Top Ten Cat Behaviors Demystified

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Cats are unique little creatures. Although each one has its own unique habits, there are a handful of quirky things nearly every cat does that leaves their human counterparts scratching their heads. From making the “stinky face” to bringing you “prizes”, here are the top ten cat behaviors demystified.

1. Head Butts
In the human world, to “butt heads” is generally a bad thing and may or may not lead to a fight. In the world of cats, however, head-butting is simply a sign of affection. When your kitty turns her head and bumps it up against yours (or another cat’s), it’s simply her way of saying “Hey, what’s up homie!” So next time your cat head-butts you, think if it as a sort-of “kitty high-five”.

2. Scratching Outside of the Litterbox
If you’re a positive thinker, you may just assume your kitty is simply trying to “think outside the box”. If you’re like me, you may assume your poor baby simply forgot how to use the litterbox and you may be tempted to rectify the situation (hint: no matter how many times you try to lead a cat by example, it simply won’t work). The truth of the matter is, if your kitty has recently started scratching everywhere but inside of her litterbox, it is likely because she recently had a, erm, messy misstep and would like to avoid having it happen again. Make sure you are diligent about keeping your kitty’s litterbox clean and she should be back to scratchin’ in no time.

3. Bringing you “Prizes”
If you have an outdoor cat, you may have had the pleasant experience of having your darling kitty bring you a bloody prize or two. Although being presented with your kitty’s “catch of the day” can be extremely startling (and gross), this is simply your kitty’s way of showing her reverence for you. Think of it this way: you’ll never go hungry again.

4. Exposing Her Belly
You may be wondering why your kitty is constantly rolling over onto her back and exposing more belly than a backup dancer in a Britney Spears music video. Fear not: your little girl isn’t headed down the wrong path – she simply wants to play! The stomach is one of the most vulnerable parts on a cat’s body – thus, when she exposes her stomach to you, this is a playful way of showing her trust in you – and trying to get your attention. If your kitty is able to fall asleep in this position, she trusts you implicitly.

5. Biting after Being Pet
Does your kitty tend to nip at your hand while you’re petting her? Clearly she’s never heard the old adage “don’t bite the hand that feeds you”. Although it may seem a little, erm, catty of her, this action is simply your kitty’s way of indicating she’s had enough stimulation and she’d like you to leave her be. Since most cats fancy themselves to be a big, bad Mountain Lion, your best bet is to back off and let her be. Rawr.

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6. Trying to Bathe You
Anyone who has ever had their cat attempt to bathe them will agree – although the gesture is really sweet, it’s also slightly strange. You may have even asked yourself “Do I smell or something?!” In reality, cats see grooming another animal as an act of love and caring. When your kitty tries to groom you, she’s simply showing that she thinks of you as one big, hairless feline – and she wants to make sure you’re well taken care of. Awww.

7. Kneading
Although it seems a bit strange, kneading (or “making biscuits”) is a very common behavior in cats. When a kitten is nursing, it uses this same motion to encourage milk to flow from the mother cat. As they age, cats use this same motion to show contentedness.

8. Suckling
Like kneading, suckling stems from kitty’s nursing days. Cats that suckle frequently typically were weaned from their mother too soon when they were a kitten. If your kitten suckles you or your clothing, she is likely trying to exhibit her love and affection for you.

9. “Stinky Face”
Every once-in-a-while, you’ll notice your cat sniff something then immediately make what I like to refer to as “stinky face” – sort of an open-mouthed sneer. This funny face is actually called the Flehmen response (Flehmen is a German word meaning “to curl the upper lip”). This is your kitty’s way of smelling a bit more deeply, as it allows the scent into its Jacobson’s organ, which is a sort-of “second nose” found at the base of kitty’s nasal cavity. Who knew?

10. Rubbing Up Against You
When your kitty rubs up against your leg, it’s kind of equivalent to a dog peeing on a fire hydrant. OK, not quite – but it is kitty’s way of marking her territory. When your cat rubs up against anything, be it furniture, a rug, or yes – your leg, she’s depositing her scent as part of territorial marking. Cats have glands located on their chin, forehead and mouth that excrete pheromones – and they love to rub these pheromones off on whatever they deem “theirs”. When another cat comes along, they use the Flehmen response to sniff the pheromones and gauge when the scent was left behind. Pretty neat!

These are simply a handful of the many baffling, adorable, and downright goofy things our cats do to amuse us on a daily basis. Does your cat (or dog!) have a quirky habit that makes you laugh? Share it with us during #FurChat on Twitter this Thursday, July 21st at 3pm CST - we’ll be chatting all about pet behavior!

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