My cat is normally the sweetest and is super-friendly, but a few months ago he started occasionally doing this thing where his eyes go wide and he attacks. Even if you stop playing he'll bite or swipe at you, and you can't walk away. He's not vicious, so I think he's trying to play, but it's very annoying and he can break skin with his claws or bruise with his bites while in this "mode".

Sometimes he does it when I'm playing with him, or sometimes when I'm trying to get him to go away (like when I put him off my desk several times in a row).

So far what I've been doing is pick him up (and usually getting a light-medium bite in the process) and stick him in the bathroom and close the door (it's the only room I can close him into). After a few minutes I open the door and he's calm again (usually) but I'd really prefer if he didn't do this at ll. He went a year or do without ever getting in this "mode". He's a neutered male ~3 year old longhair mutt, possibly Maine Coon or Norwegian Forrest cat blood in him.

  • Have you tried using various cat toys to keep him entertained while you're busy?
    – Nicole Rae
    Commented May 3, 2014 at 3:04
  • @NicoleRae if I throw one somewhere sometimes he'll go after it, sometimes he'll return to me
    – Ben Brocka
    Commented May 3, 2014 at 23:35
  • A loud, sharp hiss through the teeth will send any of my cats running. I use it very rarely and only to show sincere displeasure. It sets them straight. Edit: But that might be kind of unfair in this situation because it sounds like maybe you're the one working him up to begin with? lol
    – Preston
    Commented Jun 8, 2014 at 22:40
  • My cat has a toy that is the perfect shape for her to hug it, bite it, and kick it with her back paws. Every time she starts to get a little too aggressively playful, I shove it into her paws and she attacks it instead. Eventually she tires herself out. I make sure to just give it to her instead of throwing it to make sure she knows that I prefer her to bite it instead of me. Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 16:04

8 Answers 8


I have the same kind of cat with the same "fight mode". Often it seems that this happens when he's hungry, but hasn't realized that he's hungry. Giving him a treat might calm him down, but it also might encourage this behavior in order to get a treat.

So my usual tactic is to shower him with love. I pick him up with a firm hold on the scruff of his neck, and just hold and nuzzle him, rubbing my nose on his forehead. Now, he usually doesn't enjoy this at first; but he either starts to enjoy it after a minute and will sit and cuddle, or when I put him down, he's in a different mood and eats a little and takes a nap.

If he's on your lap, the easiest thing to do is to stand up.

Something I've learned from the show "My Cat from Hell" is use a wand toy or laser pointer. If you can burn up the hunting energy without rewarding him for biting hands and fingers (and wrists! ouch!), that would be ideal. Reward him with a treat (or a few: my cat has negotiated his way up to 4 or 5 treats and will demand more if fewer are given), and let him take a nap.


I'd try giving him more interactive toys to "hunt." I think he may be just hyper and needs to fulfill his instinct to hunt.

Perhaps try a laser pointer or a wand toy. Or if you want to keep him entertained while you're busy and can't interact with him, try one of those weasel ball things. My sister had a toy for her cat that was like a wand toy, but it was attached to a stand that had a motor that would wave the toy around automatically. The cat loved it so much it destroyed it after a few months! Something like this.

After he's finished with his "hunt", try rewarding him with a treat.

  • I don't usually recommend laser pointers unless you finish the play session with a food treat at the end, so that the cat gets the satisfaction of a "kill"
    – Zaralynda
    Commented Jun 16, 2014 at 17:09

My cat Jack is just like this (and I have the scars to show for it), and we even hired a behavioralist to help. What he said for Jack is probably just like your cat. Your cat has over active hunting instincts and you need to tire him out. Lasers don't really work since he needs to satisfy his bite instincts. There is a really good toy to tire him out similar to this one.

About 20-30 minutes a day of play should do it. Be sure to hide the toy when not using and when playing flick the end away from him to make him really hunt for it. You want to get the hunting instinct satisfied and your cat exhausted.


We have cat like this. Every day one of us puts on a long, length-padded oven glove and lets him get this part of the hunting cycle out of his system. We don't attack him with the glove, as that will not simulate prey behaviour - we just rustle the glove under something crackly, like tissue paper, and let him go for it. You can see him use the kill bite and then rake his prey with his back legs.

He loves the exercise and gets a lot of aggression out of his system. We pull the glove away from him gently as if the prey was struggling to escape, and simulate it's death throes. You can even buy elbow-length fake leopard paw gloves, but the arm part doesn't seem padded enough.

Be careful to keep your other hand well away, in case your cat attacks it when he's in this very excited state. He should be relaxed and calmer later.


Try blowing on his whiskers. That often breaks the concentration. Otherwise you seem to have a good solution, except you might want to keep a towel handy so you can wrap him without losing blood.

If you think it is playful, you might want to go buy a wand toy so that you can let him play with it and not your body.

  • 1
    Blowing on his whiskers didn't seem to help. I'll see if he just wants to play next time. He does have toys all over but maybe he wants something moving on it's own.
    – Ben Brocka
    Commented May 5, 2014 at 13:30

My girlfriend and I adopted two kittens (3 months old) a couple of months ago, and we teached them not to bite or use their claws when playing with our hands. They still can do this when playing with their toys.

To achieve this, you must make them understand that what they do is bad. Anytime they tried to bite or use their claws, we blowed gently onto their noses. Our vet told us cats don't like that at all, and it is true ! We did this during a few weeks.

Now they retract their claws as soon as they hit our hands, but continue to use them with their toys. They are adorable !


This is a well-known cat behavior. Usually at dawn and dusk, they get into "hunting" mode.

The best way to handle this is to either ignore it or to play with them so that they satisfy their drive to hunt. The most ideal way to do this is with a fishing-pole type toy. Don't unenthusiastically flop it around. Try to mimic a small animal or bird. Have it stop. Have it crawl along at a shamble, then suddenly dart away. Send it flying through the air or darting behind corners. Optimally you do about three play sessions (10 minutes until the cat is tired, then another 5 minutes until he's tired again, then like 2 minutes) and then feed him right after, which simulates hunting and then having a meal like cats would in the wild.

If you actually like cats, you won't want to miss this anyway. The giant pupils, the flashing teeth, the rush to hide behind a chair and peer out, and the infamous butt wiggle are some of the most beautiful and amazing parts of owning a cat.

Shutting a cat in a bathroom for being a cat is horrible and you should never do that again.


Cats are solitary animals with an inherent desire to hunt (except the most domesticated of cats).. as the other comments have said, play with him.. let him hunt.

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