Why Are Cats Always Underfoot?

cat meowing at owner
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You're walking through the house when all of the sudden, a flash of fluff runs out in front of you, and you trip and fall. Yes, your cat decided to run underfoot. Again. Why? Are they trying to play with you? Do they want something? Or do they just like to see if they can trip you?

It could be any of those things. There are a few different reasons why your cat might be running in front of you and impeding your journey to the opposite side of the room.

Excitement

Your cat might know that when you get up and move, there is a solid chance that you might stop at their food bowl and give them some kibble. (Especially if it's around dinner time, and cats definitely know when it's dinner time!) Or that you might be making yourself a tuna sandwich and give them some leftover tuna juice? Or even just that you might play with them! This is all very exciting, and they want to let you know that they are here for it and will rub against your leg to mark you.

Cat "herding"

Cats also know that the act of getting underfoot and rubbing up against your leg will make you inclined to get them to stop by giving them what they want. This form of dominance is to let you know they are in charge and will lead you to get them what they need. Although they are not actually "herding" you, this is a learned behavior to control you.

Crooked legs
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Similarly, cats will sit in the center of the room as "head of the house," and when you move, they plan on "re-centering" so you know who's in charge. These actions are usually found in bossy cats and nearly 86% of cats have been found to be "bossy cats," so if this happens to you, you are most likely dealing with a bossy cat.

Cat hugs

When a cat walks underfoot and winds their tail around your calves, this could actually be your cat giving you a welcoming hug! Although cats have normally been presumed to be solitary creatures, research has shown that in nature cats are very pack-oriented. After hunting, wild cats will rub against one another and curl their tails around each other as a way of communing. That's why when you walk in a room you cat might run up underfoot and wrap their tail around you to say "Hi! Welcome back! I like you, pack member!".

Attention

What's the best way to get someone to remember you are in the room? Have them trip over you. Your cat might simply be worried that you are not paying enough attention to them, and will let you know of their presence. This can become a problem quickly if you let it. If you reward this behavior with pets and snuggles this will quickly become something your cat can count on to get the notice they are demanding. A way to break this habit is to give them affection randomly so they don't feel the need to remind you they exist by tripping you.

Man playing with cat
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Your cat can't speak. Or if she can, you have some sort of magic cat on your hands. That means when your cat is underfoot, she's trying to tell you something. Next time your cat almost topples you over, ask yourself: is it dinner time? Have I been out for a while? Have I paid much attention to her? Or is she just getting bossy right now? Pretty soon you'll understand exactly what is going on with your feline friend and figure out why they do what they do. It'll make your life easier, and will make them much happier to know that what they are communicating isn't going unheard.