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Wondering Why My Cat Greets Me This Particular Way ...
July 23, 2008 11:25 AM   Subscribe

Consistently, every single time I come home, my cat will come over to a particular corner of my desk -- I need not be sitting at it or indeed be anywhere near it -- and meow while faux-scratching it. He occasionally will stretch his back after the scratch, but not always. It's extremely cute, and he's such an affectionate cat that I'm even kind of touched by it. But I suppose I find myself curious as to what the gesture breaks down to. I'm assuming it's a greeting, since he repeats it without fail every time I come home after being out for more than a few minutes, but I suppose I'm curious as to what the action signifies. I doubt it's totally random, but I can't quite figure out what "animal world" thing he would be doing by that particular pattern.
posted by WCityMike to Pets & Animals (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Yep -- it's your cat's welcome home gesture. One of my cats heads directly to the litterbox every single time I come home. Another cat comes over and faux-scratches my shoes as a welcome, which I have titled 'the Shoe Dance'. They can't sniff our rumps or rub against our faces as a typical kitty greeting, so they come up with substitutes.
posted by gsh at 11:44 AM on July 23, 2008


If you pick the cat up and pet him a lot of the time after he does it, you may be seeing the result of operant conditioning.
posted by Class Goat at 12:10 PM on July 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the confirmation on that — but just to clarify, I already figured out it's a welcome-home gesture. What I can't figure out is what he thinks he's doing via the gesture.

It could be that it's just an entirely senseless gesture even to him, and I know he doesn't have human thoughts, but I'm just curious as to what it's supposed to be.

Is he marking that corner with his scent for me? (I am very often on the computer when home, so he may have labeled that "my human's territory" in his head.) Is it for the sound it produces (there's a door edge near where he does it and it makes a sound)? I suppose I'm curious as to why specifically that.
posted by WCityMike at 12:15 PM on July 23, 2008


Maybe he's trying to get out all the excess energy he has from the excitement of your homecoming? My cat runs over to his scratching post and scratches furiously for a few seconds when I come home. I assume that he's all amped up because I'm home and is having a bit of an adrenaline rush. He could just as easily run around in circles or something.
posted by amro at 12:21 PM on July 23, 2008


Cats have glands in their paws that release pheromones other cats can identify - essentially, marking their territory. Anything with an adaptive advantage feels good - e.g., sex, eating, marking territory (I suppose), so maybe he is marking his territory/feeling good in response to your coming home. gsh's cat must be claiming shoes for himself.

Along similar lines, when cats "knead" with their paws - that's called treadling, and promotes milk letdown in the mother cat. It's thought to be a holdover from infancy such that when a cat feels contented, it reverts to that movement.

I agree - it's really cute! And my cat buffs shoes, too. Guests think it's adorable. I never knew other cats did so. This is a great question.
posted by Punctual at 12:40 PM on July 23, 2008


Maybe he's telling you he kept the special desk area beastie-free while you were gone, and wants some gratitude. Or maybe he's trying to express "here I am, still cute, so scratch me already!"
posted by contessa at 12:41 PM on July 23, 2008


Perhaps he is shit scared of you. He faux scratching is really reflex poo burying.

Or perhaps not. Rather than relating it back to a particular animal world thing his gesture can probably be better explained by a feline propensity to perform routinized behaviour. It doesnt really matter what the content of that behaviour is, because the evolutionary advantage confered on the little chap is his propensity to keep doing it. Cats seem to spend a great deal of time doing utterly pointless stuff, repeatedly, its almost ritualistic.
posted by verisimilitude at 12:41 PM on July 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


verisimilitude: Perhaps he is shit scared of you.

Nope. I can read his expressions fairly well, and he's got his friendly/blissed look on his face when he does this.

a feline propensity to perform routinized behaviour. It doesnt really matter what the content of that behaviour is, because the evolutionary advantage confered on the little chap is his propensity to keep doing it. Cats seem to spend a great deal of time doing utterly pointless stuff, repeatedly, its almost ritualistic.

Interesting. Thanks!
posted by WCityMike at 12:49 PM on July 23, 2008


(I am very often on the computer when home, so he may have labeled that "my human's territory" in his head.)

I think you are quite right that these behaviors mean something, though I couldn't figure out what. But when I read that, it rang perfectly true to me.

As you imply, cats are highly territorial and can be very competitive about it. I've seen a couple of instances where a cat in a multiple cat household was gone for a while (at the vet's), came home and had to fight for its places in the house because another cat had taken them over.

I think your cat is letting you know (meowing so you'll look) that he sees that you are there and that he is making no claim to your territory, and is in fact inviting you to take possession. This also sort of implies that a scratching post might commonly be used as a territorial boundary marker by both cats in two adjacent territories; Punctual says they have scent markers in their paws, so when they are scratching they are marking, and the way they do it by stretching to their full length, they could be showing each other and any cat that comes along how big they are-- more by the scratching (which also would demonstrate readiness for hostilities) than the marking, I suppose. I'd even guess your cat is further demonstrating good will by not even scratching.
posted by jamjam at 4:16 PM on July 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think it's his way of saying, "I'm awake and alert; play with me!"
posted by sbutler at 9:55 PM on July 23, 2008


Thanks, everybody!
posted by WCityMike at 7:07 AM on July 24, 2008


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