Cats have very interesting behaviors, however sometimes it may seem that all they do is sleep. That isn’t necessarily true though, and if we watch, we can see all the ways in which they communicate.
RUBBING AGAINST THINGS
A couple months ago I started paying attention to our older cat Meow Meow, when she would go outside and then return inside, how she would rub her face on the door frame. After a while I started thinking she probably has scent glands, especially after a few weeks ago when Cake, our second cat, tried doing the exact same thing, and Meow Meow gave Cake the nastiest look, like ‘How dare you?’ Cake wisely did not leave any scent marks on the door.
I verified this information and discovered that cats actually have about 5 scent glands around their faces alone which release pheromones. When watching nature shows we only hear about the other, less pleasant ones, but more often than not, it’s the ones around the face that they use to mark with, that or their claws/paws.
What Meow Meow was doing, and now Cake has since been allowed to do, was mark their territory. Doing so not only lets other cats in the neighborhood know that our house belongs to Cake and Meow Meow, but it also calms our cats and reassures Cake and Meow that our house is indeed their home too.
Cats will also rub on people to communicate their needs or wants. Sometimes they might be communicating a desire to be fed or to go outside. My cats will rub on my legs, meow at me, sometimes there will be a lot of verbal communication going on, and then they will watch me to see if I will follow where they lead, to show me exactly what they want. Sometimes they will show me their food bowls, indicating they do not want the healthy food; they prefer the full fat, full flavor food, all day long. And other times they want to go outside. I recall when Cake realized I could speak ‘cat’. Meow Meow came and got me, meowed at me for a really long time, then took me to the front door, so I let her out. Cake was just astonished; she thought I was stupid and up until that time had been treating me as such.
Cats can also rub against your face or head bump you, which is equivalent to a hug. Meow Meow has always rubbed her face against us, typically our hands, however Cake had been someone else’s pet before coming to live with us, and they found her in the dumpster, so she was reluctant to show those traits of trust. She seemed like she was always on the alert in the first few months.
It might have been a couple of months ago that Cake started relaxing enough with me, that she marked me with one of the scent glands on her neck, and I wondered if she considered me her tribe, territory, comforting, or a bit of all three. It wasn’t long after when she warmed up to Hannah, my 18 year old. When Cake joined our family she was friendly initially, but not like Meow Meow, because she wouldn’t just let us pet her. She was kinda jumpy; she clearly didn’t have confidence in us.
Cats can display trust to people and others by eating with their backs to you (or other cats). If they feel threatened, they face what they may consider their fear. Meow Meow has never faced me when she’s slept on my bed or eaten her food, at least to my memory. Cake used to, but now she is quite comfortable chowing down on her food in my presence. I don’t know that I would go so far as to say the cats trust each other yet, however they don’t fear each other. I’ve mentioned before that they can co-habit the same room, but they have been known to share the same piece of furniture with their backs to each other, indicating that they don’t feel threatened. That isn’t the norm however. They have a Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde relationship with each other, both of them do. They treat each other one way in the house and a completely opposite way when they go outside. They can be at complete odds when they’re inside, but as soon as they go outside, they can be best buds, so we have hope for them yet.
Something else cats undertake, although not necessarily throughout their lives, is snurgling, aka kneading or kneading biscuits. It is often referred to as ‘kneading biscuits,’ because cats stand up, and from what I’ve witnessed, use their front paws to rhythmically push their paws in and out on blankets or any soft object, much like they’re kneading dough. Some cats might use all four paws, making noise while kneading and even salivate. They could even snurgle their owner.
Cake is the first cat we’ve observed this behavior in that wasn’t a kitten. What is snurgling or kneading, one might ask. Well, I described the actions, now I will give possible reasons for the act. Many believe it is an intuitive and automatic trait carried on from when they were kittens. When a kitten snurgles or kneads its mother’s teats, the kitten is stimulating the milk supply. Clearly the kitten associated goodness with that of eating and that of its mother, so when an adult cat kneads a person or a blanket, it feels content. If you have a cat that kneads biscuits on you and the action hurts, first of all, it’s a sign of affection, however it also means that it’s time to trim those claw.
Another idea of kneading is that the adult cat has inherited its wild ancestor’s mannerisms. Undomesticated cats paw at piles of leaves and grass in an effort to create dens for their young and themselves. By pawing the ground they are inspecting for predators. I have personally seen Cake use her paws/claws to move a blanket around in order to make it more comfortable. I’m not entirely sold on the idea that she was checking for danger, just because it appeared that she was trying to get cozy and promptly laid down and started to snooze.
I have read that another reason cats can knead is when they go into heat, however I don’t believe that one since both our cats are spayed. Whatever the reason, they look adorable when they do it.
We’ve now had Cake with us for 6 months, give or take a month. She plays with Hannah, she head bumps me frequently, rubs against me, and more than tolerates me when I pick her up, which she couldn’t at all before. Meow Meow doesn’t like being picked up either, though I think it’s for different reasons other than trust issues. Meow Meow has weight problems, and she might feel the pull of gravity on her body and therefore fear that she might come crashing down.
Another interesting thing cats do is chittering. We first discovered this with Meow Meow, watching her as she watched little swallows out the picture window. We assumed she was casting spells on the little birds she couldn’t get. Cake has this same habit. Who knows exactly what they are doing, but evidently it is a common quirk. Our cats don’t make this chittering noise at our chickens or ducks, only at the little birds. It is thought that perhaps cats are frustrated that they cannot hunt, so they’re voicing their complaint.
Cats make a variety of noises, much like chickens do. It’s quite interesting to realize they have a repertoire of language at their disposal, and yet I wonder what does it all mean? I have written about the male cat who comes calling on my cats before. Cake wants nothing more to do with him, though Meow Meow is not so sure. She flirts with danger. When she sees him out the window she hisses and growls and sometimes she even moans. What can that be about? Some might argue she’s yowling at him, trying to force him to go away, but I’m not so sure. That could be a possible reason, she is spayed after all. She is very territorial too, so I guess it’s possible.
Cats are nocturnal creatures. After having Meow Meow for a few years I learned the hard way to start feeding her at night. She started meowing, incessantly I might add, in the middle of the night for food or out of boredom, I’m not really sure. I’m less inclined to think Meow Meow was bored than Cake; after all Meow is the one who sleeps the day away. It wasn’t long before Cake was waking us up at 1 am with ‘Meow. Meow. Meow. Meow. Meow. Meow.’ And so on and so forth. She was bored, but unfortunately at the time she and Meow Meow didn’t really get along. They still don’t ‘get along,’ but they can at least tolerate each other now.
I hope you enjoyed this post! Please feel free to leave a comment or ask a question. I don’t claim to know all the answers, but I promise to do my best to find one.