Decode Your Cat’s Behavior: 17 Cat Behaviors Explained

Wish you had a code to decipher the odd cat behavior? We’re dissecting a cat’s most puzzling behaviors.

What constitutes normal cat behavior?

Kids say the most bizarre things, but it’s felines who really throw us for a loop with their strange cat behavior! They tend to elicit an equal number of “awws!” and “oh no’s!” while kneading on soft blankets, knocking items off tables, and scratching our brand-new furniture. Continue reading for a breakdown of all of the above and more. You should also learn why cats like boxes, why cats dislike water, and why cats purr. Also, read this guide to cat body language to figure out what your cat is trying to tell you.


Purring is something nearly every cat does, but oddly, we know less about why they do it than we do about other noises they’re renowned for (like hissing or chirping). The truth is that purring has multiple meanings.

Atlanta-based veterinarian JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM, explains, “Cats often purr when they’re feeling calm, but they may also purr to self-soothe when they’re feeling worried or injured.” “When kittens are born, their mothers purr, creating a vibration that guides them to the mother’s nip for nursing. Additionally, cats purr to communicate with other cats and their owners that they want something.

Exposing its stomach

This is an all-too-common scenario: Your adorable Max extends out and reveals his fluffy belly, which makes you want to pet him or give him a loving scritch. The only response to this is a retraction of the offer, sometimes accompanied with a paw flick or a small bite. Indeed, strange cat behavior!

“When cats reveal their bellies to us, they demonstrate their faith in us,” However, if we accept this ‘offer’ by caressing their bellies, they may bite or scratch because it was merely a means of communication, explains Sam Meisler, DVM, veterinarian and founder of PetWellClinic.

If you create more trust, you may be permitted to approach the pets without being reprimanded, but be careful and remember that this is more of a physical show of trust than an invitation. You may not recognize these subtle displays of affection from your cat.

Wagging its tail

When a cat “wags” its tail, it is not an expression of happiness like a dog’s. In actuality, it may signify the reverse.

Evelyn Kass, DVM, a veterinarian with Pet Nutrition Doctor, observes that a cat’s tail wagging can be a caution. “A wagging tail indicates heightened excitement, irritation, or frustration. The thrashing tail signifies, “Stop what you are doing or I will become angry and bite you.” She adds that when the tip of the cat’s tail is wagging, it is frequently an indication that the cat is ready to pounce on its favorite toy or on your leg.


You may have seen that your cat enjoys napping and appears to snooze constantly. “This characteristic has generally evolved as an adaptive advantage so that animals can conserve energy for hunting.” “The domestic cat does not need to hunt, but the genetics are still there,” Dr. Meisler adds. “They do prefer sleeping in warm locations. Remember that a cat’s basal temperature is at least a couple of degrees greater than ours.” This helps to explain why they enjoy basking in the sun and sleeping on warm surfaces, such as your laptop.


In addition to purring and meowing, chirping is another popular cat sound. Your cat may chirp as it watches a bird outside the window or when it greets another cat. A cat’s chirp usually signifies one of two things: Its hunting instincts are triggered when it spots a bird, insect, rodent, or toy. This form of chirping is most likely accompanied by a twitching tail and dilated pupils. Or, a cat may chirp when it is happy to see someone, whether it be another cat…or you.

Ascending early

In addition to being active at dusk, cats are also known to be active at dawn. This is likely a moment when you’d want to sleep a little longer before your alarm goes off, but this cat behavior is natural, and your kitty doesn’t care what time your alarm is set to go off.

Installing blackout shades or shutters in your bedroom will prevent the sun from rousing your cat if you’re serious about reducing those early morning calls. Then, adhere to rigorous feeding times: once in the morning (but not immediately after you rise, otherwise they’ll associate your awakening with being fed) and once just before bed (to delay their hunger).

Knocking things over

If you’ve spent any amount of time with a cat, you’ve probably witnessed it bat something off a table. It may be a drinking glass, or it could be your phone. This is entirely normal cat behavior, albeit somewhat amusing and possibly annoying. According to Dr. Kass, there are numerous explanations for this, ranging from boredom to attention-seeking to hunting to even being playful.

Dr. Kass explains, “Cats are naturally inquisitive, and although dogs explore their world with their jaws, cats are more inclined to explore by touching and pushing an object with their paws.” “They also respond to the results. If something rolls, it may become “running away” prey, and they will pursue it. If you abruptly stop what you’re doing to run to your cat, there is a reward that may be repeatedly tested.”

Destruction of furniture

Cats must maintain their claws, just as humans must trim and file their nails so they do not interfere with typing and other daily duties. Scratching, which is a deeply entrenched cat activity, is one way they accomplish this.

There are also some other reasons why cats scratch. They are marking their territory, for one. Cats have scent glands on their paws, which allows them to effectively “mark” objects as their own. In addition to releasing energy or excitement, scratching is also enjoyable and pleasurable.

The most effective way to prevent your cat from scratching your furniture is to provide it with a scratching pad or cat tower. To encourage the behavior, apply a small amount of catnip to the object and reward the cat everytime it uses it.

Licking you

You may have also observed your feline friend licking you with its scratchy tongue. Dr. Pendergrass says that they do this for a variety of reasons.

“A cat will lick its owner to demonstrate affection. “When your cat licks you, it is forming a unique social link with you,” she explains. This licking activity has its origins in kittenhood, when a mother cat licks her kittens to groom and demonstrate affection.

Licking itself

In addition to licking you, cats frequently lick themselves. This is because they are self-cleaning organisms with remarkable grooming practices. The basic grooming tools for cats are their paws, tongue, and saliva. This means you do not need to bathe and groom your cat as frequently as you would a dog. Infrequently do cats require a bath.

Bringing in deceased animals (or toys)

You’re sitting there minding your own business when your cat appears, making strange noises and holding an object in her mouth. If you’re lucky, it’s one of her favorite toys, but cats are also known to bring dead bugs, rodents, and birds to their owners.

“Your cat may bring you a prey item, such as a toy or a mouse, and present it to you as a gift,” Dr. Meisler explains. “This is your cat telling you that you are a member of their pack and that they want to make sure you are properly fed.”

Other reasons they might do this include returning the feeding favor by keeping their kibble bowls full, emulating what their mama cats did for them, or handing you their catch so you can store it for later.


Scientists have found over a dozen distinct meows made by cats, each with its unique significance. Meows are generally used by kittens to communicate with their mothers, but by mature cats to connect with humans. Cats communicate with each other using hisses, growls, squeals, and other sounds. More astute owners can possibly distinguish between “I’m hungry” and “I’m bored” meows, or “I’m hurt” and “I’m terrified.”

Some cat breeds are more chatty than others, but if your cat suddenly starts talking more frequently, it could be an indication that something is wrong. A trip to the veterinarian can assist you discover out what’s wrong.

Cords for chewing

Cats are playful creatures who are especially drawn to ribbon, string, and cables. It’s not that they’re intentionally attempting to be disruptive or hazardous; it’s just that the wires are so easily accessible. Keep the ones you’re not using and cover the rest with cord covers (you can find these at pet stores). You can also try putting bitter apple spray to cords, but use caution because too much of the essential oils in it can make cats sick.

If your cat continues to chew on cords after you’ve applied the bitter apple, take him or her to the vet to rule out any tooth issues.

Getting out of the litterbox

Cats like litter boxes and are wired from kittenhood to “cover” their pee and poop, so going outside the litter box is an indication that something isn’t quite right. It could be as simple as them disliking the location of the box or the litter you use. Alternatively, they may desire it to be cleaner (just as we prefer to use a clean bathroom).

A cat going beyond the litter box may indicate a medical problem, such as a urinary tract infection (UTI). Your veterinarian can take a urine sample to see if there is an issue that needs to be treated. Another common reason cats do not use the litter box is behavioral concerns. This could be due to feelings of territoriality with other cats or a lack of mental/physical stimulation.


Making biscuits, playing the piano, mashing potatoes, and sleepy marching are all names for cat kneading. Whatever you call it, this cat behavior is simply lovely! Cats do this for a reason, and it’s not just to be cute.

“It’s all about love and comfort,” Dr. Pendergrass explains. A cat, for example, will knead its person to express affection, or knead a blanket to make the most snug location to sink in for a sleep. Kneading is often a calming action for stressed cats.

Grass eating

What’s the deal with your cat eating grass while you feed it all the wonderful food in the world? The truth is that we don’t fully understand it (just like dogs eating grass), but specialists have some theories. One reason they’re doing it is to comfort their stomach, which can aid with gastrointestinal upset or even hairballs. It could also be a way for them to receive nutrients they don’t get from their diet, or it could simply be a pleasant snack.


This is one of those cat behaviors that every cat parent has seen a million times but may not understand. Cats frequently rub against household objects, but they will also rub against you. What exactly does this mean?

Dr. Kass claims that they are marking their territory, which includes you. “Cats have scent glands on their faces that deposit distinct odors on anything they rub against.” They rub against you to confirm that you are a member of their family.” Isn’t that adorable?

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