Why Does My Cat Kick Itself?

playful cat
(Last Updated On: April 17, 2021)

I don’t know about you, but one of the many reasons why I adore cats so much is their weird and unpredictable behavior. Some moves that cats do are so original and can never be seen in any other animal. This is what makes them so fun to have around and why they can still surprise you, even years after living together. One of the strange moves cats often do is kicking themselves. It’s something that has been known among the feline-community as the ‘bunny kick’.  It’s a certain type of behavior that happens when you reach out to pet or play with your cat and she rolls onto her back, wraps her legs around your arms and attempts to kick you with her hind legs. It’s nothing serious, but if you don’t know why it happens and how to control it, you might get out of it scratched and injured.

Why Cats Kick Themselves

The bunny-kicking behavior might seem strange at first, but there are few reasonable explanations behind it. The two main reasons is that either your cat kicks with her hind legs because she’s been engaged in a playful behavior, similar to wrestling with dogs. Or because she’s trying to act defensive and fight when she wants to be left alone. The motive behind this behavior depends on the circumstances. To recognize why your cat is doing it, you will need to learn a bit more about how to tell what’s triggering her to act this way at any given situation.  While playtime kicks are often something that happen when your cat gets carried away, the defensive kick is something you want to avoid.

Playtime Type Of Kicks

When playing with your cat, she might sometimes roll over on her back, grasp your hands and start kicking them with her paws. This is a behavior that can be seen when parent cats play with their kittens.  Even though this kicking comes from a good place and all your cat wants to do is play, it can get a bit uncomfortable once it gets carried away.  It’s in your cat’s genes to try to pull back the prey that is trying to run away from her. This is why, if she gets carried away, her instincts may push her into doing more intense hind leg kicks or even start showing some defensive aggression.


Cats do this playful bunny kick while playing with toys too, usually big and fluffy ones. If you search for it, you’ll see that there are even special toys made for exactly this type of play. Those toys are usually called kick-bags and most of the time look like a long tube filled with your favorite catnip stuffing.


Even if you believe your cat would never harm you, try to avoid using your hands as toys in situations like these.  It’s not good to support this behavior, because you might accidentally teach your cat that it’s ok to scratch or bite you.  Your cat should never growl, hiss or scream while playing. That’s a sign of aggression. And that’s when you’ll know your cat is definitely not playing, whether it’s with you or another cat.

Defensive Type Of Kicks

When a cat is about to get attacked or is in the middle of an attack, she will defensively roll onto her back. This is the more serious reason for the bunny-kick.  In a real fight, your cat would grab her opponent with her forelimbs to kick them at the exposed abdomen. Cats are fast animals that do not prefer long fights. Instead, they try to end things quickly with one strong kick that will make the opponent retreat. Unlike the playful bunny kick, this one is a serious way of your cat hinting she doesn’t want to play or interact with you.  Usually it will happen immediately after you will start petting your cat. Sometimes, she might try to signal you in other ways before actually doing the bunny kick, like trying to move away, meow, or nip your fingers.


How To Avoid Making Your Cat Kick

What triggers cats most of the time is petting them on the stomach. Cats don’t like having their tummy touched. Especially not when they’ve exposed it completely in your presence while enjoying a nap.  Touching your cat on the stomach might trigger an immediate defensive reaction, regardless of how much she loves and trusts you. To prevent this type of behavior, avoid petting your cat on the stomach and choose a safer place to cuddle her.

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