Understanding Cat Behavior
Cats have very unique behaviors and inherited traits that many owners have a hard time understanding. Something as simple as stalking and pouncing on its toy is a nod to the cat’s instinctual genetic background — a background shared by lions, tigers and even leopards. For many owners, it can be hard to imagine that their tiny cat shares anything in common with an animal like a 400-pound tiger, but indeed they have a lot in common. It is the very thing that makes our house cats so unique and their behaviors that much more complex. Although cat behavior can be difficult to understand, it’s important to become familiar with common behaviors that you will see. This will help you understand your cat’s body language and provide insight into what they are telling you, what they’re thinking and their overall status of health.
Common Cat Behaviors
Cats can exhibit many sides to them, and as an owner you may observe different behaviors that mean many things. Here are some common behaviors that owners may see in their cats:
- Tail carriage
- Ear positioning
- Eye appearance change
- Stalking behavior
- Nesting in blankets or cloths
- Brushing against objects with their head
- Bathing themselves
- Purring or meowing
- Sleeping (cat naps)
- Hiding in dark areas
SEE ALSO: Why Is My Cat Not Eating or Drinking?
What do some behaviors mean for your cat?
Social Behaviors of Cats
Even though cats are known to be solitary and do well on their own, they do love to socialize, and many behaviors showcase their socialization habits. Some behaviors are simply a way for cats to greet one another, like brushing against one another. If your cat brushes against you with their head, they’re greeting you.
An article in Cat Health noted that in kittens, we see social behaviors begin at 2-4 weeks. At this stage, they learn behaviors that will allow them to survive. They will play with other kittens to build social skills — they’ll practice attack and defense, chase each other, or pounce on toys. If your kitten or young cat likes to attack toys and look like he or she is hunting, it’s totally natural. Most cats develop these skills at a young age and keep them their whole life. It’s part of growing up!
The Odd but Normal Behaviors of Cats
Ear Twitching and Eye Appearance Change
Cats are very sensitive creatures — you may have noticed your cat’s ears moving and their eye appearance changing. Many owners tend to think something may be wrong, that your cat may be sick or anxious. In fact, this behavior is indicative of their sensitivity. Cats can hear noises a lot better than humans can, and when they hear noises, their ears tend to move toward the direction of the noise. Depending on what they sense, their pupils may change size to focus better on what they’re seeing. These two behaviors are proof that our cats are true hunters at heart.
This behavior can be interesting and confusing. It is usually observed when a cat is still while staring at prey that they may not be able to reach, and you’ll notice their mouth opening and closing rapidly. Owners may observe this if they are watching television and their cat sees prey on television, like a mouse or a bird.
Some cat experts say this behavior may be due to frustration, as if the cat wants something it can’t have. “As they become frustrated, their body tenses and their teeth begin to chatter. Other experts think it’s the exaggerated version of a prey bite that cats usually use to destabilize their prey. The cat may think it has prey in its mouth, so it begins to bite down and chew.” (Cat Health, 2019)
Grooming Behavior and Why It’s So Important
Grooming is a behavior that seems simple but is very complex. Many owners may think it would be irresponsible to not clean their cat. On the contrary, it’s a good idea to not clean your cat — let your feline handle that. A cat’s anatomy plays a key role in grooming. Their spiked tongues have ridges to help grasp hairs so they can groom themselves and others. Cats usually are great at taking care of themselves and do not have a need to be bathed otherwise. In fact, overcleaning your cat may cause health concerns and cause undue stress to your pet.
In the event that your cat gets a potentially harmful substance from their coats, you can feel free to clean them, as it may be difficult for them to do so, especially if it’s sticky. If your cat does not groom themselves or stops grooming entirely, seek the help of a veterinarian, as this may be a sign that your cat is not feeling well.
It’s a Joy to Own a Cat
Cats are unique pets, and they are lovable and amazing companions. As smaller family members of lions, tigers, and other big cats, our house cats’ behaviors are extremely special. They have hearts of hunters and intense skills, so everyday can be a new experience with your pet. Spend time with your little feline and see if you observe any of the behaviors listed above — understanding their behaviors can be very beneficial for your bond. And, knowing what’s normal behavior for your cat can help you detect health problems early. Embrace every behavior and don’t be afraid to learn as much as you can about your furry companion.
Source: Cat health. Common Behaviors of Cats. 2019