Updated - Apr 3rd, 2023
- Cat behaviors are adorable (and often highly amusing). Meowing, staring, grooming, and biting are all ways that cats communicate with their owners.
- Don’t take biting personally. Cats don’t typically bite out of anger or spite. They’re probably just trying to communicate their needs.
- If something feels off about your cat’s behavior, take them to the vet for a check-up.
For centuries, cats have won the hearts of humans around the world. Take a look through time – from ancient Egypt to internet memes – and you’ll see that humans have always been fascinated by cat behavior.
Purring, meowing, kneading, grooming, and biting are all common cat behaviors – but what exactly drives these actions? Below, you’ll find answers to the top ten most googled questions from cat parents.
Why does my cat lick me?
On average, adult cats spend up to 50% of their waking hours grooming. It’s an instinctual cat behavior that demonstrates serenity, affection, and happiness.
Most often, cats groom themselves and others when all is well in their world and they feel calm, safe, and secure. Mother cats groom their offspring to both clean and strengthen bonds with their kittens. Similarly, bonded cats often groom one another to express trust and endearment.
When your cat licks you, they’re demonstrating their love for you! It’s not typical for a cat to lick a human they don’t know very well, so consider a lick from your cat a special sign of respect and affection.
It’s also a way for them to mark their territory and spread their pheromones. Cats are territorial by nature and like animals to know what belongs to them. Licking is a way for cats to show other animals they have a special attachment to you.
In rare cases, your cat may lick you due to an underlying medical issue that causes discomfort or anxiety. Overgrooming and licking could be a sign that your cat is stressed, anxious, or even bored – especially since grooming is a way for cats to self-soothe. If you’re worried about your cat, take them to the vet for a professional opinion.
Common reasons why cats lick their owners:
- To express affection
- To seek attention
- To show their bond
- To mark their territory
- Stress or boredom
- An underlying medical issue
Why does my cat bite me?
Cats bite for many different reasons. Depending on the environment or situation, your cat could bite due to stress, fear, or overstimulation. It’s worth noting that cats typically don’t bite out of anger or spite – so don’t take it personally if your cat nips you while you’re petting them.
Rather, biting in cats is simply a form of communication. Often, cats become overstimulated when being pet and instinctively bite to let their owners know they’ve had enough – a behavior known as petting aggression.
Biting is a hunting instinct, so cats may also bite during playtime. If you don’t want your cat to bite you while playing, try offering them an interactive toy as a distraction.
On occasion, emotions like stress or fear may also motivate cats to bite their owners. For example, moving homes may cause your cat to feel anxious, leading them to bite when approached. In cases like this, you may visit the vet to develop a course of action for calming your cat’s emotions.
Common reasons why cats bite their owners:
- Overstimulation from being pet
- Instinctual behavior during playtime
- Simple communication
- Fear, stress, or frustration
Why does my cat stare at me?
When you catch your cat staring at you, you may wonder what’s running through their mind. Are they thinking about how much they love you, or plotting to take over the world?
When a cat holds eye contact with you, it’s a sign of respect and trust. In fact, slow blinking is a way for your cat to tell you they love you and feel comfortable enough to close their eyes in your presence.
According to certified cat behaviorist, Dr. Janet Cutler, staring can also be a sign of curiosity. “Your cat may be watching you to see what you’re going to do or how you’re feeling – they can tell the difference between a happy and an angry face,” she explains. “They may also be looking to see where your attention is. Your face provides a lot of communication to your cat.”
Your cat may also stare at you because they simply enjoy observing you, or are hoping to get your attention in some way. In some cases, your cat might stare at you because they’re angry or scared and want to let you know.
Read your cat’s body language to decipher what they’re trying to tell you with their stare. A calm disposition is often paired with relaxed ears and half-opened eyes, while a more anxious cat may seem tense or wag their tail back and forth.
Common reasons why cats stare at their owners:
- To demonstrate affection and trust
- To get your attention
- They are angry or afraid
Why does my cat meow so much?
Cats meow to communicate their wants and needs. Kittens often meow to get their mother’s attention or express their needs. Similarly, an adult cat will meow to attract their owner’s attention.
You may notice that your cat is overly vocal whenever you return home, signifying their joy in seeing you – or perhaps their desire for more cat food. While cat meows can seem mysterious, they’re simply a way for our furry friends to express themselves.
Meowing can be a learned behavior for many cats, too. As Dr. Cutler explains, “Cats can meow because they’ve learned that gets them what they want.” If your cat’s meowing is becoming too much, she suggests you “stop rewarding them for meowing, and give them something in the moments they are quiet.”
If your cat is in heat, you’ll likely notice that she’s more prone to meowing or yowling. This is her version of a mating call, and it’s a way to vocalize her current situation to any potential mates within earshot.
If your cat isn’t in heat, however, excessive meowing could be a potential sign of distress or pain. Listen carefully to the tone of your cat’s vocalizations. A chirp or purr can signify something very different from a loud yowl or distressed meow – and any sign of pain or illness warrants a vet visit.
Common reasons why cats meow:
- To greet people
- To ask for food, water, or attention
- To ask to be let in or out
- To find a mate when in heat
- To express discomfort or pain
Why does my cat keep sneezing?
Sometimes, your cat may sneeze simply because they got dust particles or smoke in their nose. But in other cases, there may be more to the story.
If you notice your cat sneezing more than usual, it could indicate an upper respiratory infection. Upper respiratory infections are highly contagious, and especially common in rescued or adopted cats. If you think your cat may have an upper respiratory infection, take them to the vet for diagnosis and treatment.
In general, there’s typically no reason to worry about the occasional sneeze from your feline friend. But keep an eye out for odd patterns. For example, if you notice they always sneeze after using their litter box, you may want to try changing litter brands as your cat could have a litter allergy.
Common reasons why cats sneeze:
- Feline upper respiratory infection (URI)
- A standard tickle in your cat’s nose
- Litter allergy
Why does my cat sleep on me?
It’s no secret that cats love to sleep. And they aren’t picky with where they curl up, either – cat owners can attest that cats love sleeping in many different places, including in bed with a trusted human.
This makes sense, when you look more closely at cat behavior. After all, bonded cats sleep together when they feel comfortable, happy, and (of course) sleepy. So it’s only natural that cats would enjoy sleeping with their owners, too.
Chances are, your cat is sleeping with you because they feel bonded and instinctively want to show their affection. As a loving pet parent, you can rest easy knowing your cat feels warm and secure when snoozing by your side.
Common reasons why cats sleep on their owners:
- They feel secure
- They are bonded with you
- It makes them feel tranquil and serene
- To demonstrate affection
Why does my cat follow me everywhere?
Ever looked over your shoulder and wondered: why is my cat following me around again?
Don’t worry – while this behavior may seem strange, your feline friend isn’t plotting anything devious. When your cat becomes your shadow, it’s likely due to one of two simple reasons:
- They enjoy spending time with you
- They need food, water, or pets
Remember: cats are social creatures, too. When your furry little shadow follows you from room to room, they’re most likely just demonstrating a desire to be around you.
Common reasons why cats follow their owners around:
- They enjoy spending time with you
- To show affection
- To get attention
- To ask to be pet
Why does my cat drool?
Cat drool is usually a sign of happiness and serenity, especially when paired with purring or kneading. Some cats drool when they’re extremely content or calm – so don’t feel surprised if your cat starts drooling in their sleep, or during a particularly good petting session.
Excessive drooling is a different story, however. It can signify underlying issues such as dental disease, an upper respiratory infection, or extreme stress. If you notice excessive drooling in your cat, take them to the vet for an oral exam.
Common reasons why cats drool:
- They’re extremely relaxed and happy
- Dental disease
- Upper respiratory infection
- Nausea or vomiting
- They’re scared, anxious, or afraid
Why does my cat knead me?
Very few cat behaviors are as endearing as biscuit-making, also known as kneading.
Kneading is an instinctual behavior that starts in kittenhood. Kittens often knead their mothers while nursing or sleeping to demonstrate love, affection, and tranquility. Kneading doesn’t just apply to kittens, either; older cats and senior cats are also avid kneaders. No matter their age, cats knead their owners because they feel safe, secure, and loved. You may notice that your cat kneads you during a calming petting session, or right before they settle down for a nap on your lap.
Kneading is also a way for cats to express the scent glands in their paws and mark their territory – so when your cat kneads you, they’re making it known that you’re their person.
Common reasons why cats knead their owners:
- To show affection
- To display happiness and serenity
- They feel comfortable
- To mark their territory
- To bond with you
Why does my cat headbutt me?
Like kneading, headbutting is a way for cats to spread their pheromones and bond with their owners.
Cats often headbutt their humans to communicate love or a desire for pets and attention – so if your kitty headbutts you out of nowhere, they may be asking for a nice head rub or cuddle session.
More than anything, headbutts mean your cat is proud to call you their parent. As Dr. Cutler puts it, “Bunting (pushing their head up against you) is often a sign of affection and your cat being happy. Usually, this means they want to interact or get pet, so use it as a sign to spend some time with them.”
Common reasons why cats headbutt their owners:
- To ask for pets and/or attention
- To spread pheromones
- They feel bonded to you
The bottom line
Happy cats like to communicate love and trust in various ways – like kneading, purring, staring, following, licking, and headbutting their owners.
The reasons behind different cat behaviors may not always be so clear. If something ever feels off about your cat’s behavior, take them to the vet for a professional exam.
When it comes to your cat’s health, you’ll do anything to make sure they’re feeling their best. With a Pumpkin Cat Insurance plan, you can get 90% cash back on vet bills for eligible accidents and illnesses.