Pets, Places, & Things, Points on Pets

Crazy Cat Antics Explained

Have you ever wondered why your cat “head-butts” you? Or wipes his cheeks along your face? What about when she leaves you a “present” on your doorstep, like a dead mouse? Or why he curls himself up in the tightest and most odd places, like a shoebox or a bowl?

We love cats around these parts, and thought it might be fun to investigate some common but puzzling cat feline behaviors. Read on to solve the mysteries…

  1. Head-butting: This action is called “bunting” and it’s most likely a greeting; it’s also a way for your kitty to mark you with the scent glands on his cheeks. And it’s actually a good sign: it means he trusts you – even loves you – and wants to show affection. If he bunts up against you and then puts his head down or to the side, he’s probably reminding you that it’s your job to scratch his cheeks or under his chin like you usually do! Scent-rubbing is not just about marking territory, although that’s a common cause; it can also be done to establish scent on members of what the cat considers his colony (or family), to self-soothe, to establish familiarity or to show respect. So if your kitty rubs up against your legs, he’s just including you in his circle of love. And face bunting is as intimate as a kiss.
  2. Ahh, those “gifts” left on the doorstep or even – gasp! – brought inside. Does your cat bring you his rodent or reptile or insect “kill”? Unfortunately, there’s no consensus among experts as to why cats sometimes do this. It could be that your kitty remembers his mother feeding him this way, or he may be seeking your attention and affection (especially if you’ve given him more attention for this behavior in the past). It could also be a gift that shows you’re his friend. Your kitty might simply be sharing her bounty. If you don’t care for it, consider putting a bell on her collar so it’s harder for her to catch prey, but don’t punish or give extra attention to her.
  3. What about when your cat sits on your lap and massages your legs? Some people call that “making biscuits” or “kneading dough”! This kneading action derives from the very first days of kittenhood, when babies massage their mother to stimulate the release of milk. Usually, it’s a sign of contentment (or self-soothing); it may also be a way of marking you with her scent. If it occurs along with a purr, consider yourself loved.
  4. Curling up in the smallest possible container? When I was growing up, as we were setting the table for dinner, we’d pull out the kitchen drawer that held the cloth napkins and our cat would immediately leap in, curl up, and settle down! Pretty soon, we stopped using those fur-covered cloth napkins and kept the drawer open often (a move only cat-lovers will understand); that became one of her favorite sleeping spots. Cats need a sense of security; out in the wild they’d need a safe den to avoid being caught by predators. So if your cat chooses an odd but cozy-to-him spot to nap, leave him be.
  5. Not covering his poop in the litterbox, or even going potty right outside the box? This can be a sign of a medical condition like a urinary-tract infection, so you should see your vet, especially if this is a new habit. Or your cat might be stressed or anxious; he may even dislike the kind of litter you use in the box, so try another kind. If you’ve ruled out medical issues and tried different litter, you may just have a stubborn kitty. Try moving the litterbox somewhere else, preferably a tight space that leaves room only for the box. Alternatively, ask your vet for an animal behaviorist who can help you (re)train your kitty.
  6. Chattering at birds and things out the window: No one is 100% sure why cats do this, but most likely it’s either a way to warm up the jaws for eating prey, or a sign of pent-up frustration at not being able to hunt.
  7. Stop, Drop, and Roll: If your kitty drops to the floor and rolls onto her back, what she’s saying is, “Give me attention!” If you’ve responded to this behavior before, Congratulations – your cat has you trained! But as we all know, “Give me attention” from a cat can mean, “Rub my belly for 3 seconds and then I’m gonna change my mind and bite you.” Ha, gotta love ‘em.
  8. Speaking of which, what’s up with the sudden biting when you’re petting your cat? Well, you may have misinterpreted your cat’s signals – you thought she wanted a belly rub when she really wanted to play-fight. Or you may have missed the cues that her mood has changed and she’s had enough petting (cessation ofpurring, tail lashing and thumping, twitching, growling, ears flattened back, cat looking back at your hand, dilated pupils). Learn to read her body language – that’s how she communicates. And never punish her for your misunderstanding – this will only make her fearful and defensive.

Cats – strange, fickle beasts, but we love them all the same. What’s your cat’s craziest behavior?

Written by: Ashley Denham Busse
Ashley Denham Busse has worked part-time for since 2006. is
 a professional pet-sitting company located in Old Town Alexandria, celebrating more than 14 years of providing daily walks and customized in-home pet care. Visit or email 

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