By Arden Moore, a certified dog and cat behaviorist with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. Arden is an author, radio host, and writer for Pets Best, a pet insurance agency for dogs and cats.
Far too often, kittens are misunderstood by people. What people may regard as a misdeed, to a fast-growing kitten is a perfectly acceptable behavior. Let’s address a far-too common kitten that can have painful consequences to you and any other person in your home–ambushing ankles. That timid kitten you may have adopted recently may have doubled in size and confidence. And, his inner, innate hunter is surfacing.
The scenario: You walk down the hallway, turn the corner, and e-owww!! Your feisty kitten has been patiently lying in wait. When he spies you approaching, he elevates his back end and wiggles quickly side to side. Then he springs from his hiding spot, wrapping his front claws around your ankle. Ouch!
In order to cease this undesired action, you need to understand your kitten’s mindset. Indoor cats need opportunities to hone their hunting skills. Their ‘prey’ is not the rodents or birds abundant in the great outdoors, but possibly, anything that moves inside the home for him to stalk and attack. Your kitten is simply redirecting the need for natural play toward lucky you. If you only have one cat, this behavior could indicate that he feels deprived of sufficient play time. He is desperately looking for ways to act out his play-prey aggression.
Here are three savvy solutions to tame that tabby tiger of yours.
1. Give him the cold shoulder. Try to ignore him during the attack and walk away. Your reactions (leaping and screaming) only reinforce his need to ambush you. When your kitten is calm, avoid overstimulation by limiting friendly pats and strokes to 10-second intervals and never engage in roughhouse play. And remember to trim the tips of his sharp claws on a regular basis, about every two weeks.
2. Invest in interactive toys like wands with feathers or low-power, low-voltage laser lights made specifically for cats. Schedule at least 5 to 10 minutes twice a day to play with your kitten. This time can also strengthen the friendship bond between you both.
3. Outfox your pouncing kitten. Walk down the hall and stop just before the door where your cat is hiding. Toss a favorite toy mouse or even a paper wad down the hall in the opposite direction you are heading. You want to elicit a play response in your kitten. He will be occupied with “killing” this faux mouse to enable you to walk safely by. Do this each morning and you have now succeeded in introducing a safer, friendlier ritual. Your feline will now lie in wait for the toy mouse – and not your vulnerable ankles.
Parting tip: Consider getting him a feline playmate. Adopting another cat may provide your kitten a more suitable outlet for his stalking activities. Work with your local animal shelter to find a perfect playmate match for your kitten and you.
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