How to Decode Your Cat’s Behavior

Solve your cat problems with this guide to understanding what your cat is "saying" and what to do in response.

Amy Zerello

1. Why Do Cats Cry In the Middle of the Night?

Crying in the middle of the night or the early morning can usually be traced to two things: the season, and well, you. Cats' circadian rhythms adjust just as ours do. When summer approaches and the birds are up earlier, so is your cat, wanting to do exactly what predatory creatures innately want to do: hunt.

But not all pet owners will be okay with releasing their cat into the great outdoors, so if your indoor cat is inappropriately waking you up for food, you need to take action. Feeding your cat when he cries reinforces the bad behavior, while not responding to the crying with food teaches your cat there will be no reward for early-morning wake-ups. Figure out when breakfast will be and stick to the schedule.

2. Why Do Cats Roll on the Floor?

Are you puzzled by the strange drop-and-roll move your cat performs? Look at the time and location of the rolling for clues, as it's often a look-at-me maneuver designed to catch your eye. Does it happen when you’re doing computer work? Lacing up sneakers before leaving the house? No matter where or when it happens, if you respond to your rolling kitty with affectionate cooing or a tap on the head, you're providing exactly what he wants: attention. If you can spare it at that moment, that might help reinforce your bond. But note that while dogs may roll for a belly rub, your cat's reasons for rolling are, well, cat-like—meaning on her terms. So your loving caress could leave you with a scratch or two.

3. Why Do Many Cats Meow Incessantly?

Nonstop crying can be related to lots of factors. For one, some cat breeds are simply more vocal than others. If you have a Siamese or Oriental breed, this is not news. If your cat is older, consider whether his hearing may be impaired.

Crying could also be a sign of illness, so if that's your instinct then give your veterinarian a call to see if a checkup is in order. On a less serious level, your cat could be hungry or know that crying will lead to his getting your attention or a snack.

4. Why Do Cats Misuse Their Litter Boxes?

Is your cat healthy? A cat with a urinary tract infection can have trouble making it to the box in time. If a UTI isn’t the problem, perhaps the box is. Cats like their litter to be clean and deep. Your cat wants to be able to dig and cover his mess when he’s done. To learn more about training issues head to ASPCA, or your vet.

5. Why Do Cats Act Up?

Your relationship with your cat reflects your ability to be a good pet owner. Providing what she needs to be healthy and happy is one thing, but just like kids, pets act up. Preventing and correcting problem behavior will help make your shared life less stressful for you and your pet.

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