If your cat starts regularly chewing on fabric, is that a normal cat behavior? What about sudden aggression? We’re often asked about what behavior is normal vs abnormal cat behavior. Cats are curious creatures with many unique and sometimes unusual behaviors. This is why they have earned the reputation of being the mysterious pet companion.
Each cat has their own personality and preferences, and many behaviors that cats exhibit can be chalked up as instinct. These behaviors probably include sitting perched on the counter, napping in the sunniest part of the room, and chasing anything that moves. Other behaviors such as scratching furniture or yowling may be undesirable but are still considered normal cat behavior. Some behaviors, though, can indicate physical or abnormal behavioral problems with your kitty.
The team at Union Lake Veterinary Hospital wants to help you better understand normal vs. abnormal cat behavior. It is our aim for you to be able to recognize any behavioral red flags that might mean trouble.
Normal Cat Behavior
Despite the fact that your cat is one of a kind, most cats exhibit at least some predictable behaviors that are common to their species. You’ve likely seen most of them. You can gauge your cat’s “baseline” of behavior by watching some of the activities they engage in and noting them. Like most of us, cats form daily habits that you can note just by taking some time to see what they do in a day.
Normal cat behavior includes:
- Jumping up on counters and other high places – As much as you wish for your cat to stay off of counters, they still want to perch somewhere high. This is a part of their instinct to have a clearer view of their prey and an advantage in pouncing on them. Why not add a few window perches and cat trees for their pleasure? This will deter them from using the back of the couch and other off limits spots.
- Stalking and pouncing – The object of their hunt may be anything from a sock, piece of foil, or a catnip mouse, but cats love to hunt. From kittenhood, your cat learned the ropes on stalking (hiding somewhere) and pouncing (on a determined form of prey). Most of the time, this behavior is adorable unless your ankle is their prey. It’s a good idea to give them plenty of catnip mice and other toys, if so.
- Kneading your lap – Also known as ‘making biscuits’, cats like to knead anything soft and squishy, which can include your lap, a blanket, or a pillow. As kittens, cats must knead the area around their mother’s teats to produce milk. This action forms a soothing and positive connection with the act of kneading, and is a purr-fectly normal behavior.
- Grooming – Cats spend up to 30% of their time awake grooming themselves. It is also normal for cats to groom each other.
- Teeth chattering – Ah, yes. Many cat owners ponder why cats produce a teeth chatter or clicking sound when they watch birds or other wildlife. This sound is actually not a normal form of communication, but it is likely a sound of frustration or anticipation. This soft bleating is often seen with tail twitching, another indicator of frustration.
- Bunting and head butts – Bunting is the name for when your cat rubs their cheeks against things, including pant legs and furniture. This instinct is a way that cats in the wild mark their territory on trees and rocks. Scent glands are in the cheeks, which release when your cat rubs their face on items. Head butts are another playful way of marking you and getting your attention.
- Nighttime play – Wild cats hunt at dusk and early dawn, and often wander through the night when they remain undetected. Your cat may be recalling their wild ancestors by waking up at midnight for a quick (noisy) rumble in the cat tunnel or open paper bag. Tire your cat with games before bedtime then ignore your cat if they wake you in the night.
- Cat noises – Yowling, meows, hissing, and spitting are examples of normal cat noises. Some cats are normally more vocal than others.
Abnormal Behavior in Cats
Yes, your favorite kitty does love to do some strange things, but most of the time they are normal activities. While normal cat behavior varies from cat to cat, there are certain common abnormal behaviors. These may stem from fears, anxieties and obsessive-compulsive behavior, or they may indicate a physical problem. Cats are social creatures so behavioral issues can also stem from lack of socialization. Be on the lookout for any unusual or sudden changes in their normal routine. Some red flag behaviors include:
- Excessive self-grooming (hyperesthesia, psychogenic alopecia)
- Accidents and other litter box problems
- Changes in eating and drinking
- Eating nonfood items (pica)
- Sucking on wool or chewing fabric
- Hiding more often
- Sleeping more
- Sudden aggression or fear
- Crying while in the litter pan
Consult with us if any of the signs arise in your cat, or anytime you feel like something is off with them. Your instincts in knowing your cat’s normal vs. abnormal behavior are often accurate.
If you would like more information on normal vs. abnormal cat behavior, or would like to schedule a wellness examination, please call us. We also offer cat behavior services to understand and help modify cat behavior issues.