Why Do Cats Kick Themselves? (Cute Quirk Or Cause For Concern)

why do cats kick themselves

Have you ever noticed your cat suddenly kicking itself with fervor?

We all know that our cats can be weird at times but this behavior has left many cat owners scratching their heads in puzzlement.

Is your cat kicking itself out of entertainment or is there some level of self harm involved?

Cats kick with their hind legs when they are feeling playful. Some cats can also kick themselves when grooming or playing when they start to get too carried away. On the flip side, a cat can also kick with its hind legs when fighting or feeling defensive. This way of kicking is also known as ‘bunny-kicking’.

While the ‘bunny-kicking’ may seem amusing, it could also signal underlying issues.

Read on to know when to be concerned and how to ensure your cat’s well-being.

What Do Cats Even Kick?

“Its powerful hind legs will start kicking the underbelly of its prey to ensure a successful hunt.”

Kicking in cats might seem like a weird behavior for cat owners but it is a deeply ingrained predatory behavior.

This kicking action allows a cat to incapacitate and immobilize its prey quickly in the wild.

When a cat catches prey, it uses its sharp teeth and claws to hold on firmly to it.

Its powerful hind legs will start kicking the underbelly of its prey to ensure a successful hunt.

Cats will even use this technique to defend themselves in a fight with another cat or predator.

Here are possible reasons why cats kick themselves at times.

An Allergy Or Infection

Cats can develop allergies or fall prey to infections every now and then.

If you notice your feline companion constantly kicking a specific area, it might be due to an underlying skin problem.

Allergies in cats can be caused by a variety of factors, ranging from certain foods, pollen, dust or even fleas.

Not many cat owners realize that their cats are lactose intolerant.

If you have been feeding your cat cheese recently, it could be causing a food allergy in your poor cat.

These allergies often lead to itchy and inflamed skin, causing the cat to bite, lick or kick the affected area in an attempt to find relief.

Infections can stem from wounds, fungal growth, or bacterial invasions on the skin. Many cats are prone to ear infections from yeast and ear mites.

My cat has a chronic yeast infection in his ears and uses his hind legs to kick and scratch the ear area when it gets infected.

A Quirky Habit

flying cat

Your cat could just have a quirky habit of kicking itself in the face.

Every one of our cats is unique and comes equipped with their own personalities.

Some cats enjoy chasing their own tails for fun, while others might find self-kicking to be a relaxing hobby.

It’s weird actions like this that make your cat endlessly entertaining and lovable.

It’s A Reflex Action

“The cat’s kicking can often get too aggressive and out of control which ends up with the poor cat kicking itself in the face.”

Our spoilt cats have come a long way from their wild ancestors. They now live comfortable lives where all of their basic needs are catered for.

But beneath that domestic facade, the primal instincts of their wild counterparts still lurk.

One such instinct is the reflexive kicking motion.

There are times when a simple stimulus such as the flick of the cat’s own tail or the sensation of grooming a particular spot, can trigger off this kicking reflex.

The cat’s kicking can often get too aggressive and out of control which ends up with the poor cat kicking itself in the face.

Thankfully, most cats will stop this action after a brief moment.

Some will even bite their foot as a way of saying “Hey! That’s our face you’re kicking”.

Trying To Scratch An Itch

When my cat is not sleeping, which constitutes 5 waking hours, he’s usually grooming or scratching himself.

Just as humans have hard-to-reach spots, so do cats.

One particular area is the under-chin region.

This is why many cats seem to fall under a blissful spell when you start scratching them under the chin.

Your cat could be kicking itself because it has an itch on its face or chin.

If you were to take a closer look at your cat’s front paws, they don’t have the same range of motion in the wrist.

Your cat can’t easily twist (pronate or supinate their paws) at an angle that’s needed to scratch beneath the chin.

So, it has to resort to the next best thing, using the hind legs.

These legs, being more robust and flexible, provide the necessary force and angle to tackle that irritating itch.

Onset Of Neurological Problems

One alarming possibility behind a cat’s repeated self-kicking is the onset of neurological issues.

If there’s an interruption or misfire in your cat’s nervous system, it can manifest itself in the context of self-kicking.

Neurological problems in cats can be due to:

  • Physical trauma
  • Infections
  • Exposure to toxins
  • Genetics
  • Age-related degeneration

Special needs cats with Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome can cause them to suddenly attack and chase their own tails out of the blue.

If you notice that your cat’s self-kicking is accompanied by other symptoms such as disorientation, erratic behavior, dilated pupils or vocalizations, it’s best to get it checked by the vet.

Can I Stop My Cat From Kicking Itself?

Occasional self-kicking can be a playful or grooming behavior and isn’t a big deal for most cats.

But if the behavior is frequent or aggressive to the point where your cat is injuring itself,  it might indicate underlying medical issues or stress.

A thorough medical examination is needed to rule out potential health problems,

Engaging your cat in proactive ways can also help curb this behavior.

When your cat starts kicking itself, quickly distract your cat with toys or playtime to break its focus and divert its attention to you.

If your cat is kicking due to boredom, this strategy can be particularly effective.

But what if you can’t always be around to divert your cat’s attention?

You can make a simple kicker toy for your cat to kick instead.

Take an old sock and stuff it with leftover fabric or mismatched socks.

If your cat begins to kick itself, softly position the kicker toy on its belly or chest so that it kicks on the kicker toy instead.

Enhancing the toy with some catnip can make it more enticing, especially if your cat enjoys its effects.

Why Does My Cat Bunny Kick Her Kittens?

mother cat and kittens

If you notice your cat “bunny kicking” her kittens, it’s important to understand the reasons behind it and whether or not it’s a cause for concern.

Teaching Life Skills

One of the primary roles of a mother cat is to teach her kittens survival skills.

In the wild, these skills can mean the difference between life and death.

When a mother cat bunny kicks her kittens, she is often engaging in a play-fight, teaching her little ones how to defend themselves and hunt.

Discipline And Boundaries

Just like human children, kittens need to be taught boundaries and mother cats are very good in this aspect.

If a kitten becomes too rough or crosses certain boundaries, the mother cat might use the bunny kick as a method of discipline, showing the kitten that its behavior is not acceptable.

A good mother cat will know how much force to use so as to not injure her vulnerable kittens.


A mother cat might become overstimulated by her kittens, especially if she has a big litter or is an inexperienced mother cat.

In such cases, the bunny kick could be a sign that she needs a break.

In the event that you notice the mother cat being too aggressive or even injuring her kittens, you need to remove the queen from her kittens before she hurt her kittens.

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