Cats are known for being mysterious creatures, full of wonder and whimsy. And while we adore our cats, we often don’t understand why they do what they do. Being able to speak your cat’s language would help you understand their behavior, but until a feline translator app is developed, we’ve at least unraveled some mysteries about cat behavior. Below, we answer some of the most commonly asked questions about feline antics.

Question: Why does my cat knead my lap?

Answer: Although the vision of your cat “making biscuits” is adorable, it’s unlikely they learned their baking skills from Gordon Ramsay. Instead, your cat is creating a soft nest to curl up in, and your lap provides the ideal warm location. You may also notice your cat kneading blankets, pillows, and any other soft surface they find as a precursor to a lengthy nap.

Q: What is that noise my cat makes at birds outside my window?

A: That teeth-clacking noise your cat makes when they see birds or squirrels out of reach is known as chattering. Cats often make this noise when they see a prey animal, but are unable to make their move and are frustrated. If you have a perch placed next to your window so your cat can keep a close eye on the birdfeeder outside, you will likely hear chattering.

Q: Why does my cat boop me with their head?

A: If your feline friend offers up a head boop, feel special. Cats perform a head boop, or head bunt, to say “I love you” and to mark you as part of their family. Scent glands located in their cheeks release pheromones, which are used for communication among cats. As your cat rubs their head along your face, they are depositing marking pheromones to claim you as their own. 

Q: Why does my cat sleep all day and play all night?

A: You may think your cat is nocturnal because they get the zoomies in the middle of the night and yowl for food in the wee hours of the morning, but cats are crepuscular animals. Instead of being awake all night like nocturnal animals, crepuscular creatures are most active at dawn and dusk. With enough light to see, but dark enough to hide, these twilight hours are perfect for a predator and prey species. Plus, cats are desert animals, who evolved to be most active during the most comfortable parts of the day, with the added benefit of some sunlight. So, no, your cat doesn’t stay awake at night to interrupt your sleep schedule. Rather, it’s a built-in natural behavior.

Q: Why does my cat prefer running water over the water in their dish?

A: Although your cat may flee in terror when you try to bathe them—and you have the scratches to prove it—they may prefer drinking out of the faucet over their water dish. This behavior hearkens back to their wildcat days, when cats learned drinking from a running water source, rather than a stagnant pool filled with bacteria and other contaminants, was safer. Instead of catering to your cat’s demands to turn on the faucet every time they’re thirsty, use a drinking fountain that provides fresh, running water.  

Q: Why does my cat poop outside the litter box?

A: Cats do not poop outside the litter box out of spite or resentment—it’s likely because of a hygiene, stress, or pain issue. Ensure you scoop the box twice daily, if not more, and change the litter completely weekly, washing the box with a mild detergent. Watch for bullying behavior from your other cats around the litter boxes, or search for another cause of stress, such as a new puppy, furniture rearrangement, or home remodeling. Older cats with arthritis may find scaling the sides of a tall litter box too difficult, so they begin pooping right next to it. Purchase a low-sided box and see if that resolves the issue.

Q: Why does my cat push things off the shelves and tables?

A: If your cat pushes items off your table to get a rise out of you, you’re only encouraging the behavior. While cats like to explore items with their paws—especially their prey—batting things to the ground often results in attention, making this behavior rewarding. Although ignoring your cat when they frustratingly push item after item off your shelf can be tough, avoid making a big fuss, and place your breakables out of reach.  

Are you unsure if your cat is displaying normal feline behavior, or if they have an underlying medical condition? Contact our Mill Creek Animal Hospital team for an appointment to unravel the mystery of your cat’s odd behavior.