Common Cat Behaviors Explained

Cats. There are an enigma. Very particular, very loyal, very aloof, very much creatures of habit.

Cats have some specific behaviors that all cat parents experience. As we watch and sometimes tolerate, we may wonder why do cats perform certain acts on a daily basis.

I have listed some common cat behaviors that my cats demonstrate.

Cat Behavior Guide

Cat Scratching: This habit for cats enables them to strip away at the old parts of their claws or sheaths to help expose the new layer below. In addition felines mark with their paws scent glands, and extend their claws to simulate climbing.

Cat Naps: Sleeping longs hours is an art form for a cat. They can sleep up to 16 hours. cat nappingMore than likely they are lightly sleeping, ready for a hunt at any given moment (in the wild). Some are sleeping out of boredom.

Cat Kneading: Usually done on a soft, tender surface, like your tummy! This is actually a “milk treading” movement, that is carried over from kitten-hood when they wanted to stimulate milk from their mammas. It’s a good bonding moment with your cat!

Cats and Catnip: A cat will ingest catnip for the high that it gives them. It is safe for them, and they do not form an addiction. The attraction is believed to be from a scent similar to that of urine that the dried plant gives off. Each cat is different in their response including, rolling in it, eating it, and sniffing it.

Cat Purring: This is an audible vibration that comes from within a cat. A feline will purr in contentment, or in fear or stress, sick, or to engage in play with another cat. Mamma cats can purr during labor, and to associate closer with their kittens. The kittens will purr in response. Oddly enough, scientists do not know exactly what part of a feline’s physiology allows it to purr.

Cat Back Arching: This is a defensive, fearful position that a cat will take in order to look larger in front of its prey. With the addition of their fur standing on end they look even larger. They can arch pretty high, with 60 vertebrae in their spine.

Cat Love Bites: This gesture is usually to let you know that enough affection, has been given. It depends on the cat how long they want you to pet them, and a soft nip will give you the clue that they are done. However, a quick nip can mean just the opposite, to keep you engaged to scratch and pet even longer.

Cat Ear Rotation: Rotation of a cat’ ears is a method of communication to those around it – human and feline. Pointing forward would suggest that the cat is content and aware. If the ears are straight up the cat is listening to sounds and ready to investigate. A flattened ear posture demonstrates fear. Ears that are rotated backwards and low show anger and possibly in attack mode.

 alert cat

Cat Spraying: An offensive behavior to us humans, cats will spray to mark territory or to alert a female. Spraying is different than urinating as a vertical surface is commonly used and only a small portion of urine is dispensed. All cats can spray, neutered or spayed, but it is the males that carry out this task the most.

The list is only a partial one of the many cat behaviors that exist.
Visit this site again, to learn of additional interesting cat antics!

14 thoughts to “Common Cat Behaviors Explained”

  1. Nice post. I used to have a cat that would always do the kneading on my stomach and I wondered why. Glad to know she was just trying to get milk from me and that she wasn’t saying I was fat!

  2. Hey,

    This post has created some much needed insight on cats. I personally am a dog person, but I have friends and neighbors with cats. It is good to know what these behaviors mean so when I visit them, I can understand what the cat is trying to tell me. The last thing I want to do is upset an animal due to miscommunication.

    Thank you for sharing,

    1. You are welcome, Diana. That’s an interesting perspective that you have shared about understanding cat behavior. You have a kind heart for animals. Thanks, Lainey

  3. I am a big cat love and have kept quite a number of cats over the years. However, some of these facts I didn’t know so it was really interesting to read and know about our feline friend. I knew about the scratching but not the scent glands as well. Also, I knew that cats purred when they’re happy but not in fear as well.

    Thank you for a very interesting post, I really enjoyed it.

    1. Thanks, Owain, for your comment. There is so much to know about cats. I too, am always learning. Glad to know you hold felines dear to you, and have given them homes. There’s always a cat that needs a home.

  4. That is a really neat site you have about cats. I love all animals and had cats when I was a kid. One slept at the foot of my bed and one at the head of the bed. Thanks for the information.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Gary. I love all animals too. Thanks for sharing your memory of your childhood cats. That is a sweet one. You’re welcome for the information. Keep checking back for more!

  5. Lainey, I am quite familiar with all these cat ‘signals’. We have had quite a number of pusses over the years and all of them operated within these you have listed. A couple of other things is that the scent marking is not only in the pads. Their heads are full of them and when your cat is rubbing its head against you it isn’t a only a sign of affection but a mark that you are THEIRS. So you better obey them and get them food! (Or some other thing they desire!)

    As for kneading, the little buggers also know that it is the best way to cause you pain. At least ours do as their kneading has always been quite energetic. And catnip: – most of our cats have ignored it except for our Mot. Put one leaf on the ground and she would try to fit her whole body on it. It looked like she was trying to do a head stand!

    Two of our feminine little things were our sprayers. Sort of like fire hoses in fact. They could have put out minor fires doing this. And yes it was territory marking!

    You have developed a good information site for cat slaves.

    ciao (or is it miao)

    1. Hi Helen, sounds like you have learned a lot from having cats in your domesticity. The list of topics and information is endless. I give you a lot of credit for working with, and trying to understand them. That’s interesting about how most of your cats do not prefer catnip, but one goes crazy. That is worth another blog! Thank you for your information and stories. I think “Miao” is appropriate. Lainey Feline

  6. I like your explanation of different cat behavior. Cat spraying can be pretty annoying and frustrating. I had a cat, Mittens, who loved to spray the bookcase in the hallway. I don’t know why–maybe because it was near the door, so he could tell everyone who entered that it was his territory. One year he sprayed the Christmas tree and my mom had to re-wrap a lot of the gifts!

    1. Ugh. That is the worst when a cat sprays. It’s not always noticeable and then you get a sniff of it! Having more than one cat you don’t always know the culprit! Yes, it is all about territory. Sounds like a memorable Christmas you experienced. Thanks for sharing your story, Sandra!

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