It’s a fact that real cats—those domesticated mammals who bring joy to so many introverts around the world—do weird things. But why? As a dog person who once liked cats, I have no idea why they do what they do. I am no veterinarian. But as a curious person with access to the internet, I can become one. Here’s what I found.
Glad you asked, and what a way to get started. The answer is disappointing: according to Mental Floss, there are a variety of popular scientific (and pseudo-scientific) arguments as to why cats literally lose their shit after defecating. Some animal behaviorists believe their predilection to bolting after a nice poo stems from some deep-seated fear that predators could track them via smell. Biologist think that’s... crap... because cats in the wild don’t engage in feces and flight. They believe it may be classic teenage rebellion: kittens’ moms will often lick their offspring’s buttholes after they do their business, and as they age, teen cats run away out of protest. Other science nerds think it is a cat’s way of shaking off any fecal cling-ons. I’m wont to agree with the latter explanation.
According to veterinarian Dr. Patty Khuly for Vetstreet.com, a reliable source if I’ve ever googled one, cats stare because: a) They want something from you, most likely food, or b) They are keeping an eye out for predators. “Because they love you” could be another option, but they’re probably just hungry.
Because they’re smart. According to a 2019 study published by researchers at Japan’s Sophia University, cats distinguish between their names and other words—so if you’re calling for sweet Mr. Jigglesworth and his brother Archduke Franz Ferdinand and neither respond, they are absolutely choosing to ignore you. But as Better Homes and Gardens points out, the reason for giving you the cold shoulder is a personal choice. Sorry.
For PetHealthNetwork.com, Dr. Mike Paul, DVM explains that while most cats can sleep up to 16 hours a day, they are rarely fast asleep. They’re participating in what he calls “light sleep.” Cats essentially rest their eyes to conserve energy, but most of the time, they’re not in a deep doze—they can wake up and pounce.
Why do cats like to chew weird things like plastic bags and electric cords, forcing you to buy a new charger every few months?
They’re hungry? Just kidding, according to the ASPCA, there are a variety of reasons cats chew stuff. Usually it is because they’re anxious, bored, or in severe cases, actually sick. If you’re concerned, take your animal companion to a vet. Also, there’s this, which is adorable: “It can also occur in cats who were weaned too early and feel the urge to ‘nurse’ on soft items, like stuffed animals or blankets.”
Well, also according to the ASPCA, it’s because they love you! If you’re not taking that catnip, it’s because cats have pheromones in their cheeks, and by rubbing up against you, they are claiming you as their own.
Once again, there are a variety of reasons for this: cats in the wild will sometimes nibble on pants for additional nutrients, or because they think plants are delicious. And they are. At home, however, your sweet pussy is probably just bored, and/or “they’re attracted to the leaves fluttering in the air currents,” as CatHealth.com reports. I imagine the same could be said for your drapes.
Why do cats give you gifts, like the cat I once lived with that kept finding field mice and bringing them inside the house?
This one is pretty intuitive. According to Live Science, it’s a leftover, ancestral trait from long before cats were domesticated and had to hunt for their food. Interestingly enough, however, is that spayed female cats are most likely to bring you a somewhat-dead mouse: back in the wild, moms taught their children to hunt and eat. Also, cats kill billions of animals a year due to this impulse.
The ASPCA argues that kneading is likely a leftover trait from childhood when little kittens would press their paws on their mom’s stomach to “stimulate milk flow.” That’s cute! You’re mom! They might also do it because they feel relaxed, which is also cute! You’re definitely mom!
According to a vet, Dr. H. Ellen Whiteley, “Your cat’s instincts tell her that paperweight or knickknack could turn out to be a mouse. Her poking paw would send it scurrying, giving her a good game (and possibly a good lunch).” It’s hunting practice, like most things on this list. However, cats aren’t that dumb—they know destroying that priceless heirloom isn’t the same thing as seeping their claws into the fresh flesh of an unsuspecting rodent. “Once a cat learns that knocking something to the floor will bring humans on the double, quick, she may actually do it on purpose to get your attention, particularly if she feels that a meal is long overdue,” Whiteley adds. And there you have it.
This has been: Weird cat behavior, explained.