Why Do Cats Thump on Toys with Their Back Feet?

This little fella looks like he'd be a good bunny-kicker.
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It can look pretty odd to see your cat friend lying on his side or back, embracing a stuffed toy and kicking the stuffing out of it. After all, he’s not a bunny -- so you might wonder why he’s kicking like a bunny. Short answer: years of instinct.

Defensive Technique

When your cat is placed on the defensive, he’ll most commonly roll to his back with all four paws in the air. Don’t be fooled -- he’s not begging for a tummy rub. If you try, you’ll get an armful of claws for your efforts. Thanks to thousands of years of instinct, your fur baby is able to defend himself very well in a fight, thank you. As he is on his back, he’s able to employ every paw and all his teeth to defend himself.

When he’s lying on his back, embracing a stuffed toy and pummeling it with bunny kicks, you’ll see him pushing vigorously at the toy with both rear feet simultaneously. He’s playing, and at the same time, keeping his fighting skills honed.

Play Fighting

Chances are, when your fur baby was but a wide-eyed youngster, you saw him doing this weird bunny-kick business when he got involved in playing with a toy that was about his own size. Knowing how kittens interact with their humans, it’s even more likely that he tried this on your arm a time or two. He’s not really trying to kick your arm to death. He’s only playing, but if he gets too enthusiastic, your arm will bear the scratches.

Allow him to bunny kick, but with a more appropriate target. Rub one of those stuffed toys against his belly and, as he accepts it, move out of the way and watch. You’re seeing that inbred instinct kicking in.

Body Language

This particular defensive posture tells you one thing -- steer clear. Even though he’s playing, his claws could come out. While your cat might like having his belly affectionately rubbed, others will give you that distinctive cat-glare that says, “What are you doing? I am a cat, not a dog!”

That said, approach your cat-dude with care when you try to give him a belly rub. If he’s one of those who takes offense, he will most definitely let you know.

Watch a Cat Play

If you’re not quite sure what a bunny kick is, watch your cat when he’s going “thump, thump, thump” with his back legs. In his mind, he’s killing his prey. His back legs are powerful and can deliver quite a wallop and scratching as they’re moving. Just, please, don’t call your cat “Thumper.”

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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