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Different Cat Behaviors and What They Mean

cat behaviors

Decoding Cat Behaviors

Working in the pet care business, we spend a lot of time reading animal body language and behavior. And while dogs are pretty clear with their signals and intentions, cats prove to be a little more mysterious. (Which, to be fair, is pretty on-brand for cats.)

However, as a pet owner, it’s important to take time to understand their language, especially the little cute/weird things they do. Here are 12 different cat behaviors, decoded:

1. She Grooms Your Face At Night

She loves you, and is marking you as hers. For cats, grooming is a sign of social bonding, so it’s high praise! Granted, it can be annoying when you’re trying to sleep, and also kind of gross. If it becomes a problem, try to gently redirect her to some cat toys. 

2. She Chews On Your Fingers

cat chewing on fingers

She wants attention. How dare you text in her presence! Kittens sometimes do this when they’ve been weaned too early or are teething. It’s also a quick way of getting you to play with her, especially if, in the past, she’s been rewarded with playtime for doing this.

3. She Chirps Or “Clicks” At Birds Outside

She wants to eat them. All of them. It’s a funny little sound, but according to The Humane Society, “some experts think that this is an exaggeration of the ‘killing bite,’ when a cat grabs its prey by the neck and works their teeth through the bones to snap them.” Cute.

4. She Paws At Closed Doors

She owns the place and does not appreciate her access being restricted, thank you very much. Cats are curious and territorial. They want the option to patrol and explore. She could also want your attention, or access to food. If your cat paws at your bedroom door at night, try giving her a bedtime snack or treat puzzle before bed, something to keep her entertained. Also keep a scratching post in your bedroom so she has access to it in the night. Cats love to scratch!

5. She Makes a Crazy Yowl When She Brings You A Toy

She just brought you a serious prize and wants praise for her “kill.” When your cat does this, make sure to thank her and play with whatever toy she brought you. (Unless, of course, it is an actual dead animal.)

6. She Puts Toys In Her Food Or Water Dish

cat toy in water bowl

She’s keeping it safe for later. According to this article from Pet Place, “in your cat’s world, her food and water dishes are part of her territory, a secure place for her to stash her valuables, much as if she were in the wild, hiding her prizes from potential predators.”

7. She Likes To Perch On Your Shoulder

cat shoulder perch

She wants attention and affection on her own terms. In general, cats like to be up high. It gives them a sense of safety and control. So while she may not like to be held, being on your shoulder is the next best way to snuggle.

8. She Shows You Her Belly

cat showing belly

She trusts you, but isn’t necessarily asking for a belly rub. Cats know their stomachs are their most vulnerable areas, which is why they guard them so fiercely. By exposing her stomach to you, she’s saying “I am comfortable with you and trust you.” It could also mean she’s in a playful mood. But, again, do not mistake this as a request for belly rubs! It could very well be the last thing you do.

9. She Smells Something, And Then Looks Like She’s About To Sneeze

She’s processing information. We call this “butt face,” but the scientific term is actually The Flehmen Response. Cats have an extra olfactory organ, the Jacobson’s organ, located behind their front teeth. When they smell something particularly interesting (read: particularly stinky, like another cat’s butt), they’ll let the smell wash over this organ to gather more information.

10. She Head-Butts You Like A Hammerhead Shark

She’s bonding with you and marking you with her scent. A cat head butt isn’t strictly a territorial thing, though. “Cat bunting,” as it is actually called, is more complex than that. It’s a sign of respect and familiarity. 

11. She Vibrates Her Tail

Opinions are split on this, but we tend to think it’s excitement. Some sources say an upright vibrating tail is a sign of a cat preparing to spray/mark its territory. Others say it’s a sign of excitement. You know your cat better than anyone else, so take cues from her mood, body language or tail position.

12. She “Makes Biscuits” On The Bed (Or Your Body)

cat kneeding

She’s getting cozy by channeling her inner kitten. At a young age, cats learn to knead while nursing to stimulate milk flow. The behavior sticks with them, much like kids suck their thumbs or grown adults continue to sleep with stuffed animals. (You know who you are.) 

Another theory is she’s marking her spot. Cats have scent glands in their paws, so by kneading a blanket or spot on the bed, they’re calling dibs. 

When your cat kneads your body, she’s telling you she loves you. If her love language is free acupuncture, try putting a blanket in between you and her claws. 

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