Behavior

Strange Things Cats Do Explained

If you have a cat, chances are, it is probably your constant companion. Cats spend a good deal of time day and night sleeping, but when they are awake, you may notice some curious behaviors. While you may feel close to your cat, your feline friend isn’t able to communicate how he or she is feeling directly to you, at least not in a language you can understand. Even when your cat is not attempting to communicate but is simply being a cat, you may notice some odd behaviors that you have been trying to understand for years. Since your cat cannot explain his or her eccentricities to you, you accept them because you love your feline friend. However, it is useful to know some cat rationale behind classic and strange feline behaviors.

Everyone who has a cat experiences the same thing. You may start out stroking your cat’s head while he or she is purring with appreciation and blinking their eyes with affection. You then stroke your cat all the way down its body from its head to its tail in a straight line, and while on your cat may move around a bit, he or she seems to enjoy that very much. The cat plops down on its side and seems to present its belly for rubbing or scratching. However, soon as you put your hand on your cat’s midriff to stroke it, you suddenly feel the kick of its long feet and its paws grab you. Perhaps the cat has its claws out and it may bite you. While this reaction may be confusing and disappointing, rarely do the bites actually hurt, although you may receive some light scratching marks.

Your first question may be, “What did I do wrong?” or “What is wrong with this cat?” The sudden aggression after so much affection seems like crazy behavior, but it is not abnormal because nearly every cat engages in it. You may also wonder if your cat really likes you, but if your cat generally responds positively to you, you do not need to worry about this. The mistake, as you may guess, is that you stroked your cat’s belly when she didn’t want you to. However, the cat’s reaction seemed unexpected, because your cat apparently was presenting its belly to rub.

This is where the human and the feline communication crosses wires. Just because your cat decided to lie down and relax on its side, it wasn’t necessarily presenting its belly to you to rub. The art of petting a cat begins by stroking its head, rubbing the whiskers and scratching the chin. From there, you can move your hand across its back down to the tail. However, the belly is a cat’s special area that is not permitted to most people, even its owners. If you get on your cat’s good side, you may be on belly-stroking terms with it, but she does not always let someone stroke its belly even though it permitted the same person to do so just a day before. Before attempting to stroke your cat’s belly, you should first make sure the cat is relaxed, it is purring, and it has already been petted on its head and back. You can gently try to touch your cat’s belly, but if your cat is not in the mood to have its belly rubbed, you will know right away. Just think of the belly as the cat’s sacred space and don’t interpret your kitty’s moving onto its side as an offer to allow you to pet its tummy

Cats are known for their volatile behavior to the point where highly superstitious people through history have suspected them of being possessed by spirits. You may notice your cat is frightened and even jumps in the air when it comes across an object that looks harmless enough but with which it is unfamiliar, such as a cucumber. This kind of jumpy, volatile activity might inspire the old expression scaredy-cat, even though as a cat owner you know your pet is actually quite fearless when it wants to be.

One way of explaining a typical feline’s volatile behavior is the uncertainty in the various roles they play in their lives. Some animals, such as rabbits, are consistently perceived as potential prey. They are herbivores, passive rather than aggressive, and fairly defenseless. Because of their large feet and their jumping ability, a rabbit’s main attribute is its ability to get away fast from predators when needed. This is one reason why rabbits are so jumpy and nervous because they need to run away at a moment’s notice from a cat, a dog or another predator. Dogs, on the other hand, tend to be the potential predators in their environment. They are poised for attack rather than escape and tend to be on the alert to find something to attack rather than flee from it.

Cats have qualities similar to animals who are consistently prey, such as rabbits and consistently predators, such as dogs. Cats potentially are both predator and prey and, as a result, are easily startled, and sometimes are confused about whether they should be fleeing or attacking. Sometimes they may be faced with both prey and the potential predator at once or may find something to pursue one moment and to flee from the very next. The cat’s dual role as predator and prey causes it to move and act in a volatile way changing from moment to moment depending on what stimuli they are picking up. Also keep in mind that cats have an extremely sophisticated vision and sense of smell and are sensitive to various kinds of stimuli. This is why they may be startled and run away from a cell phone ringing or any sudden noise.

You may wonder why your cat snuggles up to your laptop when you are trying to use it or to be more specific, actually, sits down on your computer in a way that prevents you from using it. The first thought that comes to many people’s minds is that the cat is hungry for attention and is jealous of the computer. Many owners imagine a scenario of a kind of sibling rivalry between the laptop and the cat as each competes for attention, but then you may wonder why your cat doesn’t necessarily bother you while you are cooking or organizing things or are busy with other activities. The answer is that the warmth of the computer laptop is something that cats crave because felines like to have a body temperature that is 20° higher than that of the average human being. Since cats spend so much of their time sleeping or at least dozing off, the laptop is an ideal place to take a nap, and the fact you are the there as well may indicate merely that you were the one who turned it on.

Most eccentric kitty behavior is relatively harmless, but if there is one habit human owners often want to cure their cat of, it is scratching.  Some people explain cat scratching as potential predatory behavior while others see it as a nervous habit. The fact is that cats scratch because it is an effective way to manage nail growth. Human beings clip and file their nails and cats accomplish the same thing through scratching. In addition, cats, like many other animals, mark their territory with their scent, and there are a number of scent glands located in the paw. Scratching does the double duty of helping a cat leave their scent, which is like spraying graffiti and letting the world know that your cat was there, and taking care of its claws. That is why it is usually pointless to try to break your cat entirely of the habit of scratching, but is a better option to provide viable alternatives such as the scratching post. Declawing is traumatic for a cat and it is to a cat what cutting off the first digit of the fingers would be to a human.

Who doesn’t like to receive a gift of dead mice? Unless you are a cat, chances are you do not, but if your cat owner and your pet spends a certain amount of time outdoors, there is a good chance you might see a dead mouse or another creature your cat has killed while it was on the prowl. If your first reaction aside from disgust is to realize that your cat is giving you a gift, you are probably right. Cats are famously independent creatures and don’t like simply taking from humans without returning the favor. Since you give your cat food, your pet probably figures that you would like some food in return, and your cat feels it is a considerate thing to do to drop an extra dead mouse on your doorstep as a gift. Another possibility is that your cat wants you to keep the dead mouse or the bugs for later. You are probably not going to put your pet’s catch in the refrigerator for a midnight snack, but your kitty dropped off some extra just in case. After all, you often freeze extra soup for a rainy day, why not a dead mole?

You might not enjoy the dead animals that your cat provides you as treats, but your feline probably loves nothing more than a computer cord. You may have discovered the hard way that you should hide all cords from your cat when you can’t act in a supervisory role. You may have had some chargers replaced or some other cords repaired because your cat likes to chew them. Felines just love to chew on plastic cords. Odds are, you probably do not chew on cords yourself, nor do you have cat teeth, so you can’t really understand the pleasure and satisfaction that your cat experiences from this. The best option is not to drive yourself crazy trying to break your cat of this expensive and destructive habits but make sure you hide the cords when you cannot supervise. If this is too difficult, you can use spray with the flavor of bitter apple protect your wires. Cats do not like flavor and avoid putting on too much of it on the wires to avoid giving your cat a tummy ache.

You may have heard the cats, unlike dogs, despise water. One reason is that cat fur does not dry easily and felines do not like to be wet. In addition, cats by nature do not enjoy the floating sensation because they like to have four feet on the ground and to be in control. There is no need for cats be given baths because they can clean themselves with their tongue, the saliva, and their paws. While it’s not completely unheard of for cats to enjoy a dive into the water, usually an attempt to give your cat a bath will be met with resistance and obvious disapproval in the form of hissing.

ginger-cat-head-bunting

There are a series of unusual movements that are specifically associated with cats and definitely peculiar to felines. Head bunting is one classic feline communication behavior. You might wonder why your cat ramming his or her head into you is a sign of affection. It looks like your cat is trying to play a game of bumper cars with you but using his or her head. You may think of head bunting as a high five or patting someone on the back. Cats like intense impact on their heads and that is the best place to begin petting. Another reason cats enjoy communicating by bumping their heads against people is that they have scent glands on their heads and contact with them releases your cat’s secret aroma. These fragrances are detected by other cats although you cannot pick up on it. What your cat is doing is basically leaving his or her scent on you as a way of telling you that you are part of the tribe. In addition to hitting his head on you, your cat will also rub his head on your leg. Your cat does not execute head bunting in the same way under all conditions, but the section of his or her head that is used and the intensity of the impact depends on the height of objects and people it wants to bunt

Another classic cat movement is rolling. For no discernible reason, your cat may suddenly drop to the ground and roll back and forth letting its paws open, its feet spread and its head move from side to side. If you saw a person do this, you might call a doctor immediately or administer first aid. But your cat is not having a kind of bizarre attack. Some people simply enjoy watching cats engage in this behavior and don’t worry about it too much, but others may notice a pattern to their cats sudden dropping and rolling. It may be exactly what it seems–your cat simply may want attention. Some owners may notice that the cat does this right before the owner goes to work in the morning. The cat is wise to a human’s routine, and after he has just been fed, and he or she knows what’s next. To get an extra bit of love before the owner goes to work, the cat may physically block his or her way to the door and roll on the ground to get a little bit of petting before the owner leaves for work. Cats will also create an obstacle and impose themselves right around your legs when they want something from you, namely food.

Other explanations for spontaneous cat rolling are catnip intoxication and the cat wanting to rub its own sent everywhere. Sometimes when you buy your cat a new toy, you might not notice that there is catnip included until you see your cat rolling around in the throes of intoxicated ecstasy. If there is no catnip inspiring this ecstatic behavior, your cat might simply be trying to give itself a massage, especially if you see the cat rubbing its cheeks and chin onto the floor. He or she might be trying to mark their territory by rubbing its scent glands across surfaces. If you like this behavior or simply don’t mind it, it’s fine to bend down and scratch your kitty’s head and pet him or her when they are doing it. However if you find it irritating or if your cat is creating an obstacle, do not positively reinforce it the behavior and simply walk around your cat.

One of the more provocative poses your cat makes is when he or she lifts their posterior into the air. Many pet owners affectionately call this the elevator butt pose. While the elevator butt pose is not likely to be the newest thing in yoga, cats have been doing this since time immemorial. It if you suspect that this may be an invitation to mate, you are probably right unless your cat simply wants you to stroke its tail. Male cats use their posterior to aim their urine more effectively. Even spayed or neutered cats may still practice the elevator butt pose, and it is a sign of friendliness rather than a desire to be intimate. Simply scratch your cat in the lower back and your cat is likely to stop or continue which is fine as long as it is inoffensive.

One Specific behavior that people laud is the cat’s instinct for covering its feces. Not many animals feel it is necessary to keep their waste out of sight, but cats do seem to have some of the best manners in the animal kingdom. Talmudic scholars have posited that if human beings had not been commanded to be modest and hide their waste, they would’ve learned to do so from the cats. However, some of the legendary concern for manners and cleanliness is specific to certain kinds of cats. Feral cats do not tend to hide their feces except if they live in areas in close contact with other cats. As a general rule, cats will cover their feces if they are close to where they live. If the cat wanders elsewhere, they may not bother. That is why when cats move to a new location, it may take them some time to become acclimated before they can avoid having accidents outside the box.

However, if you notice a sudden change in your cat’s bathroom behavior, it is important to try and get to the bottom of it. If your cat makes a hole in the litter, deposits its feces and doesn’t cover it up, it may signal the cat is displeased with something in his or her surroundings. If the cat urinates outside the box, it may signal a feeling of vulnerability, especially if there are additional cats in the house, but it also may be a sign of a bladder control problem. If you’ve ruled out behavioral issues, and your cat is not making it to the litter box, take him or her to a vet right away

Covering is not only for your cat’s bathroom duties. Your cat may also cover his or her food bowl. If there is nothing to cover the bowl with, your cat may instinctively paw or scratch the area around the dish. There is now way of knowing whether your cat is trying to say that he likes his food and wants to save some for later or whether he thinks it should be buried like his waste. If you want to have a high opinion of the food you spend hard earned money on for your cat, you may be relieved to know that feral cats often retrieve food after they have hidden it. This leaves open the possibility that your cat enjoyed his feast so much that he wanted to store some for later

You may not understand all of your cat’s behaviors, but you love your kitty anyway. Perhaps you had many cats or just one and you have noticed eccentric behaviors, but always felt they were a mystery best known to the feline species. While every cat is different and behaves from individual motivations, there are classic cat behaviors that are fascinating and predictable, and understanding them can help you get to know your cat better.

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