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Why Do Cats Hit Their Owners? Understanding the Different Types of Cat Behavior

Cats just do anything to get our heads turning to give them attention. They aren’t always seeking to play, however, so why do cats hit their owners?

Cats hit their owners to get their attention when they’re hungry, want to play, or want to stop being touched.

This article is going to cover different types of cat behavior explaining their quirky habits and what it could mean.

Why Do Cats Hit Their Owners with Their Paws?

It’s not just the paws that cats use to hit or slap their owners with, they use other parts of their body to express different or similar messages.

Why Cats Hit Their Owners with Their Paws?

  • They want that to stop. Cats use their paws to hit you as one of their ways of saying “stop.” This happens when you have been petting or annoying your cat for longer than it likes.
  • They want food! Cats do all sorts of things to ask for food; they meow, hit you with their paw, and express it in many ways that vary for every cat.
  • They need to run around and play. Your cat could be asking for more playtime as it’s itching to catch that toy bird one last time.
  • They have given you a “love tap”. Interestingly, they may also do it to mark you. In all four paws, there are glands as small as a dot called interdigital glands that produce pheromones for marking what is theirs. These are located in between the toes. 
  • Because it’s fun. They also do it just to get your attention, something they noticed has worked several times.

Read: Do Cats See Humans as Cats? An Exploration of Feline Cognition

Why Cats Hit Their Owners with Their Tail?

  • They are reciprocating your affection. There are moments when you are petting your cat and it bumps its head into your leg or arm. It’s an indication it’s fond of you as you are with your feline.
  • They are scared or distressed. When loud sounds interrupt your sleep and your cat circles your leg or their tail constantly hits your leg, they are uneasy with the situation at hand.
  • They’re hungry and want your attention. It’s usually what cats ask for so it’s not surprising that your feline is asking for one when it sees you eating something.

Read: Why Do Cats Age So Fast? Explaining the Rapid Aging of Cats

Why Cats Hit Their Owners with Their Heads?

  • They’re finding comfort in your presence. Cats aren’t always craving their alone time. Sometimes, they will feel lonely, stressed, and worried over something they can’t understand so they approach the perceived parent and provider for the comfort and security you have always given.
  • They’re greeting you. Doesn’t it warm your heart when you come through the door after a long day and your cat headbutts your leg? It does this to greet you and people it’s familiar with.
  • They’re marking and mixing scents with you. There are about three or four scent glands on a feline’s face alone. They’re located on the cheek, above the brows, near the edge of their lips, and under the chin. Your cut rubs its scent glands against your skin to create a unique scent that only the two of you share or among your chowder of cats.

Read: Why Do Cats Fight at Night?

What Does It Mean When a Cat Hits Your Face?

Doesn’t it startle you when your cat reaches up to your face and hits you? It looks up at you unbothered as you question why. Your cat has found out that it’s an effective way to get your full attention and for you to stop what you’re doing.

Your cat may not always be hungry or feeling playful when it does this, it could be a quick act of marking that can be translated to “you are mine”, when done gently of course. Felines can be very sweet when you least expect it!

Why Does My Cat Hit and Chase My Other Cat?

Your cat is provoking the other to play! It hits the other cat to get its attention and chases it to start the game. Other times, your cat hits or slaps the other and runs away to tease its friend to play.

Aside from being playful, cats do it too to hone their hunting skills. Because they don’t get to practice it on actual prey, they find an alternative and the poor target could be the other cat, your foot, or sheets dangling over an edge.

Read: Why Are Cats Not Always Landing on Their Feet?

Why Does My Cat Hit My Dog?

This can be interpreted as playful behavior or an act of dominance. Cats and dogs have an interesting relationship. Some can tolerate each other’s presence and some hate each other so much they aim to take an eye out.

Felines have a habit of provoking other animals around them and this could be as amusing to them as it is for you. When either the dog or the cat usually responds in aggression, it’s best to prevent this behavior from happening again. If you see that they get along well and no blood is shed, they are just being playful,

Why Do Cats Hit Things off Tables?

Anything placed on a counter, a table, or any surface, your cat may find enjoyment in hitting it over the edge and watching it break. It’s an odd hobby for felines. Even though they have been domesticated, they still express the desire to hunt and cats tend to play with their food as well.

“Cats use their paws to test and explore objects, and the movement, sound, and touch or feel of the object helps them understand what might be safe or not,” explains Amy Shojai, certified animal behavior consultant (CABC) of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.

They touch the object and wonder why it’s not moving. Is it dead? It’s not trying to escape their paws so they push it around, waiting for it to bolt so they can chase it. However, it’s not always like that. They also do it just to get your attention.

Cats can be manipulative. When things fall off the table, they hear you running, calling their name, and complaining – you responded. They got your attention. Cats hit things off the table to explore their surroundings, express their hunting desire, and have a cheeky way of getting your undivided attention.

Read: Training Your Cat to Stop Biting: Tips and Techniques


Cats hit their owners to convey a message, and they do it with their heads, paws, and tail. It can mean different things and can be interpreted in many ways by each owner. It could mean that your cat is feeling hungry, scared, affectionate, playful, or want you to stop touching its body. What’s important is to pay attention to the situation they’re in and what you’re doing so you can understand what it means.

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