Cattitude Q & A

Cats are famous for their attitude of cattitude. . . . They set up shop on practically any surface. They stretch into splendid poses. They sleep superabundantly. They love their alone time. They turn up their noses at flavors of food they gobbled down the night before. They like to be the boss—and often are, even with dogs.

But what gives cats their entertaining, and at times exasperating, cattitude? Read on for questions and answers about what makes cats such interesting creatures and to better understand the roots of their quirkier behaviors.

What makes Furguson such a fussy eater?

In the wild, cats are used to having a relaxed “fine dining experience” in a safe spot (such as a tree) as opposed to the “buffet style” eating of pack dogs sharing prey together anywhere. Like their big cat ancestors, domestic cats are often picky about where they will eat, wanting to feel securely away from others. In addition, cats’ sense of taste is made for fussy. They have no sweet receptors, but are able to taste bitterness very accurately, which may help them detect a food that is “off” long before their humans can. Many cats are also on the neophobic side, meaning they typically distrust new things. All this together adds up to driving their companions crazy when they saunter away from a “perfectly good meal.”

Funny grumpy orange and white cat.

Why doesn’t Pawcasso want to hang out with Purrcules?

Unlike dogs, cats in the wild usually live on their own instead of in packs. Thus, they can’t rely on help getting food or finding a safe place to sleep. They become highly independent and skilled at looking out for themselves. However, even though they seek to have individual territories, they are also expert time-sharers. In fact, outdoor cats, who will go to battle to keep other cats out of their territory, may also visit neutral zones where they peacefully share space with other cats.

Similarly, indoor cats living together, with less space to go around, often time-share, divvying up desired spots by time of day. A higher-ranking cat might get the living room window perch in the morning while a lower ranking cat gets it in the afternoon. Housecats living together might even divide their human companion into “territories” with a lower-ranking cat getting a less desirable spot, such as a leg spot for example, during shared cuddle time.

Cute Scottish Fold cat sleeping.

Why is Tabbytha such a sleepyhead?

Cats spend about 15 hours a day asleep—yep, that’s two thirds of their lives, right up there with champion sleepers like opossums and bats. Cats sleep so much to save their energy for hunting which requires intense spurts of activity. (Housecats, however, often save their energy for late night zoomies.) Yet only about 25% of cats’ sleep is deep sleep, and the rest of the time they can be easily awakened, often having eyes partially open to quickly spring awake for protection if needed (or to be on hand immediately for a food opportunity such as a tuna can being opened).

Gorgeous Maine Coon cat close up picture.

Is Purrito as smart as a dog or does he just think he is?

Some scientists think cats might be even brainier than dogs, but researchers have had a hard time proving it. As anyone who lives with a cat knows, ultra-independent, non-pack animal cats do not enjoy following requests or repeating actions required by research. This has led many cats to “drop out” of research studies, even “walking out” mid-session! In the past, various scientists have given up studying cats in defeat, but some today are making progress studying feline intelligence. In particular, cats have been shown to have excellent memories and to retain information for as long as ten years.

Funny Manx cat stretched out on stairs.

Is Clawde scratching the new couch just to drive you crazy?

Probably not! Cats have scent glands in their paws, and when you bring in something new, like a couch, they may scratch it to make it “smell like home.” If you live with more than one cat, they may also deposit “I was here” scent marks on an item such as the arm of a couch as if posting a message on a bulletin board for other cats to come along and read. Rubbing against something is another way that cats leave their scent. Cats have numerous scent glands in their head area, so their charming head butts are an especially effective way of marking something as their own (whether it be the couch or you :). With a sense of smell that is 14 times stronger than a human’s (cats have 200 million odor sensors as opposed to just 5 million in humans), cats constantly gather information about each other and their environment by reading and engaging with the smells around them.

If you want to discourage your own “Clawde” from scratching the couch or reduce other undesired behaviors, it is possible. Check out our Feline Harmony page to learn tips for living happily with a cat.

Adorable calico cat headshot.