Cats are amazing creatures, from their incredible athletic skills to their graceful demeanour. It’s no wonder these beautiful pets raise a lot of questions. Many studies have been done on domestic felines, and while experts are still trying to learn more, we found the answers to the top 5 googled cat questions.
Why do cats purr?
If your a cat owner, chances are you’ve heard them let out a purr. It is the most common sound felines make, and is often associated with happiness. While cat’s do purr when they are content you shouldn’t assume that purring always signifies a good mood. Cat’s also make this sound to communicate other emotions and wants too. For example, you may pick them up and they let out a purr: are they purring because they like it or because he’s nervous? The truth is that we will never know exactly what your kitty is trying to communicate when they purr, but using research from animal experts, along with your own judgement of the situation, you will be able to make an informed guess.
Here are some of the top reasons a cat will purr:
Your cat looks relaxed, maybe they are sleeping in a sunny spot outside or curled up on the couch. In this case, it’s safe to assume they are in their happy place and that purr signifies a big smile.
They’re hungry or want something
Researchers have identified that the sound that cats make is different depending on whether they are hungry or not. These two purrs don’t sound the same. When a cat is trying to communicate that they want food, they combine their normal purr with a cry or mew, similar to that of a human baby’s cry. This is easily identifiable, even by those who aren’t experienced with cats.
To communicate with their mothers
Kittens can let out their first ever purr when they’re only a few days old. Experts have suggested that this is to let their mothers know where they are or that they are okay. Mother cats will also purr to their kittens sort of like a lullaby.
Many cats will purr when they get hurt or are in pain. This may be a way for a cat to soothe itself, just like a child sucks their thumb. Some research also suggests that purring can actually a help a cat get better faster. The frequency of purrs cause a series of related vibrations within their body that can:
- Heal bones and wounds
- Build muscle and repair tendons
- Ease breathing
- Lessen pain and swelling
This could be an explanation for cats being able to survive falls from high places, and on average having less complications after surgery than dogs.
Why do cats knead?
At some point you have probably seen your cat kneading. This is the action of rhythmically pushing their paws in and out against a soft object, often a blanket or your lap. Not all cats knead, however it is common in both young and adult felines and different cats may knead in different ways. Here are some of the theories as to why cats knead their owners and certain objects:
They associate it with the comfort of nursing
Kittens will instinctually knead their mothers to help stimulate milk production. So, why would they continue to knead when they pass the age of nursing? Although the blanket your kitty loves to knead won’t produce any milk, adult cats will forever associate kneading with the rewarding comfort of nursing.
They are showing affection
Does your cat like to knead you while they are curled up in your lap? If you’re petting your cat and they are letting out a soft purr, chances are they are kneading to return the show of affection. They do tend to dig their claws in harder the happier they are, which can be painful. Make sure you never punish them for this behaviour, as they don’t realise that it hurts. Instead, you could try placing a thick but soft barrier in between you and your cat.
They are stretching their muscles
Cats live to have a good stretch, so much so that you could call them master yogis. After a long nap you may see your kitty kneading, this is simply to stretch out their limbs and work out any kinks.
They are marking what is theirs
Cats are territorial, and they use scent to mark what’s theirs (yes, including you). Kneading activates scent glands in your kitty’s paw pads, and therefore marking that item as theirs.
Why do cats sleep so much?
On average, a cat will sleep 15 hours in a day. They have been known to sleep up to 24 hours in a 24 hour period, which is a whole lot of sleep – but why?
They’re on a different schedule
Cats are most active between dusk and dawn, meaning that the daylight hours are their nap time. So while you sleep, it is likely that your cat is out exploring and getting into trouble. So by the time breakfast hits their bowl they are ready to call it a night and wind down for their 15 hours.
To conserve energy
It is in a cat’s nature to chase and hunt, mainly at night time. Larger cats such as lions also have a similar sleep pattern to the domestic house cat – sleep during the day and hunt during the night. Although cats are mostly domesticated, they do retain their wild streak. Your domestic cat will still display predatory behaviour such as sneaking around in the shadows and suddenly pouncing on a target. This behaviour takes a huge amount of energy, whether your kitty has been chasing bugs, or trying that catch that laser dot, they spend their sleep time reserving energy for running, climbing and pouncing.
Just like us, your cat’s day will be affected by the weather. And while cat behaviour can vary from breed to breed, age, health and temperament – it has been observed that all cats sleep more when the weather is bad. Even cats who are exclusively indoor only were found to sleep more on rainy or cold days. So if it’s a stormy Sunday and you feel like going back to bed for some shut eye, chance are your cat does too.
Why do cats meow?
Cat’s use lots of different types of meows to communicate. What is interesting is that when communicating to another feline, cats will usually use body language and scents. The rarely meow to one another, but will often meow to humans. This is because we are often not perceptive enough to pick up their body language, and we are unable to pick up their scenting. As a result cats adapt to us, and learn over time that meowing is a sure way to get our attention.Some meows signify love and affection, while others can signal distress or pain. Here are the most common reasons for a cat to meow:
They are greeting you
This will often be a short meow to signify happiness or excitement that you or a family member is arriving home.
To announce their presence
A cat may meow to let you know that they are there. This is often observed when a they come out of a hiding or sleeping spot, or decided to explore a new area. This announcement allows them to gauge whether or not they should persue something they are interested in by awaiting a positive response to their feeler meow. If they are anxious to explore you can encourage them by talking to them in a soft and gentle tone.
The are demanding attention
This is a more distinctive meow used for getting your attention. Your cat may meow several times or give a long and drawn out meow. The reason for this could be anything from demanding food to being stuck in a room. If you suspect that your cat is demanding something, the most common things that want are food or treats, water, playtime, a clean litter box, cuddles or to be let in or out of somewhere. It is important to check all of these things if your cat is letting out this certain type of meow.
They are anxious
You have most likely heard this meow when you put them in the carrier to go to the vet. Anxious meows will usually be let out repeatedly and indicate that your feline is in a state of stress. If your cat is in pain, they will let out a very high pitched meow, or if they are very unwell their meow may be weak and barely audible.
They are warning you
If your cat’s meow takes a lower tone, coupled with a growl, chances are they are trying to warn you that they are about to lash out. This would be most commonly heard between two cats who have a disagreement, but can also be heard if you are doing something to aggravate your kitty. Be warned: it doesn’t take long for a warning meow/growl to turn into a swipe!
Why do cats have whiskers?
Many people mistake a cat’s whiskers and human hairs to be alike, however whiskers are actually touch receptors. These play a very important part in your cat’s athletic abilities. Whiskers, also called vibrissae, are embedded deeper into the cats body than just the top coat of fur. They are connected to the sensitive muscular and nervous system, and send information about their surroundings directly to a feline’s sensory nerves. This helps them to detect and respond to any changes in their surroundings.
Whiskers can be most obviously seen on either side of a cat’s nose and upper lip. You may also see shorter whiskers above each of their eyes, but cats also have whiskers on their jaw line and on the back of their front legs.
Never trim a cat’s whiskers
It is important to never trim a cat’s whiskers, even if they are very long or even curly, because without these tactile hairs they can become very disoriented and frightened. Whiskers help cats to gauge and figure out their environment, and trimming or cutting them will take this ability away. They do grow back, but your cat needs their whiskers just the same as we need our touch senses to get around in the dark or alert us to potentially painful situations.
They help cats feel their way around
At the end of a cat’s whisker is something call a proprioceptor, which sends tactile signals to the brain and nervous systems. The proprioceptor relates to the position of the cat’s body and limbs, which is an important part of making decisions for their next immediate movement. The whiskers will let a cat know whether they can fit through a small space (without even being able to see it), but they also help cats chase their prey by responding to vibrations in the air. Whiskers also allow cats to visually measure distance, which is why they are able to make incredible leaps so gracefully.