10 Strange Cat Behaviors Explained

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cat bad behaviors illustration
Cat Bad Behaviors Illustration

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 10 weird cat behaviors, why cats do them, and how you can learn to live with them—or even enjoy your quirky kitty's antics.

  • 01 of 11


    Cat rolling on the floor.
    Cat Rolling On The Floor.

    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 11

    Presenting Their Butt

    View of a cat from behind.
    View Of A Cat From Behind.

    Isn't it enough that kitty asks for a scratch with an elevator butt pose? What's up with presenting its tail to your face? Your cat's action is a backhanded compliment and kitty-correct. A raised tail signals another cat that your cat feels secure and is graciously offering the opportunity of a butt sniff. When your cat does this to you, it is like giving a hug and kiss in 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 11

    Covering Poop

    Cat sitting in a blue litter box in a bathroom.
    Cat Sitting In A Blue Litter Box In A Bathroom.

    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 11

    Covering Food

    Cat eating food out of a stainless steel food dish.
    Cat Eating Food Out Of A Stainless Steel Food Dish.

    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.

  • 05 of 11

    Eating Plastic

    Cat eating batting for fabric.
    Cat Eating Batting For Fabric.

    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 11

    Eating Grass

    Cat eating a piece of grass.
    Cat Eating A Piece Of Grass.

    Do your cats eat green stuff? Cats are carnivores, but they also often enjoy getting trace nutrients from grass and other greenery. In the wild, they would get these nutrients by eating the intestinal contents of their prey.

  • 07 of 11


    Cat sneering
    Cat Sneering

    The technical term for sneering 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 11


    Cat winking its left eye.
    Cat Winking Its Left Eye.

    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 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.

  • 09 of 11

    Paw Treading

    Tabby cat scratching an upholstered chair.
    Tabby Cat Scratching An Upholstered Chair.

    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 11

    Interrupting Phone Calls

    Young woman holding her phone and getting cuddles from a kitten.
    Young Woman Holding Her Phone And Getting Cuddles From A Kitten.

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

  • 11 of 11

    Head Butting

    Tabby cat rubbing a Great Dane lying on the floor.
    Tabby Cat Rubbing A Great Dane Lying On The Floor.

    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.

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.