Different Cat Behaviors: What Does It All Mean?

Imperial Cat Perch 'n Lounge Tower Scratch 'n Shape Scratcher Review3As humans, we feel a natural affinity for our cats, but we sometimes struggle to understand and respond to their needs. This isn’t for lack of trying – the main issue is that we have to learn to respond to what is essentially a different language based on behavioral cues and variations in sound. To help you better realize what your cat is trying to tell you, here’s a list of common behaviors and what they often mean (this isn’t always true, however, as cats are complex individuals, just like humans!).

Cat behavior consultants believe that slow, long blinks are a sign of affection from a cat. They are often referred to as “kitten kisses.” You’ll notice you most often get these from your feline when he or she is in a relaxed position, often sleepily looking at you.

Kneading (aka “Making Biscuits”)
This is when your cat climbs up on you and begins rubbing his paws against you as if he were making dough as a baker would. This is something kittens do with their mothers. That’s why this act is usually associated with a happy, content cat who may even see you as a motherly figure (cue the awws).

Bunting/Head Butting
The name of this behavior sounds much more unpleasant than it actually is. In fact, head butting from a cat is seen similarly to a hug. This is when your cat presses his or her head against you and rubs you. Some cats love to do this against their owner’s cheeks.

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18 thoughts on “Different Cat Behaviors: What Does It All Mean?

  1. JLSW says:

    My husband has a long, coarse beard that my raggies LOVE to mash their faces into. Repeatedly. They are scent marking him since he has the audacity to wash their scent off every day. 🙂

  2. Ellen says:

    My Nellie (DLH) who I had put put down last Jult due to renal failure at 15 used to love to give my ears kisses. She would butt them to with her head. I miss her terribly. I will be getting a seal mitted kitten at the end of December. I’m thinking of calling him Caymus if you don’t mind.

  3. Lisa says:

    Glad specific breed behavior was mentioned,My co worker has been online reading about Ragdolls,cause she now wants one.She wants too come visit my 2 Dolls.I told her thats fine ,but my 2year old may not want to visit. He can be Mr Grumpy if you force him to do stuff hes not in the mood for.Her response I thought Ragdolls were really freindly and loving.He is but not always with strangers,the 5 month old better with strangers.But will eventually be like Murphy,I think it depends on how their raised ,its just me and my husband and they are the kids ,so real kids freak um out a little at first.All cats can be different than the breed specifys.Both of them do go limp though when held from the back especially the older one,it totally relaxes a Raggydoll.Thats our favorite Ragdoll test huhhuh.

    • Jenny says:

      that’s one of the biggest problems with breed stereotypes – people expect it and i have even had people connect me to rehome their ragdoll because it wasn’t acting like it was supposed to. every cat is different, every cat has a different soul and different personality. if she wants one that has all the qualities she wants, she should adopt an adult, so that someone will already know all about that cat’s behavior. yes, there is also a nature vs. nurture thing to consider.

  4. Patti Johnson says:

    Great info, Jenny! Thanks for sharing!

    Our Pink Sugar gives us the “love blinkies” and “makes bread” on us (when we are all laying in the bed).

    Haven’t seen any “head butts” from her yet. (Although, our previous cat, Sweet Sora – who was a Desert Lynx breed, gave us the “head butts”, “love blinkies” and bread making actions.)

    I love reading how each kitty is different (even within a specific breed) with their own unique personality. It’s just fascinating. 🙂 <3

      • Teresa says:

        Know he was your heart and soul and is still the soul of this website. What was the most (or as many as you can think of) things that he did that you loved the most? I love the video you have of him swimming in the pool! That would be endearing to me if any of mine would go near water in general.

  5. Teresa says:

    Wow, I just love this topic and especially all of the great discussions above about the love that all of us share with our babies. Dementia boy – you really nailed just how sweet all that interaction really is.
    Think that the best head butts, kneading and drooling came from my second feral manx cat named Bob (#2). Yes, there were two. He was so wild but knowing how my first manx was so sweet after he was tame, I set out to do the same with Bob #2. Would sit for hours outside with food and at first he wouldn’t come near, then about a month later, he began coming up on the porch with me, but I would sit with my back completely to him and would talk to him really softly as he came back and finally decided to eat. Several months later, on a special day I will never forget, just decided to sit with him face to face and talk to him. He was completely fine with it, so a couple days later, I said, “well Bob, here we go..” and just picked him up. He was a little stiff for a few minutes, but then he just gave his whole heart over and I could feel him relax. It was all the best after that. It was like he was just yearning for that so much. He would come inside and lie on the couch with me and knead, purr and drool, being a real softie, then go straight back in the yard and be a bad a..s. He was so squishable – that big tough manx from outside, yeah right. He was the sweetest cat ever and we enjoyed every moment together. Sadly, he was killed by a predator in the fall of 2011, before I could get him inside for good because he would fight with my other six kitties I had at the time and hurt them seriously. Was in the process of letting them slowly get acquainted, but he never made it. My heart still breaks to be able to hold him again.
    Thank you Jenny, for bringing up this topic because it brought back so many good memories and all the happy times I had with him.
    Now, Grace and Illaria give me the sweetest “kitten kisses”. Mari, even though she is a diva and mostly hates all women, will get up on my husband’s chest and knead and drool all over him. She is the first cat and only cat he has ever really deeply connected with. He still isn’t as hard core as those of us who understand what “kitten kisses” are all about. It is so funny that you brought this subject up because just two days ago, I made a comment about Grace doing that to me and he said, “what are you talking about?” One day, hope he will be able to understand that kind of unspoken love too!

  6. Lisa says:

    Ragdoll cat behaviors.Iraised two human boys,now im raising two Ragdoll boys.Ihave so much fun with these boys I forget their cats ,not children.They act like young children,the 5 month old kitten trys to copy everything Murphy whos almost 2 now does.They luv when I bring shopping bags looking carefully through each one for toys and treats.We play ball for one hour every morning they chase the homemade balls made from light weight decorated wire stuff chase and carry ,slide on the slippery kitchen floors chasing and carrying these light weight shiny balls in their mouth.The cheapest toy and its both of thems favorite game ever.Glad the readers on this website understand how MUCH YOU CAN LUV A RAGDOLL!Thanks So much Jenny for this website.

  7. Dementia Boy says:

    The kitty kisses just slay me. Of my current clowder, only Izzy gives kitty kisses. It is one of the few times I am completely silent, completely in the moment, because I don’t want to lose a single blink of this precious love and shared language. That I am loved, that I am worthy!!

    Kneading: Alternately laughing and blushing at “cue the awwws.” Am I worthy? The Three Musketeers all knead differently.

    Izzy is very busy protecting the household from imminent disaster–Bast knows I’m incapable of this–so kneads quickly, tensely, almost as though she’s marching, not looking at me at all before she jumps off to patrol the windowsills. It’s as though I’m on her “to do” list, lol.

    Jolie’s kneading is mesmerizing, massaging, sleep-inducing. She has never extended a claw. Her eyes look so vulnerable. I cherish rare soft moments with Evil Kitty.

    And William’s…oh, William!! I should wear protective armor. He retreats into kittenhood, eyes completely closed, those claws working away like ice picks. He drools because it’s awfully hard to purr and swallow at the same time, and his purr while kneading is the best purr ever, up and down the scales.

    Heat-butting: William is my only head-butter. Like Patricia’s tuxedo, he is strong. I mean, REALLY strong. And I never know when the head butts are coming. (Cue theme music from “Jaws.”) He knocks his head back and then knocks it forward. Bast forgive me, but I usually scream, “OWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!” because it hurts, especially now that he’s older and has lost his facial cushioning. Then the poor guy feels terrible and raises a paw–claws extended, sigh–to assuage the owwie. Good old Billy Goat.


    Thanks, Jenny, for reminding me that my cats do love me, that I’m not just the creature who opens the cat food cans. How about your boys?

    • Jenny says:

      I love, love, love kitty kisses. I did that a lot with the cats the other day at Kitty City.

      Trigg and Charlie definitely do the kitty kisses.

      Murphy does more head butting.

      Trigg and Charlie both knead – Charlie’s can get possessive!

  8. patricia says:

    my big black and white head butts me like crazy at night. he’s so strong he almost lifts my head off the pillow. it’s always at night when I am holding him close to me. now I know he is hugging me back… I love that!!

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