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Cat Behaviour 101


Cats are beautiful, elegant creatures that have long fascinated humankind - to the point where, in Ancient Egypt, cats were worshipped as gods. However, despite humanity’s long historic relationship with cats, the simple truth is that the way that cats behave remains something of an enigma.

In truth, it could be argued that their mysterious ways are one of the major attractions of cats; they fascinate us because often, it’s downright impossible to figure out what on earth they are actually thinking. As a result, cats make for genuinely wonderful pets; we humans just can’t seem to get enough of their odd little ways. Below, we’ve tried to look deeper into cat behaviour, so you can understand your furry friend that little bit better.

#1 - Activity times

Cats are frequently described as “nocturnal” animals, but this isn’t the case: cats are actually crepuscular rather than nocturnal. Crepuscular animals are most active around dusk and dawn, while choosing to sleep during the day and for much of the night. So if you have ever tried to persuade your cat to play during the day, had your cat excitedly greet you when you get home from work, or wondered why your furry friend wakes you up early in the morning, you can now see these behaviours as a sign of their crepuscular nature.

#2 - Tail talk

If you want to know what your cat is thinking and feeling, then their tail is the ultimate guide. For example, a tail pointed directly upwards and rigid is likely a sign that your cat is feeling anxious or particularly alert; while a swishing tail is usually a sign of anger. It’s well worth studying your own cat’s tail; you’ll quickly begin to associate certain tail movements with specific activities - for example, feeding time - which can deepen your understanding of how your cat truly feels.

#3 - “Five sides” coverage

If you have ever wondered why cats seem to want to squash themselves into small, confined spaces, then the “five sides” theory could help explain this rather odd behaviour. Many cats will feel most content when they are surrounded on five sides; to their left, their right, above them, beneath them, and behind them - essentially, so that only their faces are exposed. If you find your cat seems to appreciate the five side coverage, you may want to consider igloo-style beds, which are specifically designed to satisfy this quirk of feline personality.

#4 - The behaviour/health issues link

The vast majority of cats will seek to hide illnesses, which means that all cat owners have to become a kind of Feline Illness Detective, continually checking their cat’s behaviour in order to try and ensure all is well. Here are a few signs to keep an eye out for:

  • Hiding

  • Appearing to be hungry, but refusing to eat when offered food

  • Eating less than normal

  • Sleeping more than usual

  • Spending more time alone

If you notice that your cat is persistently showing any of the above signs, it’s definitely worth considering taking them to the vet and pursuing animal energy healing and similar therapies - even if the behaviour change is relatively subtle, or the concerning behaviour only occurs intermittently. Given cats’ propensity for hiding illness, it’s always best to err on the side of caution.

#5 - The “zoomies”

Some - though not all - cats are prone to what is colloquially known as the “zoomies” - a sudden burst of activity that tends to involve running around, jumping, and yowling at the top of their lungs. Zoomies often occur with seemingly no warning and then subside in an instant, almost as if nothing had happened.

For cat behavioural experts, zoomies are known as Frenetic Random Periods of Activity (FRAPs). FRAPs are entirely normal; it’s theorized that they are a way of burning off excess energy and just having a little fun, so most of the time, it’s okay to just sit back and watch the show. However, if your cat suddenly seems to experience more FRAPs than is usual for them, it may be worth a quick discussion with your vet to check all is well.

#6 - Demonstrations of love

Cats are naturally rather aloof, which can mean that cat owners often find themselves wondering if their cat actually loves them. The good news is that cats can, and do, demonstrate love for “their” humans, albeit in rather subtle ways. Here are a few signs to look out for:

  • Nuzzling; if a cat nuzzles you with the side of their face, they’re depositing their scent onto you - essentially claiming you as their own and a member of their family

  • Quivering tails; if your cat approaches you with their tail upright and quivering, then they’re extremely happy to see you. In fact, some cat behaviour experts suggest that cats will only quiver their tails for their “favourite” human.

  • Sitting on or near you; while many people believe that cats only sit on humans for warmth, this simply isn’t the case - the heat is more of an added bonus for your four-legged friend. Cats will only sit on, or near, humans that they trust implicitly and feel affectionate towards.

  • Grooming; between cats, grooming is to show affection and strengthen their bonds with other cats. If your cat licks you, then it’s essentially a sign that they see you in the same way; like a big, albeit bald, cat that they feel a strong connection to.

  • Kneading; kneading - when a cat raises and lowers their paws repetitively - is a sign of contentment, and also provides an opportunity for cats to further deposit their scent. As a result, if a cat kneads you, they’re essentially saying that they’re very happy around you, while also “claiming” you as a member of their family.

In conclusion

While cats may have a reputation as mysterious creatures who are impossible to understand, years of research and observation from owners has greatly improved our knowledge of how and why our feline friends behave as they do. By observing your cat’s behaviour, you can check their health is well, indulge their instinctive preferences, and build a strong relationship of trust and understanding between you. Enjoy!


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Copyright © 2012 - 2020 by Jadine Arnold

The Punk Rock Princess -Edinburgh/Scotland/Malta 

 jadinealexandraarnold@gmail.com