Cat owners, cat lovers, and even cat newbies can all agree that cats can be a little weird sometimes.
From pondering the question why does my cat scratch the wall to trying to figure out why your feline friend has the zoomies, it might surprise you to learn that many of these behaviors are actually normal (for cats anyway!). While these strange things cats do might seem odd to us, they make total sense to our feline family members!
If your cat has been doing some weird behaviors, take a look at the list below and see what’s causing it. Some of these signs are actually caused by cat boredom, so you might want to invest in some of the best cat toys to help.
Other things in this list make sense from an evolutionary perspective, once you know a little more about where cats come from. Once you know why your cat is behaving strangely you can decide whether to embrace the strangeness, or whether you can make some changes to help your cat relax.
After graduating as a veterinarian from the University of Nottingham, Dr Joanna Woodnutt went on to practice companion animal medicine in the Midlands, UK. Dr Woodnutt is specifically interested in consulting and helping her clients understand their pets better, whether it’s around medical problems such as dermatology, behavior, and nutrition.
Seven weird things that cats do
1. Put their butts in people’s faces
If you’ve ever had a cat jump on your lap for a cuddle, then immediately turn around and show you their butt, you know exactly what I’m talking about. With their tail up in the air, a cat’s bottom is very obvious, and the last thing you want is for it to suddenly appear a couple of inches from your face! So why do cats put their butt in your face?
Well, this is one of those classic examples of cat communication and human communication being different. While we might shake hands, or give a hug, cat etiquette demands that they present their bottom for inspection. And by inspection, I mean a sniff. It’s a sign of trust and a polite way to say hello in cat-speak. Don’t worry though, you don’t need to actually sniff your cat’s bum.
Instead, just stroke them as normal and say hello. If your cat showing their bum is becoming a problem for you, you might be able to train them to say hello another way with a lot of treats.
2. Chew on hair
Some cats just love to chew on hair. Normally, this happens during a cuddle session – you’ll be stroking your cat, maybe receiving some headbutts (see below) and the next thing you know, your cat is eating your hair. It can be painful, not to mention a little gross (cat’s mouths are full of bacteria!) and potentially even dangerous for your cat, if they swallow lots of it. So, why do they do it?
It's thought that cats chew and lick your hair because they’re trying to groom you. Between cats, grooming one another is a sign of bonding – it means that the cats consider themselves part of a ‘pack’ and will be more likely to share resources and get on well. That means that when your cat is trying to groom you, they probably see you as part of their family and are trying to take care of you.
Although that’s adorable, it’s possible they just like the taste of your shampoo, so don’t get too gooey-eyed! As long as you don’t have strong chemicals or essential oils in your hair, licking your hair isn’t likely to cause your cat harm. But be careful they don’t swallow too much, as it could get stuck in their digestive tract and cause discomfort.
You might have noticed that some cats headbutt a lot of things in the room, including you. The look of pure pleasure on a cat’s face when they headbutt you probably has you guessing it’s a good thing, but what does it mean?
Cats headbutt as a way to scent mark. The scent glands on a cat’s face are expressed onto you when your cat headbutts you, marking you as familiar and safe. It’s also a way for cats to communicate their affection, and ask for attention. Although you might be able to train your cat to greet you in a different way, there’s no harm in this strange behavior, so relax and enjoy the feeling of being loved!
4. Sitting in boxes and squares
Half the internet would love to know why cats love to sit in boxes, or even in a square drawn on the ground. After all, they often don’t look comfortable – “if I fits, I sits” has become a meme, with hilarious photos of cats trying to sit inside things that they barely fit in. So why do cats do this strange behavior?
Well, the theory is that boxes (even 2D boxes drawn on the ground) feel like a nest or bed, helping cats feel safe. As prey animals, cats like to hide – it makes them feel secure. The sides of a box help a cat feel hidden. Even just the visual idea of a box – a square drawn on the ground – has boundaries that help a cat to feel safe. Weird? Yes. But very common, and ultimately not harmful.
You could try offering your cat more comfortable beds or even a cardboard box with a blanket in, but on the whole it’s best to just let cats be cats on this one!
5. Staring intently at nothing
“Can cats see ghosts?” is a relatively common query. Have you ever had hairs on the back of your neck stand up when your cat suddenly stares intently at the wall as if they can see something you can’t? If not, it might hard to imagine just how much this can feel like a cat seeing a ghost, especially if they hiss or suddenly run from the room.
Don’t worry though, this strange behavior isn’t all that odd when you remember that cats can hear significantly better than humans can. The sound of insects or mice in the walls, the creaking of timbers, and even the noise of moles tunnelling nearby could all attract your cat’s attention. Once again, this strange behavior is actually normal and nothing to worry about.
6. Running away from a cucumber
Whoever first filmed their cat being scared by a cucumber has a lot to answer for. Videos of unsuspecting cats (usually eating their food) having a cucumber placed behind them show the fearful felines leaping into the air and running away.
So why are cats scared of cucumbers? It’s thought that this is a classic fear reaction and evasion, perhaps due to a natural fear of snakes. Either way, although this strange behavior is normal for cats, it’s not nice to keep scaring your cat for your amusement, so please leave them to eat in peace!
7. The zoomies
If you thought zoomies were only for dogs, think again! A sudden burst of energy resulting in a mad dash around the house is common in cats, especially at night. It’s more likely in young cats, especially if your cat has been home alone all day.
Zoomies are actually releasing pent-up energy caused by boredom. If your cat is running around or being noisy at night, consider getting them some new cat toys or spending time with them playing in the evenings to help them release their energy constructively.
There’s no doubt about it, cats do some strange things. But when you find out a little more, most of these strange cat behaviors are totally normal (at least in the feline world!). There are plenty of behaviors that are something to worry about though, so you should consider talking to your vet if a behavioral change is sudden or out of character for your cat.
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After graduating as a veterinarian from the University of Nottingham, Dr Joanna Woodnutt went on to practice companion animal medicine in the Midlands. She quickly developed a love of consulting and helping clients with medical problems such as dermatology, behaviour and nutrition - anything that involved helping clients understand their pets better. Jo started writing about pet health in 2017, realising that it meant she could help even more pet parents. Since then, she has written for countless online and print publications and is a regular contributor for Edition Dog Magazine. Jo now lives in the Channel Islands with her husband Ian and terrier Pixie, and they are expecting their first child very soon.