The Wild Roots of Your Cat’s Quirkiest Behaviors

One of the things I love about cat lovers is their diversity and curiosity about our feline friends. Not all cat lovers blog about cats but focus on other passions, like Tiffany Gantt our guest blogger today from who loves sharing tips on cooking and why yes, aprons.


The Wild Roots of Your Cat’s Quirkiest Behaviors

One of my favorite things about cats is their quirkiness. Every cat is different, but there are so many behaviors that seem to be almost universal. After a little research into the wild past of the house cats, however, these quirks begin to make sense. Here are some of the weirdest things your cat might be into, and what they can tell you (if anything) about your cat friend’s inner world.
1. Bringing home dead animals
This is an easy way for signals to get crossed between cats and their humans—they show up with something dead and smelly in their jaws, and drop it on the kitchen floor for you like a present. You’re understandably grossed out and annoyed, but that’s the last thing your cat expects. She’ll bring you a dead bird or rodent for one of two reasons, and both are well-intentioned. The simplest explanation is that your cat just wants to do her part for the group, so she brings her contribution to the group leader (that’s you, congratulations).
A more subtle possibility is that your cat has noticed that you’re not very quiet, not very quick, and you bring home precious few kills when you come home—so she’s brought you hers as an invitation to learn, in the same way she would initiate her kittens. Either explanation is possible, since cats frequently ascribe both dominant and submissive social roles to humans; but either way, it means you’re family.
2. Sneering
You may have noticed that your cat occasionally curls up her lip in a sneer, but don’t be offended; this is known as a “Flehmen response”, and it’s a way of sweeping the area for pheromones. Horses, goats, buffalo, and your house cat’s wild cousins all exhibit this behavior, pulling rude faces in an attempt to detect pheromones in the air. It’s a bit like wine-tasting—only, instead of using his sense of smell to augment his taste buds, your cat is using his mouth to smell better. Occasionally, these faces can be a sign of mild abdominal pain, but if your cat isn’t showing any other signs of discomfort, he’s probably just snooping.
3. Grooming
Most people assume they have this one figured out—cats like to be clean, after all—but there’s more to the story than that. By tugging at his fur with his tongue, your cat stimulates glands in his skin that release his marking scent. Since your cat isn’t allowed to mark his territory with urine (at least not indoors), the pheromones in his skin oils are the only way he can assert himself in the house; but after a good snuggle, your cat’s scent is intermingled with your human scent, so his pheromonal “signal” becomes weaker. That’s why your cat will enjoy a good rub-down, but quickly cleans himself up afterward.
4. Stalking your laser pointer
If you’ve ever blown an afternoon watching videos of cats online, you know how universal this love is—cats dig laser pointers. It turns out that this behavior is triggered by the way cat’s brains detect movement. You’ve probably noticed that it’s impossible to hold a laser pointer completely still—your muscles vibrate involuntarily, causing the dot to shake—and erratic movements that unpredictably change direction and speed are interpreted by cats as a sign of life. Your cat probably understands that he’s only playing a game, but his hunting instinct makes it an almost irresistible one.

Tiffany Gantt is a staff writer for, a website dedicated to the love of cooking and looking good while you do it! You can often find her getting creative in the kitchen as she whips up something yummy in one of her flirty, color coordinated aprons.

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9 thoughts on “The Wild Roots of Your Cat’s Quirkiest Behaviors

  1. Well we learned something new today! I didn’t know about the grooming either. 4 paws up for Layla and all the neat education she provides! Meows say Skeeter and Izzy >^oo^<

  2. I didn’t know that tip about grooming. Always assuming they were ‘washing’ off my scent from their fur! Very interesting.

  3. I actually didn’t know that about the grooming. Which would explain why the boys, but especially Nicki, immediately groom themselves after I scritch and stroke their fur. (Derry sometimes will do it right away, sometimes not, but Nicki’s grooming is immediate.)

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