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5 Weird Cat Behaviors and What They Mean

Updated on July 5, 2014

Cats are now considered to be the most popular pets in the United States since they’re starting to outpace dogs as the number one pet. They’re cuddly, fun, and we tend to love them as a personal companion but sometimes they exhibit behaviors that upset us or make us scratch our heads in curiosity, while other times it’s just a way of them showing affection. Here are the most common cat behaviors and what they mean.

Avoiding Litter Box

Avoiding litter boxes is a common problem and strange behavior among cats and it varies by what the reason is. If a cat isn’t using a litter box, it is very important to take the cat to the veterinarian and have them checked out. There could be reasons why your cat might not use a litter box and it’s important to make sure that they’re medically healthy since the behavioral change. There are several factors that can lead a cat not to use a litter box.

  • Medical Problem – If the cat normally used the litter box but stopped this particular behavior, it should be taken into consideration to find the reason why. This is the first behavior the cat changes if something is medically wrong with it.
  • Cat Markings – Cats sometimes do their business elsewhere but can use the litter box for another purpose. Cats will mark or spray a certain area within close proximity to communicate with other cats or just simply because they are stressed.
  • Dissatisfaction – Just like humans, if there is something that we don’t like we tend to stay away from it or not touch it at all. Same goes for the cat. The cat may not like the box, the location of it or simply both.

Cats really like cleanliness and every cat differs in what they consider a clean litter box. To make sure that your cat stays healthy and free from disease, it’s important to clean the litter box daily.

Bunting and Rubbing

Another cat behavior that is rather odd but lovable is when a cat head-butts you (gently). The technical term for this is bunting and refers to a way a cat presses and rubs its head against objects. Allorubbing is a term used when a cat reacts this way towards another cat or towards us. This bunting gesture is a way for the cat to leave scent markings on objects, cats, or humans that they run into since they have scent glands all over their bodies. While majority of cats gently head-butt, there are some cats that are pushy and can turn it into a head-slamming contest. The purpose behind this behavior is the cat showing its trust in owners and scent marking what’s important to it.

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Covering poop

One of the things that is common among cats and may excite owners is the fact that cats usually cover their poop in the litter box (most of the time). We think about this as a gesture of cleanliness which brings a sigh of relief since it levitates us from picking up after our feline friend. However, there are times where cats don’t cover their feces and leaves it in a particular place to mark its territory. This is a way for the cat to tell intruders, strangers, or even other cats that the place they “marked” is their turf. In the wild, cats often leave poop out for this particular reason but there are those that cover their poop to avoid being found by dominant species of their kind. Majority of the time, for indoor cats, covering poop is just a way of cats avoiding any unwanted attention.

Kneading

Different from cats that scratch the furniture, every cat loves to “make biscuits” or “clay-make” at a certain point and may do it often whenever alone or with an owner. The cat pushes and flexes its front paws and claws in front of it exhibiting a pushing motion wherever it is at like treading with the front feet. This is something that kittens do when they’re nursing since the rhythmic pushing against a mothers’ breast stimulates the milk to the let down so they can be fed. Many adult cats seem to do this and we think that we can’t really read into their minds but we imagine them remembering what a wonderful feeling it was being with mom and nursing. Majority of cats do this and also purr at the same time. If the cats’ nails are too long it may dig into us and hurt us a little bit especially since cats love to knead on our laps. The cat means no harm but at times may look insulted if we try to push them away when they do this fancy footwork. The kneading behavior of the cat is a way of cats expressing and showing how happy, how good, and how safe they feel right then and there. When your cat is doing this to you, it means that the cat loves you and it’s just a way of express affection. This can also make a cat appear even more adorable and endearing than they already are!

Cat Privacy

Cats have different personalities in which some are friendly and outgoing while others are somewhat very shy and timid. For example, a cat that runs when the doorbell rings may just be a shy cat that doesn’t want to make more friends. Even the most outgoing and active cat may run to hide or seek privacy from time to time. Just because a cat is very quiet and timid, it is absolutely important to offer the cat some safe places where they can hide and watch without necessarily interacting. Some places that cats feel safe are high perches on a shelf, cat pole, or a bed away from the crowd. It’s always best to choose a cat that works for you and best fits your personality.

Cats are different than any other pets that we own and may be peculiar in a very fascinating way. Interaction is the key with cats although at times cats will want to be picky on how they want certain things. Some cats seem to prefer interaction around the head and neck, scratching on ears, a light pet on top of the head but not enjoy stroking down the entire body, while some will just love to be picked up, and will show that love in a very strange way! Also, the cat will give you a signal when they’re not particularly happy. These signs can be subtle just as a little flick of the tail, ears will go back, or some cats might even hiss at you. You may then realize that what your cat wants to do is to be close to you without being touched. By understanding their normal behaviors, their need for cleanliness, and respecting their privacy, we can have a long lasting and loving relationship with our feline friends.

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    • profile image

      Michelle Widmann 3 years ago

      Interesting hub! I have two cats and this was really interesting to read about. I've never really thought about why my cats knead at blankets or my tummy, if they're sitting on me. Some of these I've never encountered, but it opened my eyes to some of the reasons why cats do things - which I find fascinating.

    • lisavanvorst profile image

      Lisa VanVorst 3 years ago from New Jersey

      I loved reading this hub as I am a cat person. All my cats have gone to Heaven and the place I rent now won't let me have pets. My cats all did the kneading and they were playful when they were kittens and so lovable as they got older. Oh how I miss my cats. Thanks for writing about cats because usually dogs get all the attention.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

      I did wonder why they kept rubbing their head up against me, so I learned something new! lol! great info, and I loved my cats, and yes one of them did like taking 'time out' on his own, so he had a little bed in a side room that he seemed to go to to get away from people for a while, great hub!

    • vandynegl profile image

      vandynegl 3 years ago from Ohio Valley

      Good information! I tend to wonder why cats (and other animals) do some of the things they do! Thanks for writing!

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 3 years ago from Oakley, CA

      We have 7 cats, and have seen all of these behaviors in one form or another over the years.

      While burying their waste is pretty much a hard-wired instinctive behavior, it does call for some instruction from Mama Cat. One of ours was found minus Mama when still a small kitten. As a result, she tries to bury, but doesn't quite 'get' that she has to dig down in the litter do do so. Instead, she scrapes the sides of the box, the wall behind it, the floor, and in the end, figuring she's done what needs doing, (or gives up in frustration), leaves the area, her waste still exposed.

      Just like people; cats have personal quirks. Another of our kitties was found outside, who knows how long he'd been outdoors, but he was about 8 months old when he came to us. He uses the litter box, but has a bad habit every so often of lifting up his hindquarters while in the box, thus spraying the wall behind! Spraying is a territorial marker, and usually does not appear in neutered animals. However, he was older when neutered, and had apparently already developed the habit while living outside.

      You make an important point about checking with the vet if a new behavior (especially litter box avoidance) surfaces. In fact, we just had our 2nd oldest cat at the vet this week for that very reason; caught spraying and peeing away from the box, something he's never done before. He checked out just fine--apparently he somehow got stressed. The solution: put a small dish with a vinegar-soaked paper towel in the areas where he was inappropriately urinating.

      Well done article. Voted up, interesting and useful.

    • Nancy Owens profile image

      Nancy Owens 3 years ago from USA

      The cat who adopted my family does a lot of head butting. When he first showed up he would do it every time anybody stood still. Now he likes to do it during cuddle time. At first, I think it was because he was trying to find his place among the group. Love this hub!

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 3 years ago from Chicago Area

      Dogs have weird behaviors similar to these, too! My one girl dogs rubs up against me when I'm in the bathroom. Huh? Only place she does that. But she seems happy when she's there. Whatever! Interesting hub. Thanks for sharing!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      I've had cats all my life and on only two occasions I've had cats actually mark ME. In both cases I think they were trying to make statements to other cats about possession and ownership of me. Completely not cool. I did rule out medical situations and they didn't repeat it, thankfully. I enjoy when they do their "head butting" or "bunting" behaviors and when they "make biscuits." Voted up and sharing.