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What Does My Cat’s Behavior Mean?

It can be hard to know how your cat is feeling if you’ve never owned a cat before. Devoted dog lovers, in particular, can have a difficult time understanding cat behavior when compared to expressive dog behavior.

However, the truth is that cats are just as expressive as dogs as long as you can speak their language. Here are some of the meanings behind the top 10 most common cat behaviors.

two cats - cat behavior explained

#1: Tail Wagging

Unlike dogs, tail wagging or twitching is not an indication of happiness. Instead, if you see a cat with their tail twitching, it means that they are experiencing a lot of stimulation. A common misconception is that tail wagging means that your cat is frustrated. This is only partially true, as a stimulated cat is more often than not a frustrated one.

However, a cat may wag their tail when they are problem-solving during play and exploration. For example, you might spy a twitching tail when your cat is trying to climb up a tricky tree.

Either way, you should probably leave your cat alone if you see their tail moving like that. You don’t want to bother a frustrated cat, and if they are just problem solving, then it’s best to let them figure out the solution themselves.

#2: Kneading

Your cat may press their paws down on a soft surface like a cushion or your stomach in a kneading motion similar to a baker making bread. This behavior is a leftover from when your cat was a kitten; they would knead their mother’s belly in order to stimulate their milk.

So what does it mean when your adult cat does it now?

Typically, kneading is a sign of love and affection. It can also be a way of marking territory, as cat paws have scent glands on them. Either way, if your cat is kneading you, they love you a lot and feel very comfortable around you.

#3: Keyboard Hogging

Cats seem to love disrupting our day-to-day activities. They lay on top of the books we read and stand in front of our TVs. However, the most notorious example of this behavior is when they lay on top of our computer keyboards.

There are plenty of theories as to why cats do this. Some experts think cats do this because they want more attention, while others believe cats just like the warmth that computer parts give off.

When your cat is hogging the keyboard, they are most likely performing an action called “mirroring.” They recognize that you use your computer often, which makes it an important activity for the family. Laying on your keyboard is their way of participating in it.

If you want your cat to stop, some cat experts recommend giving your cat their own small keyboard to lay on, whether it’s an old piece of hardware you don’t use anymore or a replica made from cardboard. They get to participate in your very important activity without disruption.

cat using endura flap wall mount pet door

#4: Nighttime Zoomies

Any cat owner can tell you that cats seem to love making noise at two in the morning. They run around, meowing and bouncing all over their toys and fellow cat friends. Why can’t they just sleep at night like everyone else?

The nighttime zoomies are a part of instinctual cat behavior. Cats are natural night predators, which means that when the sun goes down, they get the urge to hunt for prey. So if your cat is keeping you awake, it’s not because they hate you.

If you want your cat to sleep through the night, make sure they get plenty of exercise throughout the day. Play with them more, and install a cat door to an enclosed outdoor play area to ensure they spend all of their energy and sleep until morning. The Endura Flap Cat Door for Horizontal Sliding Windows is a great option! 

#5: Drinking Tap Water

Do you have a cat that refuses to use their water bowl? Do they prefer the water from the sink, or worse, the toilet?

Cats have a natural instinct to find clean water, which in nature, means water that is not stagnant. So if your cat seems to favor drinking from your sink over a water bowl, it’s time to invest in a special water fountain for your cat to exclusively drink from.

#6: Knocking Things Off Tables

Another common cat behavior that often makes people think they’re jerks is when they knock objects off of tables and countertops. It’s hard to think that they aren’t doing that to just be rude when they’re breaking mugs and making purposeful messes around the house.

But cats don’t knock things over because they are being mean. Instead, they do so in order to satisfy their curiosity. That’s right! Curiosity may not have killed the cat, but it may lead to them batting a few things off your tables.

two cats loafing

#7: Belly Exposure

So you’re petting your cat when they roll over and expose their belly to you. While some cats like to have their belly scratched, many may try to bat your hands away or display obvious signs of displeasure. If your cat doesn’t want you to rub their belly, why are they showing it off?

Belly exposure is another way for cats to show that they love and trust you. Since the belly area is so vulnerable, exposing it is a cat’s way of letting you know that they trust you. It’s a pretty big honor.

#8: Purring

Purring is well known as a sign of affection for cats. And while it is true that cats often purr when they are content, it can also have a second meaning.

Cats purr in order to reduce stress. So while your cat may be purring around you because they love you and want you to not be stressed when you are cuddling, they can also purr when they are injured or experiencing distress of their own. So the next time your cat purrs, make sure you know if they are responding to being stressed, sick, or injured.

#9: Burying and Scratching Food

Have you ever given your cat their dinner, only for them to try burying it under the carpet or in the garden? You might think that your cat is trying to bury or rip up their food because they hate it, but that’s not the case.

A cat’s instincts tell them to hide food once they are done with it to deter other predators from going after it. So if your cat is trying to bury their food once they are done eating, they are letting you know that they enjoyed the meal.

If you want to stop your cat from doing this, you can try giving them a little less food so that they won’t have any leftovers to bury. You can also try feeding your cat smaller portions at a time.

cat standing by endura flap sash window pet door insert

#10: Gift Giving

Some pet owners may not think a dead mouse or bird makes for a very good gift, but your cat gives them to you as a sign that they care. Your cat sees you as a part of their pack and will try to provide for you if they think you’re not a very good hunter (and since you are not a cat as well, they probably think you suck at hunting).

Gift giving is not limited to dead animals too. Some cats can learn to fetch you things that they see you use often like slippers and pencils.

Either way, next time your cat gives you a gift, know that it’s because they want to make sure you are well taken care of.

While cats don’t wear their emotions on their sleeves as dogs do, once you know all of the tiny ways they communicate, it can be very easy to know what your cat is trying to tell you.

We hope you enjoyed this article on cat behavior explained. Whether you’re a new or old cat owner, be sure to check out our other guides to all you need to know about cat behavior:

Elizabeth Muenzen

Written by

Content Specialist

Pets: My dog Benji is mixed Yorkie, Poodle, Chihuahua, and MaltiPom (YorkiPooChiMaltiPom?), yet he mysteriously bears no resemblance to any of these breeds.
Fun stuff: I love to cook!

Content Specialist

Pets: My dog Benji is mixed Yorkie, Poodle, Chihuahua, and MaltiPom (YorkiPooChiMaltiPom?), yet he mysteriously bears no resemblance to any of these breeds.
Fun stuff: I love to cook!

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