feet, this may be the reason. Keep in mind that this behavior can become compulsive if not nipped in the bud, so you’ll want to find out why your cat is constantly licking your feet.
Consider if you’ve made any changes in the home lately, such as adding a new pet or having moved to a new place. Another possibility is your cat may have developed a medical condition. Consider taking your cat to the vet to rule out a possible medical issue, and if no medical issue is present, ask your vet how you can ease your cat’s stress.
How to Stop Your Cat From Attacking Your Feet
Even though this behavior may seem cute, there may be times when your cat can inflict pain if they attack your feet. Let’s face it—a cat bite or scratch does not feel good, and you don’t want to suffer from the behavior. This behavior can also become problematic if not stopped.
One strategy is to simply ignore it. While ignoring the behavior, keep your feet still, so you don’t enhance your cat’s natural prey drive. Another method is to distract your cat with a cat toy to drive your cat’s attention away from your feet.
You can also hide your feet under a pillow, blanket, or duvet covers to keep your cat from accessing your feet. You may want to wear socks or slippers to keep bites and scratches to a minimum or, even better, nonexistent. Lastly, firmly tell your cat “no” anytime she attacks your feet. Be consistent with this method so your cat will eventually get the point.
As cat owners, we love when our cats show us affection, but when the form of affection comes with bites and scratches, it’s time to assess the situation and remedy the behavior before it becomes a compulsive habit. There’s certainly no harm in letting your cat sniff or rub on your feet, but when your cat attacks and bites your feet, that’s a different story. If it’s not a problem, feel privileged that your cat loves you so much!