Skip navigation

14 Weird Cat Behaviors Explained

Share article on Facebook Share article on Pinterest Share article on Twitter (opens new window)

Cats make wonderful companions, but they can be curious critters. They like to bump their heads against us, sleep in tight boxes, knead our laps, and engage in all sorts of weird behaviors. What do these behaviors mean and when should you seek help from your veterinarian?

1. Bouncing Off the Walls

Cats and especially kittens can be very playful and energetic. Sometimes they expel all that energy by darting from room to room, jumping up and down on the furniture, and going a little crazy. This kind of behavior can also be a reaction to catnip, which can make cats act goofy for short periods of time.

All that vigorous activity is normal, but it can lead to injuries. It’s helpful to look around your house and make sure your cat’s area is as safe as possible. For instance, put away things that could get knocked over and keep windows closed. Cats who fall out of windows can suffer from high-rise syndrome, which are injuries that can include: a broken jaw, fractured ribs, and other issues.

If this behavior is disrupting your household, you should find ways to help channel your cat’s energy. Make time to play games like chase to wear them out and provide them with interactive toys they can enjoy on their own. If you’re at your wit’s end, talk with your veterinarian.

tabby cat head booping a man

2. Head Bumping

When your cat bop, bop, bops you with their head, they’re saying, “I love you!” They’re also letting everyone know that you belong to them. Cats have pheromones in their cheek areas that mark you as their possession. But don’t worry if your cat doesn’t headbutt you. There are lots of other ways cats show their love.

3. Chattering

Ever hear your cat chattering while watching the birds flying around the yard? That sound comes from their excitement at seeing potential prey combined with the frustration of not being able to get at them. Cats can also make other weird noises like chirping, yowling, and hacking.

Bengal cat chewing a hammock

4. Chewing Weird Things

Some cats chew on odd things, like wool blankets, socks, plastic bags, or rubber bands. This behavior can be due to boredom, anxiety, or illness. It can also occur in cats who were weaned too early and feel the urge to “nurse” on soft items, like stuffed animals or blankets.

This habit is dangerous since it can cause choking, intestinal blockages, and other problems. If your cat is chewing on inedible things, you should visit your veterinarian to figure out the cause and best course of treatment.

5. Napping in Tight Places

Cats love to slip into small spaces like boxes, dresser drawers, bathroom cabinets, or closet corners where they feel cozy and secure. They may even prefer these places to a comfy pet bed. This behavior can be traced back to their wildcat ancestors who would sleep safely hidden away to help avoid predators.

black and white cat paws with tiny wrapped gift

6. Giving Gifts

Cats are infamous for leaving us unwanted gifts, such as dead mice or birds. This is actually their way of thanking us for all we do for them. While you should feel honored your cat wanted to share their spoils with you, you should avoid making a big deal about it. Don’t scold your cat for this normal behavior and certainly don’t praise them or you could end up with more gifts.

While it won’t stop your cat from finding mice or other wildlife that get indoors, you can help prevent gift giving by keeping your cat inside at all times as recommended by our strategic partner the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®). This also protects your cat from contagious diseases and parasites.

7. Ignoring You

If your cat’s ignoring you, it’s probably not because of anything you did. Our notoriously independent cats need a little time to themselves now and then. It’s a good idea to leave your cat alone when they are acting this way. Don’t worry—they’ll come seek you out for some attention when they want it.

close up of tabby cat paws

8. Kneading

Why do cats knead things with their paws? It may go back to their kitten days when they would press on their mommy’s tummy to stimulate milk flow. They might also do it simply because they’re feeling relaxed and content. Kneading shouldn’t be a problem unless your cat’s claws are digging into your thighs. In this case, it might be time to get out the nail clippers and safely trim them down.

9. Knocking Things Over

It can be startling and frustrating when your cat shoves a book off your nightstand or pushes over a framed picture, but this is normal behavior. Cats have sensitive paws and like to swat things around to check them out. This is something they do with their prey too. Cats also knock things down to get our attention.

It is best to ignore your cat when they are engaging in this activity, or you might reinforce the behavior. You should also put valuable or breakable objects out of paw’s reach.

10. Nibbling on Plants

Cats nibble on plants for lots of different reasons. It might be because their tummy is upset, they find it comforting, they are curious, or they want to get your attention. Of course, this can be a problem if they chew on harmful plants, like lilies or daffodils.

If you want to have plants in your home, make sure they are safe for cats. You should also be careful where you place them. Cats can knock over potted plants, which can result in injuries as well as a big mess. In addition, potting soil can contain parasite eggs. Keep cats out of the soil or ask your gardening store about sterilized soil.

cat with blue collar

11. Pooping Outside the Box

It’s not pleasant when a cat starts going outside of the litter box. If this is happening in your home, you should try to figure out the cause. Make sure the litter box is clean, easily accessible, and in a semi-private space.

You should also have an adequate number of litter boxes, which is one per cat plus an additional one. So, if you have two cats, you should have three litter boxes. You can try out a variety of boxes (covered, uncovered, different heights) to see what your cat prefers.

If you have older cats, they might have trouble going up and down the stairs or getting into litter boxes with high sides. Try placing a litter box on the floor where your cat lives and purchase one they can get in and out of easily.

Litter box issues can also be caused by illnesses, such as a urinary tract infection. If you suspect a medical issue or if you’re having trouble solving the problem, you should talk with your veterinarian.

12. Sipping from the Faucet

Some cats like to drink water straight from the tap. They’ll jump up into the sink and wait for you to switch on the faucet. This behavior might come from their wildcat ancestors. In the great outdoors, it is safer to drink running water rather than from a stagnant source, which is more likely to contain bacteria and other contaminants.

If you don’t mind your cat taking an occasional sip from the faucet, you don’t need to worry. However, if they become too needy with their requests to turn on the faucet, you can try setting up a pet fountain that runs continuously for them to enjoy.

red tabby cat sitting on a closed laptop computer

13. Sleeping on Your Laptop

With so many soft and comfy places to rest, why does your cat plunk down on your hard laptop? It could be because it is nice and warm after you’ve used it for awhile. Or maybe they’ve figured out this is a good way to get your attention. Cats can be very clever!

14. Staying Up All Night

Some cats seem to sleep all day and play all night. This might be because they don’t have enough to do during the day. It can also be a habit they retained from their ancestors who liked to hunt in low light to take advantage of their keen eyesight. While this behavior is normal, it can be disruptive to everyone else who is trying to get a good night’s sleep.

If your cat is too active at night, make sure they have interactive toys to play with during the day. Rotate their toys to keep them new and exciting. You can also offer your cat a small meal before bedtime to help make them sleepy. If your cat is very vocal or sounds like they are in pain at night, you should visit your veterinarian.

cat inside a cardboard box

Getting Help for Your Cat

While some weird cat behaviors are silly or endearing, others that like staying up all night or going outside the litter box can be problematic. While there are things you can do to try to address common behavior issues at home, you should talk to your veterinarian if you have any questions or concerns.

Remember that diagnosis and treatment for behavioral conditions can be covered if you have an ASPCA Pet Health Insurance plan. Get a quote now.


red cocker spaniel lying in a gray dog bed

Dog Meningitis

Canine meningitis, though rare, is oftentimes brought on by an infection. Learn more about signs, causes, treatment, and prevention options.


How to Care for Senior Cats and Dogs

How to Care for Senior Pets

The right kind of care can help senior pets live as long as possible.


gray and white tabby cat wrapped in a blue towel on a womans lap after a bath

How to [Safely] Bathe Your Cat

I gave my cat a bath and lived to tell the tale! See how you can bathe your cat and survive.