Cats have a lot of personalities. They’re independent, mysterious, aloof, divas, and amateur acrobats. And let’s be honest—some of them are downright strange. Cat parents love how quirky they can be sometimes. But it can be hard to tell a normal cat quirk from something troublesome.
Cats do their best to communicate with us through vocalizations and body language. They use certain body parts—ears, teeth, tails, and more—to convey certain emotions. We’re here to help you decode your kitty’s peculiarities so you’ll know which behaviors are normal, instinctual cat behavior and which ones need a closer eye.
How to Speak Cat: Common Behaviors
Cats are fun. You never know what they’re going to do—that’s why having one is such a thrill. You probably make daily observations about your cat’s behavior and wonder what’s going on, especially if you’re a new cat owner. Here’s a breakdown of common cat behaviors and why they do them:
Scratching: Cats scratch to sharpen their dull claws. In the wild, they scratch trees, but domestic cats tend to opt for scratching furniture, carpets, curtains, and other household items. That’s why you should have a scratching post for your kitty. They come in a variety of materials like cardboard, carpet, rope, and wood and are available in vertical or horizontal. Since scratching posts are inexpensive, why not have a few different ones around the house? Experiment with different types to see which one your kitty likes best.
House Soiling: Cats are known for their constant grooming. They like everything to be clean, including their litter boxes. If your cat is leaving messes around your home, take a look at their litter box. If it’s dirty, they won’t use it. If you have a multi-cat household, each cat should have their own box—and you should have one extra box as a backup. Scoop out the mess and clean the box using warm water at least once a day. The litter should be replaced once a week. Store the litter box in a quiet, open location in your home and fill it with a fine-grain, unscented clumping litter. Not sure you can keep up with the cleaning schedule? Consider investing in an automatic litter box and other pet tech toys make pet care a little easier.
Nighttime Activity: Have you noticed that your cat tends to prowl around at night? They are nocturnal after all. Wild cats become more active after the sun sets. Even though your cat goes to sleep when you do, they probably get up a few times to walk around, eat, and even play. To control this behavior, try to tire them out by playing throughout the evening. You could also try feeding them right before bedtime since cats tend to feel sleepy when they have a full belly.
Biting: It might seem odd that a cat would bite you while you’re petting them, but it happens. Cats can get irritated by too much stimulation. If you get bitten, stop petting the cat and slowly move your hand away. If your kitty is in your lap, move your arms away so they can run off.
Be aware of these warning signs that your cat is about to strike:
- Flattening ears or rotating them back and forth
- Twitching or flipping the tail
- Quickly turning their head toward someone’s hand
- Dilating pupils
If you see any of these signals, stop touching the cat and move away. Then, slowly increase the amount of time you spend petting your cat.
Strange Cat Behaviors and What They Mean
Sometimes cat behavior seems strange, but there’s always a reason why they do what they do. Here are few examples of odd feline behavior and what they mean:
Kneading: Kittens knead the area around their mother’s teat to stimulate milk flow. No one knows why adult cats continue to knead, according to the ASPCA, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that your cat is hungry. It just means that they’re warm, comfortable, and happy. If the kneading is painful, keep an extra pillow or blanket nearby to put between you and your cat’s claws.
Head Butts: Don’t worry, head butting is not a sign of aggression. It’s actually a way of showing affection and possession. They have scent glands in their heads that secrete pheromones, so they’re basically marking their territory. It’s just your cat’s weird way of saying that you’re their person.
Sneak Attacks on Your Feet: When your kitty attacks your feet, it just means that they are bored. They might be trying to get you to play with them or need some other type of stimulation. Maybe it’s time for some new toys. Take note of the location of the attacks and keep plenty of toys nearby so your cat will spare your feet.
Chirps and Other Vocalizations: Ever heard your cat make an adorable chirping sound? Cats often do this out of frustration when they see prey, but aren’t able to hunt. Cats also yowl to indicate worry, discomfort, or territorial concern and caterwaul when they’re in heat. Learn more about your feline friend’s vocalizations in 3 Reasons Why Cats Meow [Link].
Twitchy Tail: Cat’s tails say so much about how they’re feeling. Here are some common cat tail positions and what they mean:
If your cat’s tail is pointed straight up it means that your fur baby is feeling approachable and friendly. If the tail is quivering or twitching, this indicates that they’re happy to be close to you.
A question mark means that your cat may have some doubts about their surroundings and are apprehensive. Reassure them that they’re in a safe place.
A down and out tail that’s low to the ground could indicate that your cat is feeling defensive or submissive (especially if their tail is over their belly).
Gifts: Cats have been known to leave little “gifts” around the house including dead birds, bugs, rodents, and lizards. They’re not trying to scare you or gross you out, they’re just being generous.
Understanding cat behavior is an important part of your role as a pet owner. The more you know about your cat’s behavior, the better you’ll be able to meet their needs. Paying attention to cat behavior is key to a successful human-cat relationship. Sometimes odd behavior isn’t just another cat quirk and can mean that something is wrong.
Keep a close eye on the following behaviors:
- Increased vocalizations (meowing, howling, and hissing)
- Excessive grooming, shedding, or itching
- Nutritional changes (loss of appetite or constant begging)
- Increased spraying or marking
- Litter box changes (increased or decreased urination)
- Water intake changes
If you notice any of these behaviors—or anything else that’s troubling you—reach out to Airvet to connect with a licensed veterinarian. No problem is too small.