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Feline behaviour explained – why does my cat…?

If you've ever wondered "Why does my cat...?" then this blog post is for you. In the second of a three-part series of visual guides to cat behaviour, we’re delving into common cat body behaviours.

It is the very nature and behaviour of cats that makes them one of the UK’s most popular pets today. Their independence, playfulness and curiosity are among the traits that make many cat-lovers melt. By understanding a cat’s behaviour we can learn how to best provide for them, meet their needs, maximise their welfare and ensure long-lasting friendships for happy cats and owners.

Here are a few common behaviours and their meanings:

Cats Protection why does my cat information graphic

Should you have any concerns about your cat’s health or behaviour, consult your vet.

Please do print this visual guide for a handy reference or share it with friends who may find it useful!

To learn more about cat behaviour, read our cat behaviour help and advice content or do our free online e-learning course: Understanding cats' needs.


1. Spraying

Male or female cats may spray, whether neutered or not. There are lots of motives for spraying including sexual reasons, stress (if indoors) or normal scent marking (if outside).

2. Rubbing

Cats regularly rub scent (pheromones) from their cheeks on objects in the environment. This scent reminds them that it’s a safe place. If a cat rubs their forehead against you (it looks like a head butt or can be called ‘bunting’) a different scent is released that means ‘you’re my friend’.

3. Kneading or pawing

This is a behaviour left over from kittenhood when they used the same action to stimulate milk from their mother’s teat. As adults, it means they’re feeling content.

4. Slow blink

If a cat slowly closes their eyes and reopens them while looking at you, they’re relaxed in presence and saying ‘hello’. Try slow blinking back!

5. Flehmen’s response

This is a way that cats collect extra scent information through a scent organ in the roof of the mouth.

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