Cats bat at things to learn more about their surroundings, but they also do it to see whether the thing they’ve just touched doesn’t start moving and, therefore, create an opportunity for play.
Some cats, especially those that have vision issues, will bat at things to test out the consistency of objects around them to tell whether they might be in danger or not.
Reasons why cats bat at things include:
1. They’re natural born hunters
Batting things is a normal type of behaviour for most cats as it encourages them to play.
When a cat is out in the wild, and she’s hunted a mouse, at one point or the other, that little critter is going to become the cat’s victim.
But before that happens, and if the cat isn’t particularly hungry, the mouse will first start to become dizzy from all the movement or rough play that the cat has engaged in, and at one point, it might not move any longer.
If the cat continues to want to play, she’ll bat at it to attract its attention and make it ‘come back to life’ so that she can enjoy a bit more entertainment.
Although this might sound cruel to you, the truth is that this is how wild cats learn how to hunt in the first place.
We already know that their instincts are sharp, but they continuously have to hone them, and they can only do this with the help of small prey.
This is also the reason why most cats bat at various items in your home.
For instance, have you ever played with your cat using one of those toy wands?
If you have and you’ve left it somewhere around your house, you probably know that your cat will try to play with it even when you aren’t holding it and wiggling it in the air.
Somehow, domestic cats have retained the instinct we previously mentioned, and although it might seem a little silly, they will continuously try to revive inanimate toys so that they can play with them or make them ‘act’ like real prey.
2. They’re Exploring Their Surroundings
As you probably know if you’ve ever done a bit of research, cats’ and dogs’ eye vision are quite different.
Cats are much better at seeing things in pitch black, so during the night.
They also see better thanks to their binocular vision.
But dogs have much better eyesight when it comes to their field of view.
That means that they can pick up on several different things at the same time. Dogs can see in 240 degrees, cats in 200 degrees, while humans in just 180 degrees.
Both cats and dogs are capable of ‘funnelling’ sound into their ears, but cats can hear about an octave higher than their canine counterparts.
This means that while they’re out hunting, cats heavily rely on their sense of hearing — sometimes even more than they do on their eyesight, especially if they’re doing their hunting in the daytime.
Batting at things in their homes can allow cats to feel the consistency of various places or items without necessarily getting into trouble.
3. They Want Attention
Let’s face it — whenever they bat at something, cats aren’t being the gentlest and most polite animal in the world.
That means that they’ll get your attention or spark your curiosity, at least in part.
Sometimes, batting at things can even be funny, especially in cats that don’t see as well as others.
These cats tend to explore the world around them a little differently — they might get scared more easily, and they might also bat a blanket that they’ve sat on time and again — just because they don’t see it as well.
And finally, if you’ve ever moved your foot underneath a blanket and your cat spotted it, in her head, she might be thinking that your foot is a mouse or something that needs to be caught and that she could play with.
Why do cats bat at each other?
There are roughly two reasons why this can happen, and they’re either play or aggression.
Play is normal between cats, especially those that have shared the same living space for a long time.
They know each other, they can sometimes appreciate the reactions they’ll get from their partner, and they feel safe enough to go out of their comfort zones to play a little rough, sometimes.
But when batting is an act of aggression, it can be quite problematic.
Not all cats are made to be friends, and depending on how you made their acquaintance, rivalries and territorial fights can be something that you might have to deal with.
Another complicated aspect of this behaviour is that batting as part of play can quickly turn into something else, something almost violent.
As you can imagine, it’s your responsibility to distract your cats’ attention so that they can stop fighting.
In other words, cats can bat at each other to establish dominance or just get the other cat to notice them.
How to stop your cats from batting or swatting at each other
1. Give Them Time out
If you have more than two rooms available, separating the cats from each other for the time being might solve part of the problem.
They might also hate being separated so much that they might even start to like each other a bit.
Aggression among cats is often the result of them not having been properly socialised, so keeping them in separate rooms for one or even two weeks can make them gradually get used to each other again.
2. Separate Them
Unfortunately, this is wrong on many levels.
Cats have to be able to mark individual territories as their own, even if they’re not the dominant ones.
Besides that, when two cats share the same litter box, the germs from their urine and faeces can easily be spread from one animal to the other.
Ideally, you should have at least 2 litter boxes (although 3 would be even better) and separate food and water bowls for each of your cats.
And sometimes if you do not have enough space, for the time being, you might have to keep just one cat.
3. Interrupt and prevent aggression
Although some people might tell you to avoid intervening when your cats are exhibiting aggression to one another, sometimes fights can get so bad that you have to split them up somehow.
Never try to do it yourself, as you might risk getting hurt, or you might accidentally endanger one of your cat’s health and safety.
But at that moment, spraying them with water so that they each go their separate ways doesn’t seem like a bad idea.
Once you can grab a hold onto one, you can take her to another room. If your cat is still being slightly aggressive, throw a towel on her or use protective gloves when handling her.
4. Stop rewarding them
If you intend on distracting your cats so that they stop fighting, but you want to do this with cat treats, think again.
If you start doing this, you’ll effectively be telling them that fighting is okay and that it might elicit a positive response from you in the form of snacks.
Reward your cats only when they’re getting along well.
5. Use pheromones
If everything else fails, using a product like Feliway might be a good idea, although not all cats respond to it.
Some do, though, and they become slightly calmer, so they are less likely to be the ones initiating the fight.
On the other hand, even if the cat that’s not being dominant becomes calm, at least she’s not going to be as willing to respond to the other one’s aggression, so she’ll look for a peaceful place away from her.
Why do cats bat at you?
Whether your cat bats at you or any other people that come around for a visit, you’re probably wondering why this happens.
As is the case with swatting at things in their home or even other animals, cats can bat at people if they want to get their attention or if they want to play.
Do keep in mind that most cats’ batting is completely harmless and that if you pick them up and cuddle or play with them for just 5-10 minutes, they’ll be happy to sit pleasantly next to you for the next hour or so.
Naturally, cats can also bat at people if they start becoming uncomfortable for whatever reason.
In other words, they do it to tell people that they have to stop what they’re doing as it’s bothering them.
The best example of this is when a cat is grooming herself. As you probably know, cats are extremely clean animals, and they take their time grooming their bodies.
But most cats tend to get pretty bothered by interference from other animals or humans if they’re suddenly stopped short in the middle of grooming themselves.
When your cat begins to groom herself, you should not interrupt her. Otherwise, she’ll have to start the whole thing over again.
You might find it offensive that your cat seems to want to groom herself right after you’ve touched her, but if she’s in the middle of her grooming routine, this is completely normal.
To get you to stop, your pet might give you a little swat. She’s probably not even going to pull her claws out — she’ll just give you a warning.
But if you keep getting on her nerves, she might lightly bite or scratch you and then look for a safe place where she can wrap up her grooming routine.
Another well-known moment when cats might bat at people would be in the morning.
As you probably know, cats are crepuscular, which means that they are particularly active in the late evening and early in the morning.
This means that they have very different schedules compared to people, so your cat might end up wanting to wake you up for you to feed her.
Some cats simply get bored and want to enjoy your company. There are lots of cats that are a little more cuddly in the morning, especially with the prospect of you giving them food at the horizon.
So in most cases, when your cat bats at you, she’s probably not trying to attack you or harm you — she either wants to get your attention, wants you to stop doing something, or wants you to wake up and be with her.
Why do cats bat things off of surfaces?
Your cat might bat things off your tables, shelves, or any other kind of furniture to get your attention, try to play with ‘prey’ or just explore her environment.
But do they ever do it out of spite? In most cases, no.
Although a clear answer as to whether or not cats do things to get on your nerves doesn’t really exist, these so-called behavioural problems aren’t even problems.
It’s just a way that some cats use to tell their owners they need something from them.
And after all, it really isn’t that difficult to prevent your cat from knocking various things off tables, especially if you care about them.
Just keep your items safe, inside cupboards or drawers to which your cat has no access to.
Make sure your cat has plenty of entertainment opportunities so that she doesn’t start to get bored and want to seek out your attention.
Do not react in an aggressive or agitated way when your cat bats at things on your desk and try to knock them over. This creates unnecessary stress for your pet.
Some cats are quite well-behaved, and in tune with their owners, so they’ll understand if things are off-limits if you simply raise your voice and tell your cat that whatever she’s done is wrong.
Batting at things is perfectly normal behaviour for cats. It’s their way of exploring the world around them. It’s a way they can get your attention and convince you to pet them or play with them.
But it’s also a way that fights between two cats can be initiated, so in some cases, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on how they’re behaving.
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