You probably already have a cat under your roof, one that has captured your heart.You know exactly what he needs when he looks at you with pleading eyes. You know what he means when he starts meowing. It’s like you can read his mind. Unfortunately, not everyone understands how cats communicate.A dog person, for instance, might find cats aloof and unaffectionate. Cats, after all, have unique ways of showing their affection, ranging from cute all the way to morbid.
1. When a cat looks at you from afar in that creepy, stalker-ish way he does
No, he’s not thinking of ways to kill you in your sleep. He’s just showing you that he’s willing to step out of his comfort zone if only to prove that you mean the world to him.Cats don’t like to stare – that’s why they blink when you stare back. But he will hold your gaze if he likes you.If that’s the case, why do they have to do all the staring from afar? “They like maintaining their personal space,” explains Dr Rizalyn Zunio, veterinarian and co-founder of The Pet Project Veterinary Clinic & Surgery.
“Notice that they still keep you within reach, even as they keep their distance. They may be a few feet away, but they’re looking at you.”
2. When a cat sits on your papers while you’re trying to beat a deadline
Your cat is smarter than you think. He knows how to press your buttons – that means he knows exactly how to get your attention.When you’re focusing intently on something, your cat might feel a little ignored. And what better way for you to notice him than to put a stop to whatever it is you’re doing?“
(My cat) Rue likes getting in the way when I’m working – if I’m using my [computer], she would crawl inch by inch until she takes over the whole keyboard,” shares Jonna Baquillas, photographer and the proud human of three cats. (Rue is part of a TV ad in Indonesia – a certified “commercial meowdel”, as her human-mom Jonna put it.)
3. When a cat meows
“But cats meow, in the same way that dogs bark. It’s what they do,” you might think.You may have gotten that wrong, so let’s clarify.
“When a cat vocalizes, it’s his way of calling out to you and communicating,” Dr Zunio says.“If Qish wants to eat and I’m watching TV, she blocks the screen and meows incessantly,” Jonna says, describing another of her beloved felines.Cats don’t usually vocalize when in the company of other cats – unless they’re in heat and they’re calling for a mate, that is. Nope; they save all the cute meows for us humans.
4. When a cat sleeps near you
When a cat decides to set up camp and snooze beside you, he trusts you enough to be at his most vulnerable with you just within arm’s – er, paw’s reach.
Felines don’t sleep beside just about any human; they only do so beside extra special ones.
5. When a cat exposes his sharp claws (gulp)
Don’t worry; a cat who reaches out to you and shows you his long, sharp, it-can-kill-you claws isn’t threatening your life. He’s just channeling his young, kitty self, replaying what he used to do when he fed from his mother.
Called kneading, this behavior is something kittens do when they breastfeed. Cats alternate exposing and retracting their claws to keep the milk flowing.“When a cat lives with his human, he still feels like a kitten, no matter what his age. When he kneads, it’s him showing you that you’re his mom,” explains Dr Zunio.
6. When your cat brings you dead animals
When your cat brings you a dead mouse, spider, or lizard, he’s not trying to give you a heart attack. Disgusting as it sounds, it’s actually his way of showing you that you are the master of the house.“He’s trying to prove that he has done his job and made his contribution,” says Dr Zunio.
7. When your cat bumps his head with yours
Is he challenging you to a duel? That’s unlikely. Chances are, he’s just “bunting”.It’s something a cat does when he wants to show ownership. “It’s a cat’s way of claiming you as his own!”Take it as a compliment. Cats don’t want to have in their possession humans who aren’t worth keeping.
8. When a cat commits a crime… by breaking and entering
You’re on your favorite throne in the bathroom, trying to relax as you do your thing. But the cat starts scratching at the door. He wants you to let him in.
Is he a feline voyeur? Not really. He’s just curious and he wants to find out what his favorite human is doing behind closed doors.
“When a cat scratches a door, he’s not pleading with you to let him in. He’s commanding you,” says Dr Zunio. Regal superiority complex aside, a cat won’t bother finding out what you’re up to if you don’t matter to him.
9. When a cat does floor flips like he’s doing yoga
Is he merely stretching on the floor? Is he secretly mocking your yoga poses? Nah, your cat’s just trying to show you how much he trusts you… by showing you his belly.
Cats protect their bellies at all costs! They don’t expose their bellies to strangers; they save the viewing privilege to the likes of you. Don’t make the mistake of petting that soft, warm belly, however; look, but don’t touch.
10. When a cat sits on your head
Unfortunately, it’s not anything like when a hen sits on its eggs. If a cat sits on its human’s head, it’s due to several reasons. Some say the head is warm – cats like warmth. Others say the head gives off our scent more strongly than other parts of our body.
It’s safe to assume there may be truth in these theories, except that the head isn’t the warmest part of the body. It’s not the body part that emits the strongest odor either.
Perhaps it will always remain a mystery why they sit on your head. Cats are that way. But you can almost bet it’s one of those weird ways they ask for your attention.They’re willing to sit on a round, hard object that provides nowhere near a stable perch – that is, if they really, really like you.
This appeared in Animal Scene’s February 2015 issue.