Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: November 22, 2022 by Crystal Uys

Ask-the-Cat-Behaviorist-Marci-Koski

Dr. Marci Koski is a certified Feline Behavior and Training Professional who received specialized and advanced certificates in Feline Training and Behavior from the Animal Behavior Institute. While Marci has been passionate about all animals and their welfare, cats have always had a special place in her heart. In fact, Marci can’t remember a time when she’s been without at least one cat in her life. She currently relies on her five-member support staff  to maintain the feline duties of her household.

Marci’s own company, Feline Behavior Solutions, focuses on keeping cats in homes, and from being abandoned to streets or shelters as the result of treatable behavior issues. Marci believes that the number of cats who are abandoned and/or euthanized in shelters can be greatly reduced if guardians better understand what drives their cats to certain behaviors, and learn how to work with their cats to encourage appropriate behaviors instead of unwanted ones.

Humping Behavior in Neutered Male Cats

I have a neutered male cat who is 5 years old. He was fixed when he was about 3 months old. He’s also an indoor cat. For the last year, a few times a month, sometimes 2 or 3 times in one week, he’d dry hump my leg. This would always be at night when I’m under the covers. I’m not sure why he does this, if it’s normal or something I should be concerned about. – Abby

Dilute Tortoiseshell cat with yellow eyes
Image Credit: Mary Swift, Shutterstock

Hi Abby,

Thanks for your question.  Humping behavior is not too terribly uncommon, but it is most frequently seen in intact males.  However, both males and females can demonstrate humping, even if they have been neutered or spayed.  Humping isn’t necessarily something to worry about, as it is a natural behavior.  However, it can also be a sign that your kitty is bored, stressed, or frustrated.  To ensure that your kitty’s stress levels are well managed and to nip boredom in the bud, you’ll want to step up your enrichment game.  Make sure that your cat has plenty of vertical space in the rooms he most commonly spends time in – cat trees, shelving, window perches – these can all help increase the amount of space he has available to explore and utilize.  You’ll also want to give him plenty of opportunities to scratch, which allows cats to leave scent marks throughout their territory and relieve stress when the stretch – have plenty of scratching surfaces available to him.  Next, give your kitty at least one (and two is better!) daily play sessions using an interactive wand toy – Da Bird is my favorite.  Each play session should be at least 10-15 minutes and take him through the prey sequence: staring, stalking and chasing, pouncing and grabbing, and performing a kill bite.  Follow each play session with a snack or small meal to initiate the hunt-eat-groom-sleep sequence.  Finally, make sure that your kitty has plenty of self-play toys to use when you’re not around – these are small objects like balls, mice, etc. or even food puzzles from which he can get treats.  These are no substitute for interactive play sessions using a wand toy, but if you rotate these toys regularly, he’ll be more likely to engage with them and not get bored.

Also, never punish or scold your cat for humping; after all, this is a natural behavior.  If it makes you uncomfortable, you can redirect him to a different activity (did I mention the wand toy???) or something that he enjoys.  Learn to recognize his body language that indicates he may be getting ready to hump; that’s the time to redirect.

And lastly, you might want to make sure he’s healthy with a vet check-up.  Urinary tract infections can lead to humping in some cats, and it will never hurt to rule out medical causes for this behavior.  I hope this gives you some peace of mind and some ideas to try with your kitty!

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