From the “zoomies” to kneading, our cats engage in some endearing but sometimes puzzling behaviors. Take a look at some common kitty quirks and what they mean.
A big part of a cat’s charm is his quirky behavior. Whether he’s “chattering” at birds outside the window, or zooming around the house just before bedtime, your cat likely engages in some mystifying activities. Many of these quirks can be traced to behaviors inherited from his wild feline ancestors. Others are…well, just plain quirky! Let’s look at the most common kitty quirks, and what they mean.
This is one of the most familiar, yet amusing, feline behaviors. It often follows a successful trip to the litter box. Why? Well, because it feels good! The zoomies are also a way for your cat to release pent-up energy, especially if he has spent most of the day snoozing. Cats are most active in the twilight and evening hours, so this is often the time they like to engage in the zoomies. You can respond by engaging your kitty in a game of hide-and-seek or by pulling out a favorite toy.
The zoomies are also a way for your cat to release pent-up energy.
This is a behavior kittens use when they’re nursing, and many cats continue it when they’re adults. They love kneading on soft surfaces (including our legs or stomachs!) and their sweet, blissful expressions show how much they enjoy it; some even seem to go into a trance.
Chattering at birds
Have you ever caught your kitty riveted to the window, staring at the birds and making funny “aack-aack” sounds? The chattering is accompanied by alert, forward-facing ears, wide eyes, and a swishing tail. There are several rather diverse explanations for this behavior. Perhaps it’s an expression of frustration over not being able to reach his prey, and/or a rush of adrenalin. Maybe he’s mimicking bird chirps in order to attract the prey…or mimicking the bite he’d give to the back of the neck once he caught it.
Arching back/tiptoe greeting
When my husband comes home from work, our cat Sofiya greets him by hopping onto the counter and prancing around on tiptoe with her back arched. They have a petting session and then he gives her a treat. This common form of greeting also includes rubbing against the object of affection; of course, you must pet a cat that greets you this way!
This is another form of feline greeting. Cats have scent glands below their jaws, and on their cheeks and foreheads, and it is thought that head bunting is a way to “mark” you as their own. Check around your house: you might see some slightly darkened areas at feline height, often on corners. This is also where your cat has left his mark.
You may have sometimes seen your cat sniff something, then seem to stare into space with his mouth open and his lips curled. He’s engaging in what’s called the Flehmen response. The vomeronasal or Jacobson’s organ, located in the upper palate of the cat’s mouth, captures odor-rich particles. When your cat exhibits this behavior, he’s taking in information, perhaps picking up pheromones from other cats. While amusing to watch, the Flehmen response is an integral part of feline behavior.
Another form of greeting, the slow blink is a feline behavior made known by cat behaviorist, Jackson Galaxy, who uses it when he greets cats for the first time. Jackson blinks at them, and they blink back. It’s a calm, non-threatening way of communicating and expressing affection. You may notice it in your own cat as you talk to him and gently stroke him.
The slow blink is a calm, non-threatening way of communicating and expressing affection.
If you have a cat, you probably have no privacy in the bathroom. She knows she has a captive audience as she weaves between your legs for attention. Some cats may also just feel safer being by your side, no matter where in the house you are. Or, if your cat is like our Mollie, she just wants to know what you’re up to!
Carrying around a special toy
Many cats seem to have a special toy they like to carry around in their mouths with them. These toys bring out the predator in them, and help satisfy their hunting instincts. One of our cats, Tekla, had one we called her “tail” toy. Her furtive, almost guttural meowing was a signal to all that her “prey” had been caught! If your cat does the same with a favorite toy of her own, be sure to acknowledge a successful “hunt” with a heap of praise.
Licking, biting plastic
That crinkly plastic bag left on your kitchen table from a grocery run or takeout meal is full of tempting smells, so there’s no real mystery as to why your cat might be attracted to it. However, he could get caught in the bag’s handle, and ingesting plastic definitely isn’t good for him. Be sure to dispose of plastic bags safely before your cat starts licking or chewing on them. Cats may also be drawn to other plastic non-toy objects, especially if they have an interesting texture or make an attractive sound. Sofiya likes to bite on padded mailing envelopes, for example. If your cat often tries to lick or chew on plastic or other inedible objects, pica could be the problem. This issue can be caused by stress, nutritional deficiencies, or boredom, and should be discussed with your veterinarian.
You’ve probably observed at least a few of these quirky behaviors in your own cat, Knowing more about why our kitties do what they do just makes them all the more appealing!