Why Do Cats Thump on Toys with Their Back Feet?

He'll hide out and watch his "prey" before pouncing.
He'll hide out and watch his "prey" before pouncing. (Image: Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Garfield sees that toy mouse from across the room and stalks it from afar. As he’s getting ready to pounce, he’ll wiggle his rear end, dart over and pounce on it. Strangely enough, he doesn’t actually play with it right away, he just sits on it and thumps it with his back feet. While you might find this behavior peculiar, he’s just fine-tuning his hunting skills for when the real thing comes along.

Getting Some Motion

A jingling ball is fun to play with of course, but only if it’s moving. When you’re not around to get the ball in motion, Garfield has to do it himself to stay entertained. He doesn’t have hands so he can’t grab the ball and throw it up in the air. Instead, he jumps on it, thumps it to get a grasp on it and kicks it up with his back feet. He doesn’t know where it’ll wind up once he tosses it up in the air, making a surprise hunting session for him.

Practicing the Hunt

Garfield is inside all day, but his DNA makes him want to hunt and attack. He doesn’t get the opportunity to practice his skills out in the wild, so he works on them indoors. After carefully stalking and pouncing on the fuzzy mouse, he’ll jump on it and thump it as part of the “killing” process. He might even flick it up in the air and pounce and thump on it several times over, just to make sure his catch is “dead.”

Marking It

Cats have strategically placed scent glands all over their bodies -- including on their paw pads. If you have several kitties in your home, Garfield might have one toy in particular that he adores. He’ll thump on it to rub off as much of his signature aroma as possible. That way when Ginger comes around, she’ll know that toy is already spoken for.

When to Intervene

A little rough play with his favorite toy isn’t generally a concern, although if Garfield continuously thumps his toys and makes a ruckus, keeping you up at night or starting fights with the rest of his feline family, he could be overstimulated. His eyes will become big and black, he’ll turn his ears back and his tail will start twitching rapidly from side to side. You may even see the hair sticking up straight along his spine. Be wary of picking him up at this point -- he may unintentionally growl or bite you while he’s “hunting.” Simply pick up the toy, put it away for the time being and let Garfield take a breather.

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