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Why Do Cats Slap? 6 Possible Reasons

Rachael Gerkensmeyer

By Rachael Gerkensmeyer

Cat's paw on child's face

Cats display many interesting, amusing, and sometimes frustrating behaviors. One that can stir up all three emotions in us humans is “slapping.” A cat slapping their paw at you or another cat can resulpt in comical situations, but it can also be concerning. They act fast, so a “slap” isn’t usually expected in any situation.

But why do cats slap? There could be multiple reasons for this behavior, which makes it difficult to determine exactly why a cat would behave in such a way—after all, they can’t talk to us. So, here are six possible reasons that your kitty might slap you or a feline companion.


The 6 Possible Reasons That Cats Slap

1. They’re Just Looking to Play

One of the most common reasons for a cat to slap something or someone is for play. They might slap your hand to get your attention or slap another cat’s head right before they pounce for a playful interaction with them. As natural hunters, cats resort to what they know best: swatting at other living beings to expel pent-up energy. Picking up a toy to interact with can help redirect your kitty’s attention from slapping and toward more productive (and less aggressive) behavior.

2. They’re Looking for Attention

Sometimes a cat will slap their companion in an effort to do nothing more than get attention. This is likely to happen when your cat feels neglected because you’ve been gone too often or have been busy lately. A quick slap is sure to get you to look away from the television or your computer screen. This behavior is most common among cats that are used to getting plenty of attention and then find themselves having to share the spotlight with new pets or other life activities.

Seal point siamese cat playful raising paw showing claws
Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

3. They’re Feeling Stressed Out

A cat can feel stressed out for one reason or another. One way that they might try to relieve the tension that they feel is to slap someone or something around them. Unexpected noises, strange people in the house, a new pet, thunderstorms, honking cars, and other experiences can cause stress in a cat that results in acting out in ways like slapping or swatting with their paws.

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4. They’re Experiencing Frustration

Your cat might swat at or slap you because they are feeling frustrated for some reason. Maybe they haven’t had an opportunity to get the exercise that they are used to, or they have lost a cat companion that they are used to living with. They might have pain that they aren’t getting relief for. They may not be getting the nutrition that they require to maintain good health. Whatever the reason, swatting and slapping is a way for them to relieve that frustration.

Cat with paws raised up
Image Credit: rihaij, Pixabay

5. They’re Establishing Social Rank

Cats like to establish a social ranking system within their household. Each cat living together must know their place within the pack. Otherwise, too much drama and mayhem can take place. So, if a cat is trying to establish themselves in the pecking order, they may try swatting at and slapping their fellow cats to find out what the reaction will be. Their goal is to get the other cat to “take it” so they establish dominance over them and therefore, improve their rank in the pack.

6. They’re Being Territorial

If a person or animal gets too close to a cat’s perceived territory, that cat may well resort to slapping to protect that territory. The slapping is their way of telling whatever they’re slapping to back off. This is common behavior around beds, toys, and favorite couch spots.

red tabby cat showing its paw pads
Image Credit: Kevin Bidwell, Pexels


Things That You Can Do to Curb Problematic Slapping Behavior

If your cat has taken to slapping things and people regularly or when inappropriate, there are a few things that you can do to curb the behavior. Here are options to consider:

  • Spend extra time with your cat while you are at home, even if it is just 10 minutes before work or bed.
  • Make several toys available at the same time, including those that are interactive, such as motorized rats. Switch out the toys with others every week or two. You can keep rotating the toys throughout the year to keep things exciting without spending money on new toys every month.
  • Establish yourself as first on the social ranking within your cat pack so none of your feline family members try to challenge your dominance. This can be done by saying “no” and turning your attention away anytime they try to swat at or slap you.

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Here are a few of our favorite cat toys, each caters to various types of play your cat might like the best. 

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There are various reasons that a cat might slap their human or animal companions or even inanimate objects. If the behavior becomes a problem, try one of the ideas here, or contact your veterinarian for advice.

Featured Image Credit: Antibydni, Shutterstock

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