The Meaning Behind Your Cat's Strange Behaviors


Our feline companions have distinct personalities and we often find ourselves confused with some of their odd behaviors.

Most cat owners know the rewarding sound of a purr or the loud meow of a hungry cat around dinner. It is often the unusual nature of certain vocalizations and actions that make us wish our cats could tell us what they are thinking or feeling.

Keep reading to learn more about the most common strange cat behaviors and their underlying reasons:

Head rubbing

Many cats will rub their heads on certain objects in the household, on their owner's legs, and even on other pets.

Animal behaviorists believe this behavior is associated with greeting something or someone they are comfortable with, and wanting to share their pheromones. This is referred to as bunting behavior.

A shaking head

Frequent head shaking, scratching the head or ears, and walking off balance could all indicate an underlying medical issue.

An ear infection, caused by yeast, bacteria, or parasites, can cause shaking, scratching, and in rare cases balance issues. An infection must be properly evaluated and treated by your veterinarian. Your cat could also have an ear polyp, which is a non-cancerous growth originating from the middle ear. These are diagnosed by careful examination of the ear canal, and can be removed surgically.


Some cats will use their paws to rhythmically knead a blanket, soft object or bed. This usually indicates they are happy, leaving their scent or alleviating anxious feelings.

This is related to an instinctual behavior that cats have retained from their days as kittens, when they would use their paws to stimulate milk letdown from their mothers

Excessive meowing in the litter box

There can be several reasons for this abnormal behavior.

One serious concern would be a urinary blockage, which is very painful and considered a medical emergency. If you are observing your cat frequently spending time in the litter box but only producing small amounts of urine and vocalizing, seek out veterinary care as soon as possible.

A urinary tract infection and constipation can also make your cat display similar clinical signs.

Uncovered feces

Cleaning the litter box is a regular routine for most of us who own cats. While it may not be your favorite hobby, it can help you learn a lot about your feline companion's habits and health status.

If your cat defecates and doesn't cover the feces, it can be way for them to mark their territory, or show dominance in the household. The unburied fecal matter may also be your cat's way of telling you that the litter box is either too small or too dirty and requires attention.

Remember to keep a close eye for any injuries in your cat's paw or leg that could be preventing them from covering their eliminations properly.

Late night activity

Another strange behavior frequently observed by cat owners is late night hyperactivity. This could be related to a change in your cat's sleep schedule, leading to playtime during late night hours. Bored cats will also look for ways entertain themselves, even while you are trying to get some sleep. Provide your cat with interactive and novel toys to help alleviate this boredom.

Another reason for howling and hyperactivity at night could be hyperthyroidism, a common endocrine disease which makes your cat feel restless and ravenously hungry. If you suspect your cat may be suffering from this disease, consult with your veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment options.

Final thoughts

Establishing a close relationship with your cat will help you better understand his or her particular wants and needs. Regardless of how well you know your cat, there will be times when your feline friend will act in ways that will make you shake your head.

Always rule out a medical issue with your veterinarian before considering any behavioral issues. Your cat may be trying to tell you he's experiencing different emotions, including happiness, anxiety, pain or boredom.

Finally, make sure you keep track of any recurring behaviors that might eventually help you understand your favorite feline's mood and state of mind.

Written by PetCoach Editorial September 12, 2018