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Why Do Cats… Pet Experts Answer Your Questions

Pet Care Tips 5 min read
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Have you ever watched your cat do something and wondered why cats do that? Well, you’re not alone! Cats are mysterious creatures but animal experts continue to make discoveries for better understanding them. We’re here to explain some common cat behaviors that tend to make their humans wonder.

Why do cats knead/make biscuits? 

If you have ever seen your kitty rhythmically pressing their paws in and out on your lap, this behavior is called kneading or making biscuits. You may think they are attacking you with those razor-like claws, but what they are more likely saying is, “I trust you and I feel safe”. Researchers believe that this is a juvenile behavior that serves as a way for a kitten to communicate with their mama. They knead on her belly to stimulate milk production. Since being domesticated, many kitties retain this kitten-like behavior into adulthood and associate it with the same comfort they received from their mom. It is also possible that cats knead for more simple, relatable reasons, like stretching.

Purring may be how a cat keeps their muscles and bones healthy while napping.

Why do cats purr?

Cats purr when they are content, in pain, giving birth, or even dying. Scientists speculate that purring may be a built-in physical therapy to keep their muscles, tendons, and bones healthy through sound! In the 1990s, Dr. Clinton Reuben of the state university in NY discovered that exposure to low-level frequencies in the range of cat purring helps build bone density and may promote healing. Bone density and muscle loss are serious issues for astronauts in zero gravity, so cat purring could be the answer to keeping the human body healthy in space! Many species of wildcats purr, including the cheetah. However, big cats like lions, tigers, jaguars, and leopards do not purr because of how their voice boxes are modified so they can roar.

Why do cats lick you?

Cats lick for a few different reasons. It could signal that they are not getting enough salt or hydration. Apart from raising a red flag healthwise, licking could be a leftover kitten behavior like kneading. Mama cats lick to groom and communicate affection simultaneously, so adult kitties only carry out this behavior with individuals they deem trustworthy. If your cat is excessively licking, it may be a sign of stress or anxiety.

Close up of a tabby cat's face while they meow. Why do cats meow?

Why do cats meow?

From as young as one week old, kittens start meowing to get their mamas to take notice. Meowing is rarely heard in wild cat populations, except occasionally when mama cats are communicating with their kittens but they generally grow out of it when they get older. However, cats that live with humans, learn that meowing is a great way to get our attention so domestic kitties retain this kitten behavior with some even developing a “private language” of meows with their owners. Cat breeds that are notoriously chatty are the Siamese, the Oriental Shorthair, the Burmese, the Sphynx, and the Japanese Bobtail.

Why do cats sleep so much?

Scientists still don’t totally understand all of the underlying benefits of a good night’s sleep, whether in humans or animals, so it is hard to say why cats seem to be constantly in rest mode. Cats generally don’t sleep in one big chunk. They likely have many shorter rest periods throughout the day combined with intense bursts of energy. In terms of evolutionary biology, cats need a lot of sleep to conserve their energy for stalking, chasing, pouncing, climbing, and running while on the hunt. However, cats may also sleep out of boredom or mental health reasons. If your cat suddenly sleeps longer than usual, get in touch with your veterinarian. Senior kitties tend to sleep more than younger kitties.

Cream-colored cat leaning over a tray of cat grass to eat some. Why do cats eat grass?

Why do cats eat grass?

Eating plants is a common behavior for cats. Scientists suspect that eating plants is instinctual. It may also come with an evolutionary benefit for kitty-kind, helping them expel internal parasites, hairballs and perhaps gain micronutrients. To allow your kitty to express this innate desire to eat plants, we recommend growing or buying nonpoisonous plants. If your cat throws up afterward, at least you can have peace of mind knowing it will be safe for them, and they aren’t doing it just to make a mess.

Why do cats have whiskers?

Men might grow facial hair to cultivate a specific look or style, but a cat’s whiskers have nothing to do with fashion! These stiff hairs function as sensory tools to help a cat detect an object’s location, size, and texture, even in the dark, and help them steer clear of approaching danger. Whiskers are especially useful for helping a cat know whether they can fit into a tight space and can even detect subtle shifts in air currents. Whiskers can also provide insight into how a cat is feeling. For example, pulled back or tight whiskers can indicate a tense kitty, while relaxed whiskers indicate a content kitty.

Why do cats hate water?

Not all cats hate water, some breeds like the Aegean Cat, Bengal, and Maine Coon love to swim and dip their paws in the water. Apart from those breeds, perhaps many kitties don’t like water because it is unfamiliar. They are meticulous groomers, so they are unlikely to be introduced to water early in life and are not used to being wet. As a pet parent, if you regularly expose your cat to water from an early age, they may be more accepting of it. Domesticated kitties are descendants of felines that typically live in the desert, so there was perhaps no evolutionary need to learn how to swim.

A beige cat laying on the floor belly up asleep surrounded by catnip leaves. Why do cats like catnip?

Why do cats like catnip?

Some cats exhibit strange behavior when encountering catnip, much like a female cat in heat! They may rub up against or jump onto the herb, vocalize and drool. Recent studies suggest cats may rub against catnip for its insect repelling properties. Response to catnip is hereditary; it is controlled by a single gene that only about two-thirds of cats carry. Catnip does not affect kittens until they reach six months of age and begin to reach sexual maturity. Many cat species have this reaction to the herb, including lions, tigers, leopards, and lynxes. Even today, a cat’s response to catnip is a bit of a mystery, and we don’t fully understand it. 

Why do cats like boxes?

Cats enjoy well-protected snug spaces, especially when they intend to sleep. A cardboard box seems to fit the bill for many cats. Why some seem to prefer boxes that are too small for them is a bit of an enigma.


If there are any other burning questions about cats that we did not answer, feel free to start chatting with us by tapping the button below.

NHV Pet Experts

NHV Pet Experts

We have a dedicated group of pet expert professionals, including veterinarians, vet techs, and other pet professionals to guide you through any questions. We’re committed to your pet’s wellness and can offer additional tips, resources, nutritional advice, and more.

Published: March 23, 2022

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