Contributed by Angie Lewis, President of Alaska Animal Advocates
Cats can be strange creatures; there is no denying. Almost 50% of households in the United States have the pleasure of having at least one cat. Trust me, the people in these homes often wonder just what makes their kitty tick. Here are some strange behaviors that all of us, who love cats, have witnessed from our feline friends:
• Making direct eye contact is something that many animals do not enjoy, as it can be interpreted as an act of dominance. So, many cats will avoid looking directly into their human’s eyes. Often, when cats are in a room filled with people, they will gravitate toward the one non-cat lover in the group. Usually, this is done because that person is not looking at them. Having said this, some cats will stare lovingly into your eyes, once they feel safe and comfortable in the household. If you know your cat is not yet relaxed in his environment, when looking at him, close your eyes for a few moments and then open them, looking away occasionally. This will show him that you are not a threat to him.
• Another odd eye contact habit that cats may exhibit, is the slow eye blink. This is typically a sign of love and can be reciprocated by you, the human. Close your eyes slowly and blink, to return the loving gesture. You can communicate the love you have for your cat by doing this.
• Many cats, even seemingly affectionate ones, dislike being held. Although cats are often the hunters, they can be hunted as well. When animals are catching their prey, they typically restrain the victim. So, being held by you stresses your kitty, who feels that his ability to escape is compromised. Once your cat starts flailing his tail and flattening his ears, it’s time to let him go. The best way to hold a cat is to use one hand under his chest, while supporting his back legs – supporting him against your upper body.
• Another odd cat behavior is chattering at birds flying around outside the window. Some animal behaviorists think that this may be a sign of frustration because the kitty is not able to get at the birds. Others think that this is an instinct that prepares the kitty’s muscles for killing their prey.
• One of my favorite cat behaviors is the head-butt. This is your cat’s way of greeting you and may be a marking behavior. You do after all, belong to him. Now don’t be worried if your cat doesn’t head-butt you. This does not mean that he doesn’t love you.
• Those of us who have indoor/outdoor cats are thrilled when our cat brings us “presents” such as a dead bird or rodent. Don’t punish your cat for this behavior! Your cat may be sharing the spoils of his hunt with your or giving you thanks for feeding him. I usually try to save the unfortunate victim and try to let him/her go – if he survives my cat.
• Kneading is not something too many cat guardians are fond of. In fact, it can be quite painful. This rhythmic pressing of paws, one at a time, is much like a massage – with nails. This behavior often indicates a content, happy cat. It is also an instinctive behavior that happens after a cat’s birth and is used to stimulate milk production in the momma cat.
• Many cats enjoy curling up in a small box, drawer or other tiny space. This makes your cat feel safe. Sleeping in a wide-open area exposes your cat to predators and other dangers. Kitties can find the most unusual, hilarious spots. Vases, cabinets or grocery bags are just a few spaces a cat will invade when the mood strikes. Make certain that the space he chooses is a safe one.
• Occasionally, your cat will not cover up his poop in the litterbox. Some cats are quite picky about the litter in their litter box and may not like the type you are using. Also, kitties are very clean animals and if the litter box is not scooped frequently, they may be protesting by leaving the poop uncovered. Or, the box may be too small or used by too many cats, if you live in a multiple cat household. Always make sure to talk with a veterinarian about any potential health problems.
• Some cats yowl at night, keeping you awake for hours. Hopefully, your cat has already been spayed or neutered, so this crying is not the result of looking for a mate. This behavior can stem from frustration or boredom. Provide your kitty with stimulating toys or puzzles to keep him in an enriched environment. If all fails, close the door to your bedroom. Again, talk to your vet to rule out health problems.
Cats are the most delightful creatures and some of their behaviors will amaze you. Enjoy the fact that you can share your home with a wild cat!