I have recently (three months ago) adopted a cat from a rescue shelter. He is around 1 or 2 years old, and probably a Maine Coon mix. Half the time he's a sweet, affectionate lovebug, but the other half of the time he's a hyper terror. He will attack and bite (hard!) my feet when I'm walking around, and will sometimes do the "halloween cat" pose with his back arched and tail poofed out.

How can I get him to channel his playfulness at his toys (of which he has plenty), rather than my feet? What is the best way to react when he bites to stop him from doing it? Would getting another cat so he has a playmate help?

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  • what do you know about his background - was he properly socialized as a kitten, or was he bottle raised?
    – Zaralynda
    Apr 24, 2014 at 23:09
  • I don't know much about his background - we got him from a shelter who said he was abandoned in an apartment when his owners moved out :-( ... I do suspect that he was taken from his mother too early, though, since he also still makes kitten "trill" noises.
    – MsTiggy
    Apr 25, 2014 at 14:33

3 Answers 3


It sounds like the cat was not properly socialized to play politely, so you'll have to teach him manners as well as redirect his energy into toys.

Normally, when two cats play and one cat gets too rough for the other, the hurt cat will yowl/hiss and stop playing. This is a signal to the over aggressive cat that he needs to tone down his play since he's causing harm. You need to take the place of the other cats. When he hurts you, cry out (owie, or if mimic a cat pain sound, just pick something and be consistent) and then stop playing and remove yourself from the situation (if you're walking across the room, maybe sit down in a nearby chair and pick your feet up off the ground? Going to have to be a little creative there). The message that you're trying to send to your cat is "that hurt, stop it!"

Next you want to make sure that your cat's energy is redirected through playtime. You say that your cat has plenty of toys, but the best toys are interactive wand toys that you can control to mimic prey animals (such as Da Bird). Generally, you should have at least one play session each day (until he gets tired), then feed him. This should prompt him to go into the natural hunt-eat-groom-sleep cycle.

If your cat is repeatedly attacking and scaring when you're walking across the room, consider that it may not just be play aggression. Your cat may have been kicked before you got him. A kicked cat will show fear/aggression around feet.

If you believe this may be the case for your cat, I recomend providing as many elevated towers/shelves/walkways as you can (especially in close areas such as hallways) so that your cat can avoid being on the same level as those scary feet. One good resource for ideas is Jackson Galaxy's Catification Pages.

Finally, if you do decide to get a second cat, I would look at getting an older cat (maybe 4-5 years?) who will be tolerant of your teenaged cat's antics, but can provide a mentor-type relationship. Any rescue that has home fosters should have a pretty good idea of their cat's personalities and should be able to help you find a cat that would be a good fit for your current cat.

  • I have begun hissing (or the human approximation thereof) at him when he bites and it seems to be working. He definitely has a strong reaction to it, and backs off. He sometimes nips (with a "soft mouth" that doesn't hurt) to let me know he doesn't want to be pet or held anymore, and I don't hiss at that. Hopefully the trend will continue. Thanks!
    – MsTiggy
    Apr 28, 2014 at 15:17

Your cat will get less aggressive as it ages. At 1-2 years it is still in a semi formative stage.

You can play with it more in a safe way to try to redirect its energies. Find some toy that you can use to play with it w/o getting injured (either a toy you can toss or something at the end of a stick or string (careful on the string though, make sure your cat can't sever and swallow it because "poop on a rope" is no fun)).

I have had a similar but different issue. My Maine Coon is 18 and she is a bit aggressive. I don't fault her for biting or scratching me during play but the main thing is she is too aggressive with the other cats. Fortunately only one of them takes her "too seriously". I've dealt with the injuries to myself by playing with her differently (she's the only cat who's come to me not declawed by a previous owner... so I was not used to playing with a clawed cat). With the other cats (not yet a problem for you) I tend to be a bit more strict and break things up and possibly give a nose tap if she really terrorized one of them. So the other thing I'd say is getting another cat could end up giving you more problems (though if that other cat is also young it could possibly adjust better to your Maine Coon) rather than less.


Stationary toys aren't very interesting to a lot of cats. Try a fishing-pole type toy, and make it mimic the behavior of a small animal or bird. Maine Coons are bred to be mousers and want to hunt even more than regular cats. Provide some stimulation!

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