Why Dogs and Cats Do the Weird Things They Do
Dogs and cats are interesting creatures, sometimes exhibiting strange behaviors that may leave you scratching your head. What does nature have to do with the weird things our domesticated dogs and cats do? Here’s a look at some of the most unusual dog and cat behaviors and the reasons behind them.
Why Do Cats Hide in Boxes?
A cat’s favorite toy is a simple cardboard box. Or any enclosed object, for that matter, including laundry baskets, suitcases, backpacks, etc. Even the most social of our feline friends enjoy finding a snug place to hide. But why do cats prefer confined spaces?
Why Does Your Dog Lick Your Face?
You may find it gross, but if your dog licks your face, it’s a sure sign your pup considers you a friend. Licking is also a gesture of peace for dogs; a means of suppressing aggressive or overly dominant behavior.
Why Do Cats Awkwardly Open Their Mouths?
Commonly known as the “stinky face,” this odd, open-mouth sneering face is the Flehmen response, and it’s actually very scientific. If you’ve seen your cat lifting her lips as if in an aggressive snarl, there’s no need to worry; your cat is responding to pheromones, aka scent hormones.
Why Do Dogs Circle Before Lying Down?
Though it’s not needed by most domesticated dogs today, your dog’s ritual of circling before lying down is an evolutionary trait. In the wild, dogs needed to pat down tall grass to create a comfortable bed for sleeping. The easiest way to do so was by walking in a circle.
Why Do Cats Lick Their Humans?
A cat licking is often seen as part of the grooming process. Cats lick themselves in order to groom. Mother cats also lick their kittens to groom and clean them. But when a cat licks you, it is typically a sign of affection from your feline friend.
Why Do Dogs Sniff Each Other’s Behinds?
If you’ve ever taken your canine companion to the neighborhood dog park, you’ve certainly experienced this odd behavior. Consider dogs sniffing each other’s butts similar to a human handshake - but there’s even more to it than a simple greeting.
Why Does Your Cat Scratch at Everything?
There’s not a single answer to this question, but rest assured, your cat isn’t a bad kitty just because he scratches at everything in sight - including your couch. Scratching is a normal feline behavior, something cats do to show excitement, to mark their territory, to remove the dead outer layer of their claws, or to stretch and flex their feet and claws.
Why Does Your Dog Sit on Your Feet?
If your dog lays or sits on your feet, she is exhibiting another ancestral pack instinct. In the wild, dogs sleep close to each other to stay warm and to protect themselves and the leader of the pack. Sleeping at your feet can be the sign of a submissive dog; if your pup lays at your feet, it’s a sign she considers you the leader of the pack.
Why Do Outdoor Cats Eat Grass?
Eating grass may seem like a strange behavior, until you consider how many other animals - cows, horses, etc. - consume grass as part of their normal diet. The juice that comes from grass contains folic acid, an important nutrient that supports a cat’s health. If your cat is grazing on grass, it may be because she is supplementing a dietary deficiency.
Why Do Dogs Poop Facing North or South?
Research has actually found that dogs use the Earth’s magnetic field - specifically the north-south axis - when relieving themselves. In one study published in the journal Frontiers in Zoology, researchers found that under “calm magnetic field conditions,” dogs preferred to poop with their body aligned along the Earth’s north-south axis, while avoiding east-west altogether.
Why Do Pets Follow You Into the Bathroom?
You can always count on your pets to be at your side. Even when you don't necessarily want them to be there. Case in point: the bathroom. Have you ever noticed that your pet can't stand to leave you alone, even when nature calls?
Why Do Dogs Chase Their Tails?
There may be no other dog behavior as amusing as watching your pup spin endlessly in circles, chasing her tail. While there is no single reason why a dog will try in vain to catch her tail, it may be a sign of boredom - a chance to burn some energy - or signal the need for positive attention and human interaction.
Why Do Cats Rub Their Heads Against People?
As is true of many strange cat behaviors, a cat rubbing or bumping his head on humans is another way of transferring his scent and claiming ownership. The gesture may also be used as a form of greeting or even of gathering information about a new person.
Why Does Your Dog Urinate on Car Tires?
A dog who lifts his leg to pee will urinate on vertical objects the majority of the time - 97.6 percent of the time to be exact, according to Bonnie V. Beaver, author of “Canine Behavior: Insights and Answers.” Dogs do this to leave their scent at nose level to be sniffed by other dogs.
Why Do Cats Bury Their Poop?
You might think your cat buries his waste because cats are obsessed with cleanliness, but it’s a natural instinct that goes beyond being tidy. A variety of animal species use urine and feces to mark territory. In the wild, large, dominant cats such as lions, tigers or jaguars will leave their poop above ground in order to claim a particular area; whereas smaller, weaker cats will bury their waste to throw off predators and ensure the dominant animal does not feel challenged.
Why Do Dogs Furiously Wag Their Tails?
It is commonly believed that a dog wags his tail to convey happiness or friendliness, but this isn’t always the case. While a wagging talk can mean your dog is feeling happy or playful, it can also mean your dog is feeling fearful or insecure.
Why Do Cats Raise Their Tail-end in the Air?
Much like a dog uses his tail, a cat’s tail is also used to communicate. When you pet your cat on his lower back, you’ll probably notice him lift his tail and raise his backside in the air - a motion that exerts slight pressure to increase pleasure. The base of the tail is also highly sensitive for cats, so scratching or petting in the area may feel something like the sensation of being tickled.
Why Do Dogs Snack on Feces?
Poo eating is a positively disgusting canine behavior that every dog owner has witnessed at some point in time. A dog who eats his poop may be doing so out of boredom or due to health issues.
Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?
Does your dog habitually chew on grass in the backyard or at the dog park? Many dog owners worry that chewing on grass means that their dog is having digestive issues. Others believe that eating grass means that a dog doesn’t have a well-balanced diet.
Why Does Your Feline “Knead” You?
If you ever question your cat’s affection for you, consider whether or not she kneads her paws on your lap, belly, arms, etc. This rhythmic motion is instinctual from birth; a nursing kitten kneads to stimulate the mother’s milk production and adult cats continue to associate kneading with feelings of love and comfort. Cats are territorial and kneading is also a way they are able to “mark” their human owners.
Why Does Your Cat Like to Sleep in the Sink?
It may be an ordinary room to you, but kitties love bathrooms. The tub, the toilet, a cold tile floor, toilet paper rolls - a bathroom makes an extraordinary playroom for cats. Many cats also prefer to curl up for a nap in the bathroom, or more specifically, the bathroom sink.
Why Do Dogs Howl at Music?
Howling at music (or the howl of other dogs) is a common, ancestral dog behavior. In the wild, wolves, which are closely related to dogs, howl to communicate to each other. Amazingly, the canine species has a sense of pitch and when multiple dogs join in, they will each howl at a different note.
Why Do Cats Sprint Around the Room?
Nothing can be more obnoxious when you’re trying to get a good night’s sleep than hearing your cat sprinting back and forth across the bedroom floor. What is the reason behind this spastic behavior? Cats are nocturnal animals, meaning they become more active at night. A house cat who isn’t getting exercise by hunting for food during the day may display a burst of energy at night.
Why Do Dogs Hang Their Heads Out the Car Window?
Dogs are curious creatures, stimulated by sounds and smells. It may be the scenery, it might be the feel of a breeze in his face, but the likely reason your dog hangs his head out the car window is the buffet of smells available. The more air that wafts past the olfactory membranes of his snout, the more scents your dog can detect.
Why Does Your Cat Attack Your Hands and Feet?
You wake up in the morning, place your feet on the floor and start walking to the bathroom, but after taking just a step or two, your cat pounces on your feet and sinks her teeth into your skin. Is this daily attack a sign of aggression in your kitty? Quite the opposite.
Why Does Your Pet Steal Your Socks?
Stealing items such as socks can be a learned behavior and is often something a pet will do for attention - even if it’s negative. Reacting to your pet when you see them take off with a sock in their mouth will reinforce the behavior, teaching them to continue doing it. But this isn’t the only reason cats and dogs like to steal socks; the act can also be a form of play for a pet who doesn’t have a regular playtime routine.
Why Do Cats Go Crazy for Catnip?
Catnip is an herb that contains a chemical called nepetalactone, which triggers a euphoric response in cats, much like how humans respond to hallucinogenic drugs. Catnip, however, is neither addictive or harmful for cats. Sniffing catnip can be a stimulant for cats, while eating the herb may have a sedative effect.
Why Do Dogs Bark at Their Reflection?
Unlike humans, who recognize their reflection in a mirror, dogs do not recognize themselves. If your dog barks when she is standing in front of a mirror, she is barking at another dog who suddenly appeared out of nowhere. It’s easy to understand how that can be startling for dogs!
Why Do Cats Bring Their Dead Prey Inside the House?
A cat’s natural instinct is to hunt and to share their bounty with their pack. If you’ve ever wondered why your cat leaves “gifts” around the house in the form of dead prey, consider it a generous gesture by your cat - she considers you part of the family. Cats also instinctually teach their young how to survive, so bringing their catch into the home may be a way of teaching life-saving skills to family.
Why Do Dogs Roll in the Grass?
Rolling in the grass may seem odd, but it is one of the most normal behaviors for dogs. The behavior is inherited from the dog’s distant cousin, the wolf, who sniffs and rolls in newly discovered scents. Conversely, a dog might roll in grass not to pick up a new scent, but to get rid of unwanted smells.
Why Do Cats Always Land on Their Feet?
A well-known fact about cats is that they will land on their feet when they fall. It isn’t a learned behavior, but a natural inclination. A cat is born flexible, with 30 vertebrae, and a vestibular system that indicates where he is in relation to the ground, whether upside down or walking around.
Why Do Dogs Shake Off Water?
It only takes a few shakes for a dog to send about 70 percent of the water in her coat flying. It’s nature’s way for furry animals to quickly dry off - a survival technique to help regulate body temperature, particularly during cold weather. A wet coat cannot trap warm air next to the dog’s skin, thus providing a layer of insulation from the cold.