Category Archives: Behavior: Why do cats do that?

Why Do Some Cats Choose a Favorite Person? We Have Several Reasons

Why do some cats choose a favorite person while others do not? You may have noticed that your cat seems to love you more than anyone else in your family. However, maybe you’ve also had cats that seemed to love (or hate) everyone equally. Why you, and why this cat?

You already know your cat doesn’t fit the stereotype of a cold and aloof animal. Maybe he follows you around the house. Perhaps he won’t sleep at night unless he can sleep with you. It could be that he just seems to know when you sit down and is immediately there, in your lap, no matter where he was before.

So why do some cats choose a favorite person?

There are several possible reasons answering the question, “Why do some cats choose a favorite person?” If you live alone, then the answer is obvious: You’re his sole provider. He gets food, water, shelter, and above all, love, all from you.

When you don’t live alone, though, he might have chosen you simply because you’re the one who feeds him the most. Or you enjoy more playtime with him than anyone else and he’s a playful cat. It’s also entirely possible that there’s just something about you that makes him feel more safe and secure than anyone else does.

It could also be that you’re the only person who’s not bugging him all the time. Cats are drawn to people who love them and play with them on their terms. In fact, that’s why, in a crowd, cats seem to gravitate towards people with allergies or who just don’t like cats.

That seems too obvious. Is there more to it than this?

The question, “Why do some cats choose a favorite person,” begs a deeper look into the answer. Science explains a lot of feline behavior. This is no different.

Cats are only partly domesticated. They haven’t lived around humans nearly as long as dogs have, and for most of the history between us and our furry feline friends, we had limited interaction with them. We learned to tolerate them because they kept pests out of our food supplies, and they learned to tolerate us because our presence meant food, whether they hunted it, received it in the form of scraps, or both.

We cat parents know very well their partial wildness doesn’t mean they can’t love us. I have a cat right now who’s loving all over me (and drooling as she purrs). Our relationship with cats, however, is far closer to the relationship between two humans than it is between a human and a dog. There’s a give-and-take, and there’s communication. We have to learn to understand each other.

Because of that, they may well give us their affection because they choose to do so. They’re not yet hardwired to show it because they depend on us for their every need. We haven’t had anywhere near enough time to breed them to be so.

This isn’t to say that there isn’t any give-and-take or learning to understand each other with dogs. It’s just that, with cats, the interaction and relationship development is currently far closer to what you see between humans.

So why do some cats choose a favorite person?

Some cats choose a favorite person simply because that’s the person they interact with the most. For others, it may be because those people leave them alone or aren’t home very much. And for still others, it might be more complicated. Some cats don’t choose a favorite person at all.

It’s safe to say, though, that there is no single, catch-all reason to which we can point that answers the question, “Why do some cats choose a favorite person?” They do because they do.

Why Cats Chew Fingers, And What You Can Do About It

Some cats seem to have an odd habit. When you’re cuddling them and petting them, they go after your fingers. To you, it seems different from love bites and petting-induced aggression, and maybe you’ve noticed that your cat doesn’t bite so much as chew, gnaw or suck your fingers. Our matriarch, Gizmo, has done this with us her whole life and it is…perplexing behavior, to say the least. Why do cats chew fingers, anyway?

There is a variety of reasons why cats chew fingers

First off, if your cat is actually a little kitten around 9 weeks of age, she may be teething. Kittens who are teething often bite anything and everything. That includes your fingers and toes, because it relieves the discomfort of teeth growing in.

This is actually the perfect time to teach your kitten not to chew on things. The first thing you can do is give her chew toys she can chew on when you’re not playing with her. You can also teach her appropriate biting through interactive playtime.

There’s also “Ow! and Down,” which is a great way to teach her not to bite you. When she does, you say, “Ow!” in a high-pitched, but not loud, voice, and put her down or walk away from her. This teaches her that biting you is unacceptable without teaching her to fear you.

Adult cats chew fingers, too, though.

There are a few reasons why adult cats chew fingers. For many, it’s like wool-sucking – it’s something comforting from their kittenhood. It can also be your cat’s way of playing. We think that both these reasons are why Gizmo chews our fingers. To her, it’s both a throwback to her kittenhood, and it’s also fun and playful for her. We didn’t do much to stop her from doing it when she was a kitten, so she’s kept doing it through her entire adult life.

If your adult cat is chewing on your fingers, you can train her out of it with more playtime, and also with the “Ow! and Down” technique. Be aware, though, that it will take considerably longer if she’s already grown. It’s always easier to train kittens than cats, but don’t let that stop you if you’d rather she didn’t use you as a chew toy.

Why do cats show affection when they want something?

If you have a multi-cat household like me, then you know that every cat is different when it comes to affection. Some are aloof, some are friendly, some are very friendly, etc. But you’ve probably noticed that your cats get all kinds of affectionate when they want something. Ours rub our legs, purr, jump in our laps, and give us kitty kisses and head butts when they’re hungry. They also do this when they want to play, when they think we have treats – whenever they want something. Why do cats show affection when they want something from us?

It turns out cats show affection this way because it works

Our cats have learned exactly what they need to do to get certain responses from us. According to Dr. Kathryn Primm, our cats “know they have basic survival needs, like hunger and thirst. They know that we are the source of their resources, so they have become very adept at managing to get people to react in the ways they want.”

So in this way, cats show affection as a means of communication. They’re saying, “Hey, I need something from you.” Just as we learn how to ask people for things in ways that raise our chances of getting it, so too have cats learned this with affection.

Cats show affection to get affection

They don’t just do this when they want food or water, though. Cats show affection to us when they want affection back. Has your cat ever rubbed on you, then led you to his food bowl only for you to see that the bowl is full? Or to his favorite toy, but he doesn’t really seem interested in playing? We have a squillion memes for that kind of thing, but he could be telling you he just wants you to pet him.

So while it may seem like he’s totally selfish in some of his displays of affection, keep in mind that such displays may not be what they seem. Your cats show affection because they need things only you can give, including love.

Cats drink water using their amazing feel for physics

There is actual, interesting physics behind how cats drink water. At a glance, it might appear that all they do is use their tongues as cups to get water into their mouths. According to an article on Cat Channel, though, that’s not what they do at all. Instead, they use the tips of their tongues to create a column of water to pull into their mouths.

The way that cats drink water depends on the actual physics of water

Cats’ ability to drink water from a horizontal surface, such as a bowl, a puddle, a pond, or whatever else they may find in the wild, hinges on their tongues, and on water surface tension and liquid adhesion. Joanne McGonagle, the writer of the article on Cat Channel, says that Dr. Roman Stocker of MIT decided to investigate the physics behind how cats drink water after watching his own cat drink several years ago.

What Dr. Stocker found is that cats curl the tips of their tongues very sharply downward when they drink, instead of making a cup and scooping the water into their mouths. They very lightly touch the surface of the water, without piercing it, with the smooth tongue tip. The water sticks to the tongue, forming the column from which they then drink.

There’s an apparent understanding of physics that’s evident when cats drink water, and other times, too

According to a 2010 article in MIT News, cats instinctively know exactly when gravity will overcome the surface tension of the water and bring the column back down into the bowl, and they close their mouths around the water column to get their drinks. This is also how they keep their chins dry (or mostly dry) while drinking.

The physics behind how cats drink water results in about four laps per second for our furry feline friends at home. Bigger cats, which have correspondingly bigger tongues, lap more slowly, because more water sticks to the bigger surface area of their tongues.

The way cats drink water is different from how dogs drink water. Dogs actually do make little ladles out of their tongues to scoop water out of a bowl, according to the Washington Post. The researchers who began the study at MIT actually did so out of curiosity more than anything. The physics behind how cats drink water boils down to this: They have learned to balance gravity against inertia.

Here’s a slow-motion video of how cats drink water:

Promising New Research May Show Way To Help Declawed Cats

Declawed cats. The very idea is offensive and revolting to many pet owners, veterinarians, and animal rights activists, and rightly so. Declawing is an unnecessary amputation of the last bone of each toe, which causes ongoing problems for these cats. Those problems include arthritis, club-foot, chronic pain, and more. Those of us with declawed cats (whether we adopted them that way or had it done), who wish we could do something to help them, may be interested in this new research.

Personally, I know I’m interested. All four of our cats are declawed because we didn’t know what it actually was when we had it done. Once we learned the truth, it was too late. If there may soon be a standardized way to help them with pain and the problems the unnatural gaits that the missing bone causes, then I’m all ears.

Despite studies showing the opposite, people still report a higher rate of litter box problems with declawed cats

Many people whose cats are declawed report problems with litter box behavior. One (very strong) possible reason for the litter box problems declawed cats experience is the pain in their paws. Eventually, it’s just too painful to step and dig into cat litter – even the finest of fine-grained litters.

Dr. Ron Gaskin, a vet in Shakopee, Minnesota, may have a way to help that. He gave 18 declawed cats who were having litter box problems a two-week course of buprenorphine, which is a painkiller. Of those cats, more than 80 percent started using their boxes normally again.

There may also be a surgery that can help declawed cats

But that’s not all. What Dr. Gaskin has noticed is that declawed cats develop hyperflexion in their declawed paws, causing club-footedness and additional pain and problems. The chronic pain that declawed cats suffer gets worse over time, and raises cortisol levels, which in turn raises the risk of diabetes. So, besides the chronic pain, there are other health issues that may be linked to declawing, even if it’s not obvious at first.

There’s a surgery that Dr. Gaskin performed on 14 cats that he calls a “declaw salvage surgery.” It’s essentially a flexor tendonectomy that helps to correct the club-footedness declawing causes.

Obviously, neither of these options creates a free pass to have your cats declawed. There’s nothing out there right now that can replace the missing bones in their toes so they can walk completely normally again. In my personal opinion, though, anything that can help declawed cats live more normal, less pain-filled lives, it’s worth noticing.

Cats Bullying Each Other: How Do You Stop It?

Bullying. It’s common in multi-cat households. We have it here – Chase and Kali will sometimes gang up on Gizmo, and Kali harasses Aria. I started looking for ways to stop this because there are days that our cats bullying each other gets really bad.

What can you do to stop your cats bullying each other?

First and foremost, if your cats aren’t spayed or neutered, get that done right away. This can prevent bullying, along with unwanted litters, yowling, and other behavior issues that arise with intact cats.

If your cats are sterilized, though, and you’re still having problems, consider how your cats might view the resources in your house. Those resources include food and water, the litter boxes, and territory. Do each of your cats have adequate territory, horizontal and vertical? You can create extra vertical territory with multiple cat trees, or even carpeted shelves on the walls. Vertical territory is very important for cats. Make sure each of your cats can get up high and away from the others. Ensure they have multiple escape routes, too. That way, nobody can trap anybody else.

Territory generally isn’t a problem in our house, even though it’s a little small for four cats. Neither is resources – we have five litter boxes around the house, and they all get fed in separate rooms on a schedule. They do have a communal water bowl but nobody chases anybody away from it.

One more thing you can do: Be sure your cats aren’t sick or injured. Cats are good at hiding pain and illness, but will swipe at someone who makes them feel worse.

So now what do we do to stop our cats bullying each other?

Well, to be honest, I haven’t been the best cat mom when it comes to interactive playtime. One of the things that playtime does is stimulate your feline friend’s instincts. Another is that it helps you bond with her. It can also tire them out so they don’t have the energy to bully each other.

Cat Behavior Associates also recommends giving each of your cats individual attention with playtime so nobody’s competing, especially if there’s only one of you to play with multiple cats. The same goes for affection: Don’t play favorites.

The best thing you can do, though, is to stop conflict between your cats as early as possible. Cats bullying each other happens when there’s conflict, and only gets worse over time. If you see one of your cats trying to stare down another, or intimidate each other—whether it’s over food and water, litter boxes, territory, or anything else—gently separate them and find a way to make it so things don’t escalate. Above all, do not yell at them or swat them. You’ll only make things worse.

Cat love bites: Why on EARTH do cats do that?

You’ve been there before. You’re with your beloved feline friend, and she’s happily purring away while you pet her and scratch her in all her favorite spots. Maybe you’re holding her, if she likes that. Then out of nowhere, she nips you. Not hard – she doesn’t break skin and it probably doesn’t even hurt, but you suddenly feel little teeth on you. Cat love bites are perplexing – why do cats do that?

Cat love bites are a form of communication

Kali will lightly bite both of us, but oftentimes it’s just a tiny little nip when we’re petting her and cuddling her. Sometimes, when I hold her and she’s happy and purring, she’ll put her tiny needle teeth on my shoulder. She gives me a love bite.

Cat love bites may happen because your cat is feeling over-excited or over-stimulated, but it could also be because she feels a strong bond with you. Cats don’t communicate with us the way we communicate with each other. That little nip you get in a moment of affection is her way of saying she loves you.

We’ve figured out that she uses bites to communicate any number of things, including telling us when she wants more rubbing, when she’s done, when she wants us to feed her, and when she’s just feeling frisky. Sometimes we can tell it’s because she’s getting annoyed; she’s usually also giving us other cues, like twitching the tip of her tail. This particular type of bite is caused by petting-induced aggression, which you can read more about here.

Not all cat bites are love bites, though

There’s one thing you should remember if your cat is biting you: You have to determine the cause. That means paying attention to her body language, and her purring and/or vocalizing. What does your cat do when she’s at her happiest, and how does that compare to when she’s annoyed? Cat love bites can be difficult to distinguish from other bites. However, if her bites are at all aggressive, let her go so she can calm down.

But if her behavior indicates that her little nips are, in fact, just cat love bites, and she’s not hurting you at all, then she’s saying to you, “I love you!”

Do cats have sweet teeth? Science may have an answer

I swear I have a cat with a sweet tooth. Whenever I’m eating things like sugar cookies, donuts, or cake, Kali is all up in my face, trying to get my food off my plate, out of my hand, and she even sniffs at my mouth if I don’t let her have anything. If I drop a crumb? It’s like dropping a piece of steak or chicken – she is all over it like a vacuum cleaner. Cats are strict carnivores, so what is the deal here? Do cats have sweet teeth?

Science is actually working to answer the question, “Do cats have sweet teeth?”

Well, according to Scientific American, no. Cats literally have no way to taste sweetness at all, unlike most other mammals. They don’t have the taste receptors necessary to taste sweets, apparently:

“They don’t taste sweet the way we do,” says Joe Brand, biochemist and associate director at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. “They’re lucky. Cats really have bad teeth as it is.”

Okay, so what’s the deal with Kali, then? What is it that she tastes or smells in sweets that she absolutely must have?

Some scientists, like those quoted in Scientific American, argue that it’s not so much that cats have sweet teeth as it’s possible that they might be able to taste very high concentrations of sugar. If that’s true, then cats that are more sensitive to sweetness—even if they don’t taste it the way we do—will try and eat our amazing sweet treats.

Maybe it’s not the sweetness they’re after, though

Others arguing against the idea that cats have sweet teeth believe that it’s not the sweetness they want, but rather, they’re going after the fat. Indeed, things like cake, donuts, sugar cookies, and especially frosting, aren’t just high in sugar, they’re high in fat. Cats’ taste receptors are geared to taste fat, so there’s a chance that’s what they’re after.

So, do cats have sweet teeth? Science says no, but there’s so much anecdotal evidence that suggests otherwise that I’m not sure there’s a definitive answer here. And I wholly believe that Kali has a sweet tooth or three.

NEVER let anyone say this to you after your beloved cat dies

For many of us, our cats are part of our families. They’re more than just pets, they’re companions who nurse us through tough times with their cute antics, and their quiet understanding and sympathy (or they cheer us up with such an obvious lack of sympathy that it’s laughable). They give us things to giggle about, like they know they can entertain us and take advantage of that. They can act like little children, too, jumping up where they aren’t supposed to, only to jump back down and become all wide-eyed innocence when caught, like a small child insisting his hand was not in the cookie jar. But sadly, we’ll see when our cat dies, often before we do, and it’s devastating. But not everyone will have words of comfort or empathy when it happens, and that can be worse.

Recently, I’ve been comforting a friend whose beautiful feline friend died suddenly. He and his wife are grieving, their child cries over her loss, and for what? Who cares when a cat dies? She was just a cat, right?

WRONG. When a beloved cat dies, you lose a full member of your family

Our beloved feline companions are not just cats, whatever people who don’t understand may say. Your cat didn’t judge you for any mistake you ever made, when the people around you did. He didn’t offer advice that was both unhelpful and unwanted when your relationship fell apart. He knew when you wanted company the last time you had the flu, and when you just wanted to be left alone in your utter misery to try and get at least one moment of sleep. You knew his love was true and unconditional, even when it felt like nobody in the world loved you. He was, in many ways, your best friend, and so much more. So when your cat dies, it’s awful.

An article on the North Shore Animal League’s website tells the truth when it says that nobody is surprised to see us grieve over the death of a loved one, but many are when they see us grieving that same way when our cat dies. Non-pet owners often feel that a pet is just an animal, and that you’re making a huge deal over nothing (some who have pets of their own do this, too). These people might even question your mental health, which is just plain offensive.

Cats are fantastic at hiding when they’re sick

With our cats, a death can be especially devastating because we often have no idea that they’re even sick until it’s too late to do anything. Cats are very good at hiding illness until they’re too sick to keep putting in the effort. Alessandro Macaluso published a poignant article about her cat, Bear, and how he’d seemed just fine two days before his death. He had a large mass on his bowels, which killed him.

My friend’s cat may have felt perfectly fine before she passed, too, but she may also have been hiding something. She suffered from hyperthyroidism and had high blood pressure as a result. He doesn’t know exactly what happened – she appeared to have a seizure, for which they took her to the vet. Later in the day, she passed away in her sleep. Who knows whether she was feeling bad, or if the seizure came upon her as suddenly as it looked? Not knowing that your he’s even feeling bad makes it that much harder to process it when your cat dies.

Arin Greenwood talks about what it’s like when your cat dies unexpectedly. She, too, wonders what she could have missed when her cat, Derrick, died suddenly. The vet said it was likely a stroke or a heart attack, but she and her husband second-guessed themselves for a long time, wondering what they missed.

Some people are just plain insensitive

There are people who will ask you how you could possibly not know your cat was sick. The truth is, it’s not hard, and it doesn’t mean you were neglecting him in an way. Chase was once very sick, but he just seemed slightly out of sorts and I thought maybe he had a little bug. I felt silly taking him to the vet, but it turned out he was so sick he needed emergency surgery (fortunately he survived and is still with us). He’s a master at hiding when he’s not feeling well. Most other cats are, too.

Even when you know that his time is limited, it’s still devastating when your cat dies

But even if you knew your cat’s time was coming, it can still be very difficult when he actually does go. Yes, you knew, but that doesn’t make it easier. Those who don’t understand might say, “But you knew it was coming.” You might know it’s coming with a human family member, too, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt.

Macaluso and Greenwood were understandably devastated over the deaths of their beloved cats. And those who would say, “It’s just a cat,” to them, or to us, are those who just don’t get how painful it is when our cat dies. You don’t have to justify your grief—or your love—to them. He was your family, your companion, and your friend. And it’s perfectly okay to grieve, and to do so in your own time and your own way. He was not “just a cat.”

Cats’ Tongues Keep Them Clean, But How?

How much time do your cats spend every day bathing? Mine all spend a lot of time keeping themselves clean. This seems to be especially true at night, after we’ve gone to bed and the kitties are with us. We turn out the lights, and the bathing commences. Those tongues of theirs are little miracle-workers on that front, but how exactly do cats’ tongues clean their fur?

Cats’ tongues have little backward facing barbs

The barbs on cats’ tongues are small enough that they don’t actually function very well as little combs, like we might have thought. They face backward, which is why she swallows her fur (and anything else that gets stuck on her tongue). Scientists, however, have found that the little barbs don’t have to function as combs, since they function like Velcro.

Alexis Noel, an engineer at the Georgia Institute of Technology, got curious about how cats’ rough tongues actually help to clean them when she saw a cat get his tongue stuck on a blanket. The cat was able to free himself by pushing his tongue into the blanket, rather than pull it out. That unhooked him from the loops on the blanket.

Those little barbs are hook-shaped and sharp. They remind Noel and other scientists of cats’ claws, actually. They glide over untangled fur, and can actually tease out tangles by rotating deeper into the tangle after getting caught.

Cats’ tongues are also useful for eating, and erasing traces of food

That rotating action also wedges food particles between the barbs. This is why cats’ tongues are uniquely suited to cleaning all the meat off of the bones of their prey. And afterward, they groom themselves because instinctively, they need to remove all the traces of their meals from their bodies. Their Velcro-like tongues can catch any food particles left on them, helping to remove the scent of fresh-kill.

My cats also like using their tongues to wash me, which can get painful after a little while because I don’t have their fur to protect my skin from all those little barbs. Cats’ tongues are still somewhat mysterious to scientists, but at least now we have a better idea of how cats use them to stay clean.