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Why Does My Kitten Climb Me Like a Tree? 5 Reasons & How to Stop it

Kitten climbing on a person's tree
Image Credit: Roman Pshychyk, Shutterstock
Last Updated on November 16, 2023 by Brooke Bundy

Your little rascal has already won their way into your heart, but maybe you don’t want to sacrifice your new pants or sensitive skin to their shredding claws. Kittens sometimes climb their humans like they would climb a tree for various reasons. This behavior can be limited to the kitten stage, but it’s not always something your cat will outgrow. Figuring out why your kitten is acting like this can help you solve the problem, allowing your cat and your thighs to finally live at peace with each other. Here are five reasons why your cat scales your legs, and what you can do about it.

Click below to jump ahead:

Cat ball divider 1The 5 Reasons Your Kitten Might Think Your Leg Is Their New Tree

1. Lifestage

Although any cat at any age might climb on you, kittens are the most common culprits. These young creatures don’t yet understand the idea of human pain, and what’s acceptable and what’s not. You can try to train your kitten to stay off your legs by redirecting them to something they can play with, such as a scratching post. Just remember to be gentle. Cats have sensitive souls and may become skittish if you’re too harsh with them.

grey munchkin kitten playing
Image Credit: Sviatoslav_Shevchenko, Shutterstock

2. Craving for Attention

Your kitten may be jealous of how you spend your time. If you haven’t played with them much that day, or if you’re obviously distracted from their charming presence, they might take the opportunity to assail your leg to grab your attention. And it works. Make sure you take time each day to bond with your kitten instead of waiting for them to become desperate. Your legs will thank you later.

3. Boredom

Kittens and cats, in general, like to climb. In the wild, cats climb trees to chase their prey. Cat trees are a popular choice indoors because it gives them a positive outlet for their natural tendencies. Consider buying your kitten a cat tree or find a creative way for them to engage with their hunting skills through catnip toys or other stimulating objects.

Image Credit: Evan Abram McGinnis, Shutterstock

4. Sharpening Their Claws

Even indoor-only cats need to scratch and sharpen their claws. If they don’t see a scratching post that they like, they might turn to your legs to help them groom.

5. Asserting Dominance

While claiming dominance isn’t as big of a deal in cats as dogs, sometimes felines take the opportunity to show you who’s boss (as if we don’t already know).

cat rubbing its head against the owner's legs
Image Credit: Jaromir Chalabala, Shutterstock

cat face divider 2How to Stop Your Kitten from Climbing on You in 4 Steps

Targeting the problem at the source can speed up the process of changing your cat’s behavior. Here are a few things you can do to help curtail their climbing obsession, depending on the cause:

1. Spend Time with Your Cat

If your kitten feels neglected, they might turn to destructive means to gain your attention again. Set aside time to play and rub your cat each day to make sure they feel your love.

woman owner petting and playing with her cat at home
Image Credit: Stokkete, Shutterstock

2. Find a Cat Tree

There are so many adorable types of cat trees! Some are carpeted, others are covered in natural sisal to encourage scratching. You can find a tree that fits your cat’s behaviors. For example, if they like to sleep in secluded places, you’ll probably want to buy them a cat tree with a hideaway bunk. If they like to rest aloft, there are cat trees with a “crow’s nest” at the top that will allow them to perch. Unfortunately, commercial cat trees can be costly, and cats are finicky, so there’s no guarantee that they’ll like them. However, you can always buy one used or make your own if you don’t want to take the risk.

3. Buy a Cat Scratcher

These come in all shapes, sizes, and types with varying prices. The cardboard ones are the cheapest and are readily available in most pet stores. Not all cats like scratching posts, while other cats go crazy for them. Since cats can be picky, you might want to sprinkle a little bit of catnip or some other treat that they enjoy onto their cat scratcher to encourage them to engage with their new toy. You can also show them how to use it by placing them beside the scratcher and digging your own nails into the material, so they know what to do.

grey cat using hepper hi-lo cat scratcher from side

We're quite fond of cardboard as a material in cat scratchers, which is why we love the Hepper Hi-Lo Cat Scratcher. Encased within a well-constructed, modern birch plywood frame, this scratcher is designed with both cats and their owners in mind. It offers three versatile configurations to keep your feline friend active and entertained while enticing them to fulfill their natural scratching instincts (and away from scratching things they shouldn't). For more details, click here!

At Excited Cats, we’ve admired Hepper for many years, and decided to take a controlling ownership interest, so that we could benefit from the outstanding designs of this cool cat company!

4. Give It Time

If you’ve done everything you know how to do, keep caring for your cat and be patient. Oftentimes leg climbing is a kitten behavior that they’ll soon outgrow.

Cat ball divider 1Conclusion

Your kitten might be scratching you due to a lack of stimulation, whether it’s intentional time with you or the need for an outlet for scratching and climbing. Remember to be patient and kind as you work with your kitten. Don’t yell at them or make them feel afraid. The goal is a lifetime of trust, affection, and security for your kitten. And don’t worry—in time, you should be able to wear shorts again.

Featured Image Credit: Roman Pshychyk, Shutterstock

About the Author

Brooke Bundy
Brooke Bundy
Brooke Bundy is a freelance writer who lives with three cats and a dog. She has a B.S. in Media Studies from the University of North Georgia. Booke loves storytelling and spending time with her pets at their house in New Orleans, Louisiana. In her free time, she enjoys gardening, cooking, and brewing coffee.

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