The most obvious answer would be because they can, but that’s not what we’re going for here. Cats have a lot of strange and unique behaviors, as anyone who’s ever owned one knows. They love hanging out in boxes of any shape or size, the plastic wrapping surrounding cases of water is a bigger draw than an expensive toy, and reaching out from blind corners with a single paw to trip you up in a seeming pratfall straight out of an old slapstick comedy pleases them to no end. But what about their even weirder side? (Yes, there is one.) Why do they do the things they do? The answer is quite often nature.
One question a lot of people ask is, “What’s with the biscuit making?” “Kneading” is what kittens do to their mothers when nursing to stimulate milk production. Adult cats may “knead” humans when they are feeling relaxed or are trying to calm themselves. It’s like thumb-sucking in toddlers,” says Monique Udell, director of the Oregon State University Human-Animal Interaction Lab. Sometimes this kneading is accompanied by the suckling of a blanket or other soft, plushy material. Oftentimes you see this in animals who have been weaned too early from their mothers. It seems to have a calming effect and brings great pleasure to them. As long as it’s not hurting anyone or anything, let them have their small comforts wherever they can find them.
Not So Odd Animal Behavior
According to Mikel Delgado, founder of Feline Minds, a cat behavior consulting service in Sacramento, California, these evolutionary traits stem from felines’ wild origins. “Cats are highly predatory. They are naturally active at dawn and dusk. They are in the middle of the food chain — both hunters and hunted — with some behaviors that are natural, like scratching, and we can’t train that out of them,” Delgado shared. Cats, like dogs, are also big on scenting. For instance, they will spray to let other animals know they’ve been there or that it’s their turf. They also have facial scent glands, and when head-butting their human, they are probably depositing secretions to mark their social partners, notes Kristyn Vitale, assistant professor of animal health and behavior at Unity College.
The Differences Between Dogs & Cats
One big difference between dogs and cats is the fact that cats will go to great lengths to cover and mask their waste. “They are covering their tracks,” says Udell. “This could be the modern-day version of keeping a low profile.” The same could be said for cats who cover their wet food if they haven’t finished it. They will often claw the ground around the bowl to the point of distraction. Some pet parents have even reported them dragging a kitchen towel down to cover it up in a comical fashion. This is a throwback to their wild ancestors. In nature, the reason big cats cover their kill is to try to hide the smell and prevent it from being eaten by scavengers. This helps ensure a convenient snack for a later date. You have to remember, a lot of work goes into securing the kill in the first place. You don’t want to advertise and just give it away.
So, the next time your cat is acting weird (in the eyes of a human, anyway), just chalk it up to evolutionary traits.
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