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Why Does My Cat Do That?

by Lauren Samet

In the fascinating world of cat behaviour there is often much more going on than you may initially realise.

To interpret the meaning behind a cat’s behaviour you should pay attention to all the subtle signs and signals they may be providing. Facial expressions can give you clues about how they’re feeling – such as what the whiskers, eyes and ears are doing. Equally, tail activity, fur alignment and body posture can all provide further pointers.

Before we begin, it’s important to appreciate that what is normal or common behaviour for one cat may not be so for another. As a result it is good to get to know your cat and understand what “normal” means for them.

Although behaviours can vary greatly between individuals, here are a few examples of common cat behaviours and their common meanings…

Why Is My Cat Slow Blinking at Me?

A slow blinking cat is a relaxed, friendly cat. You will see cats blinking slowly at each other and at humans if they feel this way towards them. You can also blink slowly at your cat to show them the same is true of your feelings – try it when they are relaxed and see if they return the slow blinks in response.

Why Does My Cat Sleep So Much?

Cats are most active at dawn and dusk, an activity pattern known as crepuscular. This is likely because these are the times of day when their prey would be most active in the wild. Between these times, a relaxed cat will most likely take up napping to pass their time in a warm or comfortable spot.

On average cats sleep for up to 15 hours per day but with naps included this can reach 20! In the wild, saving energy by sleeping can make for more successful hunting and so makes good sense.

Even though our pet cats at home are domesticated, some of these natural behavioural traits still exist. Just like us, quality rest is really important for an animal’s wellbeing and cats like to make sure they get plenty!

Why Is My Cat “Wagging” Their Tail?

A cat’s tail, along with the rest of their body language, provides tell-tale signs of their mood. Whether a cat is slowly flicking just the top of their tail or waving it quickly to and fro can mean two different things.  

Faster moving tail wags can indicate irritation, agitation, concern or arousal. For example you may see a fast flicking tail when a cat is crouched and poised ready to pounce on a toy.

In contrast slower waving tails may indicate a cat is uncertain about something or deciding how to respond.

What Does It Mean When My Cat’s Tail Quivers?

It can vary with context but often we see our cat hold her tail upright and shake or vibrate it just before she is about to get fed. After looking up this quirky behaviour we discovered that within this context it is likely to be signalling a combination of excitement, impatience and pleasure that food is on its way!

Why Is My Cat Funny About Using Their Litter Tray?

Many cats appreciate a bit of privacy when using their litter tray. Too much noise or competition with another cat can put them off using their designated area and they may instead seek to find a toileting spot elsewhere – whether that be inside or out.

If your cat appears indecisive about using their tray - for example they may approach it or sit near it but then decide not to use it - it could be that for them the tray is not in quite the right spot. Try placing the tray in a quieter, less-disturbed area of the home to see if that encourages them to use it.

If you have more than one cat at home, aim to provide more than one litter tray. Ideally provide at least one litter tray per cat to minimise competition and tension.

Cats can also be quite particular about the state of their litter tray. Keeping on top of litter tray hygiene can help coax them into using it more often.

Lastly some cats have preferences for the type and depth of their litter substrate. Most cats, for example, favour deep litter so they can dig and bury their leavings, and if not possible it can sometimes put your cat off using the tray.

Why Is My Cat So Chatty?

When we first rehomed our cat she was very quiet. She did lots of purring when near us, but would only occasionally let out a meow near feeding time. As she settled in the meows became more frequent and varied depending on the situation as she appeared to literally be “finding her voice”.

“Chattiness” in cats can be linked to breed (for example Siamese cats are well known for their talkativeness) but other reasons for cat chattiness can be related to attention seeking, greetings, communicating emotions (e.g. annoyance or excitement) and wishes such as “feed me” or “I need to go outside”.

Other times vocalisations might be used more is if your cat is feeling unwell or is in pain. A change in chattiness can indicate health states such as dementia or deafness in older cats, or conditions such as hyperthyroidism that may leave your cat feeling hungrier or more excitable than usual.

Knowing what’s “normal” for your cat is important so that if they become “chattier” than usual you can speak to your vet or behaviourist and find out what they are trying to tell you.

Why Does My Cat Fluff Out Their Fur?

Also known as the involuntary reflex, piloerection (or “erection of hair”) is often seen when a cat is fearful, excited or is in a situation where they are experiencing some adrenaline. Fluffing out their fur serves the purpose of making them look bigger to enemies or other frightening things. It is often accompanied by back arching, which again makes them look a lot larger and more threatening.

The trigger may be a stimulus such as over-excitement, or something less positive like them seeing their least favourite cat neighbour out the window. The amount of hair standing or tail “fluffiness” will depend on the cat and the extremity of their reaction to said stimulus.

Why Does My Cat React to Catnip?

Catnip is a type of herb that’s a member of the mint family. Catnip is often used in cat enrichment toys because it contains an oil that mimics feline sex hormones. This, in turn, can cause behavioural changes that include being extra affectionate, rolling, rubbing, relaxation/suddenly appearing very content, or in some cases it may trigger playfulness and more impulsive behaviours.

Why Doesn’t My Cat Respond to Catnip?

Some lines of thoughts suggest that only 60% of cats visibly respond to catnip. It is thought that this is due to genetic differences between cats. Interestingly, a study by Espin-Iturbe et al. (2017) found that whilst few cats responded with “activity” to catnip (e.g. rolling over), almost 100% responded passively. As a result, whilst it may not appear that catnip is having an effect on your moggy, there may be more going on than what meets the eye…


The world of cat behaviour is a fascinating place. Every cat is different and with time, patience, observation and empathy you will always be learning something new about your cat and their behaviours.

Remember that your cat’s behaviours may change over time as they age, experience pain or illness, fear or different environmental stimuli. If you are ever unsure about what a behaviour means or think it may be related to pain or illness then always contact your vet to find out more.

Animal behaviourists specialising in cats may also be useful if you think your cat is experiencing stress or performing a problem behaviour in the home (e.g. house soiling). If you want to find out more about cat behaviour see the references and resource links below.

References & Web Resources
Blue Cross (2019) Why do cats sleep so much? [online]. Accessed at: https://www.bluecross.org.uk/advice/cat/why-do-cats-sleep-so-much (accessed 02.04.22)
Cats Protection (2021) The Behavioural Guide: 2021 Edition [online]. Acceded at: https://www.cats.org.uk/media/10709/vet-7147-behaviour-guide-21-digital.pdf (accessed 02.04.22)
Espín-Iturbe, L. T., Yañez, B. A. L., García, A. C., Canseco-Sedano, R., Vázquez-Hernández, M., & Coria-Avila, G. A. (2017). Active and passive responses to catnip (Nepeta cataria) are affected by age, sex and early gonadectomy in male and female cats. Behavioural processes142, 110-115.
Hatch, R. C. (1972). Effect of drugs on catnip (Nepeta cataria)-induced pleasure behavior in cats. Am J Vet Res, 33(1), 143-55.
The Animal Behaviour and Training Council https://abtc.org.uk/