Why Does My Cat Climb My Leg?

why my cat climb my leg

Regardless of how often I seem to cut my cat’s nails, I can always feel their sharpness when he is kneading his paws on my leg. Many moons ago when he was still a young cat, he loved using me as his personal cat tree.

He would patiently hide in a corner and wait for me to walk past. Once he spots his big lumbering target a.k.a me, he will dash out from hiding and climb my leg all the way up to my shoulder and sit there.

It is all fun and laughter to have a tiny cat climbing on you but not when it is a full-grown chinky adult. But why does your cat like climbing your leg?

Some cats tend to enjoy climbing up their owner’s leg due to their love for climbing. Cats are known to be naturally great climbers. Leg climbing can also be due to your cat wanting attention or is just being playful. Many cat owners find this activity painful and would like to stop it.

Let us look at the possible reasons why your cat is using your legs as its personal cat tree and what you can do to stop it.

Why Does My Cat Climb Me Like A Tree?

cat climb tree

You might think that just because you are tall, slim and enjoys wearing green, your cat has mistaken you for a tree that it loves to climb.

You might be half right.

Most cats enjoy climbing for a number of reasons that you might find surprising.

Cats Just Love To Climb

Cats are born to climb. From your lazy domestic cat all the way to a 300 lbs tiger in the wild. All cats are born with a strong climbing instinct which they will put to good use when the occasion calls for it.

Furthermore, your cat’s body is just made for climbing with its strong legs, sharp claws unmatched agility and perfect sense of balance.

Jackson Galaxy calls cats that enjoy climbing and being up high tree dwellers. Being on an elevated platform gives cats a birds-eye view of their surroundings. It allows them to scan the environment for prey to catch and to feel protected from prowling predators.

There are certain cat breeds like the Bengal, Siamese, Egyptian Mau, etc that just love to climb things and observe the world go by from somewhere high.

It doesn’t always have to be something high that your cat needs to be perched on. My cat enjoys sleeping on my dining table more than on the floor. You will almost never find my dog sleeping on an elevated surface.

When your cat climbs on your leg, it could be wanting to get up higher or just using your body as a stepping stone to somewhere higher.

Your Cat Wants Your Attention

As a dog and cat owner, I’ve come to realize that when it comes to attention, my dog will ask for it while my feline master will demand my undivided attention.

Your cat climbing up your leg could also be a sign that it wants your attention. The most frequent time when this happens is usually during feeding time which involves hungry kittens.

Trying to get in the way of a hungry cat and its food can be a futile attempt at times. When my cat was younger, he knows when I’m making his meals and will start climbing up my leg to get to his food bowl while I’m still in the midst of preparing it.

This usually leads to me being pissed off by my cat’s lack of sympathy for my shredded and bleeding skin.

These days, after much training, he will just sit at his dining area and just stare at me to hurry me up.

Cats don’t always want your attention just for food. If you have been neglecting your cat recently due to a busy life, climbing on you could be the best way for your cat to grab your attention.

I always tell my readers that you might think that your cat wants to be left alone but cats need more attention than you think they do.

Your Cat Is Afraid Of Something


cat afraid or stressed about something

Cats are very edgy and jumpy creatures. My cat will jump a few inches in the air whenever I touch him and this is even when he sees my coming.

This could be due to all the heightened senses of a cat. Cats have a great sense of hearing, sense of smell and they even have many nerve endings all over their bodies.

As compared to dogs, most cats will run in the face of danger and climbing up your leg might be a great escape route for your feline friend.

There are many things that can spook your cat:

  • Loud sounds
  • Smelling another animal outside the house
  • PTSD triggers
  • Thunderstorms
  • Sudden movements
  • Getting a bath

A cat’s flight to safety motto is usually “Flee first and observe later”.

How Do I Stop My Cat From Climbing Up My Legs?

For those of you who have never been used as a climbing post by a cat, trust me when I say that it hurts a lot, even if the cat is just a kitten.

This is one behavior that needs to nick in the bud before your cat seems to think that it is ok to do so.

Here are some methods that have worked for me which you can try as well.

Say “Ouch!”

shout ouch

I can’t think of anyone that will suffer in silence when they have a cat climbing up their leg.

It is only natural to be shouting out in pain when you feel your cat’s claws digging into your flesh.

When your cat does this, make sure to let out a loud “OUCH!”. This sound will let your cat know that its action is making you unhappy.

Your cat will usually stop what it is doing and look at you.

You can then proceed to remove your cat from your cat and redirect its attention.

Redirect Your Cat’s Attention

Redirecting your cat’s attention is a great way of letting it know what it should be doing instead.

Every time my cat is climbing on me, I will carry it to the scratching post or let it play with its favorite toy for a few minutes.

This helps to train your cat to redirect its attention to something more appropriate and less painful for you.

Get Your Cat A Cat Tree

orange tabby in cat tree

If you have a cat that is constantly climbing things at home, getting it a tall and sturdy cat tree is a good way to distract your cat away from your legs.

Besides getting a cat tree, there are some cat owners who will install cat platforms on their walls to allow the cat to move vertically around the house.

These are safe and effective ways to satisfy your cat’s urge to climb things rather than trying to stop it from doing something so natural.

Use A Squirt Bottle

Many cats don’t enjoy getting wet which is why a quick squirt of water at your cat before it climbs on you works as a great deterrent. This method works best if you are able to catch your cat before it gets its claws on you.

When squirting water at your cat, do not aim the nozzle at its face as that can hurt its eyes. Just squirt in the general direction of your at and it will get the idea.

Trim Your Cat’s Nails

trim your cat's sharp claws

As vigilant as you might be, it might not be possible to always catch your cat before it climbs on you.

By keeping your cat’s claws trimmed, you can minimize the damage that those sharp claws can do to you.

Make it a point to trim your cat’s nails once a week as they have a tendency to grow back really fast. Wearing thick jeans or pants at home can also help protect your skin against your cat’s claws.

Your Cat Will Grow Out Of It

If all else fails, you will be happy with the thought that most cats will eventually grow out of this behavior.

I noticed my cat doing these climbing stunts when he was a kitten and a young adult. But with sufficient training and a lack of interest on his part, he pretty much just stopped doing it out of the blue.

If your cat has a habit of climbing on you, I would still strongly suggest that you keep on trying to deter your cat with the above methods till your cat finally gets it.

Why Does My Cat Grab My Leg When I Walk?

Many cats will grab your leg when you walk by as a form of play or when it seems you as target practice. Cats have a strong prey drive and your moving leg does remind it of an unsuspecting prey.

Some cats will just swipe at your legs while others might even use their claws and teeth. Any actions by your cat that causes you pain needs to be addressed and stopped.

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