Why Do Cats Bunny Kick?

Janelle Leeson

Janelle Leeson

. Reviewed by Kelly Gold, DVM
Updated May 28, 2024
orange and white kitten playing with a pink ball

Adobe Stock/Omega

You may have seen a cat bunny kicking—grabbing an object (such as a cat toy, another cat, or your arm) with their front paws and kicking rapidly with their hind legs. It looks a lot like a rabbit thumping its feet on the ground. 

So why do cats bunny kick? It can be for a few reasons, explains certified cat behaviorist Cristy Brusoe, including playing, hunting, or even self-defense.

Let's explore these reasons more, plus how to redirect the behavior when necessary.  

Why Do Cats Bunny Kick?

It can be cute when cats kick their toys—but why do they do it? Here are three common reasons why cats bunny kick. 

Play Hunting 

Even pampered house cats retain their hunting instincts. Kittens learn how to bunny kick during early play with their mothers and littermates, mimicking capturing prey in the wild. Bunny kicking is often accompanied by pouncing, biting, and batting during play with toys or mock fights with other cats.


If your cat abruptly switches to bunny kicking you, or their playmate, it might be a sign of overstimulation. This is their way of saying, "I'm enjoying this, but it's getting a little too much." 

Defensive Behavior

Bunny kicking also serves as a defensive maneuver. Those powerful back legs can be used to kick and propel away a threat, protecting their vulnerable belly and vital organs. 

Is It OK if Cats Bunny Kick Each Other?

Bunny kicking is generally considered a normal part of play, so it’s OK to let your cat enjoy their playtime and hone their natural instincts.

However, “monitor for signs of aggression or distress,” Brusoe says. You can redirect your cat by using another toy or shaking treats in front of them if you notice: 

How Do I Get My Cat to Stop Bunny Kicking Me?

So your cat is unleashing their bunny kicks on you during play or even cuddles. The powerful blows can be surprising (not to mention painful!), but punishment isn't the answer, Brusoe says. Your job is to redirect their bunny kicks to more appropriate targets.

Once the bunny kicking starts, stop whatever interaction triggered it and offer an appropriate outlet for their hunting instincts, like a kicker toy, stuffed animal, or a feather wand that mimics fleeing prey. 

Brusoe says you can prevent bunny kicks with regular wand play sessions. This helps ensure pent-up energy doesn't translate into surprise kicks on your arm.

It’s also helpful to learn your cat’s triggers. For example, if belly rubs tend to result in bunny kicks, avoid petting that area or spend less time doing so. Pay close attention to their body language and stop before they become overstimulated.

The Best Cat Kicking Toys

Bunny kicking is a normal behavior and a part of play, and fortunately there are plenty of toys that can help unleash your cat’s inner hunter in appropriate ways.

The most popular kicker toys are often oblong in shape and filled with tantalizing catnip. They’re perfect for cats who like to lie on their side while gnawing, biting, and bunny kicking:

Brusoe adds that a variety of outlets for all your cat's natural instincts creates a happier cat and a more harmonious home.

She recommends incorporating interactive play sessions with wand toys like the ZEZE Lovely & Delicate Forest Snake Tease Wand Cat Toy.

Its shape is perfect for kicking and it can mimic fleeing prey. Additionally, you can provide scratching posts, trees, and plenty of hiding spots that allow your cat to scratch, climb, and ambush "prey" toys. 

Janelle Leeson


Janelle Leeson

Freelance Writer

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