Since adopting our youngest cat, Kalista, we’ve noticed she has an obsession with our feet. Anytime we take off our shoes she’s immediately sniffing them and sometimes we find her sleeping in our shoes throughout the day.
Kalista seems to find enjoyment playing with shoelaces, sticking her full face into our shoes and kicking the shoes around the apartment. Sometimes she’ll even push all of the shoes together to make herself a bed to sleep in, which I personally find to be the weirdest behaviour she exhibits.
My partner often complains about how Kalista always collapses at his feet from the moment he walks into the front door. He can never seem to get his shoelaces untied by the time Kalista is purring by his feet and I’m sure you can tell how much of a mess Kalista makes, especially in the winter.
You see, Kalista doesn’t just rub herself against our legs as soon as we walk in, she literally covers our shoes making it impossible to do anything before we pet her and give her attention. If we move her she will keep coming back and begin begging us to give her attention until we pet her.
Now, we’re fairly used to our cats missing us during the day and waiting for us by the door since, before we adopted Kalista, Beau used to sleep by the door until we came home. The only difference is, Beau used to meow until we pet him and never spent any time with our shoes, let alone never spent time rolling around in our shoes.
Beau does appreciate our feet in other ways though. Beau has become the master of attacking our feet, especially first thing in the morning or late in the night. Since he’s such a quiet cat, otherwise, Beau always scares us when he ninjas his way up onto the bed to swat at our toes as if they were mice. Although this is a very common habit for cats, it seems like Kalista isn’t into this kind of playtime. We have, however, caught her sneaking under the covers to lick our feet… weird, right?
So, let’s cover some of the reasons why cats seem to love our feet and what it means. Maybe there are some behaviours relating to feet you didn’t know of or that your cat hasn’t developed yet!
YOU SMELL LOVELY TO ME
Cats have a very acute sense of smell, making your feet a perfect match for their sensation needs. Sometimes cats actually prefer your feet to be smellier as that’s when they smell the most “like you.” So, anytime your partner ever tells you that you need to take better care of your feet, make sure to say that you’re just keeping them stinky for your kitty.
Cats who like the smell of feet may spend time sniffing or licking feet, and if you have recently washed your feet you may even notice your cat headbutt them in hopes of getting your feet to smell like them.
Similar to why cats sleep in laundry baskets, or why cats knead their favourite objects/person, cats will find your scent calming, relaxing or even homely. That being said, your scent is also a way that your cat identifies you and ensures that you are not a stranger.
I NEED TO HUNT YOU
Ever woken up in the middle of the night because one of your cats attacked your feet? Well, this is an extremely common behaviour that’s derived from a cat’s need to hunt and play.
Cats may pretend that your feet are mice or other forms of prey, especially if they are covered by a blanket. Don’t mistake this for your cat hating you but you may want to take it as a hint that you need to play with your cat a bit more, especially if the footsie game is a regular occurrence.
I LOVE YOU
It’s easy to forget that your cat doesn’t usually get to see a whole lot of you, well unless they look up! That being said, your legs and feet tend to be the most accessible part of your body, making them the easiest things to interact with when showing affection.
So, what do cats do? They try to trip you, bite you, lick you, or roll all over you as a way of saying… hey food dispenser, I still love you even when you’re not feeding me!
If any of these are behaviours you dislike make sure you don’t your cat any attention. Giving your cat a positive reinforcement will encourage your cat to exhibit this behaviour more frequently. Instead, select a sound or a word (I advise you use a word you don’t use commonly like uh-uh) to let your cat know that you’re not down for being tripped.
The same can be said about biting, although many pet parents recommend you pretend to be hurt so your cat understands that… well… they hurt you! This should help discourage the behaviour, though unfortunately the “ow, you hurt me” bit hasn’t worked well with our cat, Kalista. I think she can see through my acting… which is sad because I spent how many years being an actor?
I ACTUALLY HATE HOW THIS SMELLS
Jumping back quickly to scent, not all scents are welcome to a cat.
Remember how I said that cats scent or mark their territory? Well, as you walk outside you actually pick up a number of pheromones and odours from other animals, plants, etc. So, what does your cat do? Re-mark their territory!
If a cat feels like their scent is being dominated by another animal, they may begin feeling unsafe or unsettled. This is actually one of the reasons why you may notice your cats licking or grooming each other. During this process, a cat either tries to mask the smell of the other cat to help make everyone in the “family unit” smell the same. Interesting, eh?
Sometimes we think that our cats do things because we love them, while in reality, they couldn’t care any less for us.
I know I was shocked when I learned that cats don’t always lick or groom you because they love you. Some cats merely smell the saltiness that comes with sweat and wants a taste. So, if you’re extra sweaty and your little one is licking away at you… well… they’re not trying to cool you down or make you feel better… you’re literally just a salty piece of meat to them!
That being said, although you don’t want to give your cat any extra salt in their diet, “sweat salt” shouldn’t harm them.
TIPS TO DISCOURAGE BEHAVIOURS REGARDING FEET
It’s alright to admit that some of the “foot fetish” behaviours are annoying, especially the biting and while training your cat is the best option, it doesn’t mean there aren’t other things you can do in the meantime.
The majority of cats hate the smell of citrus, lavender and other pungent tropical/flowery smells. So, use it to your advantage! If you notice your cat is too focussed on your legs and feet, think about using a lavender body wash to initially get your cat off your legs.
Now, that being said, this will not work for every cat, especially if you sweat off the body wash. That also said some cats don’t seem to mind the smells of strong fragrances. For example, Beau doesn’t mind citrus of lavender, so the process to find a scent that your cats hate may take longer than hoped.
At the end of the day, most feline associations to feet are positive, though they may seem annoying. Basically, your feet are both an access point and/or tasty treat for your little one.
If you are someone who would rather you cat doesn’t interact with your feet make sure you stick to a routine to train your cat out of it, using training words/sounds like uh-uh every time your cat misbehaves. It is even more important to make sure that you do not positively reward your cat for their misbehaviours as this may become confusing. (ie. “Why does my owner pet me sometimes when I bite their feet, but scold me at other times?)
If you are taking steps to train your cat and there are other people in the household it would benefit you if you all train your cat in the same manner. It will also prove confusing to your cat if they are trained in different ways or if one pet parent finds something acceptable that the others don’t.
So pet parents, I’m curious… how much do your cats love your feet? What do they do to interact with them? Let me know in the comments below.