The Cat Source

Cat Behaviors and What They Mean

Why is it important to learn about common cat behaviors and what they mean? Because, while a cat can’t talk to you directly, everything from their body language to their behaviors can be the clues you need to figure out what they need, be it more food, or a trip to the vet.

Luckily, figuring out what a cat behavior might mean isn’t too difficult. In fact, here are the possible meanings behind four common cat behaviors.

Why do cats purr?

The sound of a cat purring can be amazingly soothing. Equally as soothing is the feel of a cat in your lap, purring away like the engine of a high priced sports car. But exactly why do cats purr?

Cats purr for many reasons, the biggest being that they are content. In fact, this is what most people interpret a cat’s purring to mean. So, if your cat is lounging around, and you hear a gentle purring coming from their direction, there’s a good chance it means he’s generally happy with his lot in life at that particular moment in time.

Cats also purr to give comfort to others. A mother cat purrs to give comfort to her kittens. And, hearing the purr, the kittens feel comforted and safe. So, if you’re having a bad day, don’t be surprised to find your cat cuddling against you and purring away.

But purring isn’t always a good thing. Cats also purr when they are frightened or sick. First, it’s a way for them to let those around them know that they aren’t feeling well. And, secondly, it’s a way of making themselves feel better. As soothing as purring can be to a cat’s owner, it can be just as soothing to the cat doing the purring.

Why do cats knead blankets?

There is an old wives tale that says that cats knead their blankets because they weren’t weaned from their mothers at exactly the right time. They were weaned too early, or too late, or something. But, if this common misconception were true, it would mean that all cats were weaned from their mothers at the wrong time, because this is a behavior that all cats engage in. So if cats don’t knead their blankets because they were improperly weaned, why do they do it?

Well the first reason is simply because they are happy. And kneading blankets just makes them even happier. The next time you see your cat kneading their blankets, listen closely. You will probably hear them purring softly, a clear sign that they are enjoying themselves.

Cats also knead their blankets to mark their territory. How? Well, in the pads of your cat’s feet, there are scent glands. And, when your cat kneads their blankets, they leave their scent all over them. It’s a simple way of telling other cats in the area that these blankets are off limits.

Finally, cats knead their blankets to make them more comfortable. When you go to bed, do you plump your pillows, and maybe arrange your blankets until they are just so? When your cat kneads their blankets, they are basically doing the same thing.

The most important thing to remember when it comes to your cat’s blanket kneading habit is that it is not necessarily a bad thing.

How do they sharpen their claws?

For cats, keeping their claws nice and sharp is an instinctive behavior. In the wild, having sharp claws could mean the difference between escaping from danger and, well, not. And, while your housecat doesn’t have to deal with the same kinds of dangers, the drive to keep their claws sharp is still there.

So how do cats sharpen their claws? By scratching. And you can find yourself dealing with a lot of headaches depending on what your cat likes to scratch. If your cat likes to go outside and scratch up the trees, that’s not so bad. But what if they like to scratch up your expensive living room furniture?

One way to deal with your cat scratching up your stuff is to give them a more attractive alternative, like a cat scratching post. If your cat won’t stop clawing up your sofa, chances are it’s because there’s something about your sofa that they like. (The fabric might feel good against their claws, for example.) However, you might find that your cat likes a scratching post wrapped with sisal even better.

When you bring a new cat into your home, you want to discourage any unwanted scratching behavior as soon as possible. Many find spraying their cat with a little water from a squirt bottle to be a relatively gentle deterrent.

Why do some cats meow excessively?

Every cat meows. But when a cat meows excessively, it can become a problem.

Did you know there are certain cat breeds, especially Oriental breeds, that meow more than others? It’s just in their nature. If there is anything they are at all discontent about, they will track down their owners and treat them to a meow fest. One way to cut down on the meowing is by making sure their needs are met; they’ve been fed, the litter in their litter box has been changed, etc.

Female cats that haven’t been spayed also have a tendency to meow excessively when they are in heat. In these situations, the solution is simple: Have the cat spayed. Not only will it cut down on your cats excessive meowing, there are other benefits too. For example, female cats that have been spayed are less likely to suffer from uterine cancer.

Finally, cats might meow excessively if they want something, or they are trying to tell you something. If excessive meowing is a new behavior for your cat, take the time to try to find out what’s causing it. A trip to the vet might not be out of the question.

It’s true that you can’t talk to your cat directly. He can’t tell you in words that he’s hungry, sad, lonely, or feeling sick. But learning the meanings behind some of the most common cat behaviors is the next best thing.

13 thoughts on “Cat Behaviors and What They Mean”

  1. Randy says:

    What does it mean when a kitten scratches the ground where her food bowl sits? I noticed she either scratches the ground or runs her front paw through the water and into her food.

  2. Diane says:

    I have an 2 older cats(brother & sister/8 or 9 years old & Fixed). They are both indoor/outdoor.
    Couple of weeks ago they starting staying outside for days at a time. Should I be concerned?

  3. sheila hayden says:

    I moved in with my daughter with my fixed male cat 15 yrs old .My daughter has 3 cats of her own .My question is my cat is sraying on everything how do I stop him doing thi?

  4. kaley says:

    Regarding: In your most informative article “Why do cats knead blankets” My first cat was abandoned as a kitten and never experienced a real mother. My theory is when cats knead soft blankets and suckle the blanket at the same time, it might be an explanation as to why this behavior is present.

  5. Bryce R. says:

    Breed: Siamese.
    Age: under a year.
    Question: My young kitten is a very shy paranoid cat who’s constantly looking obsessivly alert. He doesn’t purr , unless he is neading on a blanket. It’s hard to tell if he is happy. Should I be concerned?

  6. Sue Gullikson says:

    Dear Sirs:
    Why does a cat all of a sudden start to hiss and claw a person for no reason at all. My cat will
    be setting on my lap and out of the blue it will hiss and start to claw at me. Please let me know if this type of behavior will stop at some time.
    Your Friend,

  7. Sherry says:

    Why does my kitten scratch the floor around her water bowl? And my kitten who is now five months old and will kneed on your neck or arm and suck on you’re arm or neck?

  8. Beverly says:

    I have a stray cat that comes to visit ( I think)
    when I am in the bedroom she lays close by

    If I am on the deck she will move closer but will not let me pet her
    why does she do that

  9. Eileen says:

    My cat has started meowing all the time, can’t sit still, etc. Female, spayed, about 7 yrs old. Litter box, food, water etc is good. She just follows me around and meows pitifully. She gets a lot of attention, but I am at my wit’s end…..she keeps me up all night with this.

    Does anyone have ideas?

  10. Esther says:

    Please help. I have a young (8months) spayed female and 1 year old neutered male. The female and male are sleeping soundly and the female will wake up suddenly and become violent and
    threatening to the male. chasing him into hiding or corner him. they run around the house turning over things and running behind furniture. the male becomes extremly upset and frightened. The female calms down and will eventually return to sleep with the male. grooming each other and sleeping on each other???
    Thank You

  11. tonya says:

    my female tortoise shell cat is almost 3 yrs old….the past few weeks, her head has been moving back & forth like a bobble head…& she has been falling when she jumps….she jumped from the dresser to the bed & didn’t make it…she has also fallen trying 2 jump up onto couch….i’m worried that there may be something serious going on with her….like vertigo or something else…thx

  12. DayDay says:

    My cat keeps bumping me with his head. I can be sitting on the couch and he walks around the back of my head and start bumping me. What does that mean?

  13. Barbara says:

    I recently lost a cat. I had two. My remaining cat, age 11, started sleeping with me the day the first one passed away. She sleeps next to me every night, all night. In the morning, after she eats, she comes right back to the same spot. During the day I know that at times she is looking for he friend.

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