Interesting Cat Facts
Feline Behaviors Explained, or
"50 Things You Always Wanted To Know
About Your Cat But Were Afraid To Ask"
(In Alphabetical Order For Your Convenience)
Arching Back and Puffing Up. When a cat arches it’s back and puffs up, it is either scared, mad or both. The cat is trying to make itself look bigger and scarier. This may also be accompanied with growling and hissing.
Attacking Ankles. Sometimes when you are walking through a room your cat will come out of nowhere and pounce on your ankles. To your cat, they are a moving target. Cats have strong hunting instincts and they like to sneak up and pounce on their prey. Since we have taken the need for them to hunt away, they use these instincts to initiate play. In fact, that is how kittens first play with each other. They hunch down and when the other kitten isn’t looking, they pounce on them. Then both kittens roll around and play with each other. This is not an act of aggression, but can seem that way if you do not understand it is how they initiate play.
Boxes, Drawers, Bags and Other Small Places. If you have ever thrown a box down for your cat or put it in their reach, you are guaranteed the cat will climb in it. Cats like to sleep in small, defined spaces because it makes them feel snug and protected. Cats love to jump in and on paper grocery bags because they view this as a toy they can use for hunting practice, which is what feline play time is all about. Cats like things that make interesting sounds and the crinkle of paper is one of their favorites.
Being Bitten or Swatted at During a Petting Session. Sometimes a cat can get over stimulated by too much petting. They want the attention in the beginning, but then when they want or need it to stop, they are not sure how to communicate this if they do not want to get off of your lap. So they will nip or swat at you to tell you they have had enough. If you can read their body language, you can sometimes predict this. If a cat starts to swish its tail flicking it back and forth with jerking movements, that may be your first indication that the petting needs to stop. This is something that I had happen with a rescue cat I had, but I have never ever seen this behavior from a Siberian. If they don’t want to be petted, they will just hop down off your lap or walk away.
Catnip. Smelling catnip can give some cats a feeling of being high. Some cats love it and some do not react to it at all. This response is the result of a gene. If the cat does not have this gene, it cannot physically react to catnip. If it does have the gene, it will react. Cats like to roll around and rub their face into cat nip and some even like to eat fresh cat nip from the garden. Catnip is safe to give to your kitty and if they react, the affects do not last very long.
Cats Are Aloof and Not as Friendly as Dogs. This is a very common misconception, especially when you are talking about Siberians. Most cats are definitely not aloof. If you do come across a kitty that is aloof or standoffish, there is a reason. Cats look to us to set the household standard for closeness and together time. If we do not go out of our way to deliberately invite kitty into our everyday lives, kitty will keep her distance. If we do not bother to show kitty affection, she will not show it back. It is very important in a kitten’s early stages of life that it is given a lot of unconditional love and attention. That sets the stage for them living a life of giving that love and affection back. And what more could we want.
Cats Hate Baths. That is true most of the time, but is not always true some of the time. Some cats actually like water, Siberians being one of them, but it has to be on their own terms. You picking them up and sticking them in a sink full of water does not constitute their terms, so most do not like and will not tolerate a bath.
Cats Hide When Sick or Injured. When a cat is sick or injured, its instincts tell it to hide so a predator can’t find them. It is believed that is why today, domesticated cats will still do this. It wants to avoid any further threat to its well-being and feels vulnerable being out in the open.
Cats Lying on Their Back, Belly Up. In the wild, a cat has a very strong instinct to protect its belly. They can normally live with wounds to their legs or tail, but an injury to their stomach is much more dangerous. So if a cat flops down in front of you and exposes their belly, it is a sign of complete trust and that they know you would never hurt them.
Cats Refuse to Cooperate. The short answer to why this may be true with some felines is that a lot of cats are more like humans and less like dogs. Dogs are wired to accept and genuinely like following orders. The feline enjoys following orders about as much as humans do. But like the dog and humans, doing something for a treat, makes it worthwhile. Bribery works great with canines, felines and humans too! If you need cooperation from your feline, showing them that doing what you want will produce a kitty treat and they become as easy to train as dogs are.
Cats Sleep A Lot. Cats average 16 hours of sleep a day and not always because they need it. Sometimes it is because they are bored. Cats need to be stimulated physically and mentally. The majority of sleep for a feline is done in short spurts, called cat naps. In the wild, cats had to learn to sleep in short spurts to survive. They had to be ready to respond to a fast-moving dinner at any given moment. If you think your cat is sleeping too much, try playing with them more often.
Cats Sleep On You Instead of Next to You. Generally speaking, cats make pretty good bed partners. But sometimes you wake up with them lying on you rather than next to you. This is because as kittens, they sleep in heaps or piles, so that is what they are used to. They have no concept of why that may not be acceptable to us. For a cat, sleeping with you is one of their favorite bonding times and as a cat owner, I’d have to agree because it is one of my favorite bonding times.
Cats Sneer When Smelling Something. If your cat sneers or curls their upper lip back when smelling something, this is called “flehming.” This is drawing the odors into an organ (Jacobson’s organ) in the roof of their mouth so they can smell it better.
Chattering Sound When Prey is Located. When your cat sees prey (a bird or chipmunk through a window) and cannot get to it, they will start chattering with their lower lip quivering. This is instinct and is what a cat would do right before they pounce to get their prey.
Chewing on Plants. It is thought that certain types of grass help a cat get rid of fur swallowed while grooming and may provide fiber or vitamins and minerals not found in meat. It is also believed that cats like the taste of grass. Grass provides vitamin B (folic acid), which may entice a cat with this deficiently to eat it. Unfortunately, most house plants are very poisonous to cats. So it is best for kitty that you do not have any live plants in their home because they do not know which ones safe and which ones are not. You can buy pre-seeded grass pots made just for cats if you really want to treat your kitty to something they can chew on.
Climbing and Being Up High. Cats love to climb and be up high because they feel safe. In the wild, that is where they go to get away from predators. Height makes them feel safe and secure. A lot of unwanted kitty issues are solved by giving the cat a place they can climb up to and sleep. By nature, cats are tree dwellers and being up high this makes them feel comfortable.
Demanding Attention While You are On the Phone. Cats can be just like kids in that they want attention when you are busy doing something else. But in this case it is a bit different. If your cat jumps on your lap and demands attention the minute you get on the phone, it is most likely because they think you are talking to them. They don’t know what a phone is or what it does, so when they see you are talking, they assume it is to them.
Drinking Water from the Faucet. Many cats insist on drinking water from a running faucet. A cat’s sense of taste is far more elaborate than a human’s sense of taste and cats can actually decipher different tastes in different water. It is thought that fresh is best and it may be that running water tastes better to them than water that has sat stagnant for any period of time.
Eating Small Amounts. Cats do not eat a lot of food at once. They are grazers and will eat a small amount and then come back an hour or two later and continue to do that during their awake hours. All it takes to fill up a kitty tummy is the size of one small mouse. That is why it is important to leave food out 24/7 for your cat.
Eye Color. All Siberian kittens are born with blue eyes. The only Siberian that will be able to keep their blue eyes is a color point. All other colors and types will have their eye color start changing at around one month old. The most common eye colors for Siberians are brown, hazel, gold and green.
Finding the Person in Their Midst That Doesn’t Like Cats and Clinging to Them. Many times when you have a gathering, your cat will find the one person in the house that does not like cats and go to them or want to be on their lap. This happens because when one cat is threatening another they stare boldly at them as a form of intimidation. When a cat walks into a room and everyone is staring at them, except for the person who does not like cats, they find that person to be “cat-friendly” and practically inviting. They perceive this person as the least intimidating because they are ignoring them. This may be true for other cats, but not Siberians because they love everybody they meet.
Grooming. Cats devote nearly one-third of their day to grooming. They groom themselves for several reasons. The most obvious is to keep clean. Grooming also helps cool a cat off in hot weather and fluffs up their fur to keep them warm in cold weather. It also helps their fur to stay waterproof and removes dead hair and skin, increasing their blood flow and toning their muscles.
Hairballs. Hairballs form because of a cat’s intense need to be well groomed. They ingest large amounts of hair that cannot be digested, so the hair comes back up in the form of a hairball, although they really should be called hair logs. They are not ball shaped, but log shaped. If a cat was not able to throw up this wad of hair, it could block their digestive system, which would be a potentially serious condition. You can buy tubes of “hairball remedy” to give to your cat to prevent and treat hairballs. For some reason, Siberians do not throw up many hairballs. I think it is because their digestive systems are stronger than most breeds and they are able to pass more hair through their digestive systems than the average cat can.
Head Butts. Cats push their heads against you to show affection.
Hissing. When cats hiss, they are mimicking snakes. Cats and most other animals are extremely afraid of snakes, so cats have chosen to imitate them in order to scare another animals or people who seem hostile. When a cat hisses they flatten their ears and widen their jaw, taking on a snake-like appearance. They may bob their tail back and forth, which imitates a snake’s movements. Never hiss back at a cat or use it to try and deter unwanted behavior because what will happen is your cat will see you as an enemy instead of a friend.
If a Cat Falls, They Will Land on Their Feet. This is a very common myth and not always true, but it is fair to say it is true a lot of the time. When falling, a cat swivels its body in mid-air so that it is facing the ground and lands with its back arched to absorb the shock. Their tail is also used for balance. A cat only needs 1.8 seconds to perfectly right themselves in the air and touch down with unbelievable grace. Cats have a very complex inner-ear that allows their brain to know exactly what direction is up and what is down so the brain can send the appropriate signals to help the cat land on all four feet. This complex inner-ear also aids them to maintain balance when jumping, landing and walking on very narrow spaces. Because of this, cats do have better balance than a lot of other animals, but there is no guaranty if they fall far enough, they will not get hurt.
Kitty Crazies. I myself often wondered why our cats would get sudden bursts of energy and run through the house like they were on fire. We called this the kitty crazies. They are actually doing this to get rid of pent up energy. If this is a problem or if they do it often, the easy solution is to make sure they get their play time with you every day. That will burn off their pent up energy.
Kneading. Kittens knead with their paws (also known as making biscuits) when they are nursing to stimulate milk secretion. When older cats knead, it shows they are very content and happy. Some cats almost go into a trance when they knead. It takes them back to one of their very early happy memories.
Licking or Chewing on Photos & Plastic Bags. Many cats will lick or chew on photographs and plastic bags. It is thought these items may give off a slight odor that cats like or it could be they just like the feeling of that texture on their tongue. I have also heard that some photos are treated with a substance that smells fishy to a feline, which may be part of their attraction to chewing on photos.
Licking Your Hair or Face. Cats groom each other to show care and affection. A kitten’s first experience with their mother is being licked and washed. So when a cat is grooming you, this is one way they show you they love you and are taking care of you.
Litter Box Habits. Cats in the wild hide their waste to keep predators from finding them. In cat colonies, subordinate cats will cover their waste while dominate cats may leave it uncovered. So in a multi-cat household, if a particular cat is not covering up their waste, they are telling the other cats they are top cat. Also, if a cat scratches the outside of their litter box instead of the inside, it may be because they are trying to avoid getting their feet dirty. Cat’s need to have a clean litter box at all times. Cleaning it twice a day is usually enough.
Massage. Yes, cats do love to get a message, and who wouldn’t? When we give our kitty a massage, it relieves tension as muscle tissues are slowly worked and rubbed and allows the blood to flow freely. Some of kitty’s favorite places to be massaged are the back of the neck, chest, shoulders, behind the ears and down the spine. This may cause heavy purring and may even induce a quick cat nap. This is a very easy way to show your kitty how much you love them.
Meowing. Cats will meow to tell you they are hungry, to tell you they need attention or they need help. And sometimes I think cat’s meow just because they like hearing the sound of their own voice when they are lonely.
Nipping on Your Arm or Cheek. Sometimes a cat will put their teeth on your arm or cheek and hold it for a few seconds. This is not an act of aggression, but actually a sign of love and is equivalent to a kiss. Cats just kiss differently than we do. But with that being said, I have never had a Siberian do this. I think they show affection more with head butts and rubbing on you.
Not Urinating In Their Litter Box. If a cat stops using their litter box and is urinating elsewhere, it is a huge red flag and means either the kitty is sick or terribly unhappy and they are trying desperately to get your attention. Cats do not have potty issues to spite you. There is always a physical or emotion cause for a cat to stop using its box. The first thing to do is to take the kitty to the vet to make sure they do not have a bladder or kidney infection. If no medical problem exists, there is something else going on. Something has changed in your cat’s life that has upset them and you need to figure it out. Think about any changes that may have been made, new things introduces or old things gone. Maybe you are gone too much or there is a new person in your life. Work closely with your vet because they can help. If you think it is an anxiety issue, they can give you medicine for your cat that may alleviate the problem.
Petting. Cats like to be petted because it feels a lot like licking or grooming, which cats do to others as a sign of affection. It also shows your cat you are taking good care of them and they love the attention. Cats like to be rubbed behind their ears and at the base of their tail on top of their back because these are hard spots for them to get to themselves.
Purring. Scientists are not sure about the exact mechanism behind purring, but the most common explanation is that the cat’s brain sends a signal to the laryngeal muscles to vibrate. At the same time, the cat is inhaling and exhaling and the stream of air is causing the vocal cords to vibrate. Generally speaking, cats purr when they feel happy and safe. Kittens purr to let their mom know everything is ok and mother cats can purr to let their kittens know where she is before their eyes are open. But purring can also be a sign of stress, such as during a visit to the vet or after an injury. The purr is thought to comfort the cat in these situations.
Rough Tongues. Cats have very rough tongue that feels like sand paper. This is because they use their tongue to brush their fur and keep it smooth, so their tongue had to double as a comb or brush.
Rubbing Up Against You. A cat’s paws, the side of their face, along their tail, and on their lips all contain scent glands. When a cat rubs up against you they are marking you with their scent. This shows other cats that this cat has marked you as their own. Because of this, cats will also rub up against other things in their home like furniture or doorways, again to claim them as their own.
Scratching at Windows. They are not doing this because they want to go outside as many think. It is most likely they are verifying that there is actually a barrier between them and whatever they see outside.
Scratching on Furniture or Their Scratching Post. Cats have a very intense instinct to scratch. Many people think cats are doing this to sharpen their claws. Actually, they are stripping away the old claw sheaths to expose the new sharp claws beneath. It also allows them to practice extending and retracting their claws, which is essential to catching prey, climbing or fighting. Since they have scent glands in their paws, it is also a way to mark their scent.
Scratching the Floor by Their Food. This is very common for cats to do when they are done eating if they still have food in their bowl. This may be another trail that was used in the wild. Once a cat was full, they would bury food for later.
Sitting on What We Are Reading. Cats will sit down on what we are reading because they want attention. It is nothing more than that. They see you very interested in what you are looking at and what the attention diverted to them, so sitting on what you are looking at is the easiest way to accomplish this.
Spraying. This is different from urinating in that the cat sprays a vertical surface, not a horizontal surface, and the bladder isn’t emptied, nor will a cat cover up when they spray something. They are spraying for several reasons. One is to claim that area as their own and the other is to attract females. This behavior is very rare with cats who have been spayed and neutered and is most common with whole males, although a female can spay to let a male know she is in heat.
Sucking on Wool, Clothing or Your Arm. There is no good or definitive explanation for this. Some say they have been taken away from their mother too soon. I do not believe this is true for Siberians because I keep my kittens with their mothers until they are 3 months old and have still had kittens do this. Others say the cat has a lack of fiber in their diet, which also does not make much sense. I think it probably has to do with the same reason they knead, to make themselves feel better, safe and secure. Maybe they miss their mom or the security nursing gave them and want to relive that.
Telling Time. Some people say their cats are like alarm clocks and I would have to agree. But cats can’t tell time the way people can. What happens is that they are very aware of when important things are or should be happening. The get used to what time they are fed every day, what time you get up in the morning or go to bed at night and even what time you come home from work. If something is not happening when it should be according to them, they will let you know!
Tipping Water or Food Bowls. If your cat is constantly tipping over their water or food bowl to eat or drink, it is most likely because the bowls are too narrow. Cats do not like their whiskers to touch the sides of their bowls, so getting them food and water dishes that are wider and shallower will most likely eliminate this behavior.
Toys in Water Dishes. Often times a cat will drop their toy in their water dish. They aren’t doing this to make mess. Cats know where their food and water is kept is their territory. So when they drop a toy in their dish, they are putting it in a safe place that they know is theirs to come back and get at a later time.
Watching TV or Your Computer Screen. Cats will sit and stare at the TV or your computer screen, but they are not actually watching them. They are doing this because they are attracted to the flickering and movement.
Waving or Quivering Tail. A cat communicates with it tail and its tail holds an entire language. Decoding every tail movement has not been possible, but there are several tail behaviors we humans do understand. A high flying tail is a good sign and normally means kitty is happy. A quivering tail is a sign that kitty is bursting with excitement or anticipates a treat. A whopping tail or flicking from side to side is a sign of growing discontent, which may lead to anger. If you are petting your kitty, this is a sign to stop. When a cat’s tail is low and is moving back and forth slowly, that normally means a cat is happy.
Written by Shelly Finley.
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