You love your cat very much but there are probably a few behaviors that leave you scratching your head. These are the behaviors that don’t seem to make any sense. Even though you may not be able to figure out why your cat displays some odd behaviors doesn’t mean they aren’t functional or serve a very logical purpose. Here are seven things that make sense to your cat… but not necessarily to you:
1. The Jekyll and Hyde
The set-up for this behavior: your cat jumps into your lap and curls up. He may even rub up against you as if he’s asking to be stroked. You start petting him, he purrs with delight and then after a few minutes he hauls off and swats you. What gives? Has your cat turned into a Jekyll and Hyde? Although this sudden change in attitude seems to come out of nowhere, it’s a relatively common behavior in some cats who reach their tolerance threshold when it comes to being petted. The behavior, known as petting-induced aggression, happens when a cat gets too stimulated from the constant petting or his body language signals have gone unnoticed. He feels the only way to get you to stop is for him to scratch or bite. To avoid this behavior in the future, pay attention to signals your cat is giving off that indicate he may be reaching his limit. Typical signs include skin twitching, tail lashing, cessation of purring, shifting body position, ears pointing backward, meowing.
2. The Nibble and Puke
This happens to some cats who are allowed outdoors. Many cats enjoy eating grass and will sit in the grass, doing their best sheep impersonation. After a few minutes of munching the greenery, you hear that familiar sound of a cat about to vomit. Many cat parents even grow some kitty greens for their indoor cats’ munching pleasure and in most cases, it results in having to do a little post-puke clean up afterward. So just why do cats like to eat something that almost always causes them to puke? There are several theories among experts but no one really knows for sure. One theory is that a cat uses the grass as a way to address an upset stomach. Some cats may also munch on grass to help them vomit up hairballs that aren’t passing through the stomach.
3. The Paw Dip
Why does your cat dip his paw into the water bowl and then lick the water off instead of just drinking the normal way? It doesn’t seem to make sense to humans but it’s a very practical behavior from a cat’s point of view. In some cases, the cat chooses the paw method if the water bowl is too deep or too narrow. Cats have long whiskers and they don’t like getting them squished. Dipping the paw makes it more comfortable. A cat in a multiple cat household may resort to paw dipping as a matter of safety if there’s tension in the home. He may not feel comfortable enough to lower his head into the bowl which will obstruct his view. If he needs to keep an eye on any opponents, then dipping his paw is a better method. Finally, if you don’t keep the water level consistent, your cat may develop the habit of paw dipping if he has trouble determining where the water line is.
4. The Rear View
For many cat parents, this seems to be a very insulting behavior. The cat jumps up on your lap to sit but then faces away from you. He may even curl up next to you with his backside facing you. It may seem wherever kitty decides to sit, whether it’s on the coffee table in front of you or on your desk as you check your email, you always get the backside view. There’s a simple reason for this. He’s not being insulting, he’s actually displaying immense trust. Since a cat is an animal that is both predator and prey, he wants to position himself in the safest place. If he turns his back on you as he settles down, he’s showing he trusts you and maybe even that he’s going to watch the environment for both of you. Additionally, since a cat is a predator, it makes sense to keep a keen eye on his surroundings in case a wayward mouse happens to scurry across the floor.
5. The Crazy Cat Dance
Your cat suddenly, and without any obvious reason, decides to bolt through the house as if chasing some imaginary mouse. He dances around, he pounces, he may even take a flying leap onto his cat tree. You look all around but can’t find evidence of any mouse, spider or even a dust bunny. What gets into some cats where they get the “cat crazies” and almost slam into the walls? Chances are, your cat is either shadow or light-chasing or he has simply had such a build-up of energy and needs to get it out. Cats are hunters and they’re built for movement. If your cat has been sleeping too much and hasn’t been offered adequate playtime to work off some of that energy, he may just take it upon himself to chase some dancing light. Keep in mind as well that cats have finely-tuned senses so your kitty may hear, smell or see something that goes totally undetected by you.
6. The Paper Weight
No matter how many toys you leave out for your cat or how interesting the environment may be, he will most likely choose to sit on the one piece of paper you’re trying to read. If there’s a piece of paper on the floor, your cat may opt to plant himself right on top of it instead of all the other more comfortable spots in the room. There’s a cozy cat bed sitting nearby but your cat ignores that in favor of the thin white sheet of paper. It doesn’t make sense, right? It does to your cat. When it comes to sitting on papers or magazines you’re reading, your smart cat knows exactly where your focus is and if he wants attention, the obvious place to be is right where your eyes are directed – the paper. As for a piece of paper on the floor or desk no one is paying attention to, it may have to do with the cat’s natural desire to be on something elevated. If he wants to be on floor level or on a desk but also wants to be just a bit elevated, he may feel the paper, because it’s different from the rest of the surface, gives him a little lift.
7. The Cover Up
You put a dish of food down for your cat and he takes a few nibbles and then paws at the floor in front of the dish in the same way he does when covering his waste in the litter box. Is your cat saying the food stinks? Is this the feline equivalent to a restaurant patron sending food back to the kitchen? Is your cat comparing his meal to a pile of cat poo? Actually, it’s a normal behavior and is based on a cat’s survival instinct as both a predator and prey animal. If your cat doesn’t finish his meal, his behavior of pawing at the floor is an attempt to cover the food so as not to attract any predators. It also prevents potential prey from being alerted to the fact that a predator is in the vicinity. Even indoor cats who never go outside to hunt retain those survival instincts.
Need More Information?
For more specifics on cat behavior, refer to any of Pam’s books.
Due to Pam’s scheduling demands, we’re sorry but she is unable to respond to questions or remarks posted in the comment section. If you have a question about cat behavior, you can find many answers in the articles Pam writes for the website as well as in her best-selling books.