Most cats tend to have the rather annoying habit of trying to trip you up. Sometimes it comes across as cute, but other times it’s an accident just waiting to happen. My cat always walks in front of me at the most inconvenient times, such as when I’m cooking or walking up the stairs, which begs the question: why do cats walk in front of you?
Although it may seem like malicious behavior, there are six potential causes behind your kitty constantly getting under your feet, all of which I will explain in this article. We’re also going to look at if it’s possible to stop this behavior before someone gets hurt.
The most important thing to remember while reading is that your cat’s goal is never to cause you harm. For whatever reason, your kitty wants you to notice them, and tripping you up is just an unfortunate consequence we have to deal with as cat owners.
Why Does My Cat Run in Front of Me?
My cat often runs in front of me and tries to trip me up. This is nearly a universal experience among cat moms but can also be dangerous. One misstep because of your kitty’s zig-zagging may be the difference between spending a pleasant day at home or going to the hospital due to a nasty fall.
Although it often seems like your kitty intentionally gets in your way, your furry friend is not trying to trip you up or hurt you. There are several causes of this behavior, and nearly all of them are based on the idea that it’s hard to ignore your cat while they’re running around your feet. Getting your attention is the only way your kitty can express their needs to you.
The most common causes behind your cat running in front of you are:
- Herding behavior
- Seeking attention
- Asserting dominance
- Separation anxiety
Below, I’m going to go through each of these causes in detail so that you can try and identify the behaviors associated with them in your own cat. If you can identify the reason behind their behavior, you can ensure you’re meeting their needs properly.
1. Herding Behavior
First, we’ll talk about one of the most common reasons why your cat keeps walking in front of you: they are trying to herd you to a particular place in the house. This could be to let you know their food bowl is empty, their litter tray needs cleaning, or they want to be let through a certain door. Your kitty may even want to herd you to one of their favorite rooms when they’re in the mood for a cuddle.
My cat runs in front of me whenever I go up the stairs, which has nearly caused an accident too many times to count. However, I can tell he’s not intentionally trying to hurt me. Instead, he knows that if he can guide me to my bedroom, I’ll let him inside so that he can watch the birds from my window.
If you think your cat may be showing herding behavior, there is an easy way to check. The next time your feline seems to be trying to get you somewhere, take a step back and see how they react. Cats that are trying to herd you will look back at you when you stop to check that you’re still following them. They may even come back towards you to try and get you to continue walking.
2. Seeking Attention
Another common reason cats walk around your feet is to get your attention. Your kitty will likely have already tried to vocalize their want for your attention to no avail, so getting under your feet is the next best way to ensure they’re noticed. You may also see your cat flop down in front of you, which is hard to ignore – especially when they look so cute!
The reason behind your feline’s attention seeking could vary each day, so you may have to learn what your kitty wants based on their other behaviors. For example, if you often think, “My cat keeps kneading my stomach,” it may be a sign that they want a cuddle, but at other times your furry friend will display different behaviors and may want a play buddy or for someone to give them some food.
You may find that attention-seeking behaviors increase when you get into the habit of leaving cats alone for 4 days or more. For example, I often notice my cat so affectionate all of a sudden when I come back from short trips away because he hasn’t had access to the attention he’s been craving for the last few days. However, be aware this can also lead to separation anxiety (see below).
3. Asserting Dominance
Next up, we have dominance. The hierarchy within your home is very important to felines. Although they are more likely to assert dominance if you own other cats, your kitty may also use dominant behaviors on you. Depending on the severity of such behaviors, it may be worth seeking expert advice on how to deal with your feline’s dominance.
A cat running in front of you to block your access to a particular part of the house is one of the most common dominant behaviors seen in felines. It is their way of telling you where you can and can’t go within your home.
More often than not, these dominating behaviors are harmless. They may cause you some annoyance, but your kitty won’t become overly aggressive as long as they see themselves as the dominant one out of you both. However, this can change if you try and punish or ignore their attempts at dominance. Your feline will see this as disrespectful and may lash out to show you who’s boss.
One example would be to step over your cat when they try blocking your way. Your kitty will feel insulted if you do this and will likely start displaying more unwelcome behaviors in response. These behaviors could include urination in unwanted places (e.g., your clothes or bed) and sudden aggression in the form of attacks.
4. Separation Anxiety
Sometimes cats walk between your legs and follow you around because they suffer from separation anxiety. This is caused when your kitty has an insecure attachment to you, meaning they always worry that you’ll abandon them if you leave.
Suppose your furry friend does suffer from separation anxiety. In that case, they will likely display other telling behaviors, such as getting overly excited when you come home and vocalizing when you’re around. Likewise, my cat follows me everywhere and sleeps with me, which can be another sign that your kitty doesn’t want you to leave them alone.
Keep in mind though that not all felines are super affectionate. For example, if your kitty suffers from separation anxiety, you may wonder, “Why does my cat follow me everywhere but won’t cuddle?” instead. Although it may not seem like it, this is still a sign that your kitty wants to keep you close; they’re probably not just a huge fan of cuddles.
The most important thing to do if your cat experiences separation anxiety is to try and strengthen the bond of trust between you. However, some felines will suffer from anxiety throughout their life no matter what you do. This is especially the case if they experienced any trauma in the past (e.g., being abandoned by a past owner). Try to make your kitty feel as safe as possible in such cases.
Has your feline been exhibiting other unusual behaviors aside from trying to trip you up? If so, they may have something medically wrong with them. Depending on their level of disorientation, your kitty might not be able to help but get under your feet, or it could be their way of trying to tell you that something is wrong.
Look out for other signs that your furry friend is unwell, or think of any instances where they may have hurt themselves without you realizing. For example, suppose your kitty is also vocalizing more than usual and keeps staring into space. In that case, they could have a neurological disorder that needs to be diagnosed and treated.
A concussion caused by a nasty fall or traffic accident could also be behind this. Other concussion-specific symptoms include vomiting, facial swelling, and bleeding from the eyes, nose, or mouth. Thankfully a mild concussion will usually sort itself out within a few weeks.
However, any signs that your feline is unwell should be treated seriously. Make sure to get your vet’s advice before anything else so that they can try and advise you on what steps you should take to ensure your kitty’s recovery.
Finally, your cat may keep walking in front of you to engage in play. This could mean one of two things: (1) they want to play with you, or (2) they are using you as their toy.
In the first instance, providing you have the time, playing with your furry friend would be a great idea! Cats require a lot of stimulation to feel happy, so actively playing with them will help keep them occupied and strengthen your bond. When we’re playing, I often have my cat kick me with his back legs, so don’t be alarmed if your kitty shows a similar behavior when you’re having fun.
If your cat is using you as their toy, they may show some other behaviors associated with hunting, such as wiggling their bum or narrowing their eyes. My cat nibbles my fingers when he plays like this, as he often uses them in place of live prey. You may also notice cats thump their tails when lying down. This further signifies that they are in a playful mood and may soon pounce.
Depending on how aggressive your feline becomes when engaging in hunting play, it may be worth trying to train your cat out of the habit. Try buying toys that your kitty can use to hunt with instead of using your toes or fingers as playthings, such as a moving mouse or a fishing rod toy.
Why Does My Cat Try and Trip Me Up?
Cats will be walking under their owners’ feet until the end of time; it’s one of the main hazards of living with a feline friend! Although it often seems like it, your kitty is not intentionally trying to hurt you or cause an accident.
The cause behind your feline’s unwanted behavior will be one of the reasons outlined above, not a drive to see you injure yourself. Keeping a close eye on any other behaviors your kitty displays should help you determine why they keep walking in front of you, allowing you to meet their needs properly.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to stop this behavior, even if you know its cause. Some cats are clingier than others and need more attention from you as their owner. Felines with this personality will always be more likely to get between your legs than a more independent cat.
However, some things can be done to reduce the number of times you get tripped by your kitty, such as making sure your furry friend is as entertained as possible. Having a variety of toys for your furry friend to play with, providing them with a cat tree, and spending lots of quality time with them are excellent ways to do this.
Spending time with your kitty and always ensuring that all their needs are met will help to strengthen the bond between the two of you. If your cat feels assured they will get everything they need without asking, they will be less likely to trip you in the future.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS
So, why do cats walk in front of you all the time? Believe it or not, this potentially dangerous behavior isn’t your feline’s way of trying to trip you up. Cats may run under your feet because of any of the six reasons listed above, but what they’re not trying to do is hurt you.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much that can be done to stop this unwanted behavior. However, ensuring that your kitty’s needs are met can help to reduce the number of times your cat gets in your way. This will include making sure their food and water bowls are full, providing your feline with a stimulating environment, and spending some quality time with them.