Cats have a habit of walking in front of you, so it may appear as if your cat is trying to trip you over. However, the tripping is a consequence of instinctive behavior rather than any wilful intent to make you fall over.
A cat that walks in your path is looking for attention or is attempting to herd you in a certain direction. So, ensure that your cat’s food and water bowls are full and its litter tray is clean. Your cat may have separation anxiety and wants to prevent you from leaving the room or house. Your cat could be feeling playful and is hunting your ankles. Walking in front of you can sometimes be an act of dominance.
It’s most likely that your cat wants you to take notice of it. If you deal with its basic living needs and acknowledge its more subtle pleas for attention, your cat is very likely to stop walking in front of you all the time.
Why Do Cats Walk Right in Front of You?
Cats get under your feet for various reasons but never intentionally cause you physical harm. It just knows that you cannot ignore this action. The most common reasons for a cat to walk in front of you include:
- Separation anxiety
Take time to learn the meaning of your cat’s body language cues. If you can understand what your cat is telling you, you’ll be able to identify and meet its needs more promptly. This will make the cat feel more secure, and it won’t consider it necessary to stand in front of you while you walk.
Most often, a cat steps in your path to get your attention. Your cat will likely have been trying to elicit a response from you already. If you have ignored your cat’s verbalization, then it will utilize a different tactic.
In these cases, your cat wants you to do something, such as provide food or attention. Learn your cat’s body language cues. It will behave in certain ways when it’s feeling hungry or particularly playful, for example.
This behavior may also be rooted in memory for your cat. If the cat nuzzled your ankles as a kitten, you might have offered it petting. Your cat will remember this and repeat the action, hoping to elicit the same response.
Your cat could also be trying to herd you in a certain direction. When your cat steps in front of you, take a small step back. Wait a moment and see if your cat walks in a particular direction. If it checks to see if you’re following, it wants to show you something or do something.
Oftentimes, the cat will lead you to an empty food or water bowl so that you can feed it. If it takes you to the litter tray, it is reminding you to clean it. Leading you to a window or door means that the cat saw or heard something or that it wants to go outside.
Pay attention if your cat leads you to a wall, especially if it stops and stares at it intently. Your cat may have heard something inside the wall. It may just be the neighbor’s television or something equally innocuous. However, you may have rodents, bed bugs, or termites in your walls.
If your cat runs ahead of you before blocking your path, it is playing with you. Watch your cat’s body language closely as it engages in this behavior.
If your cat’s tail is pointed upward and curled forward, this is an invitation to play a game. There is no harm in yielding to your cat’s request. Fetch your cat’s favorite toy and spend some quality time together.
If your cat narrows its eyes and pounces, be a little more careful. This suggests that your cat is hunting you. In the absence of live prey, it has chosen you as a moving target.
Train your cat out of this by encouraging play. Reach for a fishing rod toy or a clockwork mouse. This will satisfy its instinctive need to hunt. Avoid laser pointers as your cat cannot ‘win’ this game, as there is nothing to catch. This can lead to frustration, and your cat will start hunting you again.
Cats are hierarchal animals. If you live with multiple cats, one will likely show dominance over the others. If your cat lives alone, it may attempt to dominate you.
Blocking access is a common dominant behavior in cats. If your cat gets in your way when you walk, it may be deliberate. The cat is attempting to assert where you can and cannot go.
You can step over the cat, but this is inadvisable. A dominant cat that feels disrespected can become aggressive. It could start to display other unwelcome behaviors, such as marking clothing with urine.
If this dominant behavior continues, seek the advice of a feline behaviorist.
Is your cat excessively clingy while you are in the house? A cat that follows you from room to room, verbalizing to excess, may have separation anxiety.
As Current Biology explains, felines experience two types of attachment to owners. A cat with a secure attachment trusts its owner to meet its needs. A cat with insecure attachment worries that an owner will abandon them, leading to separation anxiety.
A cat with separation anxiety will stand in your way when you leave a room. The cat doesn’t want you to leave as it worries that you won’t return. According to The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, a cat with separation anxiety may eliminate outside the litter box.
You must enhance the bond of trust with your cat. Get your cat into a reliable routine. Set aside specific times for feeding, play, and grooming each day. Your cat will come to accept this schedule.
Arrange for friends and neighbors to visit your cat. Leave curtains and drapes open so that your cat can watch birds through a window. Fill your home with toys, puzzles, and cat trees to keep it mentally occupied.
Has your cat been acting strangely in other ways? If so, consider whether it may have experienced a blow to the head due to running into something. Cats often hide signs of injury, so your cat may have a concussion.
Concussions are more common in cats than many of us realize. According to The Veterinary Nursing Journal, cats are commonly admitted to surgery due to concussions. Falls from height and road traffic accidents are the most common explanations for concussions.
A concussion prevents the brain from sending accurate messages to the nervous system. Your cat may not have intended to walk in front of you. It may be that your cat has taken an unwitting detour due to crossed wires in the messages from its brain to its legs.
Aside from an uncoordinated gait, symptoms of feline concussion include:
- Spontaneous vomiting
- Swelling around the face
- Staring into space
- Bleeding from the nose, eyes, or mouth
Most cats will recover naturally from a concussion after getting rest.
Your cat isn’t trying to trip you up. It’s trying to elicit a response so that you can meet its needs. Food, water, and a clean litter tray are the most likely explanations. Usually, your cat will show you exactly what it wants.