32 things you only know if you're a cat owner

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If you have a feline friend then you don't need us to tell you that there are things you only know if you're a cat owner — such as what it's like to try to work while your cat clambers all over your desk demanding your attention or how amusing it is to find them squeezing their chunky body into a space that's way too small for them! 

When it comes to how to prepare for a cat, we don't think there's any way that you can truly understand the many unique joys and frustrations that these little bundles of fluff will bring to your life until you've well and truly welcomed one into your family.

As well as stocking the house with the best cat toys and food, you'll quickly discover a cat's many quirks, many of which will surprise and delight you. And if you're already a seasoned cat owner, chances are you're already familiar with many (if not all) of the traits and behaviors on this list. 

So, without further ado, here are all the things you can only know if you're a cat owner...and seeing them all written down in one place may just make you fall in love with your feline friend even more. 

32 things you only know if you're a cat owner

1. You spend a fortune on cat toys and they only want to play with an old piece of string

Young girl lying on the floor holding string and playing with cat

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We’ve all been there — you spend a fortune on the best interactive cat toys only to find that your stubborn feline friend won’t touch them. What do they want instead? Yes, that old piece of string or that year-old felt mouse with the stuffing falling out of it. Cats are creatures of habit and they can be super particular about what they will and won’t play with, so if your kitty is still keen on their old playthings, don’t be afraid to hold off on restocking the toy box. 

2. Dirty paw marks all over the bed

Bengal cat on the bed with legs outstretched and shocked expression

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There’s nothing like climbing into a bed newly made with fresh sheets, unless, of course, you go to turn in for the evening and find it covered in dirty paw marks! Something that all pet parents with outdoor cats will relate to, washing the bedding seems to be a job we have to do a little more often than we would like to.

3. A typical morning starts with your cat’s butt in your face

Man stroking black and white cat in bed

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Why is my cat meowing so much? Well, there could be a lot of reasons but more often than not, it’s about getting your attention — and first thing in the morning is when you’ll often awaken to that all too familiar sound, not to mention their rear end in your face. Let’s just hope they haven’t eaten in a few hours when they sidle on up to you because we all know how unpleasant a smell that can be to wake up to!

4. Cats sleep a lot…except when you really want to get some zzz’s

Cat walking on sleeping woman's chest to wake her up

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Cats can sleep up to 16 hours a day and have what’s known as a polyphasic sleep pattern, meaning they sleep multiple times each day rather than in one long phase as we humans do. Cats also have a crepuscular sleep cycle, meaning they experience two peaks in activity (one at dawn and one at dusk) as opposed to humans who have a diurnal sleep cycle, which means we sleep at night and are awake during the day. That explains why your feline friend may decide they would like you to wake up and play at exactly the time you’d like to be asleep!

5. Keeping your home-office cat-free is pretty much impossible

Woman trying to work while cat sits on her desk

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If you work from home, you’re probably familiar with the all too common problem of having your kitty decide to climb all over your desk before settling in for a little snooze on your laptop. While cats have a reputation for being independent, many breeds are very people-oriented and like to be where their people are at all times. If you’re the proud pet parent of one of the most affectionate cat breeds, you may find that the downside to all those cuddles is a little fur friend who isn’t keen on letting you get any work done.

6. They’ll be quick to let you know when you’re in their bad books

Tabby cat lying outside wearing a grumpy expression

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Is your cat grumpy? They’ll likely be very quick to tell you if they’re mad at you — although you may need to brush up on your cat communication skills to make sure you’re interpreting their signals correctly. Signs your cat isn’t getting what it needs to be happy include excessive vocalization, overgrooming, scratching the furniture, getting into mischief and overeating. If you suspect your cat isn’t as happy as they could be, try spending some quality time with them and seeing if that boosts their mood.

7. They sleep in the most adorable positions

Kitten sleeping on back with their paws up by their ears

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From the cat loaf to the curled-up kitty, there’s no denying that our feline friends adopt the most adorable sleeping positions. Some of the ways they sleep have to do with keeping warm or staying close and connected to the people they love while others go back to their wild roots and stem from an instinct to protect themselves and remain alert to any potential predator or threat that may require them to quickly jump into action. 

8. The lower half of all your furniture is completely ruined

Kitten scratching orange fabric sofa on white background

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Trying to figure out how to keep cats from scratching the furniture is high on the priority list for most pet parents. Scratching of couches, beds, and chairs can occur when there’s no suitable scratching alternative (like a good-quality scratching post), when your cat is bored, or when they’re stressed due to changes in their environment. Whatever the reason, we all know what it’s like to get a new piece of furniture only to find our kitty’s claw marks in it just a few hours later! 

9. You find fur in places you didn’t even know fur could accumulate

Close up of vacuum cleaner removing fur from couch as cat watches on

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If you own a cat, then you’re probably all too familiar with the challenge of cleaning up all that fur. It’s particularly an issue if you have a long-haired breed that loses fur faster than you can collect it all, but even short-haired breeds will shed on a seasonal basis. Investing in a vacuum cleaner that’s been specifically designed for pet hair can help make all that fluff easier to manage.

10. If there’s a box to be sat in, they’ll find it

Ginger cat sits in box on wooden floor

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When it comes to how to entertain indoor cats, often putting an empty box on the floor will be more than enough to keep them entertained. It’s a mystery to all of us cat owners as to why our feline friends love boxes so much, but if there’s one lying around the house there seems to be some kind of kitty law that says it must be investigated. 

11. It’s not just dogs that get the zoomies

A small tabby kitten runs around the room

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When you think of the zoomies, you usually think of dogs tearing round and round in circles the minute they get off leash at the park — but cats get the zoomies too! While it’s not their goal to wake you up at 4 am, these early morning hours will often be when your cat decides to tear around the house like a maniac. Often a way to burn off excess energy, cats will do the zoomies post-poop too, kind of like a victory lap for a job well done!

12. They'll meow their heads off when it's dinner time

Cat sat on chair looking up at camera and meowing

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There’s nothing like a cat that sits quietly and patiently waiting to be fed, and when we meet one, we’ll be sure to introduce you, because we’ve yet to come across one. Our feline friends will certainly make their presence known until you finally give in and fill up that food bowl with the best dry cat food. Oh, and just so you know, a half-empty food bowl appears to be just as much a state of emergency as an empty one!

13. There’s plenty of clear space on the bed, but they’ll sit on the pile of clean laundry instead

Cat sleeping in pair of blue jeans on bed

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Almost every cat owner on the planet will be familiar with the scenario of putting a pile of freshly washed and dried clothes on the bed only to return an hour later and find their cat snuggled up on top of it — most likely with a ton of empty bed space all around them. We’re not sure what it is about clean laundry, but cats can’t seem to resist using it as a sleep spot. 

14. They wait until you’re in desperate need of a wee and then curl up on your lap

Close up of cat asleep on woman's lap

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If you have a breed of kitty that is famed for being a lap cat, then displacing them when you need to get up is unlikely to bother them — they’ll simply hop back on the minute you sit back down again. But if you have a feline friend who rarely graces your lap with their presence, then it is guaranteed that they’ll choose to do it when you need to use the bathroom, and that they’ll be none too thrilled about being moved. Consider your lap-cuddling privileges revoked for the foreseeable future if you dare to choose comfort over connection! 

15. You learn to leave all the doors in the house open so you don’t have to be their own personal butler 

Ginger cat meowing to be let inside

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“I want out,” “I want in,” “I want out again,” “No, I’ve changed my mind, I want to be in,” and on and on it goes. If you have an outdoor cat, investing in the best microchip cat flap can be well worth it. Not only will it save your sanity, but it will allow your beloved bundle of fluff to come and go as they please. And if your kitty is of the indoor-dwelling variety, sometimes leaving all the doors open and letting them wander in and out when they feel like it is the easiest way to prevent constant meowing and scratching.   

16. If there’s a small or weird space, you can trust they’ll be in it

Bengal cat peeking out of drawer

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“If I fits, I sits,” seems to be the motto shared by most cats and while they’ll certainly squeeze into small spaces just because they can, there’s another reason why you’ll often find your feline friend in a drawer, box or tucked into that tiny gap between your bed and your chest of drawers — it’s because as animals that are both predators and prey, those small spaces make them feel safe. 

17. You have entire conversations with them

Man sitting on kitchen counter talking to his cat

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Do you find yourself having long conversations with your kitty while they sit there with a quizzical expression on their face? Us too! But there's just no getting around it, there's something super comforting about having a chat with your cat. They're non-judgemental, great listeners, and will often chime in with their own special blend of feline support, encouragement and advice — although we haven't quite figured out how to decipher all those meows yet! 

18. Their purr is the most soothing sound in the world

Cat being scratched on the head

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Did you know that a cat's purr causes vibrations in the human body that can lower blood pressure? It's true! A study published in the Journal of Vascular and Interventional Neurology found people who were regularly in the presence of a cat had a decreased risk of death from all cardiovascular diseases because of the positive effect felines have on blood pressure. No wonder we find their purrs so soothing. 

19. Just stroking them makes you feel better

Young woman cuddling and petting her long-haired cat

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Can petting your cat help to reduce stress? Absolutely if a study by the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine is anything to go by. Researchers used a group of university students (who often score highly where stress is concerned) and found that petting a cat for ten minutes decreased the amount of cortisol (the stress hormone) found in their saliva. No wonder stroking your cat can leave you feeling so much calmer. 

20. They worship the sun

Bengal cat stretched out on couch in the sun

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Cats are natural sun worshippers. Whether it's a warm and cozy window perch or a light-filled bedroom, our feline friends love nothing more than following the sun from room to room. Plus, it also helps them to regulate their body temperature, ensuring they stay nice and toasty during the colder months. 

21. They're misunderstood

British Shorthair lying under bed sheet

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Cats are often incredibly misunderstood. While they have a reputation for being independent, solitary and aloof, if you own (or have ever owned) a cat, you likely know that nothing could be further from the truth. Cats can be very social, loving and affectionate with their chosen humans and while they will certainly take themselves off in search of some peace and quiet if they need it, cats are much more relational than we give them credit for. 

22. They think of you as their servant 

Cat stood on two paws eating out of bowl held by woman

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As humans, we often think we own cats, but let’s be honest — it’s more like the other way around! Our feline friends seem to be very clear in their minds that we work for them and expect us to be on hand when they decide it’s feeding time, grooming time, play time or when they wish to be let in and out of the house. While we’d love to think that we could be a cat’s master, we’ve resigned ourselves to the fact that they will forever have us wrapped around their little paw.

23. Hell hath no fury like a cat that's been locked out of a room

A cat waiting for someone to open the door and let them outside

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If you’ve ever been on one side of a closed door and your cat has been on the other, then you know they won’t rest until they’ve been reunited with you. Most of the time, the minute you let them back in and they’ve assessed that all is fine, they’ll quickly depart again, but don’t open the door and be prepared for frequent meowing, scratching and downright chaos-making.

24. They have adorable ways of letting you know they're happy

Cat licking young boy's forehead

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From rubbing up against you and purring to kneading and slow blinking, the signs of a happy cat are many, varied and totally adorable. While cats may not yet have mastered the art of speaking human, they’re constantly communicating with us about how they’re feeling. Pay close attention to their body language and behavior and you’ll soon learn to spot when your feline friend is feeling joyful.

25. Loving cats more than people

Man holding cat up and smiling

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Do you love cats more than people? If so, you’re not alone. Many of us adore our feline friends because they offer us a safe, loving and non-judgemental space where we can simply be ourselves. Their presence can also be incredibly soothing and therapeutic, and they tend to be great listeners who will happily lap up an ear scratch or two while we share our troubles — no wonder they’re such popular emotional support animals. 

26. Pushing things off shelves to get your attention

Cat walking along bookshelf

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Cats love to knock things over. It could be an ornament on your desk, a glass on the table, or a vase on a shelf, they’re not too fussy about what the object is as long as they can give it a good push with their paw. Is your cat bored? Well, that’s certainly a likely reason for this behavior (it’s a great way to get your attention!) but part of it is also instinctual — a falling object taps into that natural instinct they have to chase and catch prey.

27. They're super sweet — until you try to get them into a carrier

Woman carrying cat in carrier

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You may have read every tip under the sun on how to get a cat into a carrier, but even with the best methods in the world you can still find your cat goes from sweet to seemingly feral quicker than you can blink. Rest assured, it’s not you — our feline friends simply don’t like being forced into enclosed spaces, no matter how gently you may go about it (and especially if they’ve heard you mention the dreaded V word, yes, we’re talking about the vet!)

28. Dead animal presents

Cat on grass with mouse

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If you have a cat who spends part of their time outdoors, then you’re probably more familiar than you’d like to be with dead animal presents. There’s nothing quite like entering the kitchen in the morning only to find a deceased mouse or bird on the floor — our feline friends think they give the best gifts, but us? Not so much! 

29. Hairballs

Close up of person's hand cleaning hairball up off carpet as Calico cat watches on

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Hairballs in cats may not be the most pleasant thing to deal with, but they’re hardly a surprise given the amount of grooming our feline friends do daily. All that hair has to come out somewhere, and that tends to be on your carpet! A natural consequence of good personal hygiene, cats tend to regurgitate a hairball once every week or two — although feeding your kitty a hairball cat food can be effective at helping all that fur pass through the digestive system. 

30. It's illegal to move if there's a cat resting on you

Cat on woman's lap

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This one is a hard and fast kitty rule. If your feline friend is on your lap, you’re exempt from any and all responsibilities until they choose to vacate their position. In fact, we’re pretty sure moving a sleeping cat is illegal, although do check the laws on that before taking the day off work! 

31. You're forever fetching toys out from under the furniture

Cat trying to retrieve toy from under furniture

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Whether it’s the best automated cat toys or a regular old stuffed mouse, part and parcel of being a good cat parent are spending a great deal of time under the furniture trying to locate, retrieve and excavate your beloved bundle of fluffs favorite toy.  

32. They’re allowed to wake you up, but dare to do the same to them and boy will you regret it

Grumpy cat lying on the bed

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Have you ever tried to wake your cat? If so, you probably had no idea up until that precise moment that they were even capable of making their face look that grumpy…and yet, when they wake you up, they expect you to be happy to see them! Still, we probably need to cut our feline friends some slack, because they don’t sleep as deeply as humans, they need a lot of rest in order to be able to function, so it’s best to always let them come round on their own. 

Kathryn Williams
Freelance writer

Kathryn is a freelance writer who has been a member of the PetsRadar family since it launched in 2020. Highly experienced in her field, she's driven by a desire to provide pet parents with accurate, timely, and informative content that enables them to provide their fur friends with everything they need to thrive. Kathryn works closely with vets and trainers to ensure all articles offer the most up-to-date information across a range of pet-related fields, from insights into health and behavior issues to tips on products and training. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with her family (which includes one super sassy cat), drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and reading all the books.