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Grey and white cat standing in a grassy field about to swat the camera.

Health & Wellness

Why does my cat keep swatting at me?

My hands aren’t toys

Cats use their paws for just about everything, from playing to catching prey to climbing. While it’s normal for cats to swat at things, what about when they swat at people? Veterinarian and pet health advocate Dr. Aliya McCullough explains what might be going through their heads.

Play

Swatting is a predatory behavior that’s often shown while playing — especially with toys. Kittens are usually rougher when swatting because older cats know how to hide their claws. If you use your hands while playing with your cats, they may think of them as toys. And, don’t be surprised if your cats are swatting at each other while playing.

Redirected aggression

If your indoor cat sees something outside that they can’t get to — like another cat or bird — they may redirect their aggression towards you. 

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Fear or stress

Cats are good at hiding their emotions, so finding what triggers their stress and fear can be hard. However, if you notice certain things like loud noises or events like moving to a new house cause your cat to swat, ask your vet for tips on easing their stress. 

Underlying illness

Swatting could be a sign that your cat is dealing with pain or an illness. Bring your cat in for a checkup to rule out any of the following underlying health problems:

  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Seizure disorders
  • Trauma
  • Mind declining (most common in older cats)
  • Arthritis
  • Dental disease

Should I stop my cat from swatting? 

If swatting ends up hurting people or other animals in your home, use these steps: 

  • Make a game plan with your vet or your cat’s behavioral therapist.
  • If your cat starts swatting, ignore the behavior by ending the play session and walking away. 
  • Distract them with a wand or mouse toy or spread kibble on the floor to engage their mind.
  • Clicker training can also help. A clicker, or device that makes a certain noise or cue, will tell them to stop swatting for a treat. 

We know this quirk can be cute — and if it’s not causing any harm to you or your other pets, it’s probably OK. But, if swatting does become problematic, your vet can help pinpoint why your cat is swatting. 

Team Fetch

Photo by Patrick Mueller on Unsplash

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