January 25

Answer your cat's questions with this handy guide

Once again, it’s Answer Your Cat’s Question Day, the time for cat owners to ponder what their feline friends are really asking them. The actual date was Thursday, Jan. 22, but this is as good a day as any to discuss cat behavior and what our cats would want to know if they could speak our language.

Why do I rub up against your leg so often?

Cats have scent glands on their faces, shoulders, bottom, and between their toes. People can’t smell the scent left by touching or rubbing these areas against something else, but other cats can. Rubbing up against their favorite human helps cats mark that person as their own.

Even if there are unlikely to be other cats around, such as with a single, indoor cat, the animal still likes to leave its scent around. Doing so makes it feel happier and safer, sort of like when people put on perfume or aftershave or spray a room freshener. Regardless, having a cat rub against you, especially while purring, is a feline compliment and should be welcomed as such.

Why do I shed all year around?

Every animal with hair sheds, including humans! Even birds shed and preen their feathers. Shedding helps keep fur looking good and working as an insulator most effectively, as it removes the older, dead hair and makes way for it to be replaced by new.

In many cases, cats shed all year ‘round rather than seasonally. When there is more sunlight, cats will shed more. But when you keep your cats indoors or primarily indoors, you notice the fur at all times of the year because the animal isn’t exposed to direct sun.

To keep shedding in the environment to a minimum, humans need to brush their cats regularly, just as they comb and brush their own hair. Grooming can be a fun way to interact as well, because most cats enjoy the feeling and attention they get from a gentle brush – especially if they get used to it from a young age.

Why does your white cat like to shed the most heavily on the dark sofa, should be the question. There is no good answer to this.

Why do I purr when my human is trying to give me medicine? I don’t want to take a pill.

Purring is usually noticed when cats are happy and being petted or attended to by another cat or human. But purring is also a form of personal communication that many cats will use to comfort themselves when they are being asked to handle some form of stress. The medicine makes you anxious and you start to purr, kind of like a human repeating, “It’s going to be all right,” when something bad happens.

I have been friends with the dog for a long time now, but every once in a while I rise up and hiss at him. Why?

Cats dislike being backed into a corner. Perhaps your dog friend “cornered” you without realizing it, or as a part of play. Maybe it just made eye contact in the wrong way. Cats naturally make themselves look bigger and scarier when they are frightened, and may hiss as a warning. Two cats will stand and stare until one backs down or looks away, and when the dog starts thinking, “What a crazy cat!” and moves away, you can relax again.

Why does my tail move so noticeably back and forth when the kids in the house start playing with me?

A widely swishing tail indicates annoyance. Maybe you don’t want to play, or maybe you are annoyed with the catnip mouse they are dangling and really want to attack it. Usually this is in relation to a human interacting with you in a way that you don’t like, though, and you may need to hiss a little to really get the message across.

Humans who see their cats demonstrating this sign of annoyance should stop interacting with the cat and let it calm down a little. It may have just had enough petting or grooming – the person may not be doing anything wrong. But it helps to know what this means and end the play or affection.

My humans got a new chair and I went up and sprayed it. They were really displeased. Why did I do that?

If the new chair had any odor of other animals on it, that could have caused you to want to make it smell “better.” It may have just had a weird smell, or been something new and stimulated you to spray it.

Don’t make a regular habit of this. If you do, your humans may want to look for some Feliway (www.feliway.com), a pheromone spray that smells like when you rub your cheek glands up against an object. This makes the new object smell familiar and reduces your anxiety about it being new.

Why do I like to climb up and sleep in high places?

You probably have other cats in the household, and are asserting your dominance by selecting the highest possible place to hang out. Or, you may just like to have a good vantage point for observing household activities.

Fortunately, you probably like the same one or two places, so your humans can move the expensive vases and breakable items out of the path you take to get up high. While many cats move so gracefully they don’t damage anything, one little slip on the way down can be disasterous for the crystal bowl.

See also: Misguided animal collectors create terrible environments for pets, people   'Wheep!' noises make guinea pigs especially interactive pets