why does my cat zig-zag ahead of me?
Questions About Cats

Why Does My Cat Try to Trip Me When I Walk?

Cats have a habit of walking in front of you, so it may appear as though your cat is trying to trip you over. The tripping is a side effect of instinctive behavior rather than any wilful intent on the part of your cat.

A cat constantly underfoot wants your attention, or to herd you in a particular direction. Ensure the cat’s food and water bowls are full and its litter tray is clean. The cat may have separation anxiety and wants to stop you from leaving. It could be feeling playful and is hunting your ankles. In some cases, the cat may be attempting to dominate you.

It’s possible that the cat is disoriented. If your cat recently suffered a head injury, this will be reflected in its movement. It’s likelier that your cat just wants you to notice it. If you acknowledge subtler pleas for attention, your cat will stop walking in front of you all the time.

My Cat Keeps Trying To Trip Me

Cats get underfoot for a number of reasons, but never to 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 are:

  • Attention-seeking
  • Herding
  • Play
  • Dominance
  • Separation anxiety
  • Disorientation

The key to understanding your cat’s habit is learning its body language cues. If you can understand what your cat is telling you, you’ll react faster. This will make the cat feel more secure and won’t consider it necessary to stand in front of you while you walk.

Attention

Most often, a cat steps in your path to get your attention. The cat will likely have been trying to elicit a response already. If you ignored verbalization, it will try a different tactic.

In these cases, your cat wants something. This will usually be food or attention. Learn your cat’s body language cues. It will typically behave in certain ways when hungry or feeling playful.

This behavior may also be rooted in memory for your cat. If the cat nuzzled your ankles as a kitten, you may have offered petting or a treat. The cat will remember this. It will repeat the action hoping to gain the same response.

why do cats walk between your legs?

Herding

Your cat could also be trying to herd you in a particular 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 ensure you are following, it wants to show you something.

Oftentimes, the cat will lead you to an empty food or water bowl. If it takes you to the litter tray, it is reminding you to clean it. Leading you to a window or door means the cat saw or heard something. If your cat roams outdoors, it may simply want to go outside.

Pay attention if your cat leads you to a wall, especially it stops and stares intently. The cat has heard something inside the wall. It may just be the neighbor’s television, or something equally innocuous. You may have rodents, bed bugs, or termites in your walls, though.

Hunting Play

If your cat runs ahead of you then blocks your path, it is playing with you. Watch your cat’s body language as it engages in this behavior.

If your cat’s tail is pointed upward and curled forward, this is an invitation to play. The cat is not attempting anything untoward. There is no harm in yielding to your cat’s request. Fetch your cat’s favorite toy and spend some time together.

If your cat narrows its eyes and pounces, be a little more careful. This suggests that your cat is hunting you. The cat is likely frustrated and keen to hunt. In the absence of live prey, it has chosen you as a moving target.

This is not ideal. Your cat will place itself in danger it continues this game. The cat may pounce when you least expect it. This could lead to the cat being kicked or stepped on.

In addition, if the cat considers your prey, it will treat you as such. Most cats do not eat the mice and birds they catch. Instead, they bat the prey around with their paws. Your cat may start clawing you as part of this hunting behavior.

Train your cat out of this action by encouraging play. Reach for a fishing rod toy, or a clockwork mouse. This will satisfy the instinctive need to hunt.

Try to avoid laser pointers. The cat cannot ‘win’ this game, as there is nothing to catch at the end. This can lead to frustration, and your cat will start hunting you again.

Dominant Behaviors

Cats are hierarchal animals. If you live with multiple cats, one will likely express dominance over the others. If your cat lives alone, it may attempt to dominate you instead.

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.

Obviously you can simply step over the cat. This is inadvisable, though. A dominant cat that feels disrespected can become aggressive. Your cat may start swiping at you for no reason. It will also display other unwelcome behaviors, such as marking clothing with urine.

Focus on positive behaviors. Offer your cat a treat when it does not attempt to block your path. This will satisfy both parties. You will be able to walk freely, and your cat will retain a sense of control. In your cat’s mind, it allows you to pass because you paid the toll.

This is not sustainable forever. You cannot treat your cat every time you want to walk somewhere in your own home. If the pushy, dominant behavior continues after training, seek the advice of a feline behaviorist.

cat cuts me off

Separation Anxiety

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.

While more commonly associated with dogs, this condition can affect cats too. As Current Biology explains, felines experience two types of attachment to owners. A cat with secure attachment trusts its owner to meet their needs. A cat with insecure attachment worries that an owner will abandon them. This leads 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. It worries that you will not return. According to The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, a cat with separation anxiety will often eliminate outside the litter box.

You must enhance your bond of trust with your cat. Separation anxiety makes a cat’s life miserable. It’s also dangerous in senior cats. Stress and anxiety have been linked to spontaneous hypertension.

Get your cat into a strict, reliable routine. Set aside particular times for feeding, play, and grooming each day. Your cat will come to accept and understand this schedule.

Give your cat plenty of stimulation to take its mind off your absence, too. Arrange for friends and neighbors to visit your cat. Leave curtains and drapes open so the cat can watch birds through a window. Fill our home with toys, puzzles, and cat trees.

Disorientation

Has your cat been acting strangely in other ways? If so, consider whether it may have experienced a blow to the head. Cats often hide signs of injury. Your cat may be living with a concussion or other brain trauma.

Concussions are more common in cats than many of us realize. According to The Veterinary Nursing Journal that cats are commonly admitted to surgery due to concussion. Falls from height and road traffic accidents are the most common explanations for concussion.

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. Due to crossed wires in the messages from the brain to legs, it took an unwitting detour.

Aside from an uncoordinated gait, symptoms of a feline concussion include:

  • Spontaneous vomiting
  • Swelling around the face
  • Staring into space
  • Bleeding from the nose, eyes or mouth

Most cats recover naturally from a concussion. Your cat will just need plenty of rest. It is advisable to request a scan from a vet, though. This will confirm that your cat’s skull was not fractured.

If your cat is disoriented, but not concussed, rule out cognitive decline. As cats age, their critical faculties start to deteriorate. If your cat displays concussion symptoms without injury, listen out for yowling at night. This suggests that your cat is living with cognitive dysfunction.

If you think your cat is trying to trip you, don’t get angry. This was likely not the cat’s intention. Think about why your cat got in your way and focus on ensuring it doesn’t happen again. This will create a safer environment, for both you and your cat.