Cat ways explained

Last updated 11:37 11/12/2013

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Our pets and advice column from Springlands Veterinary Centre this week talks about why cats do the strange things they do. 

Although every cat is different and an individual, there are certain types of behaviour that are common to them all.

There are also some types of behaviour that are confusing and hard to interpret for us humans.

This article and those that follow will discuss some commonly seen cat behaviours and hopefully explain a little of what your cat is doing. Thanks to International Cat Care charity for their additional information.

Why do cats purr?

Purring is an amazing sound and, even nowadays, it isn't exactly clear how cats do it. Not only do our domestic cats produce this vibration but many of the larger wild members of the feline family also purr.

The behaviour stems from kittenhood. When the mother returns to the den, she will quietly signal to her kittens that all is OK, by purring to them. This is a quiet purr to avoid attracting the attention of predators. The kitten will in turn purr and suckle from its mother.

Cats also purr when they are sick, injured or scared. There are various theories for this. The frequency of the purr in sick or scared animals is different from a healthy purr and one theory is that it may have healing properties or it may be self-soothing when the cat feels at its most vulnerable.

Why do cats rub around their owners' legs?

A cat lives in a world where smell is vitally important. All animals within its social group - whether another cat or you, as the owner - as well as objects, will be smeared with its unique smell using scent glands in its face, body and tail. When your cat rubs around your legs to greet you, it's doing the same as it would in greeting another cat by mutual rubbing of the face and body.

As your face is a little too far away your cat will, for convenience, use your leg. Some cats really try to make the effort and stand on their hind legs to attempt a head butt on a body part as near to their owners face as they can manage.

Once you have been suitably rubbed your cat will then take itself off to groom its body and check out your scent.

Why do cats roll over and show their tummies yet scratch when it is tickled?

This may seem like a case of mixed messages but it's us that get it wrong!

When a cat greets its human owner it makes a display of trust by exposing its belly.

A similar friendly "roll" is often seen when one cat invites another to play. So, it is likely to be illustrating one of two things: either it is a sign of trust and any physical contact at this time could look threatening or it is a request for rough and tumble play.

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Either way, injury to the owner may ensue so the temptation to touch should probably be avoided!

- The Marlborough Express

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