Cats. They're amazing and majestic and so, so, so confusing. Here are some of the weirdest, most puzzling things cats do and the explanations that make them kind of make sense.
Why Does My Cat Do That? 20 Puzzling Cat Behaviors Explained
1. Why does my cat walk between my legs?
There are a few reasons cats walk between your legs. When they're rubbing against your legs on the walk, they're doing something sweet and marking their territory. Your cat rubs against you to deposit her scent and stake her claim to you to the world. But, because these are cats we're talking about, there's another, more manipulative motivation too.
Dilara Goskel Parry, a cat behavior expert at Feline Minds, told The Dodo that when cats take the rubbing one step further and wind through your legs, they want something and are excited about it. A prime example is feeding time. The moving between and rubbing against the legs is called marking and happens when they are excited. Cats are not bred as herding animals like some dogs, but they have learned that this behavior, marking, is a way to get what they want.
2. Why does my cat love string so much?
Cats are obsessed with string, but ... why? It turns out, there are a lot of reasons for cats' string obsession. Of course, string is fun to play with and alleviates boredom and anxiety for cats, but there's even more to it than that. A string obsession is also an expression of your cat's wildest, killer instincts (believe it or not).
When a cat catches its dinner, it looks like the cat is "playing" with its food. The feline will pounce on the prey or push it around sheepishly with its paw. The cat is not actually playing or taunting its dying prey but making sure the prey is weak enough for final submission. This is the same "toying" we see cats do with string-like objects, whether they be yarn or long extension cords.
3. Why does my cat stretch all the time?
Cats are always stretching, and not because they're secret yogis. Mostly, they stretch for the same reasons we do. According to Andrew Cuff, a postdoctoral researcher of anatomy at the Royal Veterinary College in London, the primary reasons cats stretch is to increase blood flow, and because it feels good.
Stretching can also be a warning to prey and other predators (or, at least, it was, back when your cat was wild and not pampered and living rent-free in your house). When a cat stretches, the muscle fibers are completely extended. This prepares the animal to attack at any time. In the wild, cats will stretch to ward off predators and stake their claim over their prey. Because cats have the ability to remain immobile for such long periods of time, when they are ready to hunt or attack enemies, all they need is one good stretch to launch them into action!
4. Why does my cat meow?
We all know cats meow, but what's behind their trademark sound? First of all, cats know what they want, and they know that we puny humans can't understand their complex cat language. So they dumb things down into meows to get our attention. In fact, they meow specifically for us.
Although a meow might seem like it's a natural sound, some experts believe that it's a sound that developed over time to appeal to humans. They believe that the meow developed to what it is today because it resembles a baby crying. That's pretty crazy to think about. This means cats have evolved to manipulate us down to the noises they make.
5. Why does my cat go to other houses sometimes?
Cats are smart. When they go to a different house, it's not an accident, but it still feels weird for the humans who, you know, regularly feed and care for them. Sometimes, it's a sense of wanderlust that keeps cats traveling a lot. Sometimes, they're leaving home because they're anxious and need some time away. Other times, it's part of the daily patrol of their territory.
Former Siamese cat breeder, Gwyn Kemp-Philip explains on Quora that cats have an instinctual compulsion to explore. "Everywhere must be completely and thoroughly investigated," he explains. Many times, this is to eliminate the possibility of threats. Cats are thorough in their actions and constantly alert. They want to make sure all of their nearby environments are safe.
6. Why does my cat follow me to the bathroom?
Does your cat follow you to the bathroom? If so, you're definitely not alone. There are several theories as to why your cat might follow you for your more private moments. First, cats are naturally curious, so they're bound to follow you just about anywhere, but especially anywhere that seems private. Cats also learn really quickly that you're a captive audience when you're on the toilet and, well, they like having your full attention.
More than that, though, you cat might be trying to feel safe. Veterinarian Dr. Kathryn Primm writes that cats may feel vulnerable without you. Cats are predators, but they are also prey, and they are aware of that. Since you are a source of safety and comfort, they might feel less safe when you're behind closed doors, and prefer to accompany you to the bathroom, where they may continue to take advantage of the safety you provide.
7. Why does my cat hiss?
One of the scarier sounds cats make is the hiss. But why do they make this intimidating noise? Unlike meows, which can mean several different things, hissing always means the same thing: distress.
A cat will hiss when she feels there is an immediate threat and is trying to defend herself with an intimidating warning. The hissing sound is a result of combined fear, confusion, unhappiness, and surprise. Adrenaline is flowing and the hiss sound comes out of sheer instinct.
8. Why does my cat ignore me when I call him?
We all agree that cats are smart, but sometimes they act like they don't know what we're saying when we call their names. What's up with that? Cats operate heavily out of instinct, with a concentration on survival. Because of this, their actions are self-motivated. They eat because they're hungry, not because we say, "Here kitty, kitty, it's dinner time!" Studies and cat owners will tell you that kitties are capable of high levels of affection and love. This does not necessarily mean they will do what we want them to do. They are essentially the moody teenagers of the domesticated animal kingdom.
Cats ignore humans because they were never bred or trained to listen and obey like dogs. Because cat behavior is based so much on natural survival instincts, they will not communicate if there is no need.
Cat mothers in the wild will only use vocal communication with their kittens as a warning or alert to danger. If there is no imminent danger or need to communicate, well, a cat is literally not going to waste her breath. Therefore, if you are calling out to your cat but they don't need anything from you in that moment, they are not likely to respond.
9. Why does my cat eat grass?
We buy our pets the best of the best of everything, including food. So why do cats eat grass? One reason cats eat grass is because it acts as a digestive aid. In the wild, cats often eat grass after consuming their prey. Grass stimulates a cat's urge to vomit, which rids their system of the indigestible parts of the prey. Our pet cats don't need to purge animal bones from their systems, but they do need to rid themselves of things like hairballs and other detritus that may be clogging up the works.
Another reason cats eat grass is for vitamins and minerals. Cat grass contains small amounts of vitamin A, vitamin D, and niacin, all of which are beneficial to a cat's body. (The same is not necessarily true of "outdoor" grass, of course, but cats don't know that.) If you have an indoor cat, cat grass is a great way to get them some extra vitamins and minerals, as well as keep them entertained — many cats love batting it around in addition to eating it.
10. Why does my cat like to sleep on top of me?
Cats love to sleep, and they love to sleep on top of their humans. Part of it has to do with comfort and security. Your cat feels safe with you and loves to be surrounded by your smell.
Cats are also obsessed with being warm, and the human body is a great source of heat. Cats prefer resting in warm places. According to Dr. Fosters and Smith, the temperature receptors of cats, especially their faces, are especially sensitive, so cats love seeking out heat. Cats seek out external heat sources so their bodies don't have to work as hard to maintain a base temperature. This may be why you might wake up with your kitty on your head, because your head is the warmest place!
11. Why does my cat bury his poop?
Cats are very particular when it comes to their bathroom habits. One of their weirdest? Burying their poop. One thing it indicates is that domestic cats are submissive, at least relative to their wild ancestors. In the wild, dominant cats do not bury their poop. Leaving their droppings out in the open is a way of signaling that they wish to claim the territory. More submissive cats, on the other hand, do bury their poop as a way of ensuring that the dominant cats in the area don't feel threatened.
Cats also bury their poop to cover their tracks. Wild cats often bury their droppings to avoid drawing the attention of predators to themselves and their kittens. The instinct to cover their tracks remains strong in domestic cats. All cat poop smells pretty much the same to humans, but not to cats. They can distinguish between their droppings between those of other cats thanks to pheromones. Because their poop contains unique scents that identify one another, it's important to cats to bury their droppings so that potential predators cannot track them.
12. Why does my cat love to tear paper?
Cats are cute, but they can also be destructive, as anyone who has made the mistake of leaving a pile of important paperwork near a kitty can verify. Why do cats love to tear paper? They don't even have a "good" reason, honestly. Most cats tear paper because they're bored, and apparently destroying paper is sure way to get out of the feline doldrums.
Tearing paper might also satisfy your cat's natural urges to hunt; cats tear up and rip off parts of their prey before eating them (yeah, gross). Cats that are experiencing anxiety are known to tear paper too. Cats also like to leave their smell on things to mark their territory and chewing on paper might be part of this behavior. If your cat is trying to actually eat or ingest paper, though, you should take them to the vet to rule out any nutritional deficiencies or dental problems causing the behavior.
13. Why does my cat flick his tail?
Cats have a lot of telling mannerisms. One of the hardest to decode can be the tail flick. That's because the tail flick can mean many different things. Here's a quick breakdown for your reference. If your cat is feeling playful, her tail will flick in a smooth motion. You've probably seen her do this when playing with a favorite toy. It could also signal idleness and contentment.
If your cat has relaxed eyes, ears in a neutral position, and a generally chill vibe while she's flicking her tail intermittently, she's probably feeling good just hanging out.
On the other hand, tail flicks can be a sign of negative emotions too. If your cat is flicking her tail in bursts, it may be a sign that she's becoming annoyed. If you see other signs of agitation, like dilated pupils or a crouched body, proceed with caution. Finally, if your cat is holding her tail low to the ground, extended in a rigid way while she flicks it back and forth rapidly, this may be a sign that she's feeling aggressive. You might see this behavior at the vet or other places that stress your cat out. If your cat's tail is puffed up, she's extra stressed and needs some space to calm down.
14. Why does my cat sleep all the time?
Cats love to sleep. That's why they do it SO. MUCH. (14-16 hours a day on average, which is just insane.) The first reason cats love to nap so much is because they can. Since Mother Nature made cats hunters with few natural predators of their own, they can afford to take long naps in relative safety.
Our domestic house cats live even cushier lives than their African lion cousins — the reigning kings of the jungle — who spend most of their days safely sleeping in the open savannah when not hunting their next meal. Since we're on the subject of hunting, cats big and small expend a great deal of energy in a very short amount of time when stalking, running, and pouncing on prey (even if that prey is just a catnip mouse toy!). These concentrated bursts of energy make rest and recuperation a necessity.
Also, it's important to keep in mind that cats are very light sleepers (but, of course, you already know that if you're a cat owner). Even dozing, cats have the ability to remain aware of their surroundings (mainly through sound and scent) in the event they have to escape from danger or pounce on prey at a moment's notice.
15. Why does my cat groom herself so much?
Cats love to groom themselves. When they're not sleeping (which is most of the time), they're often grooming themselves. They aren't just neat freaks though. Some cats are comforted by regular grooming — you know, the way you always feel fresh after a shower.
But, like so many things animals do, it's partly a survival mechanism. Cats groom themselves regularly to remove odors that predators might pick up on. They also groom as a way to cool down. Unlike humans, felines have a minimal ability to sweat; the majority of sweat glands are located around the paw pads. The rest of their body helps stay cool thanks to the process of saliva evaporation on their fur. This helps maintain body temperature and accounts for approximately a third of a cat's cooling process.
16. Why does my cat sleep in the sink?
Of all the weird places cats like to sleep, the weirdest might be the sink. Cats seem to love to nap on the smooth porcelain, but why? One reason might be that your cat wants to be a part of your daily rituals. Cats learn our routines and if yours involves going to the bathroom in the morning, your cat may just be trying to position himself close to you.
It's also a temperature thing. Cats regulate their body temperature by sleeping next to cool or warm surfaces. Not only is your porcelain or ceramic bound to cool down a cat's core temperature, sinks are also a great round shape that mold well to your kitty's curled positions.
17. Why does my cat sleep on my face?
Okay, so the actual weirdest place your cat likes to sleep might be on your face. On the one hand, your face is a warm, cozy place where your cat feels safe. It's also a great chance for your cat to mark you with his scent and let all other cats in the world know that you are spoken for.
But pay attention to these snuggles because they could be a sign that you're not meeting your cat's needs. If snuggling on or around your neck and face isn't your cat's routine nighttime behavior, you might be neglecting some of his routine care. Did you fail to let him out during the day? Did you leave his water bowl nearly empty or forget to leave out some midnight munchies? Is the littler box in need of cleaning? Your cat might be standing on your face because it's the only way to get your attention. He can't text you a low food alert, after all. Sometimes taking up residence on your face is the only way a cat can get your attention, and sometimes the bed is the only place the cat can catch up with you if you're particularly busy.
18. Why does my cat knead?
Cats do a lot of quirky things, but one of the strangest is their tendency to knead. The most commonly-stated reason for kneading is that it's a kitten behavior that is carried into adulthood. Kittens knead on their mothers during suckling — an action thought to facilitate milk flow. Indeed, some adult cats also suckle the object that they're kneading (blanket, pillow, etc), oftentimes purring loudly and working themselves into a seemingly blissful, zen-like state.
Cats also knead to leave their scent behind and to make a place comfortable to sleep. If you have a female cat, you might also notice that she kneads a lot before going into heat — it's a way to signal to male cats that she's ready for their advances.
19. Why does my cat roll around after mating?
Cats mate very quickly (penetration lasts three to 20 seconds). Immediately after mating, the female cat rolls around and will lick at her genital area and at her back where the male cat touched her. This may be due to the hormones responding to ovulation, or to clean the scent of the tom from her coat before she accepts another mating, which could be just 30 minutes later.
20. Why does my cat lick me?
Cats don't always show a ton of affection, so it's an extra special gesture when they do. Some cats love to give their humans kisses. Generally speaking, it's a good thing if your cat is licking you. According to cat behavioral specialist Rita Reimer, kitties typically lick themselves for general grooming and survival purposes. When they lick others in their vicinity, cats are signaling that they accept you and are attempting to promote a bond.
Cats may lick with the hopes of getting groomed or pet in return. Reimers says that sometimes they just do it for the sake of affection, and some cats can even be trained to give kisses willingly when asked.