A Complete Guide of Cat Behavior

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A woman and her cat

From common behaviors like meowing, stretching, purring to strange behaviors like making noises at 2 AM or bringing dead animals as ‘gifts,’ there are many cat behaviors that you need to interpret to understand your friend properly.

Sometimes the same behavior, such as meowing, can mean different things, and your cat is trying to tell you something with some behaviors. Problematic behaviors, in addition, also need to be addressed, and it is important to know what is causing them.

Some behaviors can mean more than what they look like, which is why if you’ve ever wondered why your cat behaves in different ways, here’s a complete guide to different cat behaviors and why they happen.

Illustration of cat behavior

Normal cat behavior

Purring, kneading, climbing, and grooming are just the most common cat behaviors, but different cats will even perform these behaviors differently. As all cats are unique and special in their ways, their behaviors will also be different; therefore, we cannot make certain behaviors the standard for what is considered normal in cats.

Each cat has its own set of normal behaviors affected by the environment, mood, and personality. However, if your cat is behaving differently from how it usually behaves, that can be something to be concerned about, in which case, talking to a veterinarian can help.

Below are some of the most common behaviors shown by cats. 


Cats purr when they are content. However, there can be many other reasons why they purr; for example, they may be communicating their needs to you, so if they purr, it doesn’t always mean that they’re in a good mood. For example, after picking up your cat, she could either be doing that because of enjoying it or being nervous if she purrs.

Therefore, you need to realize that there are many interpretations, and you at least need to be informed about them to help you guess. From all the sounds that cats make, purring is the most common one. Following are some of the meanings of your cat’s purring to help you understand.

They are happy

If your cat looks relaxed when she is purring, and for example, their eyes are closed, they’re laying on their back, etc., it’s most probably because they are happy. Being happy is the most common reason for cats to purr.

When cats are in a relaxed environment that they feel comfortable in, they will purr to send out waves of calmness. You may find them doing this when you stroke them, for example, and if they purr calmly when you’re stroking them, it most probably means that your cat loves it and want to socialize. Apart from this, there are other reasons for cats purring.

They need something

In addition, some cats purr when they’re hungry or when it’s time to eat. And they are communicating this need to you. Researchers have found out that the sounds made by cats when they’re hungry and when they’re not are not the same. Therefore, your cat will purr differently when it is hungry.

For example, it may sound like their normal purr has been combined with crying or meowing, kind of like that of a human baby. According to experts, we will respond to this sound more than other sounds, and that all people can tell the difference between the different purrs.

Mom and kittens

Maine coon mommy cat and kitten

Apart from this, some kittens start to purr at a very young age. They do this to communicate with their mothers, such as telling them that they’re fine. Moreover, purring also helps kittens bond and connect with their mothers, so a kitten purring is a way to show the love between the mom and child.

Apart from this, some mother cats use purring as a kind of lullaby to comfort their kittens. So if you find moms purring to their kittens, they’re probably trying to put them to sleep.

Healing and relief

Another reason for cat purring is when they are in pain. Purring uses energy; however, cats still purr when in pain; this might be because the purring helps in soothing the cat itself. An example is a child licking their thumb to soothe himself as well. Not only this, but purring can even help a cat to heal quickly from the pain.

As purring is low frequency, it causes some vibrations in the cat’s body, which is helpful for the healing process. Because of these vibrations, bones and wounds can get healed, muscles can be built, and tendons repaired.

In addition to all of this, these vibrations also make it easier for the cat to breathe. And lastly, the pain and swelling can be reduced. Thanks to their purring, cats can better heal than other animals such as dogs and survive injuries better.

How do cats purr?

Purring is an interesting phenomenon; it is made by the cat rattling its vocal cords instead of vibrating them. Other animals, such as dogs and humans, all make their sounds by vibrating their vocal cords by pushing air through them, but not cats. Therefore, cats can purr even when they’re breathing. Most wildcat species are capable of purring as well, even cheetahs.

However, house cats have many more vocalizations than the wildcats, noises other than purring, and they are also much noisier than them. Because they live with humans, cats need to get their attention, and because humans are always busy doing their own thing, cats realize that it is important to keep making noises for us to notice them. Therefore, they meow so much.

Meowing cat


Meowing has many reasons. It could be the cat’s way of saying hello, asking us for things or communicating a problem. Adult cats only not at humans, and not at each other. Kittens, however, can meow at their mommies to tell them if they need food or if they’re feeling cold, but after growing up, they don’t do that anymore.

In addition to meowing, cats also yowl. This is a sound similar to meowing however it is more melodic. If you’re wondering that you’ve seen adult cat’s meow at each other, then they didn’t meow but yowl.

There are many reasons for a cat meowing. Some of these are listed below.

Greeting people

When you come home, you might find your cat meowing at you first thing. This is not because they want anything; they’re just greeting you. Cats meow whenever they meet their owners or when their owners talk to them.

To get noticed

As cats love to socialize with their owners, this might as well be their request to get your attention. It could be that your cat wants to play, talk, or be stroked. If cats are alone for a long period on most days, they are more likely to meow, and this is because they want social contact and do not want to be left alone.

When they want to go in or out

If your cat wants to go outside the house, you’ll see it meowing at the door. The same way, when you guys are outside, and it meows at the door again, it wants to go in. this is because meowing is the way cats communicate their needs to you. If your cat is staying indoors too much, then you’ll have to deal with a lot of extra meowing at the doors and the windows because they might be used to spending a lot of time outside, and it will be hard for them to adjust.

When they’re hungry

Hungry cat seeking for attention

If your cat is meowing and it is mealtime, it is most probably asking for food. You might find your cat meowing at people that enter the kitchen to ask for food. Cats might also come to you when you’re sleeping to wake you up so that you can give them breakfast. In addition, if cats want human food, they’ll meow very much because this is a learned behavior.

Cognitive issues in elderly cats

Older cats might suffer from mental confusion or cognitive dysfunction. This is like the cat version of Alzheimer’s. Because of these reasons, these cats will meow.

Mating reasons

Cats also meow at the opposite gender for mating purposes. In this case, it won’t be a meow but a yowl.

Excessive meowing

If your cat meows a lot, you might need to take it to the veterinarian as it might be possible that a medical condition is causing that. Don’t worry; not all excessive meowing is caused because of that.

However, there are a lot of diseases that will lead your cats to feel thirsty, hungry, irritated, or restless, which is why your cat will meow a lot to communicate all of this. Even if your cat usually does meow for food, it is best to go to a veterinarian if she’s meowing too much for food. Older cats, for example, are more likely to get kidney disease or overactive thyroid, which is also a reason for excessive meowing, so if your cat is old, be sure to keep this in mind.

Dealing with excessive meowing

If your cat meows a lot, it is important to see why she is doing that. You should try to give her different things and put her in different situations, and if she stops meowing, then it is for a reason. You should also try noting down the changes in her voice somewhere when the cat becomes especially loud.

If your cat is meowing as a way of greeting you excessively, then it’s possible that you can’t do much to deal with that. In addition, for example, if she’s asking for your attention by meowing at you, you should stop paying attention when she’s loud and pay attention when she’s not making any noise.

This way, the cat will realize that it needs to become quiet to get any attention. If your cat is crying due to loneliness, you should get her a pet sitter or a friend pet if you prefer. If she meows too much for food, then when she’s especially noisy, you should stop feeding her. This will help keep things quieter.


A bengal cat is jumping

Cats will sometimes play with other cats. It may look like a fight, but it’s playing. They do this to test how combative and social they are. They will do this with either other cats or prey, which might be mice or rats. They can also play with people.  Playing will help your cat to release energy that is pent up inside of them. Playing will also make their muscles stronger and will be a form of exercise for them. It will also help them with coordination.

Playing rough

It can be hard to figure out when your cat is playing if it is just playing or they’re fighting. When cats are playing, they will scratch, bite, swat and pounce. Even though it is just playing, even these scratches and bites are harmful, and they hurt. It is better to encourage your cat to play with objects, such as toys, to deal with this properly.

It is best to buy the balls. A fake mouse, for example, is a great idea. You could also get them a paper bag, which will allow them to have fun pouncing at it. Be sure, though, that you never allow your kitten to play with you and your hands for your safety. This is because these small nips from kittens can become actual bites when the cats get older, which is a very dangerous thing to teach your cat, and this might end up hurting your children and other people as well.


Sometimes cats will press their paws on you and then massage them. Even though this might feel good, it is important to know why this happens. When kittens feed on their mothers, this kneading helps to increase milk production when done on the mammary gland. This is where the cats learn kneading. If your adult cat is kneading, it is probably because it is happy or content, is stressed, and wont to get rid of it, in which case the kneading will help calm it down.

Aggressive kneading

Sometimes, your cat can be kneading way too aggressively, which can become a problem. This is most problematic when the cat is kneading your body. Male cats can be kneading excessively as part of learned behavior, as mating involves the male cats digging their claws inside the skin. To deal with aggressive kneading, you should neuter your cat.

Neutering has been very helpful in reducing aggressive kneading behavior in cats. Other things you can do are make your cat learn to do this with toys. What this will do is your cat will still be kneading, but not with people, so that the behavior will become less problematic.

In addition, cats tend to knead when feeling relaxed, so petting your cat differently can help. When you are petting the cat slowly, it will relax, so you should start doing it faster, as it will stop feeling so calm.

Strange Cat behavior

There are many ways your cat can behave, which might feel weird to you. Here are some of these.

Getting into small spaces they ‘fit’ in

A cute kitten sits in a gift box

Cats do this a lot. They will get inside a very small place as long as they fit in. this might make it look uncomfortable, but it’s not, and your cat is doing it for a reason. Doing so helps the cat feel safe and secure inside it instead of the wider environment, which might make them feel like they are in danger. Even if the threat outside is a vacuum cleaner, these spots will help the cat feel safe and secure. And the cats’ ability to fit inside these extremely small spaces is insane.

Bringing dead animals as ‘gifts’

Sometimes, cats can bring the prey that they killed to you as gifts. This might be an interesting scene, as it might make you freak out, leaving your cat puzzled. Cats do this because they accept you as one of their own. The cat could also be involving you in their success in hunting.

Either way, this means that you are important to your cat. This could be the cat’s way of thanking you for doing all that you do for it.

Moreover, the cat might just like the attention you give it when they do this gross thing. They may also be doing this because they want to take their food to a safe place before they eat it.

Running around like crazy

Sometimes, your cat can start running here and there for no reason at all. This might be because of their boredom or stress, which will cause them to become frustrated. It might also be possible that they’ve seen their enemy cat somewhere, like outside the window.

In this case, even the smallest movements around that can cause them to think that the enemy cat is there can cause them to start running around. The playing sessions will help the cat relieve the stress.

Sitting on anything you’re using

Your cat will sometimes, annoyingly, deliberately sit on the same things that you use, sometimes exactly when you’re using them. These can be laptops, books, magazines, clothes. Because you’re using these things all the time, the cat knows that you pay a lot of attention to it. Therefore, they will behave this way to get you to pay attention to them, as you pay attention to these things, and the cat will be sitting on it. The cat might also be leaving their scent there.

Knocking off objects

If the cat is knocking things off the table for no reason at all, it might be very annoying and frustrating to watch, especially because after knocking it off, your cat will watch it fall to the floor rather calmly. However, don’t worry; your cat is not trying to annoy you, as it might seem deliberate.

Cats, as you know, are curious creatures. Because the cat is bored and curious, it might start knocking things off like this. It also finds this activity fun, so if this becomes a problem or your cat breaks fragile things, you should try dealing with it by giving it toys.

Urine markings

Urine marking is the cat’s way of telling other cats that this is their territory. Although this is very problematic behavior, cats usually do this when they’re fighting with other cats. Other reasons for this may be them not feeling safe or them looking for mating. If there is any tension between the cats in your house, especially if there are many cats in your house, then this might happen, or if the routines of your cat change. To solve this problem, neutering and spraying can help. An enzymatic cleaner should be used where the cat has sprayed.


If you’ve heard your cat chattering its teeth fast and excessively, this might be because the cat is frustrated as it cannot go outside and hunt. Therefore, for example, you might find your cat doing this when it sees a bird out a window. It can also be doing this because it is excited or aggravated, and some say it is to prepare the cat’s muscles to hunt for prey.


Cats can show their affection and love for you or say hello by rubbing their head on you. But there is more to rubbing than this. This behavior is called “bunting.” This way, the cat releases pheromones from its head, and the cat is showing that you belong to them. This is kind of like marking their territory, to show that they own you

Problematic cat behavior

Cat behavior can sometimes become difficult to deal with. Here are some explanations for problematic behavior.


Conflict between cats

Though some aggressiveness might be play, it could have many reasons if your cat starts to behave aggressively suddenly. It could be because they just heard a loud noise or saw another cat they wanted to fight with.

Sometimes, cats can be aggressive towards humans after they’ve been aggressive towards other cats. They may do this because they feel threatened or because they are injured.

Litter box issues

8 Reasons Why My Cat Is Not Using a Litter Box?

If your cat is doing its business outside the litter box, it could be due to urinary tract diseases, bladder stones, or crystals in the urine. In which case, talk to a veterinarian.

Also, they might be doing this because more than one cat is using the same litter box, as sometimes they wouldn’t prefer to wait. So get every cat in your house a different litter box. You should clean the litter box regularly as well to avoid your cat getting annoyed. It is best to clean it once every day.

Nighttime noises

When everyone is fast asleep at nighttime, your cat might start making loud noises that will wake you up. This is usually because the cat has a lot of pent-up energy from the day, and they need to release it. As cats sometimes hunt nocturnally, their nature and instincts are another reason.

To avoid this, you should get your cat some exercise throughout the day. By feeding it before bedtime, this can also be avoided. However, if your cat is an older one, it might be a serious condition, but it can be treated by going to a veterinarian.


Cats scratch curtains and the couch sometimes; they do this to release their energy, to remove frayed claw bits, or just to mark their territory. However, scratching can be easily prevented if you don’t want your precious belongings to get ruined. You can buy your cat a scratching post then dab some catnip on it.

This will make the cat start using it. You can also cut the cat’s claws to avoid any scratches here and there. You could ask your veterinarian how to do it or ask them to do it for you. You could also make your cat wear nail caps, also called claw caps. This will avoid any damage to be caused due to the scratching.

Psychological issues

Compulsive behavior

If your cat is seen doing the same thing repeatedly, this is not a problem usually. However, in some cases could be a serious issue. If you suspect anything unnatural, it is best to get your cat checked by a veterinarian to confirm it and get it treated. Giving the cat diversions can also help; these can be things to climb or watch, like a fish tank.

Separation anxiety

Do Cats Feel Separation Anxiety? What Do Studies Say About It

As you already know, cats are pretty social animals. Therefore, when they are alone, they might not like it and start meowing a lot or even spraying the house, which can become a problem. To avoid your cat getting anxious in such a situation, you could start ignoring your cat a few minutes before you leave.

You could also give the cat some toys and when you come back, remove these toys. Also, if you play with your cat regularly, it will be tiring when you leave and rest instead.

Grooming obsessively

It is normal for cats to groom; however, it could become a problem if they do it way too much as their skin will get hurt. Your cat could be doing this because it is stressed. This could be because of another new pet in the house, so you should try playing with your cat more to reassure it. Also, get it checked at a veterinarian for any skin problems.

Other cat behavior

Cat eyes

If your cat is showing you cat eyes, it could be because they’re telling you that they’re in pain, in case they are hurt. If the cat has eye pain, the pupils will be dilated or constricted. Constricted pupils can also mean that the cat is angry or agitated. Or they could be preparing themselves for a threat, in which case the eyes will be big and round, and the pupils will be the size of pinpricks.

Stopping, dropping, and rolling

As you already know, cats are huger attention seekers. Therefore, stopping, dropping, and rolling can be their way of trying to get your attention. Pay attention to when this happens. It is most likely that this happens when you’re busy, such as when you’re on your phone or your laptop. Or they may do this when you’re leaving the house.

Climbing everywhere

Getting onto a higher place will help the cat see everything in a better way. Therefore, your cat might love to climb on things. As cats are natural predators, this is part of their genes.

A black kitten is climbing a tree

Hiding in a higher place may also be why they do that, as they’ll be left undisturbed in that area. In a house with many cats, it is most likely that the cat dominant over all others will go to this highest place.

If your cat likes to climb a lot, what you could do is buy it a cat perch. However, make sure that the cat perch you buy is strong enough to hold your cat’s weight and safe for it.

Also, if the cat is found climbing into areas where there are objects, for example, shelves, then make sure that none of those items can hurt your cat. In addition, as cats sometimes also like to knock objects off, you shouldn’t keep fragile things up there.


In addition to all these, there are many different behaviors that cats indulge in. Everyone has certain impulses, but cats are brave enough to act on them, which is why you’ll find the range of strange behaviors they show.

Just don’t ignore these behaviors and realize that your pet has its reasons for doing these things. However, if your cat’s behavior becomes too strange, checking with a vet would be the best option. Also, keeping a journal of your cat’s different behaviors can be helpful, as every cat is unique in its way, and it will help you identify its needs.

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