Basic Pet Care
MEOW! Cats in Translation
7 Behaviors that show your feline is totally into you...or not.
Experts believe cats were domesticated in ancient Egypt and possibly before1. People have been trying to understand and explain cat behavior ever since. While they are quite mysterious to this day, we understand a few things that can help you understand your kitty's behavior:
Blinking and Holding Eye Contact
As humans, we get a lot of information from direct eye contact with each other and the same is true for cats, except the messages are opposite. Yes, the opposite! When we look at each for long periods of time, we are saying, "I like you. You're interesting." The longer we look, the more we like. However, from a cat's point of view, direct eye contact is used to assess threats and establishing dominance. Blinking serves as a "break" in what would otherwise be an aggressive stare. Long slow blinking indicates he is relaxed. If you are concerned that your cat's lack of eye contact means he doesn't like you; don't worry- he sees you from the corner of his eye. Cats have incredible peripheral vision. The less he has to focus on you, the more he trusts you!
Cats purr for a variety of reasons and it's largely situationalâ€¦similar to human laughter. Just as we laugh at things that surprise us, delight us, or scare us- cats purr when they are happy, hungry, frightened, or injured. It can be a means of expression or self-soothing. Purring is mostly associated with positive situations because it occurs when a cat is friendly, relaxed, grooming, or care-taking. Some studies have found that purring promotes healing and speeds recovery...that might explain the myth about a cat having nine lives2! Your best insights into why your cat purrs come from observing what precipitated her purr.
Kneading and Rubbing on You
Any way you look at it your cat's kneading habit is a positive signal. Kittens knead their mother to encourage milk production and because of this cats associate the action of kneading with comfort. Felines have scent glands inside the pads on the bottom of their paws and knead to express their scent and mark their territory. Other types of marking behaviors are rubbing against you, head bumping or rubbing. Kneading is also an attempt to make a comfy spot out of your bumpy lap! When your kitty kneads or rubs against you it is the finest form of feline love. She is marking you as her human.
Sitting on You/Sleeping On or With You
Although your feline friend is fiercely independent, he still looks to you for comfort. You are the leader of his little pride and home is where you are. Your cat prefers your scent because that's what safety and security smells like. If you're like most cat lovers, you have woken up to your cat sleeping on your head. Why? It's warm. Our head radiates a tremendous amount of heat. It's scent. The scalp provides a decent surface area covered with our individual light scent. Combine warmth and your special scent, what better place for your cat to nap.
Bringing You Presents
Everyone enjoys giving a thoughtful heart-felt present, don't they? Your cat does because not only does she get to show you how much she cares but she gets to practice her hunting skills as well. Cats are small but mighty predators and are built for the hunt. Kittens begin practicing their hunting skills through play very early in life. Female house-cats may still instinctually mother even if they have no kittens. So for all intents and purposes, you- her beloved human, are the lucky recipient of her strongest maternal instinct, to feed you. In this case, it's okay to not finish your dinner.
Follow You Around
Cats are very private creatures. They prefer to complete most personal feline tasks alone. They like to eat alone. Use their litter box in private. Curl up for a nap in a favorite hiding spot. The need for privacy is driven by your cat's attempt to control their territory and maintain safety by the little predator within them. Though it might be your home, it is his territory and he is very curious about the entire goings on. He needs to be in the know just to be sure that you are not unwittingly attracting unwelcome predators in to HIS territory.
The Straight Up-Tail and Belly Up
Your cat's straight up tail is her way of waving a flag to welcome you home. This behavior can be seen in kittens and elder cats alike. The Up-Tail is also a greeting to other friendly felines and an acknowledgment of status. The straighter the tail - the more deference she is offering. By showing an up-tail, your cat is exposing the hardest part of her to defend- all that's behind her. Belly exposure is a highly vulnerable posture that proclaims your cat's high level of trust in you. When showing you her fluffy, furry belly a kitty is saying, "I trust you, my human" but don't be mistaken. She is not really looking for a belly rub more likely just the appreciation for her love for you.
1- Pappas, Stephanie. "Ancient Egyptian Kitten Skeletons Hint at Cat Domestication." Live Schience. 2014.
2- Von Muggenthaler, Elizabeth. "The Felid Purr: A bio-mechanical healing mechanism." 2001.
Written by Lisa Pollack, a life-long animal lover and owner of dogs, cats, birds, turtles, and geckos.