Pet Parenting: Ankle biter


Dear Denise,

Our newly adopted cat has started biting my kids on the ankles. She’ll rub up against them, then take a little bite. It’s not very hard, but it scares them. How can I teach her that’s not OK?

Dear Mama:

Ankle biting and ambushing is a pretty normal activity for a young healthy cat, especially as they reach adolescence. They love to attack moving objects and unfortunately, that may include you. My first concern is whether or not your new kitty is getting enough activity and attention.

feather-toy.gifGet some action toys, such as feathers on a spring or just a piece of aluminum foil on a string and use the toy to give your feline friend a good stalk-and-chase play session once or twice a day. You may also want to try fetch with a small mouse; I’ve known many cats that loved this game and will return the toy to be thrown again.

As for what to do when the cat DOES attack, if she rubs against you first, you may try petting her or immediately getting a toy to engage her in play, before she bites. She may be showing affection in an attempt to get your attention. By responding quickly, you can teach her that affectionate rubbing works. If she is simply stalking and biting, my guess is that she is doing it when you are moving. If so, the solution is to make this activity less fun. Freeze and do not move the first time she bites, and she may give up immediately.


Denise Holmes is a local pet behavior counselor who owns Ain’t Misbehavin’. She trains animals and also answers pet questions sent in by local moms for us here on nwaMotherlode. Denise has been training for 25 years and is passionate about pets.  To send her a question, email it to: