Cats are an endless source of free entertainment if their perennial popularity on the internet is anything to go by. Cat videos still rank among the most shared content on social media platforms to this day.
Each cat comes with unique quirks, each quirkier than the last. But for all their silliness, cats are surprisingly complex creatures. Believe it or not, many of their peculiarities have very practical evolutionary explanations.
The weird: You catch your cat grazing on grass like a cow and start to wonder when their meows will become moos.
The why: Although cats are obligate carnivores, grass offers trace nutrients and aids in digestion. They get the same benefits when they consume the stomach contents of their plant-eating prey.
Because indoor cats don't have access to the greenery they naturally crave, they may be tempted to gnaw on potentially toxic houseplants or fresh flowers instead. You can solve this dilemma by planting a
container of cat grass, which grows quickly and offers a steady supply of greens for year-round grazing.
The weird: Your cat kneads soft surfaces like bread dough before curling up and falling asleep.
The why: Think of it as the feline equivalent of fluffing pillows before tucking yourself in for the night. "Making biscuits," as it's often called, is the ultimate sign of cat contentment. Newborn kittens knead their mother's bellies to stimulate milk production, and this self-soothing habit follows them through adulthood. If your cat starts kneading you, that's called "smurgling," and it means they consider you a source of safety and security.
The weird: You're sitting at the table minding your own business when your cat walks over to you and presses their head up against yours.
The why: Head bunting is a sign of affection amongst cats, so take it as a compliment. Cats have glands on their forehead, cheeks, and chin that release a scent that's imperceptible to humans but very noticeable to other cats. When they bop their head against you, that means marking you as one of their own.
The weird: Your cat rolls over on their back, practically begging you for a belly rub — but they freak out if you take them up on the offer.
The why: Cats' soft underbellies are among the most vulnerable areas of their bodies because all their vital organs are right under the skin. In cat body language, exposing these delicate parts is the ultimate sign of trust, but for most cats, it's definitely not an invitation to touch.
The weird: Every evening, your cat goes from lazy to crazy, making deranged noises as they skid down halls and bounce off surfaces at breakneck speed.
The why: Believe it or not, your cat's not possessed, we promise. Cat lovers affectionately refer to this momentary madness as "the zoomies." Cats are crepuscular, meaning they're most alert at dawn and dusk when small prey like mice are most active. You might have noticed your feline friend spends most of the day sleeping, which allows them to store up a tremendous amount of excess energy to catch these fast-moving creatures. If there's nothing for them to hunt, they need to release all this pent-up energy somehow. Thus, crazy hour commences.
The weird: Your cat prefers to sleep in a shoebox two sizes too small instead of the overpriced cat bed you thought you were spoiling them with.
The why: Cats are small creatures and have don't like to let their guard down by falling asleep in wide-open spaces with no place to hide. Squeezing themselves into tight spaces makes them feel like they're less accessible to larger predators -- no matter how silly it looks.
The weird: Your cat wiggles their butt back and forth right before they pounce.
The why: For a cat, prowling for prey is serious business, which makes that little booty shake they do before they go in for the "kill" all the more amusing. But as funny as it looks, this pre-pounce butt wiggle has an important function in the feline world. It gives the cat one last chance to test their balance and secure their footing before they use their hind legs to propel themselves forward.
The weird: You catch your cat making a strange chattering sound through their teeth as they're birdwatching through the window.
The why: Chirping is likely a combination of excitement and frustration. When cats make this noise, they're mimicking the rapid jaw movement they use to deliver a lethal bite to their prey. They may also be mimicking the sounds birds make to lull their prey into a false sense of security.
The weird: You catch your cat in the kitchen sink, licking drips from the tap.
The why: Like most creatures, cats instinctually prefer drinking water that's flowing rather than stagnant because it's less likely to be contaminated. Moving water is also usually fresher-tasting than water that's been sitting in a bowl for hours. Furthermore, cats' eyes see moving objects, so they have a hard time seeing things that are perfectly still. This is why they sometimes dip their paw in their bowl.
If your cat is a habitual sink drinker, consider buying them an automatic pet fountain with a built-in filter.
The weird: You make eye contact with your cat, and they slowly shut their eyes as if they're falling asleep, but then open them up again.
The why: Also known as "kitty kisses," slow-blinking is the equivalent of saying "I love you" in cat language. It goes both ways — if you slow-blink at your cat, they will likely slow-blink right back at you.
Most animals perceive direct eye contact as a threat, so a slow-blinking cat is letting you know that they feel safe enough around you to let their guard down completely.
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