Why Do Cats Like Feet?

If your cat is absolutely obsessed with your toes, it's completely normal. But why do cats like feet? Learn why cats lick, smell, rub, and bite feet.

Tara Maurer holding cat smiling

Last Updated: April 13, 2023 | 5 min read

cat sitting on person's feet sleeping in bed

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Is your cat all-around obsessed with your digits? You might notice the occasional licking, sniffing, or headbutt—but should it be concerning? With all this attention, you may be afraid your cat spends all their free time on wikiFeet.

If you’ve ever wondered why cats like feet, we got all the answers for you. Learn why cats smell, lick, rub, and bite feet.

Why Is My Cat Obsessed With My Feet?

Cats’ actions can sometimes get lost on humans. They have so many unique behaviors, and unless your Jackson Galaxy, your cat’s behaviors can get easily lost on you. Take, for example, feet. Cats can show interest in feet for many reasons:

  • They love you: If your cat rubs against your feet or lays on your feet in bed, it may be your companion’s way of showing they love you.
  • They’re trying to get your attention: If your cat is biting your feet, they likely want your attention. They made feel bored or want to eat. 
  • They’re obtaining information: Cats have a powerful sense of smell. Your feline can detect where you’ve been, what you’ve been doing, and who you’ve been with, all from smelling your feet.
  • They like the smell or taste: Sometimes, the answer is easy. If your cat is interested in your feet, they might find the scent relaxing or comforting. Human skin also has a slightly salty taste that may interest your feline.
  • They’re marking you: Cats have scent glands in their cheeks. When rubbing against you, your cat marks you are “theirs,” telling other cats to stay away.
  • They’re hunting: Cats are attracted to moving targets, so your cat may instinctively attack your wiggling digits.

Why Do Cats Like To Smell Feet?

cat sitting on person's socks
The human sense of smell pails in comparison to our furry felines.

Cats’ noses host up to 200 million scent receptors, while humans have a mere five million. Imagine the difference! Cats also have a unique Jacobson organ that picks up chemical substances with no odor. By smelling you, your cat can detect more information than you could possibly imagine: where you’ve been, who you’ve been with, and even if you’re stressed. 

Why Do Cats Life To Lick Feet?

A cat’s tongue is covered in tiny spikes that feel a bit like sandpaper, making them expert pedicurists. If you have a cat that likes licking your feet, it could be because you taste delicious. Especially after a long day, the salt on your skin may have built up, making you taste irresistible. Other reasons why your cat likes to lick your feet include:

  • Grooming: When a cat grooms their owner, it means they recognize you as a family member. As a mother cat grooms their kitten, your cat may lick you to show your proper grooming technique. 
  • Affection: Licking is a sign of love. 
  • Stress: Licking releases endorphins that calm your cat. Chronically-stressed cats are prone to licking themselves and their owners excessively.
  • Territory: Cat saliva has a scent other cats can recognize; thus, licking you is a sign of marking their territory.

Why Do Cats Rub Their Faces Against Feet?

cat rubbing up against feet
When a cat rubs their face against your feet, it’s about marking territory.

Felines have a large number of scent glands in their cheeks. When a cat rubs against you, they leave pheromones that discourage other cats from socializing with you. If your cat senses a foreign scent on your foot, they will rub their cheek and chin on the spot to erase the smell and mark you as theirs. 

A cat rubbing their face against your foot may also signify affection. Your cat feels comfortable around you and wants you to know that. 

Why Does My Cat Attack My Feet?

There are two main reasons your cat attacks your foot: play and attention. Some cats, especially kittens, will pounce at your feet to initiate play. Your cat’s hunting instinct makes your feet look very intriguing. Your feet are the perfect size for a kitty to launch a successful attack.

Some cats bite their owner’s feet to signify they’re bored or want food. Regular playtime will distract a bored cat and keep them entertained. If a cat is stressed or in pain, they may attack feet and legs as a warning. Give your cat the space they need, and if the behavior persists, consult your veterinarian.

Why Does My Cat Sleep On My Feet?

Your furry friend may sleep on or next to your feet for several reasons. First, they find this a safe and comfortable spot. They are less likely to be disturbed when you toss and turn. This is also a sign your cat enjoys being by you and has developed a strong bond. For an animal that is considered aloof, quality time is a huge way to recognize your cat’s affection for you. 

Your cat may also sleep on your feet to prevent overheating or to have an easier escape from the room if necessary.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I Stop My Cat From Biting My Feet?

Typically kittens play bite until they learn not to do so. As a cat ages, they learn to communicate with humans and other animals in more appropriate ways. If an adult feline is biting and attacking your foot, it could be from play or as a sign of aggression. 

To stop a cat from biting anywhere, including your feet, first try to refocus their attention. Use your toys to distract and redirect their attention away from your toes, ankles, and legs. Never run away from your cat if they bite you, as they might see this as a game. Instead, redirect your cat and calmly walk away from them. By ignoring the unwanted behavior, you show your cat that they don’t get what they want when they bite. Make sure to also provide your cat with scratching posts and play to burn off their excess energy that may lead to unwanted behaviors like biting.

Finally, you may wish to make a trip to the vet. Some kittens and adult cats will bite when they’re in pain. For example, your cat may bite when you get too close or touch them where they hurt. Biting may also signify emotional distress. If a cat is scared or anxious, it is more reactive. 

If all else fails, consider investing in training with a cat behaviorist. 

Can Cats Smell Stinky Feet?

If you’ve seen your cat leave their mouth hanging open for a few seconds after smelling your feet, you may wonder if your cat thinks your feet stink. They may wrinkle their nose and go into what looks like a trance. No need to worry: Your cat isn’t disgusted by your feet.

The open-mouth sniff is the result of what is called the flehmen reaction. When your feline smells something unique and wants to investigate the smell further, your cat will leave their mouth open to draw air into the mouth and up to the Jacobson organ. This organ will help your cat process the smell more thoroughly.

So while your cat can smell your feet, a reaction doesn’t necessarily mean they hate the smell.

Final Thoughts

Cats are curious creatures with many unique and lovable qualities. If you adopt a cat who happens to love your toes, don’t fear: this is entirely natural. Of course, if it bothers you, there are ways to train and deter your cat from giving your digits so much attention.

Two cats lying together in bed with female pet owner

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