Behind Cats’ Curious Behaviors

Do you ever wonder why your cat moves socks around your house, or likes to crawl into boxes? Cat owners in our community shared their questions about their cats' quirks and habits, and we took their questions to our experts. They gave us surprising insights on everything from why cats like to sit in boxes to why they walk around your head at night. Read on and see if you can learn anything about your cat. 

Why does my cat run around in circles on me when I'm sleeping? ~ Eva H.

Your cat may be trying to wake you up or send you a signal that they want something from you. If this behavior bothers you, you may want to try to get your cat used to staying out of the room while you sleep. 

Inside or outside your bedroom, it may also be possible to calm cats down by providing them with an alternative source of comfort, like a warm blanket or something with a repetitive, heartbeat-like sound. 

Why do cats love boxes so much? ~ Jackie N.    

When cats explore, one thing they are looking for is a potential hiding space. The experience of jumping and sliding into a box resonates with their instinct to find protected spaces out in the wild where they are able to see their environment without being seen. Providing boxes and other similar spaces for your cat to climb into is an inexpensive way to enrich your home environment. Try hiding toys in these spaces, and always make sure that the environment is safe for your cat and that your cat can easily retrieve the toys from the box. 

Why do cats sit on computers or TV's? Is it because it is warm or because we pay so much attention to these devices? ~ Various Fans 

The reason for this is likely a combination of both of these factors, plus a cat's attraction to the visual stimulus on the screen. It's not likely that your cat is seeing exactly what you see, but the moving image does engage them.

Sitting on your TV may be a sign that your cat wants interaction and attention trying to disrupt the attention you are giving to the device. A good way to test this is to see if they spend as much time with a device when you are not engaging with it. 

Why do my cats run around in the middle of the night? ~ Amanda B.    

Since cats are crepuscular, it’s natural that they will be more active at twilight – around dawn or dusk. Since we’re often not home during the day, they spend a lot of that time sleeping. The phrase “cat nap” comes from cats’ habit of sleeping for short bursts over the course of the day. This is actually more common in nature. Humans have created environments where we can sleep safely for long periods of time without predators around, which is foreign to cats and other animals.

You can help increase your cat’s activity level during the day by providing engaging feeding toys or by establishing a playtime routine before you leave the house and after you return. Before you go to bed, play with your cats to help them expend energy, so they can get more rest at night.

A feeding routine that supplies cats with more energy during the day instead of at night might help in addition. 

My kitten sometimes squeaks, but doesn't meow, is this ok? ~Stephanie Joy S.

Not every cat meows, and the ones that do, don't always meow in the same way. If your grown cat doesn't meow, you should take her to a veterinarian and talk about your observation. When it comes to kittens, a squeak, or quieter meow is more normal, but we encourage you to discuss this with a veterinarian who is able to examine the cat. 

Why does my cat steal things (anything he can move!)? ~ Katelyn M.

This may be a learned behavior. If your cat receives attention from you for stealing things - even if it's negative attention - it may teach him to continue doing it. Another possibility is that it could be a form of play. If you think this is the case, try providing something else for your cat to do, like pet puzzles, toys to play with or even better, establish a playtime routine. This might alleviate any boredom that causes him to get into trouble.

Stealing may also be related to texture. Your cat may enjoy the mouth feel of different textures, and be looking for stimulation in an environment that doesn't provide enough enrichment.

Also, your cat may be experiencing stress and is stealing things that help him calm down. Behaviors like wool-sucking have been observed in some cats and are suspected to calm them down.

If your cat is taking things and moving them around - like socks - it could be a predatory instinct, where the sock is being used as a replacement for prey that has been killed and brought back.

If you believe that this behavior is a compulsion for your cat you should seek the help of a cat behaviorist or a veterinarian. 

Why does my cat jump on the TV desk? Any tips other than water bottle discipline and retrieving? ~ Courtney M. 

One possible reason why your cat is jumping onto these surfaces might be because she is acutely aware of 3 dimensional spaces - both vertically as well as horizontally. This means that cats often consider how they can get into elevated positions where they can see what's going on around them without being subjected to potential danger on the ground.

Try providing safe vertical spaces like cat shelves or cat trees so your cat can be up high in your home. Soft and warm places are favored by many cats. Place them at a height and position

where your cat can quickly exit and enter a room while seeing it in its entirety. To encourage your cat to go to this new place instead of the TV desk you can try to reward her by placing a special toy in this place that she will only get there.

Another reason for jumping on the TV desk might be to get your attention as described previously. 

Why does my cat love water? ~Monika A.    

Many cats love water, although they don't respond to it the same way dogs do. Cats prefer to approach water on their own accord, and often dislike having it imposed on them. If you want to bathe your cat, it's better to draw a bath at a temperature that you would be comfortable with, rather than spraying your cat with a shower. Let your cat slowly test the water. Keep in mind this varies for all cats - so be patient and careful until you find what works for yours.

When it comes to drinking water, cats are often more attracted to running water or droplets of water because that's one way they interact with it in nature. Still water in a bowl is less likely to gain their attention since they can't smell it or see it as well. If you're worried about your cat being properly hydrated, try experimenting with ways to give your cat access to running or dripping water. 

Why does my cat get my attention by pawing and meowing? Why does she do this until I pet her, give her a treat or talk to her? ~ Paula S. & Yvonne B. 

If your cat meows to get a reward - like affection or a treat- it's likely that you've trained her to do so by giving her the attention and rewards when displaying these behaviors. Also consider that the affection your cat wants may be lighter than you realize - a stroke rather than to be picked up, squeezed or given a treat. Head bumping and kneading may be signs that your cat wants to interact with you. Always provide affection, but try to get your cat used to different forms and degrees of affection and do not overwhelm her.

We hope you learned something that will help you gain a deeper understanding of your own cat.

Check back regularly to find more information and insight into what lies behind our cats' behaviors.