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Why Do Cats...?

Why Do Cats Need so Much Sleep?

Cats spend a lot of their time snoozing the day away. This doesn’t mean that you have a lazy cat, in fact this behaviour is totally natural for a cat. Wildcats sleep a lot in order to conserve their energy. This is so they are fully alert and fresh when they have a chance to catch prey. Believe it or not, this is also why your sofa loving cat sleeps all day too.
Another reason your cat sleeps a lot is because they are crepuscular, meaning they are most active around dawn and dusk. This is why when you feed your cat in the morning they will usually go straight to their favourite napping spot and sleep for most of the day. Cats can sleep up to 16 or even 20 hours per day, but most of this time will be cat napping rather than deep sleep. Cat napping is a state where the cat is resting but still listening in on their surroundings. You will often see cats in this state twitching their ears in the direction of a sound they have heard. This is so the cat can quickly be alerted to any potential danger while they rest. Cats can go into a deep sleep and even have little cat dreams. This type of sleep is usually in short spells and they will switch between them in a cycle whilst they snooze. We can also expect our cats to sleep more as they age. If you have a kitten you will see that they go from all systems go to fast asleep in the blink of an eye, and this is totally natural.

Why Do Cats Play with Their Prey?

Cats are undoubtedly cute and cuddly animals. But don’t be completely fooled by appearances. Cats can turn into unforgiving hunting machines, chasing rodents until they capture and kill them. Sometimes a cat will seemingly play with her prey before giving the fatal bite. There are a few different theories surrounding why cats enjoy torturing their prey.

  • They never learnt how to kill
    Cats learn hunting instincts like stalking and grappling from vigorous play sessions with their littermates. What they don’t learn is how to deliver the fatal blow. In the wild a mother cat may bring a mouse or other prey back to her kittens and deliver the fatal bite in front of them. In a domestic cat this will rarely happen, so it can be hypothesised that domestic cats never learn how to kill.
  • They don’t need to kill
    Domestic cats will rarely hunt for food. Their natural instincts to hunt are still there, but they prefer the chase rather than the catch. They may see killing their prey as the end to a game that they wish to keep on playing. By releasing, re-catching and tossing around their prey they maximise the enjoyment they get from the catch.
  • Risk of injury
    To deliver a fatal bite the cat must sever the spinal cord by biting hard into the prey’s neck. To be able to deliver this bite the cat may have to release the prey momentarily while they reposition. In doing this they risk a bite or peck to their face which could injure their eyes or cause a wound that risks infection. Rather than take this risk it is possible that the cat chooses to tire out and weaken their prey by playing with it. Overall, hunting is a natural instinct for cats and if the prospect of occasional mouse remains being left around your house/garden is too much for you to bare then maybe you should make your cat an indoor only cat.

Why Do Cats Have Rough Tongues?

If you have ever been licked by a cat then you may have been surprised by how rough their tongues are. The roughness on your hand is caused by small, backward facing barbs known as papillae. Papillae contain keratin which is the the same protein molecule that makes up hair and nails. Over millions of years the cat's ancestors evolved to develop tongues like this to serve two main purposes.

  • Grooming
    The small barbs act like a comb and help keep the cat’s coat in top condition. As well as helping to prevent the coat becoming matted; the barbed tongue will strip dead or loose hair.
  • Eating
    Ancestors of the domestic cat would hunt and kill their prey in the wild. For them it would be important not to waste any meat the gained from a kill. The barbed tongue would help them strip meat from bone so that they made the most from every kill.

Why Do Cats Knead You with Their Paws?

Many cat owners will have a cat that loves to knead with its paws whilst sitting on someone’s lap. The reason behind this behaviour in adult cats is not fully understood, but it can be very funny or even cute (if your cat doesn’t extend their claws). Sometimes when your cat kneads your leg you will feel rhythmic pricks of sharp little claws, and this can be very painful. Even though you know they love you, you do always wonder why they are so intent on kneading you with what feels like tiny knives.

  • They associate it with the comfort of being a kitten.
    Kittens will knead their mother’s teats when they are suckling in order to help squeeze more milk out. As a kitten matures they may still associate the kneading with a sense of comfort even if there is no food reward.
  • They like to stretch their claws.
    Most of us can appreciate a good stretch and perhaps cats are the same. They have lots of small bones, ligaments and tendons in their paws that will be stretched through kneading. Therefore maybe they are just enjoying a nice stretch.
  • They are returning your affection.
    Perhaps your cat is enjoying your affection so much that they wish to return the favour.
  • They are still wild at heart.
    Wild cats will build nests to give birth to their young. They do this by flattening down plants and debris in the surrounding area. Perhaps this natural instinct is still present in domestic cats and presents itself through kneading.

Why Do Cats Headbutt you?

Many cat owners will have experienced their cat jumping up onto their lap and headbutting them straight in the face. If a human did this we may think they were trying to attack us, but don’t worry, with cats they are doing something totally different.

  • Pheromones
    Pheromones are chemicals that are secreted outside the body and can affect the behaviour of other animals. Cats produce lots of pheromones in glands around their face which they use to mark things they come in contact with. It is thought that cats do this to claim certain things as their property/territory such as their favourite human.
  • Affection 
    The head butting (also known as “bunting”) behaviour can also be taken as a sign of love. Both domestic cats and wild cats (like lions) will face rub and headbutt with cats they know well. They also do it to members of their pride as a way to mark each other as family and show affection. You should feel honored if your cat headbutts you as it’s cat language for “Hey, you, you’re in my gang.”

Why Do Cats Have Whiskers?

Cats have Whiskers (also called vibrissae) is many places on their face; on their top lip (both sides of their nose), above their eyes, on their ears, and on the back of their front legs.
Cats whiskers are embedded deeper and are thicker than normal hairs. They serve a sensory purpose which allows them to measure how far apart things are in relation to their face and body. This is extremely useful when trying to squeeze through tiny gaps in the fence. The whiskers contain proprioceptors which send signals to the nervous system as the cat moves. They help the cat judge distances, detect changes in their environment and aid in night vision by detecting the cat’s surroundings.
Important note: Never cut your cat’s whiskers. This can be very confusing and stressful for the cat because they lose a part of their senses. Even if you own a cat with curly whiskers such as the Cornish Rex it is still important to leave their whiskers to grow and fall out naturally.

Why Do Cats Purr?

Relaxed, happy and content, you must have felt your cat gently vibrating in its favourite sleeping spot. If your cat comes and snuggles into your lap whilst purring fervently you can take it as being a sign of affection and comfort.

  • It is believed that purring originally starts in kittens as a way to tell their mother that they are happy and healthy. This is because a kitten can purr and suckle at the same time whereas they cannot meow.
  • Other reasons a cat may purr is if they are stressed or meeting a new cat. Some cats may purr at the vets or if they are in pain, this may be attempting to relax themselves. Other cats will purr when they meet a new cat and wish to give off a friendly, non-aggressive vibe.
  • One theory is that turbulence in the bloodstream causes a vibration in the chest and windpipe, which causes resonation in the sinus cavities of the skull. Another theory suggests that the muscles of the diaphragm and larynx contract out of phase causing the purr vibration. A third theory, that is backed up by scientific studies, suggests that cats use the vocal folds and muscles on the larynx to alternately dilate and constrict the glottis (the opening between the vocal chords and upper part of the larynx). This causes the air to vibrate which produces the purr sound.
  • It is believed that cats purr when they are relaxed and happy, however cats also purr as a way of self soothing in stressful situations, or when they are hurt. Some scientists believe that the frequency of a purr (26 Hertz) promotes tissue regeneration, and that when cats purr they are healing themselves or strengthening bones. Your cat may purr when she is hungry (usually louder purring), and dominant cats will sometimes purr when approaching a submissive cat to signal they come in peace.

Why Do Cats Grab You When You Stroke Their Tummy?

Some cats will come up to you full of love and affection, roll over and stretch out, but when you extend your hand to give them a belly tickle they suddenly seem to turn feral in a biting and clawing frenzy. This is a defensive reaction; the cat’s belly is probably their most vulnerable area to predators. In the wild, a cat who suffers injury to their belly could very easily be killed if any of their vital organs are damaged. Although you are not a threat to your pet, their instincts kick in and they feel the need to defend. If your cat is rolling over and exposing her belly then this can be taken as a sign of comfort and security. It mean that she trusts you and doesn’t feel threatened, but watch out because her attitude could change at any moment. Unless you know for sure, it's always better to stay on the side of caution.


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