Six Strange Cat Behaviours Explained
Has your cat ever really weirded you out, or had you in fits of laughter with its strange habits?
We all know our cats are charismatic little oddballs – it’s what makes them so loveable. But is there an internal logic to their unusual antics? This week we take a look at the surprising explanations behind some of their most bizarre behaviours…
1. Burying food
Lola has done this ever since she was a kitten – frantically pawing at the ground around her food in a vain attempt to cover it up with some imaginary earth. We’ve always jokingly said this is a sign of her lack of intelligence, compared to her older sister Lyra – because she must be confused between her litter tray (where this sort of burying would be normal) and her food.
But it turns out Lola is actually the smart cookie! Burying food is a completely natural feline behaviour that she has inherited from her wild ancestors, who would have been small, desert dwelling felines. The burying behaviour is designed to stop any leftover food attracting dangerous predators who might prey on smaller cats.
Some people have speculated about whether cats are also trying to ‘cache’ or hide their food to save some of it for later. In the wild, it is usually only cats who make kills much larger than themselves that engage in this behaviour – such as leopards and lynxes. However, food caching has been observed in the European wildcat, which is a relatively close relative of our domestic cats. So it really could be that your kitty has worked out it has too much on its plate for one sitting, and is trying to save it for later, just like its wild cousins do!
2. Turning round 15 times before sitting down
Our cats haven’t always lived in the lap of luxury. In the not-too-distant past they would have had to make their own beds (try telling THAT to your pampered felines!).
They would have done so by flattening down grass or undergrowth, turning round in circles while trampling it down to fashion the ultimate cat bed. The circle-turning doubled as a sweep for dangerous snakes or predators, and it’s a behaviour which still persists to this day. When your cat turns round 15 times before sitting down (often windmilling their bottom past your face if you happen to be nearby), it’s engaging in the ancient cat custom of preparing its bed!
Photo credit: J Scotty Emerle / Flickr
3. Standing with paw raised
There are a few different types of ‘paw raises’. For instance, a paw held up usually signals a desire to play, or if a cat is feeling threatened or annoyed it could signal an intention to strike.
But there is a different type of paw raise that is particularly baffling at first sight. Again, in our house it’s Lola that displays this odd behaviour: she stands chirpily on all fours and then lifts one paw up as if she’s expecting some sort of prize for her ‘performance’.
At first I thought her paw was injured (and if your cat lifts one paw consistently then you should take it to the vets to make sure it isn’t). But it turns out that this behaviour is usually benign.
The most likely explanation is that your cat is pausing for thought, letting its paw hang there absent-mindedly, just as we might trail off in the middle of a sentence. Of course, if you go gaga every time it does this then it will become a learned behaviour – a ‘trick’ it uses to get attention.
But there is also a striking similarity between the curled raised paw and part of the motion that cats use to prepare their beds (which we often call kneading or ‘making cookies’). So there’s some evidence to suggest that the two could be connected in your cat’s mind – maybe it’s feeling sleepy and is thinking about bedding down or is in an unfamiliar situation and drawing on the comfort of the bed making ritual for reassurance.
4. Sleeping in the sink
Now this is a behaviour that I have never witnessed first-hand before, but I know from others that it’s incredibly common. So why would a cat choose to sleep in a spot so closely associated with their supposed nemesis – water?
First of all, the shape of a sink is often the perfect shape for a kitty to curl up in. But the real reason is the temperature – in hot climates a porcelain sink will often be the coolest place in the house. And our cats are no slouches when it comes to seeking out cool or heat, whichever the season demands. If it’s hot outside, and the sink is the coolest place in the house to snooze, then you can bet that that’s where your kitty will end up!
5. Sleeping on electronics
If I ever lose my phone or iPad in the house, the very first place I will look for it is under a cat! What makes our cats such fans of technology? Are they secretly browsing for Dreamies? Posting cat memes on the internet? Ordering pizzas while we go out?
Well, all of the above is probably true. But what really drives our cats’ passion for sleeping on electronics is temperature. In our cats’ eyes these aren’t so much state-of-the-art communications devices as perfectly engineered cat warming pads!
6. Dipping a paw in the water bowl
It doesn’t get much more kooky than this. You give your cat a perfectly good water bowl, full of lovely fresh water, and what does it do? Dunk a grubby paw inside and lick the water off that!
It turns out that the paw dip is our cats’ ingenious way of drinking in cases where the water bowl is too deep or too narrow, enabling them to drink comfortably without getting their whiskers pressed back (which they find unpleasant). If your cat has ever tried to drink out of a long drinks glass left on the side, then you’ll probably see them switch to the paw dip after a certain point – often followed by the glass crashing spectacularly to the floor! Bad kitty…
But if the bowl is sufficiently wide and deep, as in the video above, there may be another explanation. In multi-cat households, a cat might choose to paw dip instead of lapping at the water because it lets them keep an eye on their surroundings and spot any other cats before they can sneak up on them. Nobody wants to get jumped on whilst taking a nice cool drink!
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Does your cat have any other strange behaviours that we haven’t covered? Do they do something that you’re pretty sure no other cat does? I’d love to hear your stories – either in the comments below or over on Instagram or Facebook (both @supakitstore).