When Cats Roll Around on Their Backs

You’ve certainly seen this behavior from your cats at least once. Sometimes they roll on their backs because of catnip, and sometimes they do it for seemingly no reason. This is Kali on our (old) kitchen floor, and she had no catnip anywhere near:

 

So what’s up with this? Vetstreet says that one explanation is that this is a cat scratching her back. Cats might be flexible, but they can’t reach every itch with their hind feet, and this might be easier than going after it with her sandpaper tongue and needle teeth. That could be especially true if it’s one of those itches that just feels like it’s everywhere at once.

For un-spayed females, this can also be post-mating behavior. Kali, however, is spayed, and has never mated anyway, so that’s not the case here.

Some cats do this as a submissive behavior, and some cats do it when they’re inviting play. And sometimes, says Vetstreet, cats do it because it just feels good. It feels good the way we feel when we have a really good stretch.

We think Kali does this, though, because she gets “rewarded” for it. She did it, we fawned over her for it, and so she learned it was a great way to get attention; the fawning was a form of approval. So, when she wants attention and she’s not getting it, she will sometimes throw herself down on the floor.

(My apologies for the poor quality of the video. I shot this with a really old camera.)

Kali – Always Comfortable no Matter What

 

This is Kali. Kali is one of two cats we have who doesn’t really care about the positions she gets into, or what expressions she puts on her face. We’ve had her since she was a three-week old kitten, and so she learned a lot of things from us that she ordinarily would have learned from her mother. That’s led to her retaining a lot of her kittenish behavior, as well as total and utter comfort with lounging and sleeping in any position at all. Here are some oddities that many cat parents have seen, but are still uniquely Kali:

Holy sheez! What happened to you?

This is her “pounce face.” She does look like something absolutely shocked her, but when I took this pic, I was actually playing “finger under the blanket” with her, and she was about to attack again. She is, however, perfectly happy with holding her mouth open for long minutes before she actually attacks.

If you take a close look at this picture, you’ll notice that Kali is almost entirely on her back with her tail sweeping up between her back legs. She was just kind of staring at me, with absolutely zero inclination to move from this position. If I hadn’t had to get up, she might have fallen asleep this way.

Her penchant for odd places and uncomfortable positions started when she was still a tiny kitten. In this picture, she was probably eight weeks old. She’s in the gap between the couch cushion and the arm of the couch, and while she did get there by pouncing on her toy, she just kind of stayed there, and even dozed off for a couple of minutes.

This is a popular position for Kali. She’s half on her back, half on her side, and sort of twisted up. She sleeps in this position for hours. She’s quite comfortable and at ease here, though, because otherwise she wouldn’t sleep this way. She’d sleep curled up, or in a less conspicuous place.

Here’s another shot of that position. I call her a Kaliroll when she does this. Look at her tail and her fur; when she gets into this position, her fur is swept across her like she’s a roll, and she curls her tail into as much of a coil as is possible. She seriously looks like she’s rolled up when she does this. Hence the nickname, “Kaliroll.”

She sometimes sleeps like a semi-normal cat, though. When she’s sound asleep, with her eyes all shut tight, she’s absolutely adorable.

 

Do Cats Dream When They Twitch In Their Sleep?

 

Have you ever watched your cat as he slept? Did he ever twitch, or even chirp or chatter, in his sleep? You might have wondered what it is he’s dreaming about, or if cats dream at all. According to Purina, scientists have studied the brain activity of rats performing certain tasks, and then sleeping. They discovered brain patterns at certain points in the rats’ sleep matched some while they were awake, so it’s likely that all mammals dream to some degree.

What is it that cats dream about?

Below is a video of Chase dreaming. When our cats dream, they’re all different, and he’s probably our most active. He’s even woken me up in the middle of the night by kicking me in his dreams. Sometimes he chirps in his sleep, and every so often, he’ll jump wide awake, as though he’s had a nightmare.

When Chase and Kali were kittens, I had Kali with me on the couch, asleep. Suddenly, she jerked awake, glanced at the fireplace with wide eyes, and then disappeared under the TV cabinet. After 15 minutes, she gingerly poked her head out, looked around, saw the fireplace, and scooted back under the cabinet. It was another 20 minutes before she actually came all the way out.

What was she dreaming about that scared her? There’s no way to know, because she can’t say. However, an article on the BBC says that it’s likely cats dream about what they do in their everyday lives: Stalking, pouncing, playing, chasing, you name it, cats dream it. Kali could have dreamed that something from the fireplace, or maybe the fireplace itself, came after her.

It’s also possible she didn’t have a nightmare, but rather, one of her twitches was so hard it woke her up, and she was startled and disoriented. There’s just no real way to know what our cats dream about right now. They’re fun to observe, and it’s fun to speculate about their dreams, though.

Do Big Cats Like Lasers?

You’ve probably played with your cats using a laser pointer. If they enjoy it, they’ll run after it, they’ll go in circles, they’ll jump up the wall, and they act like they’ll do anything to catch it. In a lot of ways, big cats are like our own cats. Have you ever wondered if big cats like lasers, too?

Big Cat Rescue, in Tampa, decided they wanted to find out. Watch below to see the results:

You saw that the cats closer to the size of our own furry feline friends at home were interested in the laser. Santino, a serval, really seemed to enjoy it. He tried, and tried, and tried to catch it, just like your cats might. Bailey the bobcat tried to catch it, too, as did Rambo the jungle cat (sadly, Rambo has since passed on).

One of the cougars, and one of the tigers, were both scared of it. They watched it, and then jumped away from it, possibly because they didn’t know what it was.

Most, however, just didn’t want to play. The video shows some of the leopards, other tigers, and lions, that just don’t seem to care. There’s even a caption on one of them that says, “Dude, seriously?” That’s actually how lots of these cats reacted.

Why do some big cats like lasers, but others don’t?

So why the difference? Why do some big cats like lasers, and others don’t? It’s hard to say. One possibility is that the little red dot just doesn’t provide enough stimulation for the bigger cats, which have bigger prey in the wild. However, that doesn’t explain why Canyon, a tiny sand cat, wasn’t interested (although it could have been that Canyon was shy-ish. He, too, is no longer with us).

There’s an old post on Reddit, from 2011, about this topic. The question was, “Would a lion chase a laser pointer?” A keeper at a zoo answered that they had actually tried that with their cats. Their lions didn’t respond to the laser, but their tigers did. The keeper said that their tigers reacted to the laser exactly the same as our own little kitties at home would.

So size, both of the cat and of its natural prey, doesn’t really explain why some big cats like lasers and others don’t. It’s possible it has something to do with stimulation, and it may just have to do with each cat’s individual preferences when it comes to their hunting instincts. Regardless, watching them at Big Cat Rescue is rather funny.

What Do You get when You Brush 4 Cats with a Furminator?

You get a really huge pile of fur! This isn’t the biggest I’ve ever gotten, either. They were less tolerant of that brush this year, so I didn’t do as thorough a job as I usually do. It was still almost as big as Aria, though:

 

I hope this reduces their hairballs. I only brush them like this twice a year, once in the spring, and once in the fall. It’s earlier than I like this year, but they were already shedding very badly, and they all had a lot more furballs than normal.




Sense of Smell, or Sight? What do Cats REALLY Prefer?

A new study from the U.K. suggests that cats might actually prefer to use their sense of sight over their sense of smell. This goes against a lot of what we think we know about our furry feline friends, because they have such a highly developed sense of smell, and they like to sniff everything.

The study, which appeared on Science Daily and has been published in “Applied Animal Behaviour Science,” included six cats in a maze. The researcher, Evy Mayes, put two squares of paper at each “decision point” in the maze, with visual and olfactory cues on them. Cats could use their sight, or their sense of smell, to figure out where to go. Those pieces of paper would either lead to food rewards, or not.

Science Daily says that, once the cats learned the game, four of them chose the visual cues, one chose the olfactory cues, and one had no preference. Professor Daniel Mills, who supervised the study, says that this could have a huge impact on how we care for our cats. For instance, a cat that prefers to use its sense of smell might be profoundly impacted by a change in the house, whereas a cat that prefers its sense of sight might feel a minimal impact.

We have at least one cat who seems to prefer his sense of smell

More study is definitely needed, but we may have to watch our own cats a little more closely now to see if we can figure out which senses they like to use. We’ve recently started something new with Chase at mealtime: We divide his food into three portions, and then we put two portions in other places in the house while he eats the third portion in the kitchen.

What we’ve noticed with him is this: If he can see it, he doesn’t seem to know what it is until he can also smell it. He’ll often walk right past his bowls until he can smell the food, and then he’ll go to them and eat. He has some trouble when we put them up high, because he can’t smell them at all. We’ve had to teach him that his bowls may sometimes be where he can’t see or smell them. He seems to prefer his sense of smell over his sense of sight, but he relies on both to find his food.

Chase is the only cat with whom we’ve tried this, so we don’t know right now whether any of our other cats seem to rely more heavily on their sense of smell than any other senses. If the findings of this study are borne out in larger studies, then it’s possible that Chase is one of the more rare cats that prefers to use his sense of smell to find his food.

That would not be all that surprising, actually, because Chase is different from our other cats in lots of other ways, too.

Professor Mills did say, according to Science Daily, that more study is needed because this one was really small. However, this is also the first time we’ve actually “asked” cats what senses they prefer, when they can make that decision. Eventually, our whole understanding of how cats relate to the world might change. Or further study might just end up confirming what we already think we know.

Cat Circles: Do They Always Work?

The “cat circles” phenomenon that took the Internet by storm last November has long since cooled, but it’s still an interesting topic. What about making circles (or rings of some type) on the floor “traps” cats? Does it always work? I actually tried it with my cats, and their responses were mixed.

First off, why the phenomenon at all? It first started on Reddit, and then spread elsewhere on the Internet via social media. Some behaviorists think that the circles give an illusion of safety, or of an enclosure, and that’s why cats step into them and then don’t want to leave. Think of it like a box, but without the box.

Catster writer Angie Bailey tried to “trap” her cats inside some cat circles, and she had mixed results. An article in The Mirror also showed some images of cats that didn’t fall for it. When I tried it, whether they fell for it or not seemed to depend heavily on the material I used to make the circles.

Experimenting with cat circles

For my own cat circles, I tried three different materials in three different rooms: Sheer ribbon in the kitchen, rope in a bedroom, and masking tape in the dining room. I, too, had mixed results. Chase was good with the ribbon circle in the kitchen. Kali was good with the rope circle.

Something I found interesting was that Chase wouldn’t enter the rope circle if Kali was inside it. It was like he figured, if she was there, it’s her territory, and he should stay out. That didn’t stop him from trying to bat her, though.

Gizmo, however, seemed to think the rope was a barrier, and wouldn’t enter it at all. She wandered around the outside of it, and stuck her head over the edge, but would not set one paw inside the circle. She wasn’t interested in the ribbon circle in the kitchen at all.

When it came to the tape circle in the dining room, it was like they didn’t understand what I wanted them to do. Gizmo stepped inside it a little, but here, it was Chase and Kali that acted like the tape was a barrier they couldn’t cross.

To sniff at Gizmo, and maybe to see if he could still get to her, Chase put his front paws into the dining room circle, but he didn’t fully enter it.

Aria was just asleep through the whole cat circles thing.

It’s possible that the reason for different results with cat circles has to do with what it’s made out of. Some cats may need a tangible barrier for the circle to feel safe (which would explain why Chase and Kali liked the rope and ribbon circles, but not the tape circle). For others, it may be what they actually see on the floor that makes them decide whether or not to enter. In the end, it’s fun, but it doesn’t always work. If you want to try this, try making your cat circles out of different materials to see if your cats behave like mine. And have some fun with it!