What does it mean if your cat pounces on you or stalks you?

What does it mean if your cat pounces on you or stalks you?

Pet Psychology

Cats are generally quite inquisitive animals that like to be able to watch what is going on around them and investigate anything new and interesting, and this may involve interacting with people and things directly, or simply sitting and observing what is going on.

They also have a very strong prey drive and hunting instincts, which may manifest as actual hunting, or mimicry by means of playing and mock-hunting toys and objects that you provide for them to play with.

By nature, the type of prey that cats will hunt for and catch is of course much smaller than they are-but a reasonable number of cats will also display manifestations of hunting behaviour towards their people too, such as by sneakily trailing you around the house whilst trying to stay out of sight, or by pouncing on you when you are not paying attention!

If you have ever wondered why your cat does this and what it means in terms of their behaviour and how they view you, in this article we will look at the meanings behind such behaviour, and what it says about your cat. Read on to learn more.

Practice makes perfect

While not every cat actively hunts for live prey, all cats display some manifestations of their natural prey drive and hunting behaviours, such as stalking, pouncing, kicking with the back legs and chasing and playing with toys.

If your cat wants to hunt but doesn’t get the chance because they live indoors, or if they are simply full of beans and looking for something to entertain themselves with, they may display all manner of mimicry and “practice” hunting-related skills such as stealthily following you around whilst trying to stay out of sight, or pouncing on you when they think you are not expecting it!


If you are doing something interesting or new, or that your cat doesn’t understand, their naturally inquisitive natures will likely dictate that they watch you and try to find out what is going on. To let you know that they want to join in or to get your attention if it is on something else, they may pounce on you and run off, or otherwise behave in ways designed to get your attention.

Cat breeds that are very personable with their human housemates and that don’t like to be left alone, like the Siamese, are particularly likely to do this.

Also, if your cat is not sure about something and are still deciding if something may be interesting or worth checking out, or if they are not sure if something poses a threat to them, they may hedge their bets and follow your actions whilst staying out of sight while they make up their minds!

If your cat is new to you, they may decide that discretion is the better part of valour when they are still getting used to you, and follow you around whilst staying out of sight for a while in order to learn more about you, and decide if you are friend or foe!

Mistaken identity

If your cat is apt to pounce on your feet when you walk past them, attack your toes when you are in bed or leap at you when you are reading the paper, your cat might not really be seeing “you” as a full picture-they are only seeing your foot, or the rustling paper, or your disembodied and twitching fingers or toes.

Small, moving objects like these will often trigger your cat’s prey drive and hunting instinct, and even if the object in question does not “read” as prey, leaving something small and fidgety alone can be close to impossible for cats!

If your cat pounces on you out of the blue or attacks your fingers or toes, they still know that it is you, but are once again using the available stimulus to mimic and act out hunting behaviour for fun or because it is a challenge!

Interactive play

If you play with your cat regularly, they may see stalking or pouncing on you as a way of instigating a game, and letting you know that they would be amenable to starting a play session. Much as we as humans will use a piece of ribbon or flicking a ball to get the cat’s attention and prompt a game when it suits us, your cat may behave in the same way too, by indicating to you when they are in a playful mood and want to do something!

Feedback responses

If you have become aware that a small furry shadow has been following you around for some time, this can be hard to ignore-and the chances are that sooner or later, you are going to speak to your cat and let them know that you are onto them, and have spotted them! Your cat will probably reveal themselves when you do this, and you will stroke them and talk to them-providing a reward for their behaviour, and making them more inclined to do it next time.

Cats soon learn what gets your attention, and what feline behaviours are hard to ignore-if your cat pounces on you when you are reading the paper, or grabs your toes when you are just nodding off, you are almost certainly going to respond to this.



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