6 Unusual Cat Behaviors & What They Mean

Cats love to snuggle in bowls.

The fascinating characteristics of cats and cat behaviors provide many hours of discussion, laughter and even questions.  We wonder why Fluffy paces and screams at us in the middle of the night.  Or why she chases what seem to be invisible critters in the air, swatting at “them.” I remember my daughter’s indoor-outdoor cat who often brought me “gifts” of dead moles, birds and one snake dangling from his mouth.  He didn’t understand why those gifts never elicited the proper appreciation from me, and I wondered why he did this.

Have you wondered why your kitty does certain things? Or if it’s normal? Do you worry if some strange behavior needs veterinary intervention?  Whether our cats’ behaviors are cute, silly or downright annoying, they hold our interest and curiosity.

Cat’s Got the Zoomies!

It’s 3 a.m. The sound of feline feet pounding through the house wakens you from a sound sleep. Thoughts of “cat-i-cide” enter your fuzzy brain just as Fluffy lands on top of you, turns around a couple of times, then takes off again through the house. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to her racing paws. Fluffy has the zoomies!

During the day, our Lucy zooms around our condo, clearly playing some kind of game. She includes peek-a-boo in the middle of the “zoom.”  She tears across our bed and out of the room and back through the living room like she’s possessed. Sometimes, she “talks” as she runs. At night, Lucy gets louder with more prolonged screeches as she runs around.

Who Knows Why?

Experts really don’t know why cats get the zoomies at random times. Best guess for this sometimes exhausting cat behavior is they have too much stored up energy, and this is the only way for Kitty to work it off.  Sometimes, she clearly plays a game along with racing through her environment, but other times, she just runs.

Some Cat Behaviors Express Kitty’s Love

You know that feeling when you awake to sandpaper rubbing across your skin? It’s likely just Fluffy saying “good morning,” but it feels like you just lost a layer of flesh. Cats lick their humans for many reasons. While an occasional lick probably just shows her love for you, the excessive behavior may indicate a problem.

Reasons Why Cats Lick Humans

If a kitten is taken from its mama too soon, infantile behavior like excessive licking may continue into adulthood. It may remind the cat of its mama cleaning her baby. Cats also lick their humans to show their affection or to mark you as their own.

Some cats lick to get attention. They tell you it’s time to play according to their inner clock. Cats “clean” you so you smell like them. It’s their way to make you part of their family.

Cats also lick as a way to express anxiety. They may lick themselves, other cats or their humans. In their territory, you are fair game.  Your kitty may be upset over a change in her litter or her diet, visitors to the home or something as simple as you rearranged the furniture. If anxiety is the cause, look for ways to ease her stress, and the licking should lessen.

Why Cats “Rearrange” the Decor

Lucy’s most annoying habit is her need to redecorate our home. If I move small, decorative items around or add something new, she immediately must investigate. She’s smart enough not to remove them in front of me but you can bet when I turn my back, Lucy will push and swat the item to the edge of the table or cabinet where it sat. Then, a right hook knocks it to the floor. Lucy sits there, seemingly pleased with her handiwork.

Each Christmas, I decorate a small, table-size tree with mostly handmade ornaments from New Mexico. These include many Indian-made pieces and small pottery. Years ago, Lucy settled on a small pair of leather moccasins that hang from a leather cord. No matter where on the tree I hide them each year, Lucy searches until she finds her prize and she leaves it where it falls.

Why Do Cats Exhibit This Strange Behavior?

So why do cats enjoy this weird – and sometimes destructive – behavior? According to Adi Hovay, ASPCA Senior Feline Behavior Counselor, it may relate to a cat’s prey drive. “Your cat’s paw pads are very sensitive, so when they pat, swat, and knock something down, it helps them better explore the objects around them.”

Cats are smart. If these cat behaviors get your immediate attention, they learn quickly how to get it again.

If I Fits, I Sits

Cat behaviors, like Lucy's fascination with boxes, hold our interest.
Lucy with a recently-emptied box.

Is there anything cuter than a cat or kitten cuddled up in a too-small box? Our Lucy loves the arrival of the UPS guy. She stands right beside whoever opens a box, waiting for that coveted empty container to become hers.

You don’t need to waste money on commercial cat toys. Just give your fur-baby a box.  Cats love boxes because they like the enclosed feeling of safety a container provides.  Remember that your cat is a predator at heart and hiding and observing their prey is a predatory behavior.

Pay Attention to Me!

Cat behaviors, like a cat sitting on your desk or computer, are demands for attention.

Cats seem to know exactly what will annoy you. She knows if she covers it up with her body, it will force you to pay attention to her.  Whether it’s your computer keyboard or work papers or the television, Kitty does what it takes to draw your attention to her.

All About the Poop

Are there any cat behaviors more disgusting than finding cat poop outside the litter box? That would certainly rank high on my list of dislikes. One thing we know for sure is that Kitty communicates her displeasure or unhappiness this way.

If this behavior has just begun, take her to the vet at once to rule out any health issues. Once she is deemed healthy, begin searching for changes in her environment. Cats get stressed at even little issues. It could be something as simple as the wrong litter or you moved her box that caused her to lash out her displeasure.

Cat behaviors, like Kitty pooping outside the litter box, is disgusting.


Cats Expect a Super Clean “Bathroom”

Some cats might be content with you scooping the box once a day but many want their box to feel pristine clean on their dainty paws. Try to scoop it several times a day if it’s needed.

Kitty Wants Privacy

Is her box placed in a location that pleases her? We put a baby gate on our laundry room door with a special opening for our cat. Murphy, the dog, is too large to squeeze through it, so Lucy has the room all to herself when she “goes.” Cats don’t want dogs sniffing around their bathroom.

Changes in the Home Upset Cats

It could be the presence of a visitor or perhaps you moved the sofa that day. The least little change may upset a cat. Is there a new baby in the house?  Try to discern any changes that might disturb your pet. It may just take a few days for her to settle down but if you find the problem has an easy solution, fixing it might prove easier than dealing with the cat’s own solution of leaving you unwanted presents outside her box.

Determine What You Can Change & Accept the Rest

If cat behaviors create havoc in your life, look around you to find the solution. It may be as simple as an environmental change, or it may require you to provide your cat with more privacy or attention. Whether it’s zoomies during the wee hours or pooping where she isn’t supposed to go, or just some quirky but harmless attempts for attention, cat behaviors definitely affect our lives.  Get a vet check to rule out any health problems, but don’t over-complicate the issues.  Decide what behaviors can be fixed or changed, and learn to accept the ones that make your pet who she is.

Lucy at 16 is set in her ways.  We have learned to decipher her odd behaviors and enjoy the harmless ones.  So next time your cat wakes you in the middle of the night as she pounds across the floor and lands on top of you, remember how cute she is and how much you love her.


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