7 Frequently Asked Questions About Cats

Although cats are  popular pets, to many people (even cat owners) cats are mysterious and downright confusing.

So let’s take a look at some commonly asked questions about our feline companions.

My Adopted Cat just Started Kneading Me; Why?

Nursing kittens knead their mother to get the milk flowing so they can nurse. When a cat kneads, it’s usually a sign of affection and happiness so with your adopted cat it means she has adjusted to you and is happy. She likes you. Consider this the highest complement.

This behavior is so much a part of cat ownership, it’s reflected in our language. The term ‘kneading’ came into being because the cat’s motion is much like that of kneading bread. It’s also called making biscuits, making bread, or if the cat is standing and lifting the front paws up one at a time over and over, marching.

My Cat’s Tail Movements Confuse Me

Dog owners are often confused by a cat’s tail movements. The movements seem, at times, to be similar enough that perhaps they should have the same meanings. Yet at other times, they are completely different. Cats like to keep us guessing.

A relaxed, comfortable cat will hold her tail slightly lowered and possibly moving slightly from side to side. Not wagging as a dog does; just gently moving it. A happy cat will often hold her tail upright with a curve at the tip.  An erect tail without the curve at the tip, held still, can be a sign of anger. A tail tucked between the legs shows fear, just as it does with dogs.

The tail is quite expressive, but your cat’s moods can be best read by looking at the whole cat. Body position, facial expressions, ear position, and the tail portray more of what the cat is thinking than just the tail alone.

Do Cats Purr When They’re Happy?

Most of the time cats do purr when they’re happy, but that isn’t true all the time. Some cats will purr only when happy while others will purr anytime they feel strong emotions. That could include happiness, fright, anger, or protectiveness. You may find your cat will purr when looking out the window at a trespassing cat; your cat isn’t happy at that strange cat but he’s still purring. Your cat might also purr after getting a vaccination at the veterinary clinic; he’s really not happy but is purring anyway.

These inconsistencies are what make cats so mysterious and confusing for people. Again, as with tail movements, don’t look (or listen) to one part of your cat’s communication. Instead, look at all of it to determine what she’s trying to communicate.

Are All Calico Cats Always Female?

Calico cats have orange, black and white colors in their coat. The colors can be bright orange, black and white or can be muted; showing up as gray, ginger, and white or cream. The colors orange and black are found on the X chromosome so female cats, having two X chromosomes, can have both orange and black.  A male cat, having only one X chromosome, will be orange or black.

Although calico cats are predomiantly female, every once in a while a male cat will show up with a calico pattern. These males generally have an extra X chromosome (they are XXY instead of the normal XY) and that extra X allows them to have both orange and black. These males are usually sterile.

Why Does My Cat Bury His Food?

It’s not unusual for cats to try to bury their food or water after eating or drinking. Some merely paw at the floor while others are more diligent and will pull a small throw rug or towel over the bowl. This behavior is an instinctive one shown by wild cats of many species and sizes. A cat will bury feces, leftover food, and other signs of being in an area to protect him from other predators. This doesn’t mean your cat thinks you’re going to steal his food or that he feels unsafe; it’s simply his instincts at work.

Sometimes My Cat Dashes Around as if His Tail is on Fire; Why?

This is often called the ‘zoomies’ by cat owners and is not unusual. Cats sleep a lot; sometimes 16 hours a day. They still need to exercise to keep their body fit, strong, and healthy so the zoomies can provide that exercise. The zoomies is also a way for a cat to express happiness and a joy in life as she combines dashing back and forth with a mock attack on a toy or the family dog. Two cats in the household may dash back and forth together or one will dash, wake up the second cat, and then they’ll dash together.  If there is a particular time when your cat likes to dash and you’d like to deter it, play with your cat with an active toy such as a flirt pole (a fishing pole type toy).

Why are Pregnant Women Told to Avoid Cats?

Cats who go outside can pick up a microscopic parasite called toxoplasma gondii from the soil, from catching an infected rodent, or from eating plants (such as grass) growing in infested soil. The disease, toxoplasmosis, can be extremely dangerous for the babies of pregnant women, causing serious problems that can potentially include vision loss, mental disabilities, and seizures. Indoor cats are less likely to pick up this parasite; however, it’s usually a good idea for pregnant women to avoid the litterbox just in case.

Meet the Author: Liz Palika, CDT, CABC

Liz Palika is a Certified Dog Trainer and Certified Animal Behavior Consultant as well as the founder and co-owner of Kindred Spirits Dog Training in northern San Diego county. Liz is also the founder of Love on a Leash therapy dogs; her dog, Bones, goes on visits on a regular basis. A prolific writer, Liz is also the author of more than 80 books. Many of her works have been nominated or won awards from a variety of organizations, including Dog Writers Association of America, San Diego Book Awards, the ASPCA, and others. Liz shares her home with three English Shepherds: Bones, Hero, and Seven, as well as one confident and bossy orange tabby cat, Kirk. To relax from work, or to take work on the road, Liz and her crew travel the West and PNW in their RV. If you see an RV on the road named "Travelin' Dogs", honk and say hi!

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