Ever wonder why your cats do the unusual things they do? Whether they are making weird “meowing” sounds, sleeping in tight boxes or simply ignoring you, cat behavior is truly a peculiar thing!
Your Cats Social Structure: Strange Cat Behavior
Before we try to decipher the mysterious minds of our cats and their behavior, we first need to get a good understanding on the general social structure of cats – without human interaction! Here, we have broken down how feral cats behave versus how cats in the wild may behave.
Cats in the Wild
Now you might be thinking, my cat isn’t a tiger, lion or puma! Yes, you’re right, your cat may not be as dangerous as these big cats, but it does not mean that they still don’t share similar characteristics.
Our house cats were domesticated thousands of years ago. Based on genetic evidence our house cats share close ancestry with the African wildcat, European wildcat and the Black-footed cat.
In the wild, these wild cats still exist today! For the most part, these wild cats tend to live a very solitary lifestyle. Interestingly, enough wildcats don’t tend to have a pecking order – rather they may simply live alone and claim a small territory.
On the other hand, lions for example do tend to live in prides. Prides may consist of over 10 females and during mating females may include a few ‘strong’ males into their pride. Based on observation, female lions create a “crèche”, that is they will co-parent each other’s young.
Now feral cats tend to form colonies and like the pride of lions, feral cats will form groups that consist mainly of females and their daughters. On occasion, some colonies may allow one or two tomcats to join their group. But, for the most part, male cats will simply stay close to a female colony.
Like the lions, female cats will co-parent each other’s young! This is perhaps the most distinctive behavioral trait seen when comparing wildcats to domestic cats. In regards to social structure, cats don’t necessarily have a strict, hierarchy system.
For example, there only tends to be one alpha female who will gain most access to food, every other female below her may fight for second ‘place’. But, for the most part, feral cats do not tend to have a strict hierarchy.
Now, that you’re well equipped with the social structure of feral cats, let’s take a look at some common behaviors of domestic cats to help you better understand why our furry friends behave the way they do.
Understanding Cat Body Language
Ever wonder what some cat body positions mean? Learning your cats body language can help you understand more about your cats behavior and attitudes. Let’s look at a few examples of body language and what it could mean.
Cat Kneading Behavior
Kittens first start kneading their mother’s bodies a little after they’re born. It’s an instinctive and natural behavior that usually carries into adulthood, often times the target being a soft surface or their favorite human. Kneading is a way of showing happiness, of relaxing during stressful periods, and of marking their target with the scent produced by sweat glands in their paws.
Cat Arched Back
A Cat’s arched back is known as a sign of displeasure and aggression, but in reality, it can mean much more than that. While it is true that an arched back is the cat’s way of saying “Stay back!” it can also have a positive meaning — cats also arch their backs when they are playing, and when they are stretching.
Cat Tail Movements
You can tell a lot about a cat’s mood by observing their tail movements. Is it upright and straight? Your cat is happy. Does it look like a question mark? This could mean that your cat is in a playful mood. However, if a Cat’s tail is low, it’s a sign of aggression; and if it’s tucked in, it conveys submission due to fear or anxiety. A whipping tail is a sign of aggression, while a swishing tail shows your cat is focused on an object!
Learn more About Cat Body Language
The Sounds Cats Make
Why Cats Meow
A Cat’s meow is the way cats have developed to demand attention. If your four-legged friend is meowing, more often than not they’re asking to be let out or in, to be given food or water, or simply asking for some good-old love and attention from their owner.
Why Cats Hiss
A hissing cat usually means one of two things: that they are giving a threatening warning, or in pain. A warning hiss happens when cats feel endangered by something or someone and it can be translated to “keep your distance!” A pain related hiss, on the other hand, is also a warning with a different message that the spot where you’ve touched the cat is sore and may need medical treatment.
Why Cats Purr
A cats’ purr is much more mysterious. Cats purr very often, and they have different purrs for when they are in different moods. A purring kitty can mean they’re relaxed and content, that they’re hungry, that they’re soothing themselves in a stressful situation, or it can be a way to reinforce mother-offspring connections — just like a lullaby!
Learn more About Cat Sounds
Aggressive Cat Behavior
Aggression can be a serious problem in a cat and should be taken care of as soon as possible. Understanding cat body language can help prevent gruesome accidents.
When cats are in attack mode their body goes stiff, their tail rigid and pointing to the ground, ears upright and rotated forward and their hair erected. They will also stare directly at the target, their pupils will look narrow, and they might be growling or making similar noises.
If your kitten shows these non-friendly signs and goes as far as to strike a target, think of what went on in the thirty minutes leading up to the event. You might be able to find an explanation for this behavior.
Some cats, for example, don’t like dogs and turn aggressive, while others show this behavior when they’re pet over and over again in the same spot.
If these problems keep arising even after you’re prevented the presumed triggers from happening, consider taking your cat or kitten to the vet or to a behavioral expert.
Learn more about Aggressive Cat Behavior
Why Do Cats Scratch Furniture
There are three main reasons why cats scratch furniture: to get exercise, to take care of their nails, and to mark their territory.
If you want to stop your cat from scratching your furniture, simply place a scratching post in their living space so they can have fun while taking care of their paws.
An effective training method is to reward your cat with praise or treats when they use their scratch post and use a firm “no” if they decide to use your expensive couch instead.
Learn more about Cat Scratch Problems
Why Is My Cat Peeing Outside the Litter Box?
There are a number of plausible explanations as to why your cat is not using the litter box.
Firstly, it can be because they have a medical condition that causes them pain when they pee. This is why a lot of cats choose to relieve themselves on soft surfaces like couches — this is less painful than peeing in a litter box.
Secondly, it could be because they are stressed or anxious. For nervous and self-conscious kittens, the smell of their own urine is calming and soothing.
Another explanation is that if you have more than one pet at home, they could be denying your kitten access to the litter box. To deal with this simply devote a new area of your home that only the cat in question can use.
Lastly, if their litter box is hard to reach, dirty, or not to their liking, it is probable that they will avoid it at all costs. Placing their litter box closer to the ground and changing the litter should be enough to prevent the cat from peeing elsewhere in your home.
Learn more about Cat Litter Box Problems
Become a Cat Whisperer and Learn About your Cat’s Behavior
Cats have a reputation for being unpredictable and hard to understand. However, if you know how to interpret their body language and the sounds they make, you will instantly challenge this stereotype.
Cats, just like people, have their moods and their good and bad days. Just like you wouldn’t mess with an angry-looking individual the same principle can be applied to cats.
Once you learn all the ins and outs of cat behavior, you’ll be getting along with our feline friends like never before!
Do you have a question about cat behavior? Let us know in the comments below!