Dealing With the Quirky Behaviors That Drive Cat Owners Crazy

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Wouldn’t you love to know what your cat is thinking?

You can sit and watch your cat for hours but you never know just what is going on behind those big dreamy eyes. Your cat squints at you, fluttering his eyelids until they almost close. He switches his tail. Is he angry or just excited? We may not know, but we can make some pretty good assumptions about what cats are thinking based upon the full context of their behavioral signing and events that normally follow.

Still, cats are very independent and often hard to understand. Ask most people to describe a cat and most likely you’ll hear words like mysterious, stand-offish, composed, regal, and, of course, independent.

Cats give the impression that they do not need us. They have a quiet composure and dignity that dogs rarely display. And they are rarely obedient like dogs — we usually can’t teach them to fetch the paper or play dead. When they learn, they often learn things on their own.

And boy are they quirky! There are several feline behaviors that range from cute to downright maddening.

Here are a few of the most common quirky cat behaviors, and how to deal with them.

The Midnight Crazies

It’s 1 a.m. and you’re jolted awake by the sound of a trash can lid hitting the floor. You shuffle into your kitchen and there’s your cat perched on the kitchen counter — you swear she’s grinning at you. She lets out a howl, leaps to the floor, runs sideways, leaps into the air, and pounces on nothing with all her might. Your cat has been gripped by the “midnight crazies.”

The “midnight crazies” is a popular name for a cat’s behavior when she plays and roughhouses in short spurts in the middle of the night. The cat may entertain herself with wild activity or jump on your bed and paw at your feet, elbows, hair, and face to get you to join in.

What motivates a cat to such boisterous and disruptive behavior? One theory is that the cat is simply practicing hunting methods, fighting maneuvers, and escape techniques.

“Cats in the wild are active at times when rodents come out, typically after dark,” says Sandy Myers, an animal behavior consultant with Narnia Pet Behavior Clinic in Naperville, Ill. “A cat naturally wants to spend her evenings hunting and playing predator games, even if she is a well-fed house pet.”

Another theory is that house cats become active at night simply because they aren’t getting enough play and exercise during the day.

“Many house cats spend the days alone and indoors while their owners are at work,” says Dr. Barbara Simpson, a board certified veterinary behaviorist with the Veterinary Behavior Clinic at Southern Pines, N.C. “When the owner comes home in the evening, the cat wants to play and will be very active.”

Late-night activity is especially common in young cats with a lot of energy to spare, and in new kittens who simply do not know any better. “The kitten may have never lived with a human family before and not know that she is expected to sleep through the night,” Myers says. “She may also feel a little unsure of her new human family and be uncomfortable about living in unfamiliar surroundings.”

Crotch Sniffing

Butt sniffing is a very natural, instinctive, and basic form of cat-to-cat communication. The cat butt sniff is similar to a human handshake. It’s a way for cats to say “hi” to each other. But the same interaction to us humans can seem rude and aggressive, especially when it manifests in an interested cat excitedly sniffing your personal areas. This aspect of cat behavior makes many owners annoyed, grossed out, and uncomfortable.

If you have a cat that is a persistent and even fervent crotch sniffer, please note that this can be very annoying to guests. While it’s natural for other cats and to other cats, the same rules do not apply to humans.

Cats instinctively sniff to seek information about other cats and environments. Scent-based communication is the primary way that cats understand one another. The cat-to-cat butt sniff can tell a cat information about the age and sex of the other cat, if the cat is in heat, what their overall health is like, what the cat is eating, and even provide some clues about a cat’s emotional state. This sniff can help a cat determine if this will be a friendly encounter… or not.


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