Feline behaviorist reveals top 12 cat behaviors every pet parent should know

Cat sitting in a basket, one of 12 common cat behaviors
(Image credit: Getty Images)

With new research indicating that 93% of feline furkid owners are confused by many of the cat behaviors they spot in their kitty, cat behaviorist Rosie Bescoby’s attempts to demystify them are sure to come as a huge relief. 

Cat communication has often been a struggle for us humans to understand and it seems desperate times really do call for desperate measures with 26% of pet parents admitting to meowing at their cats in a bid to communicate with them.

While a lot of common cat behaviors may seem confusing, Bescoby believes that learning to decipher them can help bring you and your kitty closer together.

“It is always said that dogs are man’s best friend, but if you learn what your cat’s behaviours mean you might get past their aloof ways and become their partner in crime,” she explains.

So, what exactly should you be looking out for? According to Bescoby, the key to having harmony in your household hinges on you being able to decipher when your cat is wanting your company and when they’re needing some time alone. 

“Being able to read these signals and knowing when to back off will make your cat happier and create a better relationship.”

And thanks to Bescoby, reading those signals has just got a whole lot easier.

The top 12 cat behaviors that all pet parents need to know

1. Making you open the door to let them in when there’s a perfectly good cat flap available – who knew that going through a cat flap could leave your kitty feeling vulnerable? It turns out that while cats are talented at lots of different things, there eyesight is less than great which makes them unable to adjust to different light levels quickly. Besides, as Bescoby points out, if you had a live-in butler chances are high you’d expect them to open the door for you too!

2. Sleeping on anything you’re reading - if you think your feline is sleeping on your book to get your attention, well, you’d be right.

3. Swiping inanimate objects off the side - Bescoby labels this as inherent predatory behavior and if it happens to get your attention in the process then all the better.

4. Drinking water from the glass by your bed - you may have noticed how fussy your cat is when it comes to the water they’re willing to consume and if you’ve placed their water bowl by their food bowl, it turns out that could be the reason. Cats can be fussy about where they drink, which is why they’ll often go for your glass instead.

5. Pretending they want a tummy rub...then clawing you – Cats love to show off how flexible they are with what’s known as a ‘social roll’ but they don’t want a tummy rub, although, as you’ve probably found out on more than one occasion, they may well want to play.

6. Squeezing into tiny spaces – did you know that small spaces give your kitty a sense of security? It’s true. Creating their own little hidey hole makes them feel safe and sound, so let them enjoy it.

How to read your rebel cat infographic showing six of the 12 common cat behaviours

(Image credit: Rosie Bescoby)

7. Getting up high – Kitties love to be up high, so invest in a decent cat tree or give them access to a window sill so they can survey their kingdom. 

8. Tail twitching while interacting with them – this is them – politely – telling you to back off.

9. Staring - Apparently, direct, fixed eye contact is threatening in cat body language and means your cat is in full predatory mode and could pounce at any time. 

10. Meowing – Why do cats meow? Why, to get their human’s attention of course! It turns out cats generally don’t meow at each other; instead meowing is a method of communication they use to converse with their owners.

11. Purring – This usually happens when your cat has found some time for RnR in their busy schedule of ruling the world, but can also occur when they’re in pain to soothe themselves. 

12. Kneading – If you’ve been asking yourself ‘why do cats knead?’ then you’ll be relieved to finally have an answer. Kneading is  behaviour from when your cat was a kitten, when the motion stimulated getting milk from its mumma and it’s a sign of feeling safe and relaxed.

How to read your rebel cat infographic showing six of the 12 common cat behaviours

(Image credit: Rosie Bescoby)
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.