Your cat may enjoy all the comforts of domestic life, but a little bit of lion is inside every feline, no matter how pampered they may be. You’d be surprised at how many of your cat’s odd behaviors can be traced back to their wild relatives. Our team at Ambleside Animal Hospital answers the question all cat owners have asked at one time, “Why does my cat do that?”
#1: Why does my cat rub their face on everything?
Cats have scent glands on their face and at their tail base, and they rub against you as a way of scent-marking. Also referred to as “bunting,” your cat is proudly claiming you as their own, by releasing pheromones from their facial glands—so consider their headbutts a compliment!
#2: Why does my cat bring me gifts?
The motive behind your cat’s generosity depends on the gift.
- Toys — If your cat brings you toys, they are probably looking for some attention and want to play.
- Prey — A small, furry, feathered gift may not be on your wish list, but remember, it’s the thought that counts. In the wild, mothers bring back prey to their kittens to teach them to hunt and ensure their survival, and your cat may be following these familial sharing instincts. To avoid becoming the recipient of this unappealing gift—and to keep your cat safe—commit to keeping them indoors, or create a catio (i.e., a patio for your cat) so they can enjoy the outdoors safely.
#3: Why does my cat squeeze into boxes?
Cats are natural predators, and boxes are the perfect hiding place to safely stalk prey. Enclosed spaces provide security and comfort, and can reduce your cat’s stress levels. A box also caters to your cat’s instinct to ambush by allowing them to observe their surroundings undetected. Give that Amazon box a second life—you get free entertainment, watching your contortionist cat squeeze inside, and your cat gets to channel their inner lion king or queen.
#4: Why does my cat cover their poop?
Your cat’s biggest predator may be the Roomba, but that doesn’t affect their natural survival instincts. In the wild, cats cover their waste to hide their location from predators, and to show submission to other dominant cats. Also in the wild, dominant cats often leave their excrement uncovered as a way of claiming an area. If your cat suddenly stops burying their poop, they may need to see their veterinarian to rule out any medical problems.
#5: Why does my cat chatter?
You have probably seen your cat sitting at the window, staring out intently, when suddenly they open their mouth and make a strange chattering sound. This instinctual rapid jaw movement signals excitement, and some frustration, when your cat observes prey. Think how you would feel if you saw your favorite dessert inside a glass case that you couldn’t open! Your mouth might also start to chatter––or drool.
#6: Why does my cat knead?
This rhythmic paw pressing, sometimes referred to as “making biscuits” because the action mimics kneading dough, is an instinctive behavior first used by kittens to stimulate milk flow from their mother’s mammary glands. Adult cats continue to find comfort from kneading, which they also use to mark their territory. When your cat kneads you, they are likely quite content, so sit back and enjoy your kitty massage.
#7: Why does my cat attack my feet?
Your cat doesn’t need to hunt for food, but they still instinctively enjoy stalking, chasing, and pouncing. Moving feet are irresistible to a feisty feline. Don’t take your cat’s ankle ambushes as a personal attack, because they are simply mistaking your feet as prey—or a really fun toy.
#8: Why does my cat drink from the faucet?
Most cats prefer to drink moving rather than still water, which explains the lure of the faucet. Why the preference? In the wild, moving water is more likely to be fresh and uncontaminated. The water’s reflection in the sink may also catch their eye. Your cat may do some investigatory splashing before taking a sip, simply to be on the safe side—oh, and it’s quite fun.
#9: Why does my cat scratch the furniture?
While the couch is not the ideal scratching post, your cat has good reason to exercise their claws.
- Marking territory — Your cat may scratch furniture to let others know that this is their territory. In addition to the visual markers, every time your cat scratches, they leave behind their scent—an additional territory-claiming tactic.
- Exercise — Scratching is a good form of exercise for cats—like feline yoga—and allows them to extend and stretch their bodies.
- Nail maintenance — Scratching keeps your cat’s claws in top shape by removing the dead outer nail sheath. Wild cats need sharp claws for climbing and hunting, and your cat is acting on this instinct when they scratch.
To save your furniture from being torn to shreds, provide your cat with an alluring scratching post. Cats like to climb tall posts with lounging platforms—you’ll get bonus points for a window view.
#10: Why is my cat so active at night?
If you’ve ever laid in bed listening to your cat sprint through the halls at two in the morning, you are probably familiar with the “night crazies.” Night crazies may include:
- Wild, excited play (e.g., barreling down the hall before the crack of dawn)
- Walking across you while you sleep
- Pouncing on your toes beneath the covers
- Crying or yowling
Most of your cat’s unruly nocturnal behavior is instinctual. However, boredom, hunger, old age, and medical conditions can also be factors. If your cat’s nighttime behaviors change suddenly and increase in intensity, schedule an appointment with our Ambleside Animal Hospital veterinarian, to rule out an underlying health issue.
While your cat’s quirky antics don’t always make sense to you, identifying their natural instincts can help improve your kitty communication and strengthen your bond. Your little lion or lioness’s health is our top priority at Ambleside Animal Hospital. If you need help decoding your cat’s behavior, or would like to schedule a wellness exam, contact us for an appointment.