22 Weird Cat Behaviors You're Not Sure About

Oddball Cat Communication Methods and Quirks

cat bad behaviors illustration

Illustration: The Spruce / Julie Bang

Does your cat's behavior confuse and frustrate you, making you think you are the only one with such a crazy cat? You are not the only one, and surprisingly your cat might be considered completely normal. Learn about 22 weird cat behaviors, why cats do them, and how you can learn to live with them—or even enjoy your quirky kitty's antics.

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If Your Cat Could Text, They Would Say This

  • 01 of 22

    Rolling Over

    Cat rolling over and presenting its belly

    The Spruce / Phoebe Cheong

    Does your cat flip—that is, throw itself on the ground at your feet and roll? Is it under the influence of catnip, or is something else going on? When your cat rolls over it typically signals that the cat feels safe and maybe wants some attention from you. Your cat can also mark the area with its scent this way, claiming your space as its own.

  • 02 of 22

    Presenting Its Butt

    View of a cat from behind.

    David DeHetre / Creative Commons / Getty Images

    Does your kitty's butt go sky-high when you pet or scratch it? That's called an "elevator butt" pose and it's a good thing. Your cat's action is a backhanded compliment and kitty-correct, letting you know you've hit the spot and to continue the petting. What about when your cat puts its butt right into your face? Good news there, too. A raised tail is an invitation to another cat for a gracious butt sniff to say hello. When your cat does this to you, it's like giving a hug and kiss when greeting a friend. The good news is that you don't have to sniff your cat's hind end to reciprocate. Instead, you can pet your cat or scratch where it likes it best.

  • 03 of 22

    Covering Poop

    Cat sitting in a blue litter box in a bathroom.

    Vstock LLC / Getty Images

    All cats do this. Or do they? Cats communicate volumes in the litter box and sometimes they want their (ahem) potty graffiti available for the world to see. Cats usually learn their litter box etiquette from their mothers, and domestic cats have long been encouraged to cover their excrement. However, a cat might leave it unburied to claim territory.

  • 04 of 22

    Covering Food

    Cat eating food out of a stainless steel food dish.

    Pixelrust / Getty Images

    Everyone has heard of finicky cats. And some cats make clear their gustatory preferences by covering up the food bowl. If your cat is covering its food after eating some of it, it may be an instinctive behavior as wild felines cache their food to keep it safe from others. Your kitten or cat may scratch around its food bowl after eating or even find shredded paper to cover it up.

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  • 05 of 22

    Eating Plastic

    Cat eating batting for fabric.

    Selmer van Alten / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    You arrive home from the grocery store, and before you can say "Scat!" you catch your cat licking the plastic bags. If not caught in time, some cats even eat plastic. Kittens may chew on anything while teething and may have developed a fondness for the texture of plastic they will carry into adulthood. Also, the bag might just taste good to the cat. However, plastic can be a choking hazard or cause intestinal obstruction, so you want to discourage it by providing safe chew toys.

  • 06 of 22

    Eating Grass, Leaves, and Plants

    Cat licking a cat nip plant

    The Spruce / Phoebe Cheong

    Do your cats eat green stuff? Cats are carnivores, but they also often enjoy getting trace nutrients from nibbling on grass and other greenery, even leaves. In the wild, they would get these nutrients by eating the intestinal contents of their prey. Just watch your houseplants and cut flowers because cats love anything that screams foliage and toxicity may be an issue with many flowers.

  • 07 of 22

    Sneering

    Cat sneering

    Dennis Yang / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    The technical term for that distinctive open-mouth grimace is the flehmen response, but it sure looks like a feline sneer. It's doubtful you'll ever see your cat aim this sneer your way, as it's a reaction reserved for other cats, or rather, their invisible messages. They are picking up pheromones that other cats have marked in the environment. The motion of trapping the pheromone with the tongue against a duct in the roof of the mouth produces the lip curl. Male cats do this lip curl more often.

  • 08 of 22

    Winking

    Cat winking its left eye.

    Sarah Sphar / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    When your cat "winks" at you, is it flirting? That might be one way to interpret the kitty eye communication, sometimes called a cat kiss. A slow cat-eye blink is a wonderful compliment. It is a non-threat signal that cats use with each other as well as with humans they are comfortable with. You can send the same signal to your cat, slowly shutting and then opening your eyes. Chances are, your cat will return the cat-kiss eye blink.

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  • 09 of 22

    Kneading and Treading

    Tabby cat scratching an upholstered chair.

    pkline / Getty Images

    Those rear-treading paws rev the kitty engine right before a burst of speed, while the front paw treading (kneading) offers a more reflective emotion. Front paw kneading is generally believed to be a leftover nursing behavior that kittens use to stimulate the release of milk from their mothers. In adult cats, you will mostly see it when they are happy and satisfied. As a bonus, the kneading releases the cat's scent and marks its territory. Rear-foot treading is done before and after mating as well as when hunting and the cat is about to launch an attack.

  • 10 of 22

    Interrupting Phone Calls

    Cat with its paw on top of a cell phone

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

    Does your cat want to phone home? If it is interrupting your time on the phone, at the keyboard, or when reading, your cat is jealous of you giving attention to these objects rather than to your fur baby. The solution is to give your cat more one-on-one time as well as interactive toys to keep it stimulated.

  • 11 of 22

    Butting Heads

    Tabby cat rubbing a Great Dane lying on the floor.

    Getty Images / Betty Schlueter

    Cats' unique behavior includes bunting—that odd way your cat head-butts you. The technical term is bunting and refers to the way a cat presses and rubs its head against objects. Another technical term, allorubbing, refers to the way cats rub their bodies against another cat, a human, or even a trusted family dog. This is done to mark you with their scent and claim you as their own.

  • 12 of 22

    Chattering and Chirping

    A cat vocalizes in many ways. You've probably heard it chittering and chattering, most likely when your cat is looking out the window at birds or other potential prey. If you have multiple cats, you may have caught them chirping with each other during what looks like a kitty coffee klatch. Chirping and chattering are sounds of conversation and excitement over the thrill of the hunt it senses outside.

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  • 13 of 22

    Sitting in Boxes

    Cats, much like little kids, often prefer to play with the box a gift came in over the toy itself. Put even the tiniest empty box on the floor and your furry pudge muffin will try to squeeze itself into it. Your cat's passion for boxes is a natural instinct. Felines are hunters and love to hide in small spaces before surprising their prey, making a box the perfect hideout. The texture of a box, often cool and smooth, can also feel good to a cat. Just make sure the box is safe to play in, minus staples or packing peanuts that can tempt a cat to chew.

  • 14 of 22

    Knocking Things Over

    Cats love to knock things over—and watch them break. Though not the most endearing behavior, it's probably your pet's way of telling you it's bored, needs attention, and wants to play. As you probably already know, scolding your cat won't help to eliminate this problem. To minimize this frustrating behavior, it helps to enrich your cat's day with more interactive toys and puzzle feeding dishes to make your kitty work for its kibble.

  • 15 of 22

    Drinking From Faucets

    A cat drinking water from a sink faucet

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

    Cats aren't always big fans of drinking water unless it's out of a faucet. It's suspected that cats avoid motionless water sitting in a bowl because it appears to be unhealthy. Instead, running water is perceived by cats to be fresher water which is why the bath or kitchen faucet is such a big draw. If you want to keep your kitty out of the sink, try a cat water fountain or encourage hydration with a special bowl. But if your cat loves to sleep in a sink (it's snug and cool and often shaped like a cat bed) while sipping dripping water from the faucet, it may be a tough habit for your pet to break.

  • 16 of 22

    Sleeping Near Computers

    Though cats are covered in fur, they still want that extra bit of warmth from any source they can find, whether it's from the sun, your lap, or a laptop. So even if your cat is trying to make its bed on your laptop or keyboard, just know it's in need of a bit more warmth than your lap has to offer. To minimize the behavior, try putting a warming bed or other cozy cat bed next to your workspace as an alternative heating pad for your kitty.

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  • 17 of 22

    Zooming Around the House

    The midnight crazies, otherwise known as cat zoomies, is a typical behavior that rarely needs attention. Your kitty may race across your home like it's being chased, literally bounce off the walls, and meow like it's yelping. Most likely, it's just entertaining behavior for your cat's enjoyment. Remember, your cat is a natural hunter and without the need to hunt down its prey, your pet has a lot of pent-up energy. Sometimes, though, your cat is acting wild to help itself feel better from a case of fleas or if your cat is old, perhaps it's a bit senile and reliving its kittenhood. Watch your cat during this behavior and if you see any physical evidence of bothersome bugs or other problems, call the vet for a visit.

  • 18 of 22

    Licking You

    A cat licking its owner's hand

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

    Even if your face stings a bit from your cat's sandpaper-like tongue licking you, know that you're enduring the discomfort in the name of love. Any time a cat licks you, it's a gesture of affection. Your cat is also letting you know it owns you. About that rough tongue? It's normal—your cat's tongue is the ultimate cleaning machine, designed with backward-facing hooks meant to grab its fur for grooming. Beware that a cuddly licking session may end up with your cat gently biting your chin, but don't worry, it may be telling you it's time to stop.

  • 19 of 22

    Running Away From Plastic Bags

    If your cat doesn't eat plastic or use a plastic bag as a cave or bed, it may be terrified of it. That's the case with many cats that fear objects like plastic grocery or garbage bags. Your cat may have had a traumatic encounter with a bag so the sight and sound of a rustling plastic bag can send your kitty into hiding. Try desensitizing your cat by leaving some plastic bags near a kitty treat and over time, the fear may lessen.

  • 20 of 22

    Farting

    Cat from behind showing off its backside

    The Spruce / Charlotte Engelsen

    Cats can be so squeaky clean and graceful that when they fart, we often tend to laugh at such unexpected behavior from our fastidious felines. Though sometimes comedic, farting is a behavior that you may need to have some concern about if it becomes a chronic problem. Cats can have flatulence for a variety of reasons:

    • It's anxious or scared.
    • It's allergic, sensitive, or having a reaction to its food or dietary change.
    • It has parasites in its digestive tract (time for the vet).
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  • 21 of 22

    Sucking Wool

    Though it looks cute for a cat to suck on a ball of yarn, it's not the most desirable behavior you can hope for. A cat may suck on wool because it is soft and fuzzy like its mother. The kitten may have been taken away too early from its mother as it was still nursing and is seeking the same feeling it had as a baby. If it's not yarn, it may be a soft blanket that your cat latches onto.

    If the sucking is only an infrequent comforting behavior and your cat has not ingested dangerous fibers that can result in intestinal obstruction, you may not have anything to worry about. But if it is chronic, you can distract your cat from this behavior by removing the object, providing other types of enrichment, and seeking out more advice from your vet.

  • 22 of 22

    Staring

    A cat staring at its owner

    The Spruce / Phoebe Cheong

    It's not uncommon for a cat to stare—without blinking—into your eyes. Even though the winking stare is a kiss, the wide-open stare can be just as affectionate. However, if your cat is sitting on your chest staring at you, and it's morning, it's likely your kitty is using its eyes to ask for food or another type of attention, such as playtime.

    If you're holding your cat, it's staring at you, and there's other body language like pinned-back ears and its tail is wildly flipping around, it could be telling you it's scared, anxious, and needs its space. Don't have a stare-down with your cat in response—it could be viewed as hostility and cause more anxiety in your cat.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.