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Understanding Your Cat’s Actions: Normal vs. Abnormal Behavior

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Is it normal for your cat to chew on fabric regularly? What about rash aggression? We’re frequently asked what constitutes normal versus abnormal cat behaviour. Cats are inquisitive creatures with many distinct and, at times, unusual behaviours. This is why they have earned the moniker “mysterious pet companion.”

Each cat has their personality and preferences, and many of the behaviours that cats exhibit are instinctual. Sitting perched on the counter, napping in the sunniest part of the room, and chasing anything that moves are probably among these behaviours. Other undesirable behaviours, such as scratching furniture or yowling, are still considered normal cat behaviour. However, some behaviours can indicate physical or abnormal behavioural issues with your cat.

Cat Behavior Is Normal

Regardless of how unique your cat is, most cats exhibit at least some predictable species-specific behaviours. You’ve probably seen the majority of them. You can determine your cat’s “baseline” behaviour by observing and noting some of the activities they engage in. Cats, like most of us, develop daily habits that can be observed simply by observing what they do throughout the day.

Normal cat behaviour includes the following:

1. Jumping up on counters and other high places

No matter how hard you try to keep your cat away from counters, they still want to perch somewhere high. This is part of their instinct to have a better view of their prey and a better chance of catching them. Why not provide them with some window perches and cat trees? This will discourage them from using the back of the couch and other restricted areas.

2. Stalking and pouncing

Cats love to hunt, whether it’s a sock, a piece of foil, or a catnip mouse. Your cat learned the basics of stalking (hiding somewhere) and pouncing (on a specific type of prey) as a kitten. Unless your ankle is their prey, this behaviour is usually adorable. If this is the case, provide plenty of catnip mice and other toys.

3. Kneading your lap

Also known as making biscuits,’ cats enjoy kneading anything soft and squishy, such as your lap, a blanket, or a pillow. To produce milk, kittens must knead the area around their mother’s teats. This purr-fectly normal action forms a soothing and positive connection with the act of kneading.

4. Teeth clenching

Ah, yes. Many cat owners wonder why their cats make teeth-chattering or clicking sounds while watching birds or other wildlife. This is not a normal mode of communication, but it is most likely a sign of frustration or anticipation. This soft bleating is frequently accompanied by tail twitching, which is another sign of frustration.

5. Bunting and head butts

Bunting refers to when your cat rubs their cheeks against objects such as pant legs and furniture. Cats in the wild use this instinct to mark their territory on trees and rocks. Scent glands are located in the cheeks and release scent when your cat rubs their face on something. Head butts are another playful way of attracting your attention.

6. Nighttime play

Wild cats hunt at dusk and early dawn, and they frequently wander through the night undetected. By waking up at midnight for a quick (noisy) rumble in the cat tunnel or open paper bag, your cat may be recalling their wild ancestors. Tire your cat out with games before bedtime, then ignore your cat if it wakes you up in the middle of the night.

Yes, your favourite kitty enjoys strange activities, but most of the time they are normal. While normal cat behaviour varies from cat to cat, certain abnormal behaviours are common. These can be the result of fears, anxieties, or obsessive-compulsive behaviour, or they can be the result of a physical problem. Because cats are social creatures, behavioural issues can result from a lack of socialization. Keep an eye out for any unusual or unexpected changes in their normal routine. Some red flag behaviours are as follows:

• Over-grooming (hyperesthesia, psychogenic alopecia)
• Mishaps and other litter box issues
• Changes in eating and drinking habits
• Consuming nonfood items (pica)
• Chewing fabric or sucking on wool
• More frequent hiding
• Getting more sleep
• Acute aggression or fear
• Crying in the litter box

Consult with us if any of these symptoms appear in your cat, or if you suspect something is wrong with them. Your instincts about what is normal and abnormal behaviour in your cat are often correct.

Please contact us if you would like more information on normal vs. abnormal cat behaviour or to schedule a wellness examination. We also provide cat behaviour services to help you understand and modify your cat’s behaviour.