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Weird Cat Behaviors Explained

Updated on April 22, 2013
Cat in sink
Cat in sink | Source

As any cat owner knows, cats have many behavior traits. Some of these behaviors are easy enough to figure out - when your cat scratches on your bedroom door early in the morning, odds are good that she wants you to get up and feed her, or at least let her in the room. However, some of kitty's quirks might be more mysterious. What is your cat thinking or feeling when she's doing something weird?

Why do cats sleep in sinks?

The internet is full of pictures of cats in sinks. You may even have a cat of your own who likes to hang out in your sink (and clog the drain with his fur). What is it about sinks that draws some cats to them?

It's the same reason cats like to sleep in boxes (even boxes that are almost too small for them), drawers, laundry baskets, or cubbyholes. A smaller space (like a sink) is more like a den, and therefore feels more secure to the cat. Some cats may also be looking for a place to cool down, and the sink may be one of the cooler spots in the house.

Cat drinking from a toilet
Cat drinking from a toilet | Source

What about drinking out of the toilet?

I once had a cat who seemed to think water from the toilet was the only water worth drinking. I know there are many other cats in the world who have similar "tastes." Why do cats like to drink water from such a nasty place?

Cats don't see the toilet bowl in the same way we do. They see it as a source of fresh water (the water is changed every time the toilet is flushed), and it's usually cooler than the water that's been sitting around all day in a bowl. The water in a toilet sometimes moves, and your cat might be entertained by this.

It's generally not a good idea to let your cat drink toilet water, due to obvious sanitary issues as well as residue from cleaning chemicals. Fortunately, you can break most cats of the habit by keeping the toilet lid closed and changing your cat's water frequently. Providing your cat a "pet fountain" instead of a regular drinking bowl is another option.

Why do cats sometimes suddenly run around like maniacs?

Many people with cats have experienced this at one time or another. All of a sudden, the cat jumps up and runs around the house, darting here and there and maybe running up and down the stairs. This is sometimes called "night crazies" because it seems to happen most often (though not always) at night. There are a few possible reasons for a cat "going crazy."

The cat may just be playing around and burning off some extra energy. This is the most common reason in young cats and kittens, but it's not exclusive to the young ones. My mother's 20-year old cat did it occasionally (though less often than he did when he was younger). However, there could also be a physical reason for the behavior. A surprise flea bite or itch in a spot your cat can't reach can turn him temporarily spastic. Another thing to watch out for is a disorder called Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome, or "rippling skin disorder." If your cat's skin actually ripples and he bites or scratches at himself (primarily on the back or tail), get him checked by a vet. The condition could be a type of obsessive compulsive disorder in some cats, but it can also have physical causes such as allergies, exposure to toxins, or neurological disorders.

Cat slurping his human's head.
Cat slurping his human's head. | Source

Why do cats lick our heads or hair?

My husband and I had a cat who loved to lick our heads, especially when we were fresh out of the shower. It turns out that it's a fairly common behavior, and there are a few reasons cats do it.

Mother cats lick and groom their kittens, and adult cats remember this experience. If cats feel close to each other, one will often groom the other as a way of saying, "You're part of my group." This extends to human family members as well. So, when your cat slurps you, he might just be showing you affection. It could also be that you don't smell enough like him any more and he wants to reestablish you as part of his "clan".

Why do some cats suck on fabric?

This is often called "wool sucking," because wool seems to be the material of choice. However, other fabrics are not immune. Some cats will even suckle on a human finger, a toy, a part of their own body, or another cat. Most people wouldn't think anything strange of seeing this behavior in a kitten, but when it comes to adult cats, it's a different story.

For adult cats, this is usually another type of obsessive compulsive disorder. It happens often in cats who were weaned too early. Ideally, kittens should be with their mothers until they are 8 - 12 weeks old (12 weeks is best). If they are taken away earlier, they still instinctively want to suckle on something, and fabric is soft and warm like the mother. Some cats only engage in wool sucking when they are stressed, because it feels comforting to them. It tends to be more common in certain breeds, such as the Siamese. There's also the possibility that the behavior is due to a deficiency in the diet, so a checkup with your veterinarian is always a good idea, just in case.

If your cat is ingesting material (of it you're just tired of finding your blankets wet from cat saliva), you can try to break your cat of the habit by distracting her when you catch her suckling. Be sure to give her a favorite treat or some ear scratches when she stops. Another option is to provide her with her own blanket or toy for suckling - terrycloth is safe and usually attractive to cats.


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    • jenb0128 profile image

      Jennifer Bridges 4 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks for the comments and votes, everybody! I love the cat stories. Felines are such entertaining creatures. @Writer Fox: I'm not sure why dogs are easier to understand. Maybe it's because they're more extroverted.

    • Made profile image

      Madeleine Salin 4 years ago from Finland

      Nice and interesting hub! I have four cats myself, so I really know what you're talking about. Some cat behaviours may seem weird if you aren't used to cats. :)

    • CASE1WORKER profile image

      CASE1WORKER 4 years ago from UNITED KINGDOM

      Our new cat Hugo has a mad half an hour every day- today he was chasing a piece of paper that he had rolled under the TV. Thank goodness he drinks from the bath rather than the toilet.

    • stephanieb27 profile image

      stephanieb27 4 years ago from United States

      I had to read this after talking to my brother last night who just got a kitten. He was telling me the kitten sleeps for about 5 hours at night and then "attacks" him while he is sleeping. Thanks for sharing! :)

    • Writer Fox profile image

      Writer Fox 4 years ago from the wadi near the little river

      So, here's my question: Why are dogs so much easier to understand?

    • Theater girl profile image

      Jennifer 4 years ago from New Jersey

      Thank you for sharing these facts ! Voted up!

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 4 years ago from Riga, Latvia

      Voted up and interesting. That explains two things for me. Our cat Sid loves to lick our hair and he starts running about like a maniac especially when there is a heavy wind blowing. Enjoyed this and passing it on.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      Brilliant ;a wonderful read and another for me to vote up.


    • jenb0128 profile image

      Jennifer Bridges 4 years ago from Michigan

      They do love those sinks! The cats we have right now are too big to fit into our bathroom sink, but the old guy we had before always squeezed himself into it. He'd always run out whenever he was caught, even though I didn't mind all that much.

    • Jordan Hake profile image

      Jordan Hake 4 years ago from Southwest Missouri, USA

      Ha, ha! I have a cat that spent the last summer in our bathroom sink, she would lick the leaky faucet to get drops of water to fall on her and cool her off.

    • jenb0128 profile image

      Jennifer Bridges 4 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks, everybody! I once had a cat who loved to lick off the hairspray, too. I always thought it was the alcohol (it was impossible to drink wine around this particular cat, or else he'd try to steal it).

      Thanks for the extra info, Azel! When I had my own wool-sucking cat, I asked the vet if it could have been a vitamin or mineral deficiency, but the bloodwork came back fine. The cat had been weaned a bit too young, so it seemed to be a behavior issue in his case. Still, it's good to know to watch out for deficiencies, just in case. (I'll add that to the hub. Thanks again!)

    • Azel Hill Beckner profile image

      Azel Hill Beckner 4 years ago from Bowling Green, Kentucky

      Minerals of the micronutrient group includeing salt are needed by us all and cats have to find a source for extra minerals when their food is lacking in mineral content. consumeing non food items is called "pica" when babies do this.

    • NMLady profile image

      NMLady 4 years ago from New Mexico & Arizona

      My cat use to try to lick my hair when I used a certain brand of hairspray... I did NOT like my head being licked. ick.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      I have seen all these behaviors. Strange, perhaps only to us.

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Great and very interesting article on cat behavior and why they do it . Well done !

      Vote up and more !!! Sharing !

    • jenb0128 profile image

      Jennifer Bridges 4 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks for the comments, everyone! Cats are definitely entertaining animals.

      As far as rolling onto their back when they play fight - it's because that's a way they fight for real as well. It's actually a good position for them, because it allows them to use their teeth and all four paws (and all four sets of claws) at the same time.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 4 years ago from USA

      You're telling their secrets! I had a calico when I was a child who incessantly "sucked fuzz" from blankets, especially when stressed. Our house was her second home (a house of three kids), as she climbed the curtains in the first one. Three kids -- I wonder why she was stressed? "Bub" was a good girl who lived to 22.

    • Ardot profile image

      Ardot 4 years ago from Canada

      Nice hub! Cats can be so entertaining sometimes!

      I've got a younger kitten who is tormenting my older cat as I type and it's just hilarious!

      Say, why do kittens always go on their backs when they are play fighting?

    • profile image

      akhilesh121 4 years ago

      ya cat always do strange things.............