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Experts Answer Questions About Our Cat's Strange Behavior

Have you wondered why your cat goes crazy at random times? So do we! We sat down with some of Purina's experts on animal behavior to help you once and fur all better understand your cat.

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On November 3, Purina hosted their annual Better With Pets summit in Brooklyn, New York.

BuzzFeed had the opportunity to talk to five of their on-staff pet behavior experts about all the weird, cute, and confusing things our cats do:

• Gerardo Pérez, Manager — Global Pet Welfare and Behavior

• Francois Martin, Leader — Behavior Section

• Sandra Lyn, Senior Product Development Scientist

• Gail Czarnecki, Senior Research Nutritionist

• Ragen McGowan, Senior Scientist

Here are their answers:

1. Why does my cat knock things off of the counter?

Francois Martin: They knock things off because it is fun, but if you spray your cat five seconds after they did that they will not make the association. It needs to be less than three seconds.

Gail Czarnecki: Even if the cats make the association of their punishment, if what you’re doing to them that is “bad” isn’t as strong as what they did that felt good then they don’t care.

2. Why does my cat knead me? Are they tenderizing me to eat later?

Francois Martin: What it does is it massages the mother and it releases oxytocin. That allows milk to letdown. It’s associated for the kitten to be in a positive environment and then as they grow they still do that because it makes them feel good.

Ragen McGowan: You’ll see cats doing this too on their favorite bed, because they are getting that positive experience.

3. Why does my cat go crazy at certain times?

Francois Martin: They have this surge of energy because if they were in the wild they would go hunting. Its brain is telling them, “Hey, you need to get on your game. You need to be full of energy.” The cat is highly aroused, so you want him to go and chase something, let him attack a fuzzy ball or something like that.

Sandra Lyn: If it is happening when you’re trying to sleep, try creating routines of play, where they’re getting more of the play during a standard time period like during the day. That might help to take it down during unwanted playtime.

4. What’s with the dance my cat does in the litter box?

Gerardo Pérez: This is dependant on different cats' personalities. One of my cats has a very fastidious coverup and he has to be mental about it; he cannot see other cats' poop. The other one is completely uncoordinated — the litter goes everywhere.

Francois Martin: It might have something to do with the fact that the substrate may not be optimal for that cat.

Ragen McGowan: Sometimes cats may have covered their poop but they still smell it and they’ll start pawing at other things, like the side of the litter box, and then you’ll hear that beating.

Gail Czarnecki: It could be that the cat has a dietary imbalance as well and its poop is smellier than what it used to be. You could try switching it to a diet that has a probiotic in it that will decrease the fecal odor.

5. What are good ways to introduce a cat to a new environment?

Ragen McGowan: So you take, for instance, a bed that one cat has slept on and move it into a room where the other cat is and switch.

Sandra Lyn: When they are showing signs that are either neutral in responding to the odors then you’re moving towards visual habituation. They’re still separated but now they can see each other. You start off with gradual exposure and then work your way up and then eventually you do physical habituation.

6. What are signs your cat is stressed or unhappy?

Francois Martin: Hiding, not eating.

Gail Czarnecki: Over-grooming.

Francois Martin: Every time you see a major behavioral change in your cat you should start with going to the vet to make sure that it’s not physical, it’s not a disease, it’s not something like that. Then if the doctor says no, your cat is physically healthy, then you can say that it is something to do with its environment or social stresses.

7. Why does my cat display his belly but attack when I pet him/her?

Ragen McGowan: Dogs display their bellies as sort of a sign of submission saying, “Hey, come over here and pet me.” When cats do it it isn’t the same sign. When a cat does it he is saying, “Hey, I’m so confident I can do this and you’re not going to attack me.”

Sandra Lyn: What happens is for a dog, a vigorous rubbing is very pleasant. When you start to do that to a cat, your hand is almost like a reminder for large prey. So when they grab it, they’re treating it almost exactly as a large prey, so that means they are kicking it to submiss it with their back legs and then they’ll do the kill bite at the nape of the neck.

8. Why does my cat knock over their water bowl?

Gerardo Pérez: Cats are shortsighted. They don’t really see it; they have to find it by smell or with their whiskers. Probably what is happening here is that they don’t see what is in a very short distance, and they just knock it over.

Francois Martin: Another explanation might be that this cat thinks that it’s really funny to do that. Cats —for example, like bengals — are known to like to play with water.

Gail Czarnecki: Also you might see your cat drinking from places other than its bowl. It could be that it’s colder as well. If you forget about keeping the water bowl clean, this action could be an indication.

9. Do cats know we’re leaving when they see the suitcase?

Sandra Lyn: Some pet owners will tell me that when they’re getting ready to leave, if they have certain rituals they do when they’re leaving, then their cat may start to show some signs of stress.

Gail Czarnecki: Sometimes the cat may be doing something behaviorally that is different and the person thinks the cat is pouting, so they pet the cat. So the cat may associate that when you get out the suitcase and it meows, you will pet it.

10. Why does my cat follow me into the bathroom?

Francois Martin: It really depends too on what the person is doing. If the person pets the cat while they are in the bathroom, then it’s not the bathroom but it is the fact that they know they might be petted there.

Sandra Lyn: It might also be that that is the only time you might close the door on the cat. So they feel like they need to follow you in there or they will get locked out. You never really know the reason why they’re doing this.

11. Why does my cat insist on getting stuck in the highest of places?

Gerardo Pérez: They probably go out just by curiosity or to feel safe. When you look at the anatomy of the cats, they are designed to climb, but they are not designed to climb down.

Francois Martin: Then they get stuck and they call for us.

Life is better with pets, and knowing how to understand your cat makes everyone’s life better. Make your cat healthy and happy with Purina Cat Food.

All illustrations by Lyla Ribot / © BuzzFeed