If pressed, even the most devoted cat lovers will surely admit that cats are tiny bundles of teeth and mystery. Why do they do anything? Why is that expensive couch such an appealing scratching post? Must Skittles walk on the clean kitchen counters immediately after burying his own shit?
For a little insight, Wired talked to Tony Buffington, who studies the relationship between feline interstitial cystitis and stress. He answered several questions about cats and their strange behaviors and which of our behaviors likely read as strange to a cat. For instance, you should really leave your cat's belly alone because she is not a dog:
The classic is when Fluffy exposes her belly. When you go in for a rub, she bites and scratches you. "Exposing her belly is not a trap the cat is setting," Buffington says. "The cat is biting you because they feel violated and afraid." A cat's belly is its most vulnerable body part, and exposing it is the cat letting you know she trusts you—not that she wants a belly rub.
He also offered a little guidance on training. Apparently the spray bottle is useless: "To the cat, you're this crazy primate who is attacking him for no reason," he said, explaining the proper way to school Mister Megatron:
"The way to train a cat is through their environment," Buffington said. For example, put two-sided tape on the corner of your couch, or tinfoil on the kitchen counter. Then, put the now-more-attractive alternative nearby: A scratching post covered with catnip, or the awesome cat tree you built from scavenged driftwood. When your cat does the thing you want her do to, reward her with a treat, or affection. "You let the house provide the negative reinforcement, while you provide the positive reinforcement," Buffington said.
GODSPEED, MY CAT-MAD COMRADES.
Photo via Valeri Potapova/Shutterstock.