Yet another strange cat behavior question...
December 28, 2012 3:47 PM   Subscribe

We adopted Max from a shelter in October of this year. Shortly thereafter we noticed he would occasionally do this movement spontaneously, and we're curious as to why.

Anyone else's cat do this? My husband thinks it looks like he's climbing a rope, hence the video's title. I think it's more like a begging motion, but he doesn't do it when he might be hungry or treats are around. Yesterday he got up on a different table and did it in the direction of the Christmas tree. Any thoughts? Shall we just file this under "Cats are weird"?
posted by FormerMermaid to Pets & Animals (25 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
When my cats do it either it is because they want treats which are not, actually, around or because there is a bug, or something that looks like a bug. Also because they are weird.
posted by jeather at 3:56 PM on December 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: FWIW, he's not the only one.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:01 PM on December 28, 2012

Best answer: He's trying to catch dust motes in the air? Whatever it is, it's cute as hell.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 4:04 PM on December 28, 2012 [9 favorites]

I knew another cat who did this; a DSH named Paprika who lived in Dijon, France. Usually he was next to the table and trying to cadge some food. As for Max? If he's not begging I'm afraid I'm out of ideas.
posted by workerant at 4:08 PM on December 28, 2012

Best answer: I bet your Christmas tree has sparkly lights on it that look like they're moving.

When he starts out he really seems convinced that there's something up there for him to grab at, then as he progresses he looks less like he's actually trying to catch something and more like he's performing a sort of ritualized prey-catching motion. Did he spend a long time in the shelter? Shelter animals can sometimes develop weird OCDish tics like this as a way to deal with confinement. Better to have him playing with imaginary bugs than overgrooming himself, I suppose.

My cats will sometimes go absolutely nuts chasing after imaginary/invisible prey, and I'm never sure if they're after little bits of dust that I can't see or if they're hallucinating something or just playing pretend.
posted by contraption at 4:08 PM on December 28, 2012

2nding treehorn+bunny's comment. I've seen cats do this when they spot dust. I had a friend who's cat would do that in the morning when sun came through the window, illuminating the dust.

Max is quite the handsome little guy :)
posted by 2oh1 at 4:10 PM on December 28, 2012

There's nothing wrong with him. It's either a begging posture or he imagines that he sees something to grab in the air. I had a cat who would spend hours sitting on the back of the toilet, facing the wall, and staring at the paint from three inches away. Cats are weird.
posted by xyzzy at 4:10 PM on December 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Nthing that cats are weird. Is there any other extenuating circumstances, such as time of day, mood, etc? And Max is a cutie!
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 4:16 PM on December 28, 2012

Best answer: Have a friend whose cat does exactly this. The cat has yet to offer an explanation but the friend claims he is blessing you and to be grateful.
posted by xmutex at 4:28 PM on December 28, 2012 [23 favorites]

This could be a 'magic eye' type depth perception mistake, where the cat is mistakenly focusing two lights into one closer one. Does it happen more when there are similar objects in the background that could be merged into one in the foreground? (repeating patterns, bright lights, etc.)?
posted by poe at 4:31 PM on December 28, 2012

All the kitties I've known that did this were asking for something or hoping they'd be helped to something they couldn't reach.
posted by batmonkey at 4:58 PM on December 28, 2012

also: his cute lil overbite and pouchy cheeks slay me!
posted by batmonkey at 4:58 PM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

could a previous owner have taught hgim some tricks? I know this sounds far fetched, but my boyfriend had a cat that he taught to "reach for the sky" "play dead" and "slap me five" (do you know how cute it is when a cat does the shake paw thing? she would spread out her toes!) The motion your cat does looks a lot like what boyfriend's cat did to "reach for the sky" Try rewarding it and see if you can get him to do it on command!
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 5:13 PM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

After reading the above idea, it comes to mind that I read a neat story recently (apologies for not remembering where...) about a woman who volunteered at a shelter. She taught the dogs there to do tricks in hopes that they would be more adoptable. Maybe this is happening everywhere with shelter pets?
posted by Leah at 5:23 PM on December 28, 2012

I would bet he's been trained to beg. See if you can figure out what the command is so he'll do it when asked. Trained cats will frequently engage in their tricks in order to get treats. (Source: Training my cats)
posted by fiercekitten at 5:27 PM on December 28, 2012

Our Daeva does that when she wants a treat (or really, something she shouldn't have, like cheese).
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:05 PM on December 28, 2012

my cat does it too, usually when she wants food, treats, or pets.
posted by royalsong at 6:06 PM on December 28, 2012

Best answer: He is tickling ghosts. My cat chases ghosts all the time. She will frantically run all around the house batting at things then suddenly stop and go lie down. She will also swat at the air with one paw only for no apparent reason. We just assume she can see the house's ghosts that we do not see.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:09 PM on December 28, 2012

Best answer: Obviously, she is praying to Bastet.
posted by kamikazegopher at 6:44 PM on December 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

My cat is also from the shelter and does this, too...although your cat is better at it... especially when treats or food are involved. Not that uncommon! (Of course, my cat also caught (cat)herpes from being in the shelter and spread them to my non-shelter cat, but that's another story entirely)
posted by camylanded at 6:53 PM on December 28, 2012

Trained to beg, I bet. My cat does this and high fives me on command/promise of treats.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:06 PM on December 28, 2012

kamikazegopher: "Obviously, she is praying to Bastet."

Or perhaps Ceiling Cat.
posted by radwolf76 at 7:25 PM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

He's tracing battle formations in the air in preparation for a cat coup.

(This joke would work a lot better if that damn part of the cartoon was online; sadly, it's only in the book. Anyway, trying to kill you, etc etc.)
posted by AthenaPolias at 8:31 PM on December 28, 2012

We always called it "circus cat."
posted by jpburns at 6:37 AM on December 29, 2012

Get a toilet roll cardboard tube and tie it to the end of a 3' piece of string. Next time Max does this dangle the tube on a string in front of him, jump it up and down a bit, swing it back and too, see if Max is looking for something to play with.
posted by biffa at 12:13 PM on December 29, 2012

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