Why do cats do weird things?

Cats do a lot of quirky things, like sitting in tiny spaces and jumping when they see a cucumber. It makes for quality entertainment, but is there a reason behind these odd behaviors, or is inherent weirdness just something we have to accept about cats?

The answer is, the former! Almost all funny feline actions stem from an instinctive behavior. Here are four cat mysteries explained.

1. Affinity for boxes and duct tape squares. cat-in-square

Cats like to feel safe, and boxes provide that feeling. It starts when they are kittens and their mother makes a nest, often in a box or similar area, and continues through adulthood. Think of it like swaddling for human babies – it still feels good when we’re grown up.

A taped square on the floor is, obviously, not a real box. However, it gives the illusion that it’s a small space, and cats still flock to it instinctually.

If they fits, they sit – because they feel safe.

2. Tendency to “knead biscuits” when they are comfortable or content.

cat-kneadingCats may knead for various reasons. It can be a sign of comfort, as it was for them when they were kittens kneading their mother’s belly. Or, it may simply be a sign of contentment – if you’re rubbing your cat, they want to rub you back.

It could be a biological instinct. Cats’ paw pads contain scent glands, and kneading activates those glands, so they could knead to mark their territory. A female can kneads when she is going into estrus, also known as going into heat. Wild cats used to tamp down tall grass and leaves to make a soft, protected bed, and it may be that modern cats still do this when they are settling down.

So, pay attention to when and what your cat is kneading: before bed? While in your lap? Then you can determine the reason behind it.

3. Love for catnip.cat-hugs-catnip
Only about half of cats have a reaction to nepetalactone, the essential oil in catnip, according to the Humane Society. The trait emerges when a cat is between three and six months old. If your cat is reactive, their reaction will depend on whether it’s inhaled or ingested.

When inhaled, catnip make cats, crazy, simply put. They roll, flip, rub, and meow. They may even become aggressive for the few minutes the catnip takes effect. When ingested, cats mellow out (hence the jokes about “kitty pot”).

Either way, the effects wear off after about 10 minutes, and it may be a couple of hours before your cat will react to the catnip again. Catnip is generally considered safe, but like all good things, too much is bad, and if they eat too much, they can get sick.

4. Reaction to cucumbers.cucumber-scares-cat

“Cat scared of cucumber” will pull up plenty of videos, images, and animated .gifs on Google. We can all agree it’s amusing, but you’re better off watching the videos that already exist, rather than trying this on your own cat.

You’ll notice in almost every video, the cat is eating before they see the cucumber. When a cat eats, they make sure they are completely safe, so when they turn around and see something unexpected, they jump in fright. It’s similar to opening a door to find someone reaching for the knob on the other side. There’s a popular theory that cats think the cucumbers are snakes, which is possible, but either way, giving your cat a scare isn’t very nice!

Cats are funny animals, but they’re also intuitive and smart. If your cat is doing something silly, there’s likely a good reason behind it – you know, besides “the Internet thinks it’s funny!”