Cat Behaviours and What They Mean

No, they’re not plotting to kill you and take over the world.

There are so many jokes about cats and the possibility that they consider themselves to be superior beings, rulers of the household and, in all things, the master of their domain. There’s some truth in these jokes, so much so that when a cat stares at you, unblinking and fierce, you have to wonder: “what is he thinking and am I going to survive it?”

In reality, cat behaviours aren’t that frightening, but decoding them can go a long way to helping you understand, and appreciate, your feline friends. Frankly, your cat will be grateful that you finally know some of these!

Cat Behaviours and What They Mean - Decoding them can go a long way to helping you understand, and appreciate, your feline friends.

Kneading the bed… or your belly

Does your cat knead their bed or your belly, on a regular basis? They’re not just making a comfy spot. There are two reasons for this behaviour. As kittens, they would have kneaded their mothers to increase milk production and it’s a habit that dies hard. It’s also a comfort mechanism for many cats when they’re happy or when they’re stressed, so it’s NOT the best indicator of Kitty’s frame of mind. There’s a great story about a cat that never kneaded but one day, it jumped up on its owner’s belly and started kneading like crazy, and did the same thing every day for two weeks, after which the human discovered that she was pregnant. Did that cat know first? It’s possible!

Crazy kitty… after midnight

It’s almost a given that the night you want a good, long sleep, after a hard day or work and play, your cat will decide that 12:15 a.m. is the OPTIMAL time for running up and down the hardwood floor hallway. In reality, cats sleep up to 20 hours a day but that doesn’t mean that that they follow your rhythms and patterns! It’s also natural for a cat who is home alone all day, but is in fact a social creature, to signal that it’s play time when you’re within reach! A bored cat is a crazy kitty!

What’s with the boxes and small spaces?

Have you ever noticed that cats will squeeze themselves into the most unimaginably small spaces? Give them an empty tissue box and watch them try to wedge their outsized ‘indoor cat’ bums into it. In reality, the small space gives cats a sense of security in a very busy world. It gives them a perfectly safe vantage point from which to view their immediate surroundings and decide which humans they will interact with and which are best avoided. Mom with the package of cat treats? Yes. Toddler with the peanut butter fingers? No.

Face rubs are not cat kisses

Your cat rubs his or her face on surfaces and edges not just because they’re itchy and not as a sign of affection. In reality, they have scent glands on their faces and they use the rubbing motion to mark their territory, or ownership and property. So the next time your cat is rubbing your face with theirs, consider yourself bought and sold.

What IS a kitty kiss? When your cat stares at you and blinks slowly, they’re trying to show you they trust you. Look at it as if they were blowing you little eye kisses, because that’s what they’re doing. If they’re staring at you and there’s no blinking involved, that’s a sign that they are on high alert or don’t like you very much: either way, you might want to be the first one to break eye contact. Just saying…

Twitching tails are saying ‘beware’

Long thought to be a sign of playfulness, a cat’s twitching its tail is actually warning you off, either from approaching them or from continuing with the behaviour that you are engaged in that is bugging them. They also use this behaviour when they’re hyper focused on something: usually prey, sometimes your socked foot that is dangling as you read a book, completely unaware of the pouncing that is about to ensue.

Clumsy cat is always knocking things off the table

If you watch a cat do this, it’s a very intentional act, not usually a by-product of clumsiness. They will paw at and push an object carefully so that it falls off of a higher surface. Whether that is amusement in and of itself, or watching the humans bend and retrieve the object is the goal, is still up for debate!

There is something entirely human about the way cats behave; their disdain can be epic, but so can their love and affection. In the end, their behaviours are their way of communicating with you and others, so pay attention to the details and you might learn something about your four legged friend that they very much want for you to know!

Stacie Vaughan

Stacie is the mom of two girls and lives in Ontario, Canada. She enjoys cooking/baking, photography, reading, DIY and is fueled by lots of coffee!

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