Why does my cat rub around my legs, grab my hand when I tickle his tummy, drink from the tap and knock everything off my desk? Our mission is to solve some of the most puzzling feline mysteries…
Posted: 04 May 2017
Cats certainly have their funny little ways, which even the most avid cat watcher struggles to understand. From bringing dead prey into the house, to having ‘mad moments’, drinking from taps, and even being mysteriously attracted to non-cat people, feline behaviours may be baffling to us, but to the feline brain, it’s all purrfectly logical…
For cats, it’s all about smell. Everyone within your cat’s social group, as well as objects, will be anointed by his unique scent signature via glands in his face, body and tail. When your cat rubs around your legs to greet you, he is doing it in the same way as he would greet another feline by mutual rubbing of the face and body. As your cat can’t reach your face, your legs will do. Once you have been suitably rubbed, you’ll notice that your cat will then take himself off to groom his body and check out your scent.
No matter how well fed your cat is, he remains a predator with an inbuilt desire to hunt. The ‘presents’ he brings indoors are unlikely to be a gift for you – it’s more likely to be a sign that your cat feels secure and home is a safe place to leave food to eat now or keep for later. Think of it as a compliment.
When dogs roll over, it’s a sign of appeasement. Cats, on the other hand, are more complex. When a cat greets its human companion, it makes a display of trust by exposing its belly. A similar friendly ‘roll’ is often seen when one cat solicits play from another. However, any physical contact from you at this point may be perceived as threatening. Alternatively, a belly show could be a request for rough and tumble. Either way, it’s a mistake to assume that your cat needs or even welcomes attention from you and, if you can’t resist the temptation to tickle, it’s likely to be a case of claws at the ready.
For your cat, scratching stuff is important and it’s an activity that plays a large part in health and wellbeing. When a cat scratches they are stretching muscles, and keeping their claws in optimum condition. Cats also have scent glands between their toes in the pads of their feet, so they’re also leaving behind their personal scent. You can try, however, to encourage them to use a scratching post rather than the table leg.
A cat’s motivation to drink is not connected to hunger, so many find it confusing when water bowls are provided next to their usual feeding area. Some cats adapt to this strange set-up relatively easily, but others reject this water as unsuitable and seek other more acceptable sources. Taps, glasses of water, vases and goldfish bowls are all potential thirst quenchers, but the best option is to provide dedicated drinking vessels in alternative locations well away from your cat’s food. Some cats also prefer running water, so pet drinking fountains can be a more practical solution than a constantly dripping tap.
No matter how many toys you leave out for your cat, how many comfortable spots there are to choose from in the room, or how interesting the environment may be, your cat will most likely choose to sit on the one piece of paper you’re trying to read. Why? When it comes to sitting on papers or magazines you’re reading, your clever cat knows exactly where your focus is and, if she wants attention, the obvious place to be is right where your eyes are directed – the paper. For attention-seeking felines, it’s a tactic that’s guaranteed to work.
Cats are very adept at using their paws – you can see them batting and pawing at objects and sometimes, with a twist of their little paws, hook items and toss them in the air. Cats are notoriously curious, so it’s likely they start off just being intrigued by an object, pawing at it to see if it moves, or how it moves, and inadvertently knock it off the desk. Once the cat has seen the object fall, he may be attracted by the speed of the falling object, the sound the object makes when it hits the floor and maybe even the attention, both good or bad, he receives from his human. When we hear something hitting the ground, we invariably come to see what happened. Some cats have learned that this is a failsafe way to get their human’s undivided attention.
Felines often gravitate toward high perches. This is because cats are both predator and prey and climbing to a high location provides a cat with a better vantage point to spot prey and predator alike, while staying safe. While there may be nothing to prey on or escape from in your lounge or bedroom, it’s a hardwired survival behaviour that makes a cat feel safe and secure.
This is likely to be about body language. When a cat enters a room, all the cat lovers start staring at it, move towards it, extend their hands and make noises. Non-cat people may try to make themselves as invisible as possible so the cat does not jump on them. A non-cat person may sit extremely still, look down and away from the cat, keeping their hands on their lap and maintaining absolute silence. The cat finds this display of body language far less threatening, so may well move towards the ‘non-cat’ person to explore further!
Left to their own devices, cats would naturally spend a great deal of time during the day stalking and chasing prey or avoiding danger in their adrenaline-fuelled lifestyle of hunting and exploring. A day in the life of the average house cat doesn’t really include anything very dangerous and energy may not get used up. Suddenly, often without warning, this energy will burst out and your cat will act out a little fantasy role playing, alternating between the hunter and the hunted, dashing round the house with a flicking tail and widely dilated pupils. This often occurs at times of the day and night when cats are naturally more active, for example at dusk, and it can be triggered by a loud noise, a visit to the litter tray or for no apparent reason whatsoever.
Sources: icatcare.org, rspca.org.uk, cats.org, vetstreet.com, catbehaviourassociates.com, pets4homes.co.uk