What is going on with my cat?
March 4, 2013 10:52 PM   Subscribe

All of a sudden, he keeps looking up at the ceiling as if he sees/hears something. He just started doing this a couple weeks ago, and has done it several times an hour since. Can metafilter supply me with a more plausible answer than what googling has lead me to? So far my top leads are yahoo answers posts about ghosts, so I'm sure y'all can do better. Has he just lost his little cat mind?

I wouldn't think that much of it, but he has never really acted this way before, he's an adult cat, no big changes recently, and then all of a sudden, it's several times an hour he looks up like he sees something.
posted by mingo_clambake to Pets & Animals (46 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Could be obsession over flying bugs like moths, reaction to mice noises in attic, reflections on ceiling.
posted by dottiechang at 10:58 PM on March 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Most likely answer: cats are weird.

Possible answer: there's something living/nesting on your roof.

Wack-a-doodle answer: your cat sees the dead people who hang out on your ceiling.
posted by dchrssyr at 10:59 PM on March 4, 2013 [10 favorites]

It *probably* is that cats are weird, but I don't think we'll really be able to answer this question without seeing a pic of your cat.
posted by Brody's chum at 11:09 PM on March 4, 2013 [45 favorites]

Is it always the same spot he looks at, or even in the same room? I'd posit some kind of insect or spider making a nest or something if that's the case. If he's doing it everywhere, I'd guess something else.
posted by Solomon at 11:17 PM on March 4, 2013

I would say something like mice in your attic or the like. My cat can hear a roach from three rooms away. Their crazy little brains are wired to respond to any kind of faint skittering noises by attempting to lock onto the target and make a kill.
posted by Scientist at 11:20 PM on March 4, 2013 [5 favorites]

Wack-a-doodle answer: your cat sees the dead people who hang out on your ceiling.

My household calls this behavior "seeing ghosts" especially when the cat acts like someone's petting them and no one is there.

Are the curtains/blinds closed in the rooms this occurs in? Sometimes reflections off of passing cars will beam sunlight right at your windows, and with curtains closed, those moving light beams peek around the edges and sweep across the ceiling in a way that's hypnotic for cats.
posted by radwolf76 at 11:24 PM on March 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

My cats noticed the presence of rats in our attic weeks before we did. My vote is for creatures up there. Is he doing it all day long, or only in the evenings, or your only able to witness him doing it when you're at home in the evenings?
posted by Joh at 11:27 PM on March 4, 2013

We can't answer this without a picture.

While you are uploading the valuable evidence we need, I have a few questions for you...

1. What is above the ceiling?
2. What time of year is it where you are?
3. Do you regularly see bugs in your house?
4. Might you have a fruit fly or moth infestation somewhere you have not noticed?

And finally

5. What is the history of your dwelling? Is it an older building?

posted by jbenben at 11:27 PM on March 4, 2013

My cats used to do this when they had a bug deep in their ears and couldn't figure out where to scratch.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 11:31 PM on March 4, 2013

Don't overlook the possibility that your cat is screwing with you.

Failing that, I like the idea of skittering noises.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 11:35 PM on March 4, 2013 [4 favorites]

"Cat things".
posted by cromagnon at 11:40 PM on March 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

These Birds of a Feather - Good Point!!

Check your cats ears for earmites. It looks like lots of dirt in there.

See a vet or employ a holistic remedy off of the internet. I'm pretty sure the cure includes something pretty beign dropped into the ear, and then swabbing the ear afterwards, to cure the infestation. I don't remember the drops being prescription, but I was 12 last I had to do this, so YMMV.

Revoltion (which I recommend endlessly here!) cures fleas AND earmites. As of the studies I researched, it was also less toxic than Advantage and other similar products. Advantage and the like do not cure earmites, that I know of.

Again. This is impossible to answer without a pic!
posted by jbenben at 11:41 PM on March 4, 2013

Mice or whatever.
posted by rhizome at 11:51 PM on March 4, 2013

Response by poster: Alright, alright, ALRIGHT here's a picture of my giant, stupid, crazy cat.

I'm too sleepy at the moment to respond to everyone, but I will add, for your consideration, the following:

I guess the reason I doubt rodents or something like that is that this particular cat is pretty much the opposite of a hunter. He hides under the bed when he sees a bird outside the window. Whereas I have another cat that was literally born in a barn that has brought me dead mice, who hasn't been acting strangely at all. And this other cat gets super obsessive. She sat at an HVAC register for weeks, hardly moving, because she heard a mouse-- she stopped doing that when she brought me the dead mouse she finally caught, when I was sleeping (I even threw it for her because she used to bring me her catnip-stuffed toy mouse to throw in the middle of the night sometimes... So I was barely awake, it took me a few seconds to realize the mouse was oddly heavy).
posted by mingo_clambake at 11:52 PM on March 4, 2013 [29 favorites]

Clearly he has let the joy of ceiling cat into his life.
posted by biffa at 12:20 AM on March 5, 2013 [42 favorites]

That is an enormous cat.

I, too, suspect mice or other pests in the attic.
posted by Sleeper at 12:20 AM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

I was gonna say that he might have actually heard something, but no. After seeing the photo, that cat wouldn't care if he did. I say it's likely him being a cat, but I'd also check him for ear mites.
posted by cmoj at 12:27 AM on March 5, 2013

Maybe as he has gotten older he has some sort of cat tinnitus and is hearing things.

Maybe he is playing the made you look game. I bet you look up every time, amirite? Does he try to get you to look down and then take his paw and run it up the front of your shirt into your nose and say gotcha?
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:41 AM on March 5, 2013 [6 favorites]

Perhaps he's staring at the ceiling for the same reason cats stare at corners.
posted by she's not there at 12:45 AM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Cat's lives can be boring. What they do to overcome boredom is to create an adversary in their weird minds. Yours has a ceiling adversary (the adversary of mine lived behind the walls and wanted to be maawed at at night. Fun, that).
posted by Namlit at 1:26 AM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

He's playing with your mind. Cats are amateur evil psychologists, evidenced by the fact they immediately jump in the lap of someone who doesn't like them. People have said this is because people who don't like cats won't look at them, but I've tested that, not looking at cats, and they don't jump into laps.

Also, my cat, who I've lived with for most of 10 years KNOWS I don't like to be woken up before dawn, so he's added face kisses into the mix, which are goddamn cute, but cause my eyeballs to swell from allergy to his hair.

There's new evidence that animal intelligence is greater than we think. Dolphins have names for each other. Dogs can identify over 500 individual toys (the researchers had to write the names on the toys because they couldn't remember) and can identify cancer through scent. I swear I have seen cats laughing.

He's playing with your mind, or you have rodents in your ceiling. I recommend poison or traps.
posted by b33j at 1:32 AM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Your cat is like a cartoon cat come to life. Does he come in grey? I want one in every color.

Older kitties sometimes get vertigo for various reasons. It's possible that he's got some buildup in his ears that's messing with his balance and his ceiling-looks are a way of snapping himself out of feeling off-balance. This and earmites can be taken care of with a vet visit and a little cat-maintenance. Is he due for his checkup soon? Be sure to mention it. Our old family cat had earwax extracted when she was about 12 years old. I swear it must have been a lump of wax in equal size to her tiny cat brain.

Do you have pipes in your ceiling? Cats notice different things over time. Maybe before he wasn't chilled out enough to notice regular house sounds, scared as he was by the possibility of a critter or something constantly looming outside, but nowadays he's noticing sounds that weren't relevant to him before.

Also, of course, cats can perceive alternate realities bleeding into our own - you might just have a portal in your roof. No big deal. Maybe line your window sills with salt to keep out the demons, but that's overkill, surely.
posted by Mizu at 2:06 AM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Maybe your cat's neck hurts and he's stretching. He is enormous and I am so happy he's being weird so I got to see all his gigantic glory. What an excellent cat.
posted by gingerest at 2:54 AM on March 5, 2013 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Please tell me that the person holding said kitty is 3 feet tall because that is one massive honking feline. And I want to cuddle him and smother his little face in kisses because he looks like he's a cuddle machine.

Pre-vet student/daughter Kinetic 1 says definitely get his ears checked because suddenly staring up at nothing is classic "There's something in my ears which I interpret as my noggin" behavior but she also says, "Cats are weird," and don't worry.
posted by kinetic at 3:18 AM on March 5, 2013 [7 favorites]

No, it's ghosts.

Or, could there be something casting cat-fascinating lights (something reflective maybe)?
posted by windykites at 3:20 AM on March 5, 2013

Best answer: You know, I bet he's hearing things in the ceiling. But only little things, like bugs.

Your actual good hunter cat knows that little things like ants are no fun to hunt, and ignores them.

Derphunter however has no clue so is squinting up there, in the hope that they will magically turn into snacks.
posted by Jilder at 3:31 AM on March 5, 2013 [5 favorites]

My puppy will occasionally crouch down and stare intently at the floor, like the floor just did something suspicious, and he's going to watch it to make sure it doesn't do it again. He does this with his "I'm carefully sniffing this" face on.

A couple weeks ago I crouched down to his level to try to figure out what all the fuss was about, and I found it. There was a tiny little dust and dog hair tumbleweed, invisible from the angle I was at, that was getting blown slightly across the hallway. He could see it and I couldn't.

Now I give him treats for keeping me safe from dust boogeymen and reminding me it's time to vacuum.
posted by phunniemee at 4:36 AM on March 5, 2013 [4 favorites]

Check him for ear mites.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:44 AM on March 5, 2013

My cat meows at the sun. Every day. He also doesn't like shadows, or being alone. And he has yeast in his ears, which we have to clean all the time. Maybe take a vet trip?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:29 AM on March 5, 2013

Best answer: Your giant stupid, crazy cat either hears bugs/flies/rodents, has ear mites, is elderly and going slightly deaf and has tinnitus, or is fucking with you. There's not much you can do about the other things, but if the mites are bad enough to make him look around, they're probably also bad enough to make him scratch and dig at his ears with his paws a lot, and you should probably get that checked by a vet person. So if he's not digging at his ears he probably hears critters, or thinks he does.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:37 AM on March 5, 2013

Your giant cat is adorable! I want to hug him and squeeze him and call him George. He's my new mascot.

We have two hunters and they can hear the squirrels dancing on the roof and follow them around the house.

I'm with those who say take him to the vet to check for ear stuff. Then give him kitty doritos and lots and lots of love.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:01 AM on March 5, 2013

Mod note: Cat are awesome, but can we focus on the question please? Thank you.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 6:24 AM on March 5, 2013

I had a perfectly healthy cat who would stare at the tile backsplash. Lots of my cats have stared at spots on the floor, walls, etc. So.... I think it's a normal cat thing.
posted by FergieBelle at 6:32 AM on March 5, 2013

Nthing ghosts, fer sure. That's a ghost-eating cat if I ever saw one.

No really, it's probably just small spiders or floating cobwebs wafting in the air. Or even subtle shifting in the joists. My cat hears stuff that I can't and then goes to attack it all the time.
posted by mibo at 6:32 AM on March 5, 2013

Old cobwebs hanging off your ceiling, drifting in air currents.
posted by Lou Stuells at 7:07 AM on March 5, 2013

My parents' cats used to stare are the wall in our living room for no discernible reason - we attributed it to crazy cat behavior. Years later, when they knocked down the wall to join two rooms together, lo and behold: full of dead mice.

I'm just saying a couple traps wouldn't be the worst idea.
posted by maryr at 7:23 AM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

Wow, what a huge cat! Based on the size and your description of your other cat, I'd bet nothing is actually up there (critter-wise, that is). I would guess that the first time, there was a weird reflection or maybe even some little bug (or just a spot, who knows) that your giant lug noticed, and now he keeps looking back there to see if the same thing is there...but it isn't, so he looks like a weirdo who keeps checking out nothing.

That's my bet. He'll get tired of it or realize that nothing is coming back to that spot...unless something does. :)
posted by Eicats at 7:31 AM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Mine used to paw at the outlets, which I thought was just "a spot that might move" behavior, but then our building, too eventually was found to have rodents in the walls. (Presumably they could be smelled through the outlets.) So there's a chance there's something there. And, you know, a chance that it's just the movement of molecules...
posted by acm at 7:33 AM on March 5, 2013

Actually, reflections are a good thought too - especially since something like a reflection from a passing car or from your wristwatch could have disappeared by the time you noticed the cat staring at the ceiling.
posted by maryr at 7:36 AM on March 5, 2013

Silly question: What kind of watch do you wear?

I've noticed that if I wear my non-sports watch, it tends to make little reflections on the walls/floors/etc. as I'm going about the house, which causes our kitty to do the same thing. The same goes for when I'm tooling around on my Ipad and it makes reflections/little rainbows.

Also: I love your kitteh!
posted by floweredfish at 8:21 AM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

(conjecture based on half-remembered information from a decade ago)

I have some vague memory of a perception psychology class I took when I was in my first undergrad. When we were covering contrast response curves in vision (a topic I only ever nominally understood) I remember picking up a tidbit that cats can see subtle differences in visual contrast that humans cannot.

So it's entirely possible that your cat is seeing something that you cannot see - possibly a change in ambient light brought on by changing seasons?
posted by rhooke at 8:58 AM on March 5, 2013

Nthing cats are weird. Also, is it possible that there's a small bug like a fly or a moth up there that you're not noticing? Or that sometimes there are, and your cat is just doing periodic perimeter checks to make sure there isn't a tasty, tasty bug up there right now?

I lived in a house with cats and one of them stared at the ceiling a lot. She survived this strange habit and even profited from it in the form of occasional bug chasing and insect snacks.
posted by Sara C. at 9:26 AM on March 5, 2013

Something in the attic, little bugs flying around the ceiling. He may be listening to aircraft flying overhead. (really--one of our cats used listen to passing cars. Now and then he'd run to the window and look out, usually after the car had passed, and switch his tail.)

(Or else it's the cat-brain perhaps wondering what happened to his cat-bits, planning how to chase down a hypothetical something if it ever decided to run away, thinking about where to catch a bit of a nap, finally coming to grips with algebra....)

Holy shit that's a huge cat. And beautiful.
posted by mule98J at 10:45 AM on March 5, 2013

We had a spider nest/hangout in the corner of the living room ceiling. There were bits of moth and fly and even some cobwebs, so you can tell how much housecleaning I get up to.

When we got the broom out to dislodge the spider, one of our cats noticed it running across the ceiling and disappearing behind the picture rail near the door. He spent a couple of days fixated on that spot on the ceiling, even though the spider probably ran along the picture rail and ended up somewhere else (I HOPE).

So your cat may be large and a bit dim-witted and thinking, "I saw moth/bug/spider there. Now I no see moth/bug/spider there. If I focus, moth/bug/spider come back to entertain me!"
posted by vickyverky at 11:19 AM on March 5, 2013

How old is your awesome kitty? If he's an older kitty he may have dementia.

Lots of good reasons above:
- bugs
- something in the attic area
- reflections from passing vehicles or your watch or something else reflective
- cats are weird
posted by deborah at 9:32 PM on March 6, 2013

Response by poster: I checked his ears, no signs of ear mites and he hasn't been scratching or anything, but it was a good idea to check. I think he's probably just that cat's are weird, but I'm going to put a live trap in the attic for a while to be safe. And it's not reflections or anything, there is literally nothing where he looks. My other cat chatters at reflections, so I'm familiar with such behaviour already. He's not old enough to really suspect dementia, and he's not doing any thing else out of the ordinary. It is possible he's losing his hearing some, though. I'll mention it to the vet next time I take him in for a check-up, but it doesn't sound like there's a huge cause for concern.
posted by mingo_clambake at 2:02 PM on March 13, 2013

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