7 quirky cat behaviours and what they mean

Cat lady harlemAmanda Macias/Business InsiderMy cat-lady selfie with my spoiled cat named Harlem.

Nearly 100 million cats are kept as pets in the US.

My temperamental calico cat, Harlem, is one of them.

And while she’s the only one I have, she embodies many of the most common, and most perplexing, cat stereotypes.

So why does she — and the tens of millions of cats like her — act that way?

Here are some explanations, backed by cat researchers, for why our feline friends behave the way they do.

1. Why do cats sometimes suddenly bite or scratch the person who is petting them?

According to cat expert Arden Moore,' your cat is trying to say, 'kindly stop petting me or I will bite harder.'

Dr. John Bradshaw says your cue to stop petting a cat may include, tail lashing, flattened ears, dilated pupils, and tense muscles.

Bradshaw also notes, that most cats like to be stroked on their heads and fewer than one in 10 cats like to be stroked on their belly or around their tail.

Source: Cat Sense, The Cat Behaviour Answer Book, Scientific American Special Editions, September 2015

2. Why do cats intentionally knock objects off tables?

While some cats are clumsy, most cats intentionally knock items off of surfaces as a ploy to get their owner's attention.

'Sometimes they seem to do it for their own entertainment or because they have learned that this is a game that their owner seems to enjoy,' Bradshaw explained.

Source: Scientific American Special Editions, September 2015

3. Why do cats look you straight in the eye and then slow blink?

Even though cats are considered masters at concealing their thoughts and emotions, they do try to show affection by slow blinking. Researchers call these slow blinks, 'kitty kisses.'

Next time you notice that a cat is giving you this feline eye wink, try and slow blink back, more often than not, a cat will continue to slow blink with you.

Source: Cat Sense, The Cat Behaviour Answer Book, Petful

4. Why do cats love computers so much?

Walking across your computer keyboard and attacking your screen may be the simplest way for your feline friend to get your attention. Then again, if your cat isn't seeking your attention, researchers note these following reasons:

• Cats love the warmth of a computer

• Keyboards feel super interesting underneath a cat's paws

• Could there be anything more intriguing to a cat than watching a computer screen

Source: Cat Sense, The Cat Behaviour Answer Book, Scientific American Special Editions, September 2015

5. Why do cats suddenly freak out for no apparent reason?

Cats become frustrated with their inactivity and usually resort to running around in order to counteract their boredom.

'The slightest movement, perhaps just a speck of dust caught in a shaft of light, can set them off,' Bradshaw noted.

Source: Scientific American Special Editions, September 2015

6. Why do cats lick plastic bags as well as other non-food items?

Cats that lick plastic bags may either be bored or trying to alleviate stress.

According to Moore, some cats were removed from their mothers' milk before they were completely weaned and therefore, cats 'seek out wool blankets and other clothing as a way to compensate for their shortened nursing time.'

Source: Cat Sense, The Cat Behaviour Answer Book, Scientific American Special Editions, September 2015

7. Why do cats love boxes?

According to a study conducted by the University of Utrecht's School of Veterinary Medicine, some cats hide in boxes as a way to reduce short term stress.

Cats crave protection, and a box is an ideal spot for a cat to observe its surroundings.

'Why some seem to prefer too small boxes over just right ones is a mystery though,' Bradshaw explained.

Source: Scientific American Special Editions, September 2015, University of Utrecht

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