An inevitable part of being a pet parent is having questions. Since our pets can’t talk, there are lots of things we have to figure out on our own. Thankfully, for the stuff we can’t figure out on our own, Google is there to help us with our most pressing inquiries.
Using Google’s auto-complete feature, in which you type in the first few words of a question and then allow Google to suggest the most common next few words, we found the five most commonly Googled questions about cats. Here they are, with our best attempts to provide answers.
Why does my cat…
… Bite me?
Like most cat behaviors, there is no real explanation for this. Whether your cat runs up to you at random and sinks in, or whether a nice petting session is punctuated by a sudden tooth-attack, cats tend to bite their people and there isn’t a clear reason why.
If you’re petting your cat and it suddenly bites you, it could be signaling that it doesn’t want to be touched any more – try stopping the petting and see if it stops. Other times, petting a particular place on your cat may make it feel overstimulated, painful or instinctually protective (many cats are not fans of belly-rubs for the latter reason), so see if it’s always a particular area your cat seems protective of. If so, it could be just your cat’s preference that you avoid that spot, or it could require a trip to the vet to check for pain.
If your cat is licking you and suddenly goes from licking to biting, it could be any number of things – one of which, strangely, is affection. Cats will sometimes nibble to express their love for the lick-ee. If your cat licks you and eventually starts sucking, kneading and biting, it could be because it was weaned from its mother too soon and is instinctually trying to nurse. However, even cats who were properly weaned sometimes do this, so it could be yet another sign of affection.
Lastly, cats can bite because they think they’re playing. I was once lying in bed, reading a book, when my cat (he was a kitten at the time) ran up to me, bit the bridge of my nose, and scampered off. He thought it was a great game, but I was left with punctures very close to my eyes! Kittens who are separated from their littermates too early never really learn how much biting is too much. Additionally, some cats are encouraged by their owners to attack things as little kittens because it’s “cute” – but of course this behavior becomes a lot less cute when it’s a 15-pound tomcat charging your face.
If you’d like your cat to quit biting you, there are a few ways you can discourage the behavior. If it happens while petting, just stop petting. Your cat may get up and leave – this confirms that it was just done with being petted. If it comes closer to you and seems to be asking for more pets, try petting in a neutral place like its back, to see if perhaps you’d just gotten to a “no-zone.” You can also gently lift your cat and place it a few feet away from you to show it that biting gets it removed from you. If your cat appears to think it’s playing, scold it gently with your voice or a spray bottle.
… Keep throwing up?
Depending on your cat’s behavior, throwing up could mean any variety of things.
If your cat tends to scarf down its food quickly, it could just be eating so fast it gives itself an upset stomach and throws the food up again as a result. Some cats will even eat the thrown-up, undigested food again. If this is the case, some owners say “no harm, no foul” – but if you’d like to discourage this behavior, or if the food goes uneaten, you can try feeding your cat a number of small meals over the course of the day (or a few hours) to force it to eat slowly.
Other cats will vomit when overstimulated. I have a friend who has two cats, and the younger kitten will often try to pounce on and play with her older cat right after mealtime. The older cat is not accustomed to so much activity right after eating and will often throw up his dinner if the little guy gets too rough. If this is the case, don’t play with your cat for 30-60 minutes after mealtime, and if necessary, separate your pets for eating and digesting so that overstimulation doesn’t get the best of their stomachs.
Some more serious causes of vomiting include allergies and disease. If, in addition to vomiting, your cat appears sick – if they’re losing weight, their coat is looking dull, they’re lethargic or seeming depressed – it’s a good idea to get to your vet. Even better, get to a vet who has a specialty in cats, since they can be so hard to diagnose.
It could be a fix as easy as switching foods, but to know for sure, it’s best to get medical advice.
… Hate me?
The world is full of cat personalities, and while some are sweet as pie and don’t mind being handled and like to cuddle and lick and purr, there are other cats who… Don’t do those things. In fact, many cats do the opposite of those things. This could lead one to believe that their cat harbors an intense hatred for them, or all humans, or all beings, or the world at large. But there is probably a reason for your cat’s ugly behavior.
Nothing that our animals do happens for no reason. There is an explanation for every behavior – the trouble is just figuring out what it is.
Be sure to analyze your own behavior and make sure you aren’t bringing out fear or aggression in your cat. Don’t stare at your cat – they consider this a challenge and may retaliate. Sudden movements or sounds are scary. Holding your cat as it struggles to get away can cause great anxiety (and can get you scratched!).
When cats are aggressive toward or fearful of humans, it’s often because they were not properly handled and socialized as kittens. During the formative stages of a cat’s life (between 5 and 12 weeks old), it’s vital that your cat gets picked up, handled, petted, and socialized with people other than their owner so they don’t develop shyness or fear as adults. Gentle, healthy interaction (no sudden movements or sounds, no loud parties, etc) with kittens is important, and can help your cat grow up socially apt and friendly.
If it’s too late for all that, unfortunately, there are few solutions. Learning to coexist with a fearful cat may be the closest you get to normalcy. Don’t try and force your cat to do anything – don’t insist on holding it as it tries to escape, don’t cage it in a busy room, don’t try to feed it somewhere highly-populated or busy to try to get it “used” to humans and interaction. This will only serve to stress it out further and cause it to become more fearful and possibly more aggressive.
The best thing you can do for your cat is to coexist as peacefully as possible, and allow the cat to come to you on its own terms. Keeping routines the same and life as calm as possible will help your cat de-stress and gain confidence. Try feeding treats and special high-value foods. Eventually, it’s very possible that your cat will come around and start to “like” you (though it wasn’t really that it “hated” you in the first place – it just didn’t know what to make of you).
Ron Hines, DVM has a great article about aggression in cats that covers many issues that may lead you to believe your cat “hates” you.
… Lick me?
Like everything else, there could be any number of reasons why your cat is licking you. The most popular reason, and the reason we’d probably all like most to believe, is that it is a sign of affection and that your cat is just saying it loves you. Cats are often seen grooming their feline companions, so it is only fitting that your cat will groom you as its friend.
Another idea is that cats like the taste of the salt on our skin, and like to lick us especially when we are sweaty.
Lastly, a cat may lick excessively because it was weaned too soon from its mother. If your cat licks you and eventually starts sucking, kneading and biting, it could be instinctually trying to nurse. However, even cats who were properly weaned sometimes do this, so it could be yet another sign of affection.
We’re used to dogs drooling, but it’s actually also a very common behavior in cats as well. This primarily simply means that your cat is happy. Sometimes when a cat is being petted, it can be in such a state of bliss that it forgets to swallow.
Conversely, drooling can also signal anxiety – so if your cat also drools at the vet or before it knows it’s going to receive medicine that doesn’t taste good, this could also cause hypersalivation.
However, if you suspect these aren’t the reasons your cat is drooling – if it drools constantly, or if the drooling is accompanied by watery eyes – keep in mind it could signify a health issue. Tooth and gum disorders, broken teeth, cranial nerve damage and kidney failure can also cause a cat to drool, so if you have any suspicion that something isn’t right, visit your vet immediately.
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