Cats are not really trying to trip you when they start walking in a zigzag pattern in front of you. They are actually trying to get your attention because they want you to notice them. They probably just want some pets or some food. But sometimes, a cat walking in front of you is their way of telling you to get out of their way.
If your cat does this regularly and you want to know why, keep on reading.
Why do cats try to trip you?
Cats get under your feet or wind themselves around your feet for different reasons, but it is not to hurt you in any way. Cats understand that this action from them tends to get your attention more than anything else. Here are some of the most common reasons for this behavior:
1. They are seeking attention.
A cat will usually step in your way to get your attention. This action will come after your cat has tried being vocal and meowing to initially grab your attention.
Sometimes your cat wants you to do something, such as give them water, food, or attention. One way to keep your cat from doing this is to learn how to read your cat’s body language so you can easily tell when they are hungry or want to play with you.
This behavior may have also begun when your cat was a kitten. If your cat nuzzled your ankles as a kitten, and you gave it pets, then maybe it is just doing the same action to receive the same reaction from you.
2. They are herding you.
Your cat may be winding around your feet because it is trying to herd you in a specific direction. When a cat steps in front of you, take a few steps back and observe where they are going. The cat will usually check if you are still following. If so, it wants to show you something.
Usually, it will lead you to an empty food or water bowl. Other times, your cat will lead you to a litter box that may need cleaning. The cat may also have heard something outside the door or window and wants you to investigate the strange noise.
If your cat leads you to a wall, they must have heard something inside the walls. It could just be your neighbor’s TV, but sometimes it can be rodents, bugs, or even termites.
3. They want to play with you.
If your cat runs ahead of you before it blocks your path, it may be trying to play with you. If your cat’s tail is pointed upward or curled forward, they are inviting you to play. If you have nothing important to do, get your cat’s toys and play with it.
If your cat’s eyes are narrow and it is getting ready to pounce, you need to be a little careful because your cat is probably hunting you. Because of the absence of live prey in a domestic setting, your cat has chosen you as a target.
You can train your cat out of this behavior by encouraging play. Toys that let your cat use up their energy, like a fishing rod toy or a clockwork mouse, will satisfy their instinct to hunt. Using laser pointers can frustrate your cat because there is nothing to tangibly catch and they will not feel accomplished. This can lead to your cat hunting you again.
4. Your cat is showing dominant behaviors.
Cats like to have a clear hierarchy in the household they are in, especially if there are multiple cats. If you only have one cat, it will try to dominate you.
When a cat steps in front of you, it may be blocking your access to a specific part of your house. This is a common dominant behavior in cats; it is basically telling you where you can and cannot go.
You may be tempted to step over your cat, but be warned that a disrespected cat can become aggressive, and may even start marking your clothing and furniture with urine.
5. They have separation anxiety.
If your cat is following you from room to room or talking to you more than usual, your cat may have separation anxiety.
There are two ways a cat gets attached to their owner. One is a secure attachment where a cat trusts an owner to meet its needs, while the other is an insecure attachment where a cat worries that the owner will abandon them, leading to separation anxiety.
When a cat suffers from separation anxiety, it will stand in your way when you leave a room. It does not want you to leave because it fears that you will not return. Another habit cats with separation anxiety will display is eliminating outside the litter box.
Enhance the bond between you and your cat by getting it used to a routine. Make sure you give it a scheduled time everyday to feed, play, and groom. Having a strict schedule will reassure your cat that it is not being neglected.
Let your friends and family visit your cat. Leave curtains or blinds open during the day so the cat can look out the window. Get your cat a variety of cat toys as well as cat trees to keep its mind occupied.
6. They are disoriented.
If you notice your cat acting strangely, one probable cause is a concussion it may have suffered by running into a wall, a door, or furniture. Concussions in cats are more common than most people think. Concussions can cause messages in the brain to be sent inaccurately. Your cat may not have intended to walk in your way but because of the crossed messages in its brain, it starts to walk strangely.
Symptoms of a concussion include vomiting, swelling in the head or face, staring into space, and bleeding from the mouth, eyes, or nose. Usually, a cat will recover from a concussion with some rest.
Your cat walking in front of you or winding itself around your legs is not actually your cat trying to trip you. When a cat walks in your path, it is most probably just looking for attention. Always make sure you feed your cats enough and on time, and that their water bowl is full. Clean the litter box regularly.
It can also just be your cat herding you or hunting you, so make sure to let them get plenty of exercise to curb this behavior.
Walking in front of you can also be your cat displaying dominant behavior. In this situation, distract your cat with playtime.
If you think your cat has separation anxiety and is stopping you from leaving a room, make sure you reassure them that they are loved and not neglected.
Concussions can also cause your cat to walk in a zigzag and wobbly way, so if this is what you suspect, take the cat to the vet for an examination.
Image: istockphoto.com / Dzurag