Why Does My Cat Grab My Arm and Bunny Kick?

Bunny kick

Have you ever found yourself wondering why your cat suddenly grabs your arm and starts kicking it fervently with its hind legs, a behavior often referred to as a “bunny kick”? You’re not alone. Many cat owners observe and want to understand this peculiar behavior. Let’s delve into the reasons behind this action, but first, the short answer:

Why Do Cats Grab You and Kick with Their Back Legs?

Cats grab you and kick with their back legs, the aforementioned “bunny kick”, due to a combination of instinctual and emotional factors. They may do this as an inherent part of their play behavior, to communicate or interact with you socially, or due to overstimulation or aggression.

What Exactly Is a Bunny Kick?

A bunny kick is a distinct feline behavior characterized by a cat wrapping its front legs around an object or another animal and rapidly kicking with its hind legs, resembling the motion of a rabbit’s hind limbs. This behavior is deeply rooted in a cat’s natural instincts, originating from their wild ancestors who used the bunny kick as a hunting technique. In domestic cats, the bunny kick can be observed during play, social interactions, or even when they feel overstimulated or threatened.

The Science Behind the Behavior

Natural Instincts of Cats

Hunting and Prey Capture

Cats are natural-born hunters with instincts that have been honed over thousands of years. In the wild, felines employ their sharp claws and powerful legs to capture and subdue their prey. The bunny kick, in particular, is an effective maneuver used by cats to immobilize their quarry while minimizing the risk of injury.

Play and Social Interaction

In addition to their hunting prowess, cats also possess an innate need for play and social interaction. This activity serves as a means of honing their skills, practicing their hunting techniques, and strengthening social bonds within their group.

How the Bunny Kick is Used in the Wild

In the wild, the bunny kick is typically employed as a finishing move. When a cat successfully captures its prey, it may wrap its forelegs around the prey’s body and utilize the bunny kick to deliver a series of powerful blows. This action helps ensure the prey is immobilized, making it easier for the cat to secure its meal.

Reasons for the Behavior in Domestic Cats


Importance of Play for Cats

Domesticated cats, much like their wild counterparts, require regular play to stay mentally and physically fit. Engaging in play allows cats to practice their hunting techniques, expend excess energy, and alleviate boredom. As such, the bunny kick is often an indication that your cat is enjoying a playful moment with you.

Types of Toys and Play that Stimulate This Behavior

Toys that mimic the movement and feel of prey can trigger your cat’s bunny-kicking instinct. Examples of such toys include wand toys with feathers or fabric strips, stuffed toys designed for cats, and even a simple crumpled ball of paper. By providing your cat with a variety of play options, you can encourage this behavior in a controlled and safe environment.

Communication and Social Interaction

Affection and Bonding

Cats can exhibit bunny-kicking behavior as a way of demonstrating affection and strengthening their bond with their human companions. If your cat gently grabs your arm and starts bunny kicking, it could be a sign of trust and attachment. In such instances, the cat is sharing an intimate and playful moment with you.

Establishing Dominance

In some cases, bunny kicking may be a means for your cat to assert dominance within its social hierarchy. This is particularly true when multiple cats are present in a household. By engaging in this behavior, a cat may be establishing its position within the group.

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Overstimulation or Aggression

Signs of Stress or Fear

Though often an innocent display of play, bunny kicking can also signal overstimulation, stress, or fear in a cat. Aggressive kicks accompanied by hissing, growling, or flattened ears may indicate that your cat is experiencing distress. In such cases, it is crucial to recognize and address the source of their discomfort.

How to Recognize and Manage Aggressive Behavior

To differentiate between playful and aggressive bunny kicks, pay close attention to your cat’s body language. Growling, hissing, and dilated pupils are signs that your cat is agitated. If you suspect your cat is displaying aggressive behavior, calmly and gently remove yourself from the situation, and give your cat some space to calm down. Avoid any sudden movements or loud noises, as these can exacerbate the situation.

How to Respond to the Behavior

Encouraging Positive Play

Providing Appropriate Toys and Playtime

To foster a healthy and stimulating environment for your cat, it is crucial to offer a variety of toys and dedicate time to play with them. By engaging in regular play sessions, you can help your cat practice its natural hunting instincts in a controlled and positive manner, reducing the likelihood of aggressive behavior.

Setting Boundaries During Play

It’s important to encourage play. However, it’s equally vital to set boundaries to ensure your cat learns what is and isn’t acceptable behavior. If your cat begins to play too roughly, consider redirecting their attention to a toy. Or, momentarily pause the play session to let them know that their actions are not welcome.

Joey practicing his bunny kick

Today, I decided to teach my little furball brother Joey the art of the bunny-kick. As the experienced ninja master that I am, I couldn’t let him continue flailing around like a clumsy oaf. He really is, you know… We started with the basics. He was adorably clumsy at first, but with my expert guidance, he started to get the hang of it. Of course, I couldn’t resist rubbing his nose in it every time he messed up. After all, what are big brothers for? By the end of our session, he was bunny kicking like a pro. Well, sort of. #BunnyKickMasterclass #NinjaKitty #BunnyKickMaster #FurSiblingsInTraining #BigBrotherDuties

Sensai Winston with his pupil, Joey

Avoiding Overstimulation and Aggressive Behavior

Reading Your Cat’s Body Language

Understanding your cat’s body language can help prevent overstimulation and aggressive behavior. Pay close attention to their tail movement, ear position, and vocalizations. These can provide valuable insight into their emotional state. If you notice signs of agitation or stress, give your cat some space to recover and approach them later when they’re more relaxed.

Managing Your Own Behavior During Interaction

Your behavior plays a significant role in how your cat reacts during playtime. Avoid overly aggressive or rough play, as this can trigger unwanted behaviors in your cat. Instead, focus on gentle and controlled interactions that promote trust and bonding.

Training Your Cat

Positive Reinforcement Techniques

Positive reinforcement techniques, such as offering treats, praise, or petting, can be an effective way to train your cat and redirect unwanted behaviors. When your cat exhibits appropriate play behavior, reward them to reinforce the positive action.

Redirecting Unwanted Behavior

If your cat engages in undesired behaviors, like aggressive bunny kicks, try to redirect their attention to a toy or another form of play. Consistent redirection can help your cat understand which behaviors are acceptable and which are not.

When to Consult a Professional

Signs That the Behavior May Indicate a Problem

If your cat’s bunny-kicking behavior becomes excessively aggressive, and frequent, or is accompanied by other signs of distress, it may be time to consult a professional. Unexplained changes in behavior could indicate an underlying medical or behavioral issue that requires expert intervention.

Types of Professionals to Consult

Consulting with a veterinarian or a certified cat behaviorist can help address the root cause of your cat’s behavior. These professionals possess the expertise to assess your cat’s health and provide guidance on managing and modifying their behavior.

Importance of Early Intervention

Early intervention is crucial in addressing any potential issues before they escalate. By addressing your cat’s behavior promptly, you can create a more harmonious and safe environment for both you and your feline companion.

Should I Let My Cat Bunny Kick Me?

Whether you should let your cat bunny kick you depends on the context and the intensity of the behavior. If your cat is gently bunny-kicking you during playtime, it can be seen as a sign of trust, affection, and bonding, indicating that your cat feels comfortable and secure around you. In such cases, allowing your cat to bunny kick you can help strengthen your relationship with your feline friend.

However, if the bunny kicking becomes too rough or is accompanied by aggressive signs such as hissing, growling, or flattened ears, it’s crucial to establish boundaries and discourage this behavior. Rough play may lead to accidental injuries, and allowing aggressive bunny kicking can reinforce unwanted behaviors in your cat.

To maintain a healthy and safe relationship with your cat, it’s important to monitor their body language, set appropriate boundaries during play, and redirect any aggressive or overly rough behavior towards toys or other suitable outlets. By doing so, you’ll be able to enjoy a positive and harmonious bond with your cat while ensuring the well-being of both parties involved.


Cats and kittens bunny-kick for a variety of reasons, which can stem from their innate behaviors or reflect their current emotional state. Understanding and managing this behavior is crucial for fostering a healthy and harmonious relationship between you and your feline companion. Recognizing the underlying reasons, such as playfulness, social interaction, or overstimulation, will enable you to respond appropriately and set necessary boundaries for your furry friend.

Cat Bunny Kicks Are Cute but Painful!

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