In her book, “Tribe of Tiger: Cats and Their Culture,” author Elizabeth Marshall says the fact that cats are meat eaters and once hunted for their food explains a lot of their behaviors.
She tells of one of her cats which stalked and tried to pounce on deer that came in the yard.
So many of our cats’ most amusing or puzzling habits it seems, have to do in some measure with that strong hunting instinct.
Take a cat’s curiosity. Best-cat-tips.com relates that “You have only to watch a cat pouncing on a moving leaf to recognize the similarity between him and a tiger pouncing on his prey in the wild.”
We’ve all heard the saying: “Curiosity killed the cat,” and sometimes a cat’s curiosity can get him into harmful situations such as exploring an open trash can full of rain water or an empty sack on the floor that someone might step on.
It’s always wise for cat owners to keep an eye out for things left out in the home which could harm a cat or kitten.
Because of their hunting instincts, most cats can’t resist something that moves fast; if a toy has feathers or fur, it’s even more tantalizing.
Cats use their body language to communicate, and watching the cat’s tail and ears can tell a lot about what’s going on.
Even when seemingly at rest, the ears may be pricked forward and slightly outward as the cat listens to the sounds around him to take note of dinner or danger.
When a sound or movement catches the cat’s attention the ears become more erect as he readies himself to investigate.
Most cat owners know what ears laid back means: he’s annoyed and is feeling defensive and is warning you to keep back. A cat that’s both fearful and aggressive flattens his ears straight back and his eyes may dilate.
The tail is also a mood indicator: when it’s carried up the cat is content and proud. He also may want you to follow him (a mother cat’s upright tail is the signal for the kittens to follow her).
A tail up put crooked slightly at the end can mean the cat is friendly but still cautious of another cat, person or situation and when the tail is fluffed out it means the cat is afraid and would rather run but will fight to defend himself if he has to.
Cats scratch both to stretch and clean their claws and also to mark their territory; the claw marks leave a visible sign but also leaves their scent, which comes from glands between their paw pads. It’s suggested that sprinkling catnip on a scratching post or pad will make using it more desirable and your furniture less so!
Unique to cats is their purr, thought to be caused by vibrations in the throat or possibly vibrations in the wall of a blood vessel in the chest which are then transmitted to the cat’s upper air passages. It usually means they’re feeling content, although some cats may purr while ill, frightened or even curious.
Kneading is one of a kitten’s first motions when nursing from his mother but many cats carry it to adulthood, when it’s usually a sign of contentment and often accompanied by purring.
Some lucky owners even have cats that touch noses with them, which is said to be a show of affection between a mother cat and her kittens.