Your Cat's 7 Strangest Habits, Finally Explained

Mario Tama/Getty Images News/Getty Images

If you've ever wondered why cats do what they do, you're not alone. They're some of the most inscrutable animals in the pet kingdom, and some are weirder than others — my own tortoiseshell likes nothing better than to sit on a fence in the snow yelling at the wind, like she's a character in Game Of Thrones. Fortunately, however, some of their more apparently ridiculous behavior is easily explained, and may even be quite sensible (or at least vaguely logical).

If you're thinking of getting a cat for the first time, the first rule of Cat Ownership Club is to understand that you'll probably take a while to learn the rules of Cat Ownership Club. Every cat is different and the bizarre rituals loved by one cat would make another scream in indignation and flee to the top of the airing cupboard. Cats can be capricious, unpredictable, and apparently illogical, but they're often pretty entertaining. And some of their weirder traits, aren't actually all that weird. According to experts, there are some instinctual reasons why cats may be doing the things they're doing, so try not to freak out too much the next time your cat brings you a "present." They're just showing their love, right? Here are seven strange habits your cat may have, explained.


Burying Their Poop

Most cats will bury their poop at the first opportunity, whether in their litter box or out in the garden. This may lead to bits of litter all over your floor as they "dig" to cover it up. But behaviorists don't believe this is driven by hygiene. Instead, according to LiveScience, most experts believe that it's actually a sign of submission and cunning, drawn from their past as animals in the wild. Poop isn't just a waste product, it's also a large sensory signal of an animal's presence. Burying your poop, by that logic, keeps you off the radar of bigger animals, both predators and members of your own species who patrol the territory. It's basically covering your poop-tracks. It's also good sense in terms of evolution — burying poop means nobody will eat it, which reduces disease spread.

If your cat doesn't cover their poop, it's often a sign that they feel dominant or want to secure their territory, according to experts at Vetstreet. The smell of their presence is meant to be pervasive —they're sending the signal that they're here, and bigger than everything else.


Talking To Prey

Indoor cats are particularly prone to this one: making a strange clicking noise when they observe something they want to catch (and can't quite get to). They won't make the movement while stalking, so some behaviorists, according to VetStreet, believe that it's a kind of frustration — many cats "talk" to express emotions (Bengals are particularly prone to this) and this clicking may be no different. However, it may also be a sound produced as the jaw moves into position to help the cat catch the prey.


Giving Presents

Presents are some of the most unpleasant aspects of cat ownership, whether they're bringing you a toy, a bit of string or, or occasionally, a pigeon as big as itself. This is actually interesting behavior that shows the bond with a cat's owner; according to Reader's Digest, the cat is bringing things of value and attempting to gain something for them, whether it's attention, reassurance, or something else. Some cats, it's thought, give presents because they worry owners aren't eating properly — others want to deposit their "kills" so that they can be helped to eat them. Some will even use them as bargaining chips. One my friend's cats is known to give house guests some toys in exchange for use of the spare bedroom.


Kneading Everything

Kneading can be extremely odd the first time you experience it: the pressing of paws on and off you in a rhythmic manner, sometimes with claws extended, feels a bit like you're being made into dough. But there's a strong instinctual reason for this, according to vets at the Drake Center: massaging is the technique that kittens use to get milk from their mothers, and when they do it in adulthood, it's a signal that they're comfortable, or that they're trying to calm down by doing something comforting. It's the equivalent of a security blanket or hugging a stuffed toy.



The director of research at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty To Animals (ASPCA), Dr Kat Miller, tells Paw Culture that getting the "zoomies" — rocketing about with seeming unbounded energy at peculiar hours of the night — is embedded in feline circadian rhythms. "Cats naturally have a different wake pattern," she says. "They sleep multiple times throughout the day and night, not only during the night. They can cycle through sleep and wake throughout the 24-hour period, and so they are naturally awake at different times.” After sleeping all day because their owners happen to be working, cats need to get their energy out sometime, and regard nights, when you're physically in the house, as the ideal time to do it. Even if they literally climb the walls. Or curtains. Or your best robe.


If I Fits, I Sits

The adorable propensity to sit inside something that appears to be far too small for them is a feline trait that's gone viral many times. But cats often find "I fits, I sits" opportunities because of evolutionary instincts. Experts tell the Huffington Post that boxes and enclosed areas appeal to cats because they are protected on all sides and feel safe from predators, while also giving them a good vantage point to observe their territory and note any threats or potential prey. This is also why cats like to get up high: they're surveying their area.



A cat sneer, oddly enough, is not regarded as an aggressive behavior. If you've noticed that your cat draws back its top lip and then opens its mouth after encountering an unusual smell, experts at The Spruce explain that it's actually just transferring the molecules of the smell to its additional sensory area: the Jacobson's Organ, which is right up at the back of their palate just below the septum, on the roof of their mouths. The sneer behavior itself is called a Flehmen response. Opening the mouth with their lips up helps the air from the strange smell encounter the Jacobson's organ, so they can assess whether the new odd thing is edible, threatening or just good to sit on.

Cats may be little weirdos, but just know there's an instinctual reason for your cat's strangest habits — most of the time.