Ever wonder why your cat behaves the way he does? We’ve put together a concise FAQ in alphabetical order to answer the most commonly asked questions of “Why do cats….?” In this article, we bring you answers to the following 53(!) common cat behavior questions.
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Understanding why our cats do what they do is more than just an intellectual pastime. The more we know about the motivation behind various feline behaviors, the easier it becomes to deal with problems.
You can be a better cat owner simply by reading this article and making sure you understand why Kitty does what he does... And if there's a particular behavior that you'd like to modify, make sure to read our detailed guide about cat behavior problems.
Let’s dive right in! (You may want to grab a coffee if you're about to devour this article in one sitting - it is long!)
- Why Do Cats Bunt or Head Butt?
- Why Do Cats Belp? (Stick Tongue Out)
- Why Do Cats Bunny Kick?
- Why Do Cats Bring You Dead Animals?
- Why Do Cats Chatter?
- Why Do Cats Chirp?
- Why Do Cats Chase Their Tails?
- Why Do Cats Chew Plastic?
- Why Do Cats Drool or Dribble?
- Why Do Cats Disappear?
- Why Do Cats Dislike Water?
- Why Do Cats Eat Grass?
- Why Do Cats Eat Flies?
- Why Do Some Cats Eat Litter?
- Why Do Cats' Eyes Glow in the Dark?
- Why Do Cats Follow Their Owners?
- Why Do Cats Follow You into the Bathroom?
- Why Do Cats Flick Their Tails?
- Why Do Cats Go Crazy (Freak Out)?
- Why Do Cats Growl?
- Why Do Cats Hiss?
- Why Do Cats Ignore Humans?
- Why Do Cats Jump So High?
- Why Do Cats Knead?
- Why Do Cats Knock Stuff Over?
- Why Do Cats Kill Mice?
- Why Do Cats Keep Meowing?
- Why Do Cats Like Boxes?
- Why Do Cats Like Catnip?
- Why Do Cats Lick People?
- Why Do Cats Lick Each Other?
- Why Do Cats Meow?
- Why Do Cats Massage People?
- Why Do Cats Make Strange Noises?
- Why Do Cats Need So Much Sleep?
- Why Do Cats Open Their Mouth?
- Why Do Cats Paw at Things?
- Why Do Cats Play with Their Prey?
- Why Do Cats Pee on Beds?
- Why Do Cats Play Fight?
- Why Do Cats Roll in the Dirt?
- Why Do Cats Roll on Their Backs?
- Why Do Cats Run Around and Meow at Night?
- Why Do Cats Sleep So Much?
- Why Do Cats Scratch Furniture?
- Why Do Cats Stare?
- Why Do Cats Sleep on You?
- Why Do Cats Spray?
- Why Do Cats Touch Noses?
- Why Do Cats Yowl?
- Want to Learn Even More About Feline Behavior?
Why Do Cats Bunt or Head Butt?
Letting another animal near your face is dangerous in the mind of a cat. It leaves you vulnerable if the other animal decides to attack you. For that reason, allowing you to get close to them is a sign of ultimate trust and affection.
Cats also have scent glands on their head and near their mouths. They like it when other members of their family smell like them. So, when your cat considers you part of his family, he’ll give you a little headbutt to spread his scent onto you.
Why Do Cats Belp? (Stick Tongue Out)
There are several reasons a cat may have their tongue sticking out. So, this is another cat behavior where you need to consider the context and other factors.
You may have seen your cat cleaning himself, then suddenly stop and leave his tongue sticking out. He may even end up falling asleep like that. In most cases, your cat simply got distracted and didn’t fully bring his tongue in before closing his mouth.
The other reasons some cats stick their tongue out require a trip to the vet. Sometimes, a cat can get a dental disease so bad that it’s painful to keep his tongue in his mouth since it puts additional pressure on his sore teeth and gums.
If your cat consistently leaves his tongue hanging out and has other symptoms like drooling, bad breath, or reluctance to eat, it may be time to have your veterinarian check out his teeth to see if he’s in need of a cleaning.
Read more: Why Does My Cat's Mouth Hang Open?
Why Do Cats Bunny Kick?
Bunny kicking is when cats roll onto their side or back and then kick something with both back legs at the same time. Because cats have powerful back legs, this is the most effective way to use their claws when in a fight.
However, since most housecats don’t need to defend themselves in a fight, they also use it when playing with toys, people, or other animals. The biggest difference is that when they’re playing, they usually don’t use their claws while bunny kicking.
Why Do Cats Bring You Dead Animals?
If your cat spends any time outside, you likely have received the gift of a dead or dying animal. While unpleasant, take it as a sign that she considers you part of the family. While experts aren’t completely sure about why cats bring people dead animals, one theory stands out as most likely.
The theory is that cats bring their owners prey to provide food for them and to teach them to hunt. This idea is supported by the fact that it is female cats that most often bring dead or dying animals to their human family members.
In the wild, a mother cat is responsible for teaching her young to hunt so they can survive on their own. While most housecats have no need to hunt, the instinct is still there. And since they see humans as part of their family, many cats are determined to teach them this important life skill.
Why Do Cats Chatter?
Chattering is one of many sounds a cat can make, and it’s one of the stranger ones. It’s almost always seen when they’re looking out the window and see a bird, squirrel, or another prey animal outside. Experts are divided on exactly why cats do this.
One theory is that they’re simply excited, and the surge of adrenaline manifests itself in chattering. Another is that housecats make this sound, and it’s a sign of frustration because they can’t get to the animal they want to chase.
Yet another idea behind this cat behavior is that they do it to make a similar noise as their prey which would allow them to get closer before finally pouncing. This theory was given weight by a group of scientists that found a wildcat mimicking the sounds of the monkeys she was hunting.
Whatever the exact reason for cats chattering, we do know they do it in response to seeing something they want to catch. We also know that it’s both adorable and hilarious when they do it.
Why Do Cats Chirp?
Chirping is another sound that cats make that’s similar to chattering but is distinct. A chirp is usually a single sound and it’s done when the cat gets excited. Often, they do it in response to seeing someone or something they love.
If your cat chirps at you when you enter the room, it’s a sure sign he’s excited to see you. Other times a cat may chirp including while he’s playing or when you feed him.
Why Do Cats Chase Their Tails?
Cats are playful by nature and are hardwired to chase basically anything that moves. Sometimes, that means chasing their tails. Much like dogs, it’s simply something a cat does when she’s feeling playful and her wiggling tail catches her eye.
As long as she doesn’t hurt herself while chasing and catching her tail, this behavior is totally normal and is no cause for concern.
Read more: Why Does My Cat Chase Its Own Tail?
Why Do Cats Chew Plastic?
Most cat owners have been there. You come home from the grocery store and as you’re unloading groceries, you hear a strange sound. That’s when you see that your cat is chewing on one of the plastic grocery bags. There are a few reasons cats do this.
First of all, cats like the crinkling sound the plastic makes. That’s why many cat toys have crinkle paper inside them. The sound is similar to something a rodent may make, which triggers their hunting instinct. If the plastic has lingering smells or tastes of human food on it, even better!
The other reason cats may chew plastic is for their teeth. If you don’t brush your cat’s teeth regularly, he gets plaque built up, just like we would if we never brushed our teeth. So, your cat’s teeth and gums can get sore and itchy.
That’s where the plastic comes in. By chewing on plastic, a cat can relieve some of the discomforts that comes from poor dental hygiene. If you’re worried about your cat’s teeth, be sure to mention it to your vet on your next visit.
Read more: How To Stop Problem Chewing In Cats
Why Do Cats Drool or Dribble?
Some cats will drool when they’re extremely relaxed. If you’re petting her and she’s happy, she may completely relax and forget to swallow so that her saliva starts overflowing. This type of happy drooling is nothing to be concerned about.
On the other hand, cats that drool all the time may have a medical issue that you need to have addressed immediately. Drooling is a common symptom of periodontal disease and other mouth conditions.
It can also mean a cat has something stuck in her mouth, like a bone, twig, or piece of plastic. Certain respiratory conditions can cause ulcers to form in the mouth which can lead to drooling, as can some types of oral cancer.
The other reason a cat may drool is that she’s nauseous or getting ready to throw up. Or, she just finished throwing up and now has a bad taste in her mouth that she’s trying to get rid of.
Unless you know your cat is drooling because she’s happy, you should take her to see your vet as soon as possible because dribbling is often a sign that something serious is going on. The earlier you catch something, the better chance your cat has of overcoming it.
Why Do Cats Disappear?
Cat owners who allow their cats to go outside face an unfortunate problem that can leave them worried for days or even weeks at a time. Many cats have a habit of disappearing. It’s particularly common in cats that haven’t been spayed or neutered.
Male cats that disappear often do so because they’ve smelled a female cat in heat and are determined to be with her. If she’s being kept inside, he’ll wait outside her home throughout her heat cycle. A cat’s heat cycle lasts between five days and two weeks.
Female cats that go into heat are driven by their hormones to mate with as many males as they can. This could mean they’re gone from the house during their entire heat cycle. And, more often than not, they’ll come back pregnant.
Sometimes, a cat that disappears has simply found herself in an unfortunate situation. She may have been exploring the neighbor’s garage as they packed to leave for the weekend and found herself trapped inside until they came back.
Unfortunately, free-roaming cats are often mistaken for being feral and may be humanely trapped by well-meaning neighbors who take them to the shelter. Or ill-wishing neighbors may decide to move the cat to another area if they’re annoyed by her presence.
Because cats have a tendency to disappear, cat owners should do what they can to keep their cats indoors. If you want your cat to still enjoy the outdoors, you can train her to walk on a leash or build her a “catio.”
Since some cats will sneak out even if they’re supposed to stay indoors, all cats should be microchipped so they can quickly be identified and returned to you.
Why Do Cats Dislike Water?
We're talking about swimming in the water or getting a bath, of course. Cats drink water just like any other animal does.
Since you can’t ask your cat why he doesn’t like being in the water, it’s impossible to know for sure. Even the experts aren’t completely sure why felines and water don’t mix, but they do have a few theories.
The first is that because cats are native to desert climates, they simply weren’t exposed to water and so they never got used to it as a species. However, it stands to reason that they would have warmed up to it at least a little over the last few centuries of domestication.
Another theory that holds more weight is that cats don’t like the way their coat feels when they’re wet. Cats use their stealth and speed to both catch prey and get away from predators. When they’re weighed down by a heavy, uncomfortable, soggy fur coat, their ability to move quickly and quietly is restricted.
However, while cats generally don’t like getting wet, most of them will still enjoy playing with water. You’d be surprised at how long a cat can keep herself entertained with a dripping faucet.
Why Do Cats Eat Grass?
Cats eat grass because it makes them throw up. It may sound strange that a cat would want to throw up, but sometimes he has a good reason. If he has an upset stomach caused by parasites, a buildup of fur, or something else, he can get relief by throwing up.
So, he eats a large amount of grass. His stomach doesn’t have the right enzymes to break plants down, so his body reacts by expulsing it. Your cat gets immediate relief from whatever was bothering him. He may even be helping you avoid an expensive vet visit, so thank him next time he eats grass.
Read more: How to grow cat grass
Why Do Cats Eat Flies?
It’s no secret that cats are hunters. They instinctively chase and catch everything small that moves. And, often, they eat it afterward. So, when your cat successfully catches a fly, her next course of action is to eat it.
There’s no reason to be concerned if your cat eats flies. Although they can harbor harmful bacteria, a cat’s body is better equipped to deal with that than ours. Besides that, the number of bacteria on a fly is generally small.
Why Do Some Cats Eat Litter?
When it comes to cats and kitty litter, sometimes curiosity really could kill the cat. It’s one of three reasons your cat may be eating her litter, and although the reason is innocuous, the action is not if you have clumping litter. This is usually an issue with young inexperienced kittens - and the reason why many shelters prefer non-clumping litter.
Clumping litter is designed to get hard and form clumps when it comes into contact with moisture. When a cat eats it, this clumping action occurs in her digestive tract and puts her into a life-threatening situation. A kitten eating clumping litter for any reason requires an emergency vet visit.
The other reasons a cat may eat litter are other serious medical conditions. If your cat is anemic or vitamin-deficient, she may try eating cat litter as a way to help herself feel better. Be sure to bring up any other symptoms your cat may have when taking them to the vet for eating litter. This will help determine what the underlying cause may be.
Why Do Cats' Eyes Glow in the Dark?
Cats are far from the only animals whose eyes glow in the dark, yet they may be the most well-known for this phenomenon. This glowing can be a bit unnerving in the middle of the night, but it’s nothing to be worried about.
Animals that can see in low light have a special reflective layer in their eye called the tapetum lucidum. It’s more reflective than the retina, so it captures more light, which allows them to see better in the dark. When a cat’s pupil is dilated in the dark, we have a wider window through which we can see that reflected light.
Why Do Cats Follow Their Owners?
Your cat may follow you for one of several reasons. First and foremost, it’s because he loves you and wants to spend time with you. Even though cats are often considered cold and emotionally distant, the truth is most of them love being with their owners. So, when you go to another room, so does he.
Another reason your cat may follow you is that he needs something. Perhaps you forgot to feed him or he forgot he already ate. The litter box may also need to be cleaned, and so your cat is following you to get your attention so you can take care of it.
Whatever the reason, take it as a compliment when your cat follows you around. It means he loves you and sees you as the one that provides for him.
Why Do Cats Follow You into the Bathroom?
Often, it’s for the same reason that your cat follows you anywhere. She loves you and wants to be with you. However, when you go into the bathroom, you close the door behind you. That can both pique her curiosity and make her nervous.
Your cat may wonder what you’re doing in there and want to see you. Because cats are naturally always on the lookout for predators or prey, they like to have a full view of every part of the house at all times. She may also be worried that something is happening to you, or that the closed door holds hidden danger.
Another reason to consider is that you’ve likely petted your cat while seated. She then begins to associate the bathroom with getting petted. So, when you go in, she follows you, hoping to get some attention and pats while you’re there.
Why Do Cats Flick Their Tails?
There are a few types of tail flicks that a cat may do. To decipher what it means when your cat is flicking his tail, you have to look at his eyes, ears, and overall disposition as well. Let’s look at the three most common types of tail flicks and what they mean.
The slow, full-tail flick usually means your cat is relaxed or happy about something. He may do this “wag” when you get home for the day or in anticipation of being fed. His eyes will appear normal, his ears will be forward, and he’ll be obviously relaxed or happy.
A rapid flick of the tip of the tail is a sign of annoyance or excitement. If he does this when you’re petting him, take it as a sign to back off. You’ll also notice his ears will be partially back and his pupils will be dilated.
Also known as a flash, a fast flicking of the entire tail almost always comes before an attack. It means your cat is fed up with whatever is happening and he’s about to do something about it. His ears will be completely back at this point, his eyes fully dilated, and his body language will be aggressive. If you don’t immediately back off, you will probably get bitten, scratched, or both.
Why Do Cats Go Crazy (Freak Out)?
Every once in a while, it seems like your cat has completely lost his mind. He attacks everything in sight and is chasing things that you can’t see. He runs away from you with all his hair standing on end when you move slightly. It’s hilarious, but is it a cause for concern?
Fortunately, there’s no reason to be worried about your cat’s freak-outs as long as it’s something he normally does. If your cat has never acted this way before or starts acting this way more often than normal, then you may want to mention it to your vet.
Most of the time, cats go crazy simply because of the amount of energy they have stored up from their many hours of sleep. They’re designed to have short bursts of energy for hunting, and since your pet cat doesn’t need that energy for catching mice, he uses it to catch everything else he sees.
Does your cat go crazy at night time, waking you up? Read this: How To Stop My Cat From Waking Me Up At Night (step-by-step Plan)
Why Do Cats Growl?
Cats growl as a way to express how they’re feeling and to get a person or animal to back away from them. When she’s feeling threatened or severely annoyed, a cat will growl as a warning. It lets the person or other animal know they’re mad.
If you hear your cat growl and can see she’s upset, do whatever you can to help her relax. This may mean backing off if you’re annoying her, or removing her from a stressful situation involving another animal. Be aware that touching a growling cat could cause them to attack.
Why Do Cats Hiss?
Hissing is another way cats let people and other animals know they’ve had enough. It’s a way for them to say to back off or else. Typically, a cat will hiss at things when she feels afraid, threatened, or extremely annoyed. Hissing is usually followed by aggression if the situation isn’t quickly resolved.
Some experts believe that a cat makes the sound to mimic the hissing of a snake. This sound is one that most animals are instinctively afraid of, which helps the cat keep threats at a distance. This gives the cat a chance to escape from an undesirable situation.
Why Do Cats Ignore Humans?
If you’ve ever repeatedly called your cat only to have them not come, or spoken to them and gotten no reaction, you may be surprised to learn the truth. Cats don’t ignore humans. They do react, but their reactions are so subtle most people aren’t aware of them.
A study done in Japan found that cats react to the sounds of human voices even if they don’t move. If you looked closely enough, you might notice that your cat’s pupils dilate and he turns his ears or head towards you when you talk.
It was also discovered that cats have a much stronger emotional reaction to hearing their owner’s voice compared to the voice of a stranger. This further proves that cats are emotionally attached to their owners even if they don’t appear to be.
The main reason your cat appears to be ignoring you goes back to their wild instincts. A cat showing signs of weakness in the wild is an easy target for predators. So, cats don’t display many emotions, in general, to avoid becoming prey.
Why Do Cats Jump So High?
If you could jump as high as your cat can - compared to their height - you could easily leap onto the roof of a house without breaking a sweat. This impressive leaping power comes from several aspects of the way a cat is built.
First and foremost, they have powerful back legs. Built like springs, cats use them to launch themselves up in the air toward whatever they want to land on. The long muscles contained in these legs have long muscle fibers that expand quickly for an added boost of power.
Cats are also lightweight and aerodynamic. With less air resistance, they can reach greater heights than animals that aren’t built like race cars. Finally, a cat’s flexibility allows him to use his entire body to propel himself up onto your kitchen counter while you’re opening a can of tuna.
Why Do Cats Knead?
Kneading, making biscuits, kitty acupuncture, playing the piano, or happy paws. Whatever you call it, kneading is something that cats do from the day they’re born. Initially, they do it against their mother while nursing to stimulate the flow of milk.
As they get older, cats knead to express they’re feeling happy and relaxed. Although they most often do it against a surface, they can also be seen kneading the air if they do it while lying on their side or back. Cats are nearly always purring while kneading since the two go hand in hand.
Read more: Why Do Cats Knead
Why Do Cats Knock Stuff Over?
This is another cat behavior that cannot be easily explained, but there are a few theories that could reveal why cats love destroying your favorite knickknacks by knocking them onto the floor.
The first one deals with a cat’s hunting instinct. As she plays with her kill, she paws at it. So, when your cat sees small things on a shelf, she exhibits this behavior. In this case, knocking things off is a by-product of her wanting to play.
Another theory revolves around your cat’s relationship with you. She wants to get your attention and has found that in the past, knocking things over has accomplished that. Then when she gets bored or simply wants to interact with you, she finds something to push off the edge of the table.
The final theory we’ll mention here is simple boredom. Cats love watching moving things because of their hunting instinct, but most things don’t move on their own. So, your cat knocks things from high surfaces to watch them move as they fall.
The best way to avoid a cat knocking stuff over is to give her plenty of attention and to provide lots of toys for her. You should also keep valuables out of her reach since you never know when she’s going to decide to shove them with her paws.
Why Do Cats Kill Mice?
Even though you keep your cat’s food bowl filled to the brim with the best cat food money can buy, he still goes out and kills mice. Why is that? The answer is simple. Cats have a strong hunting instinct so that even if they’re not hungry, they still feel the urge to hunt and kill things.
In fact, your cat may be killing far more animals than you realize. It’s estimated that free-ranging cats and feral cats make a huge impact on native wildlife populations because of their hunting instincts. To avoid this, try to keep your cat indoors or restrict his outdoor activities.
Why Do Cats Keep Meowing?
Most of the time, if your cat keeps meowing, it’s because she needs something. She may be hungry or thirsty, have a dirty litter box, or just want attention. Make sure she has food, fresh water, and a clean litter box. If she keeps meowing, play with her or give her lots of pats.
Sometimes, it can be hard to know exactly what it is that a cat wants. However, cats rarely meow incessantly for no reason, so you should keep trying to figure out what yours wants if she doesn’t quiet down fairly quickly.
If you really can’t figure out what your cat needs, it may be time for a trip to the vet. There could be something physically wrong with her that you can’t help her with. She may be uncomfortable or in pain and need medical intervention.
Why Do Cats Like Boxes?
Like any prey animal, cats need to hide in safe places. In the wild, that meant caves, under bushes, or in hollow tree trunks. Today, that instinct to hide is still going strong, but since your home probably doesn’t feature any rocky caves, a cardboard box will have to do.
Cats feel safest when in an enclosed space that has a large opening through which they can quickly escape if they feel threatened. They can also keep an eye out for prey or simply observe the world from the security of a box.
They also may simply be curious. Cats love exploring new areas, and a new box is just that. They see it as an opportunity to expand their territory, so they hop in and make themselves comfortable before someone else can claim the new space.
Read more: 52 Reasons Why Cats Must Get Inside Boxes
Why Do Cats Like Catnip?
You may not know this, but not all cats actually react to catnip. In fact, only about half of cats are sensitive to the chemicals that cause them to go crazy. It also only affects cats that are at least three months old.
Cats are reacting to a chemical known as nepetalactone. It’s a mood-altering chemical in cats that makes them feel amazing. Cats that are affected may roll around, yowl, or mellow out. Typically this “high” only lasts for about 10 minutes.
Read more: How Does Catnip Affect Cats?
Why Do Cats Lick People?
Contrary to what some will say, a cat does not lick a person to see how they taste. If a cat licks you, it means she thinks of you as one of her family members. Cats only groom other creatures when they feel close to them and completely safe with them.
Most of the time, licking is done as a way to bond with another cat or human. Sometimes, your cat may also lick you because she wants you to smell like she does. This is another way you can know she thinks of you as part of her family.
Why Do Cats Lick Each Other?
Cats lick other cats for the same reason they lick people. They consider them part of the family and want to bond with them. Most of the time, two adult cats will only lick each other when they’re very close and have been raised together.
This habit of grooming other cats starts with mother cats and their kittens. A mother cat will lick her kittens to keep them clean. As they get older, they associate grooming with something that’s done between close family members.
Why Do Cats Meow?
In the wild, cats do most of their meowing as kittens. Once they reach adulthood, they rarely vocalize to communicate with other cats. Instead, they rely mostly on body language. However, domestic cats meow frequently and have a wider range of vocalizations than their feral counterparts.
It’s theorized that cats who live with humans meow because they recognize from an early age that humans mostly use vocalizations to communicate. So, they do the same so they can better express their needs to us. It may be food, water, a clean litter box, or the attention they want.
Why Do Cats Massage People?
Massaging is one of many terms for what cats do with their feet when they’re relaxed. This behavior starts as tiny kittens when they massage their mother during nursing to stimulate milk flow. As they get older, they do it when relaxed, content, or excited to see someone they love.
If your cat is massaging you with his paws, it means he loves you and is comfortable with you. He considers you a close relative and is perfectly content with you. If you’re not already petting him, it could mean he would like some snuggles.
Why Do Cats Make Strange Noises?
Cats can make over 100 different noises. Compared to dogs that can only make around 10, that’s a huge range of vocalizations cats are capable of. Cats can meow, chirp, chatter, growl, yowl, trill, hiss, cry, purr, and many more.
Each sound has its own meaning:
- Sounds like meows, mews, and cries usually mean your cat wants something.
- Yowls and loud cries are signs of distress, pain, or fear.
- Trills, purrs, and chirps indicate your cat is happy, relaxed, or enjoying herself.
- Growls and hisses let you know your cat is upset and about to get aggressive.
As you get to know your cat more, you’ll start to figure out what her many sounds mean. In time, the noises won’t seem as strange since you’ll get used to hearing them.
Why Do Cats Need So Much Sleep?
The average housecat sleeps between 12 and 16 hours a day, so it’s no surprise you catch your feline friend sleeping so often. Although you may be inclined to call him lazy, there’s a good reason cats sleep so many hours of the day.
Cats are predatory animals. It takes a lot of energy to stalk and catch prey, so they need to sleep as much as they can to build up the energy they need to eat. They also do most of their hunting at night, which is why you see them sleeping more during the day.
However, domestic cats will often change their schedule to fit yours. For example, your cat may sleep while you’re at work and be awake to spend time with you in the evening. Then he sleeps through the night so he can curl up in bed with you, and be up early to remind you to feed him.
Kittens and older cats will do more sleeping than adult cats. However, kittens are far more active during their waking hours which makes it feel like they sleep less. If you notice your cat is sleeping more or less than normal, keep a close eye on him and mention it to your vet as it could be a sign of an underlying illness.
Read more: Cat Sleep - More Than Just A Catnap
Why Do Cats Open Their Mouth?
You’ve probably seen it in real life if not in a video. A cat sniffing something, then opens their mouth in a look of shock and horror at what they’ve just smelled. The truth is a little different from appearances. Cats don’t open their mouths because they’re surprised at an odor.
A cat will open her mouth when smelling something because she wants to get a better idea of what it is. While cats have numerous scent receptors in their nose, they also have them in the back of their mouth in a special part called the Jacobson organ. By opening her mouth, she can activate these as well and distinguish what she’s smelling. That funny face your cat makes as she opens her mouth to smell is called a Flehmen reaction.
Read more: Why Does My Cat's Mouth Hang Open?
Why Do Cats Paw at Things?
There are a few reasons a cat may paw at something, depending on the circumstances. In most cases, it’s a mixture of curiosity and fear. In the wild, this cautious move could keep a cat safe when coming into contact with a dangerous creature.
If a cat encounters something new, he’s nervous about what it might do to him. Rather than directly approaching it with his nose to smell it, he tentatively sticks out a paw. He gets closer and closer to it, knowing he can probably pull his paw back quickly if needed.
Sometimes, a cat has already interacted with an object and knows it to be scary in some way, even if it simply moved unexpectedly or he can’t figure out what it is. In this case, he’s going to be overly cautious every time he meets it.
Why Do Cats Play with Their Prey?
Although it’s horrifying to watch a cat repeatedly catch and release a seemingly helpless animal before they finally kill it, there’s actually a good reason for cats to play with their prey. A recent study looking at how cats interacted with their prey revealed some interesting information.
When an animal is being attacked, they instinctively fight back. This goes for rats, mice, birds, and anything else a cat may be trying to catch. These small animals can do a surprising amount of damage to a cat if she goes in for a kill bite too early.
So, instead of risking serious injury, a cat takes her time with her prey. She grabs it from behind where it can’t use claws, teeth, or a beak against her. Then she releases it and catches it again, pouncing on it to cause slight injuries and to slow it down further. After the animal is tired out, she knows she can safely dispatch it.
By playing with their prey before taking it out, cats are able to protect themselves from injury. The study that uncovered this found that hungry cats spent even more time playing with their prey because they were even more focused on successfully killing it.
Why Do Cats Pee on Beds?
It’s never fun when you find that your cat has peed on your bed. There are several behavioral and physical reasons that a cat might do this.
One reason is a bladder infection or bladder stones. These conditions cause pain when urinating. Your cat then associates the pain with the litter box itself and seeks out other, more comfortable places to do his business.
For that reason, the first thing you should do when your cat is peeing outside of the litter box is to have them checked for health problems. In the absence of a physical problem, the issue is likely behavioral.
Unfortunately, behavioral reasons can be harder to determine. A cat may pee on your bed when his litter box is too dirty as a way to get your attention. He may also pee on the bed to protest changes in the house such as a new family member or even rearranged furniture.
Think hard about what might have changed in your home that’s causing your cat to be upset. If you can’t figure it out, talk to your veterinarian or a cat behavior expert to determine what steps you can take to correct the problem. It may be as simple as needing to get your cat a tree he can call his own.
Why Do Cats Play Fight?
Wild and feral cats face many dangers. One of those is from other cats. All cats battle over territory; a female cat will battle to protect her kittens, and a male cat will battle for the right to mate with a desirable female.
Cats start play fighting as kittens. These adorable wrestling matches are what teach them how to act in a real fight. As cats get older, many of them continue to play fight simply as a way to have fun and interact with the other cats in their household.
You can distinguish between a play fight and a real fight by looking at the posture of both cats and listening to the sounds they’re making. Play fights are almost always silent, and cats can be easily distracted by other sights and sounds.
Real fights involve growls and screams and are extremely difficult to break up. You should never try to break up a real catfight with your bare hands as you’re likely to get bitten and/or scratched in the process. Use something like a broom or cup of water to break up fighting cats.
Why Do Cats Roll in the Dirt?
Your cat may be rolling in the dirt simply because she feels happy, but there’s actually a huge health benefit from this odd cat behavior. Believe it or not, it has to do with your cat’s digestive system.
Like all animals, cats have good bacteria in their digestive tract that aid in digestion. If your cat doesn’t have enough of these beneficial bacteria, she can develop digestive issues or simply not feel her best. But, a quick roll in the dirt covers her with good bacteria which she then ingests while grooming.
Keep in mind that if you spray any type of chemicals on your lawn that you need to keep your cat from rolling in the dirt for at least two weeks afterward. Otherwise, she’ll end up eating some of those along with the dirt.
Why Do Cats Roll on Their Backs?
There are a few reasons a cat may roll onto their back. Most of the time, it means he’s relaxed and happy to expose his stomach to the world. It allows him to stretch his muscles and feel the warmth of the sun on parts that normally stay facing the floor.
Another reason cats roll on their backs is to mark their territory. By rolling around on his back, your cat leaves his scent behind. This lets other cats know that spot belongs to him. He will also feel safer when in that spot because it smells like him rather than other cats.
Less commonly, a cat may roll onto his back to defend himself. It may sound counter-intuitive, but from his back, all four clawed paws and his teeth are facing his enemy. Whatever the cat is defending himself against can no longer easily grab him when they’ve got to get through teeth and claws first.
Note that females in heat often roll on their backs. If that's the case with your kitty, get her spayed ASAP.
Why Do Cats Run Around and Meow at Night?
All cat owners have been there. It’s the middle of the night and suddenly you hear the sound of tiny paws thundering through the house. You get up to investigate and find your cat going wild. He’s pouncing on his toys, your shoes, and the dog. What gives?
Cats were designed to sleep most of the day and then have short bursts of energy while awake which they used for hunting in the wild. Today, house cats don’t have a way to use up all that energy. So, they end up expending it all by going crazy.
To help your cat use up that energy in productive ways, make sure he has plenty of toys and things to climb on. You should also play with him during the day to help him burn energy with you rather than in the middle of the night.
Why Do Cats Sleep So Much?
Put simply, cats sleep so many hours of the day because they need to. They’re crepuscular, which means they’re most active during sunrise and sunset. These are also the times their prey is most active, so that’s when they’re out and about to catch them.
However, to catch that prey, they need a lot of energy. That requires a lot of sleep. During the day, your cat will sleep to get ready for their evening hunt. At night, your cat will sleep to prepare for the morning hunt.
Although some domestic cats will alter their routine to spend time with you, most stick with this instilled habit of waking only at dusk and dawn.
Why Do Cats Scratch Furniture?
There are two reasons cats scratch furniture. One is to meet their physical needs, and the other is to mark their territory. Cats have scent glands in their paws which are activated by scratching. They feel more secure in an environment that smells like them, and so mark everything they can with their paws.
You’ll also catch your cat scratching the furniture when they need to sharpen their claws. A cat’s claw grows from the inside out. When her claw grows, she sheds the outer layer to reveal a sharper claw inside. To get that top layer off, your cat needs to scratch a rough surface.
The other physical need that’s met by scratching is the need to stretch. A cat’s claw is attached to the last bone in their foot. When she hooks that on a surface while scratching, she can stretch her entire limb and even down her back, relieving any pain she may have.
If you don’t provide appropriate places for your cat to scratch like sisal-covered posts, natural trees with bark, or corrugated cardboard scratching surfaces, she has no choice but to pick a different spot to meet this need. Often, this means your furniture.
So, to keep your cat from scratching your furniture, make sure she has plenty of options when it comes to scratching posts since every cat will have her personal preference. You can entice them to try the new scratching areas by adding catnip to them.
Why Do Cats Stare?
Cats appear to be staring no matter what they’re looking at because of how rarely they blink. Depending on what a cat is looking at, his stare will have different meanings. Looking out the window, for example, could mean he’s keeping an eye out for predators or watching prey.
When your cat stares at you with his eyes open wide, he may be trying to get your attention. He may need something like food or simply want your attention. If he blinks his eyes slowly while facing you, it’s a relaxed, friendly expression and he’s looking at you because he loves you.
Other times, a cat may stare at another cat with his eyes open wide. This is a dominant expression. If the other cat stares back, they’re having a quiet competition for dominance. The cat who looks away or blinks first is submitting to the other.
A cat staring at anything else may simply be curious about it or is watching it to see if it’s dangerous. Often, if you bring something new into the house, your cat may stare at it until he can decide if he needs to be worried about it or not.
Why Do Cats Sleep on You?
Cats will sleep pretty much anywhere, so it’s no surprise they also choose their humans as a good place to take a nap. It’s also a compliment to you because cats don’t sleep if they feel unsafe. So, if your cat decides to snooze on you, she’s letting you know she trusts you completely.
Cats also sleep on their owners as a way to bond with them. If you’ve ever seen a litter of kittens sleeping, you know they all pile on top of each other. It’s a way to be close to each other for warmth and comfort.
Read more: 25 Signs That Your Cat Loves You
Why Do Cats Spray?
Male cats spray more often than female cats, and intact cats spray far more than ones that have been fixed. This action is most often done as a territorial act, but female and male cats have different reasons for spraying.
Male cats spray to let other male cats know where they are to keep them out of their territory. The scent also lets females know where to find the dominant male in that area so she can seek him out when she’s in heat.
While this happens most often in intact males, if you don’t have your male cat fixed until later in life, he may have formed this habit and will continue to do so even after the procedure. However, getting him neutered will often solve this behavior problem.
Female cats, on the other hand, spray while in heat, so it’s seen almost exclusively in intact females. They spray to let the male cats in the area know where they are. This spraying around draws in male cats from all over the neighborhood who are hoping to get a piece of the action.
Why Do Cats Touch Noses?
Touching noses is one of many ways cats interact with each other. Getting this close to the face of another cat puts him into a vulnerable position, so it’s not something he does with just any cat. Instead, it’s something a cat will do with cats he knows well.
This action is used for greeting other cats. As they touch noses, cats smell each other. This gives them clues about how they’re doing and what they’ve been up to. If your cat touches your nose or sniffs your face, you can know they trust you.
Why Do Cats Yowl?
A yowl can be a terrifying sound to be heard, and most often, it means the cat is in distress of some kind. Cats may yowl when they’re scared, hurt, or need something. Sometimes, it may also mean they’re overly excited about something or when a female is in heat.
Because a cat yowl is an almost certain indication that your cat needs something, do what you need to quickly solve her problem. If you can’t figure out what’s wrong and she seems distressed, this could mean she’s in pain and needs to be taken to the veterinarian since yowling is a symptom of several illnesses.
Want to Learn Even More About Feline Behavior?
Hopefully, you’ve learned everything you need to understand why cats do many of the things they do. Although cats are certainly mysterious creatures, there is a lot we know about them and their behaviors. Throughout this article, we've offered links that can help you get even more information about a specific behavior.
If you're here because you're curious about feline behavior in general, don't forget to browse our Cat Behavior Article section for more fascinating guides!
Now that you have a better understanding of your cat, you’re equipped to be a better cat owner. Please share this article with others to help us promote a better understanding of cats!
If you have specific questions about something your cat is doing, be sure to ask your vet, or check out our cat behavior forum where you can ask the community members for a better understanding of it. Do not leave specific questions in comments here - the right place for a question is the forum. However, as always please do leave us comments with your own insights on feline behaviors mentioned in this article!