There’s this move I like to call the cat “bunny kick” that you will sometimes see cats do where they grab an object, wrap their front arms around it, and then quickly “bunny kick” or repeatedly push out with their legs to kick an object over and over with their hind legs.
If you imagine a cat having some type of prey in their arms when they do it, you can imagine how it’d prove to be a pretty successful hunting tool they have at their disposal.
But they often do it when they’re not hunting, so what gives?
There’s two possibilities with regards to why I think a cat may be doing this to their human’s arm. And both are pretty similar, but definitely distinct.
You’ll want to figure out which your cat is doing, but the appropriate response to a cat engaging with you in this way is the same nonetheless: you’ve got to scold your cat and then ignore him or her for a little bit, then after some time has passed and all is forgotten, you can then work toward giving your cat more (or less!) of what he or she wanted from you, in this case determined by how your cat meant the action.
The reason why you’ll want to discourage this action is because – chances are your cat doesn’t mean to hurt you in either case by doing the arm-hug-and-bite.
Chances are your cat is just trying to do this gently enough that they don’t hurt you, but it can be hard for a cat, with all their furry fluffy protection, to gage what won’t hurt a human, and this isn’t a behavior you want to become habitual because your cat may get a bit too rough by accident one day.
So let’s get into the two possibilities, as well as how you handle them both.
Possible Reasons Why Your Cat Hugs Your Arm and Bites
Reason 1: Your cat is hyper, and is playing with you.
Your cat being hyper and bunny kicking your arm by hugging your arm and then biting it is the most likely cause for the behaviour.
Remember how I asked you to imagine this act done on prey – and how successful it would be for a cat to hunt with this technique?
Well cat play is essentially just hunting practice. The more you practice, the better at hunting you get. So this type of play is hard-wired into them and they really want to engage in the same types of hunting behaviours when they play.
So play like they hunt they do – and they’ll do this with their litter mates, their friends as adults, and – if you don’t ask them not to – with their humans as well, as I find that cats more or less treat us the way they would treat other cats who are their furry friends unless they learn that they can’t or shouldn’t do certain things with us humans.
Which makes sense! We see them from our own perspectives until we understand “cat-like” behaviours and preferences as well.
But no fluff on a human means this isn’t a safe behaviour for playing with a human. So you’ve got to try to train your cat to stop doing this.
How to do that is simple: yell “Owtch!”, shake your cat off of your arm, and scold your cat for hugging and biting your arm. Then say, “No!” and distance yourself from the cat.
Your cat likely has no idea that this hurts you as it would not hurt him or her, because of furry armor. But if you repeat this over and over your cat will soon understand this is not acceptable.
Do not under any circumstance play with your cat right away. Or your cat will learn that this is the “press here” button for getting you to go play with him or her. Instead, wait like 10-20 minutes and then engage your cat in play to help him or her get rid of all that pent up energy.
How can you tell your cat is hyper and trying to play with you? He or she will probably scurry off if you scold him or her for this behaviour and likely will go find something else to take his or her playful, hyperactive burst of energy out on.
Maybe even with a wild look in his or her eyes like he or she is possessed with the zoomies that cannot be cured until play is had. Maybe your cat will go pick on another cat in an attempt to take out the hyperactivity, or go murder a stuffed catnip toy.
Speaking of which, if your cat likes to bunny kick, you’ve just gotta have some of these cat kick toys lying around the house.
My one cat (Avery) who’s kicking obsessed has two favourites – the Kong Kickeroo and the and the Jeepers Creepers Toy Rat (which I spray with catnip to keep freshened up). Though he also likes just basic catnip pillow pouches every so often. Usually prefers the bigger kicker toys, though!
You can play with your cat on your own with these at other times to help him or her release energy. Though most of the time, he or she will learn to play on her own with them if they’re available and in the same room. So I have at least one of these in every room upstairs, where my cat’s likely to get the urge to play.
If your cat doesn’t react this way, and instead stays put and glares, or looks serious and down to business and mad, or maybe even doesn’t drop your arm, or has a very sharp tail flick that looks like a wag, but way more agitated somehow…
Well, then you’re probably not looking at a cat that’s trying to play, you’ve probably got the second reason on your hands instead…
Reason 2: Your cat is issuing you a warning to back off because of something in particular you’re doing.
Chances are high that something you’re doing is petting your cat in the wrong way. Or at the wrong time. Or just something you’ve done at that moment made your cat really annoyed and want you to back off.
Maybe your cat wagged his or her tail while you were petting him or her, and you took it as a happy, dog-like tail wag, but really it was a, “Listen I’m warning you, this isn’t what I want right now” type of tail wag (yes, there is a difference, go read my article on the topic linked in the beginning of this sentence for a full explanation), and you didn’t take the warning and back off, so he or she resorted to bunny kicking you instead.
The kitten in the pictures above – her name is Cleo, she’s more inclined to do this.
But honestly, it’s a series of events that leads up to something like this, and it’s rarely ever a first line of defence.
Usually there’s plenty of glaring, looks that can kill (see the glare below), maybe even a smack or two to let you know there’s some funny business gong down on your part that you’ll need to cut out, and if you don’t take the first few warnings, that’s usually the time it escalates to a grab and bite of an arm.
Your cat probably doesn’t even intend to hurt you at this point, just to make the message more obvious – that this isn’t what he or she wants.
But again, cats have fur and we don’t so they don’t do the best job judging what kind of rough play we can handle.
In this case, the best way to handle the situation is to scold your cat whenever this happens, of course, but also to watch out for your cat’s body language changes as you pet him or her.
Maybe your cat starts off enjoying it, but over time becomes too overstimulated leading to the bite. Maybe you weren’t even looking when this happened as you were watching TV, and then boom!
In which case, you need to try to be as observant as you possibly can and learn your cat’s body language and what he or she is trying to tell you when it’s starting to be too much.
And respect your kitty’s boundaries to de-escalate and not essentially force his or her hand in giving you more and more frantic warnings to stop what you’re doing because it’s too much for him or her right now.
Your Thoughts on Cats Hugging Arms and Biting?
Why do you think cats will sometimes hug the arm of their humans and bite them? Do you think it’s more likely to be one of the explanations I gave over the other? What would you do in this case?
Are there an explanations I missed out on discussing? Are there any signs you can think of for telling which of the possibilities it is?
Love to hear your thoughts, stories, and opinions on the topic in the comments down below! Looking forward to reading them!