WTF is my cat doing?
July 25, 2007 11:40 PM   Subscribe

WTF is my cat doing? He'll start meowing plaintively, kneading the bed, and looks like he's about to make a pickle (but isn't).

So yeah. I'm about to go to sleep but the cat was just doing this and the laptop is nearby. I've seen him do this a few times; as noted before, it generally starts with plaintive meowing. He then starts avidly kneading the bed surface, while squatting his haunches in a way that suggests that he's about to ruin the sheets (although there has, as yet, been no discharge of any kind during this ritual). Sometimes this is accompanied by his hindquarters shivering. The behavior usually lasts about 3-5 minutes at which point he'll either lay back down or start engaging in a secondary behavior I've termed 'log-rolling' where he'll try to climb on my or my partner's calf (he can't manage this, hence the name) for another few minutes.

So, any feline ethologists out there, professional or amateur? Is this anything we should be worried about? Is some weird feline need going unmet? Or should I just file this away under inexplicable cat behavior?
posted by jtron to Pets & Animals (14 answers total)
Is he neutered? It sounds likes he's trying to mate with your bed sheets/covers/duvet... There must be something about the bed (or you, or your partner ~ smells, hormones, etc.) that's making him feel this way.
posted by amyms at 11:46 PM on July 25, 2007

He's neutered, but there's no, uh, humping associated with this behavior.
posted by jtron at 12:04 AM on July 26, 2007

It's not abnormal, at least from what I've seen. We have a male cat that's neutered who has a sock that I gave him as a kitten. He likes to carry it around, knead the floor/bed, and hump the sock... or at the least he'll do exactly what you're describing with the sock in his mouth. It can be disturbing when guests are over. I have noticed that when my wife or I sing he'll come running into the room (as long as there aren't any loud instruments playing) with the sock and start in.
posted by sleepy pete at 12:07 AM on July 26, 2007 [3 favorites]

He's neutered, but there's no, uh, humping associated with this behavior.

With male cats, sometimes there's not a lot of "humping" associated with mating rituals... Everything else that you've described sounds like mating: squatting his haunches... hindquarters shivering... He's responding to something hormonal (and/or stimulating, though not necessarily something you'd easily identify) from you or your partner.
posted by amyms at 12:33 AM on July 26, 2007

Kneading is a trigger to get the mother to release milk.
So give him a little dish of milk, and see if that makes him happy.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:49 AM on July 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

within the normal range of cat behavior. my own (female) kitty doesn't do this, but a friend's tomcat will hump anything; furniture, your leg, stuffed animals, truck tires.
posted by bruce at 1:35 AM on July 26, 2007

My four neutered male cats all do this. (The female doesn't.) Perfectly normal (inasmuch as that term applies to anything that cats do).
posted by No Mutant Enemy at 2:19 AM on July 26, 2007

I don't have a lot of experience with male cats, but this reminds me of behavior from my dearly departed Toots (Best Cat Ever) when she had a problem and wanted me to notice. Is your cat having normal BM's? (check the box). Toots started carrying on when she got a nasty burr caught in her female bits somehow. I'd picked enough of them from her coat that I recognized the burr-ends sticking out of her (2-pronged burr found in Passadena, California). Mind, she was also peeing in the bathroom sink while I was there to see it, which wasn't a typical trick for her (peeing in the bathtub, over the drain, was a common trick of hers).
posted by Goofyy at 2:24 AM on July 26, 2007

Completely normal, and fairly common. It's imitative of infant behavior.

The kneading is a milk "trigger," as mentioned above.

The haunch moving motion, from what I've heard and read, imitates the kitten's movement of the anal area in vicinity of his Mom, attempting to get her to bathe his hindquarters with her tongue.

You might spread out a blanket on your stomach, and urge him to do this on top of you. Many cats love this, and it's useful for human/feline bonding.
posted by Gordion Knott at 3:24 AM on July 26, 2007

Might be normal as most have suggested, but (ahem) he also might have a blocked anal gland. If he seems to be sensitive about any scratching or petting near his tail or on the back of his legs, get him to a vet stat. You do not want that sucker exploding.
posted by tr33hggr at 5:09 AM on July 26, 2007

I have a spayed female who does the butt-shiver. She looks for all the world like she's spraying, but nothing ever comes out. She's always done it, and I am fairly certain that in her little peanut brain she is marking things. There's not always kneading behavior with it, but she's not really a kneader, she's a head-butter.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:22 AM on July 26, 2007

The last question on this page addresses this:
posted by rachelv at 9:08 AM on July 26, 2007

My male cats don't do this behavior, but I have noticed over the years that some neutered males become positively militant about begging for attention when I go to bed -- the loud purr, nudging, strutting around, etc. I used to snark that he was like a boyfriend: ignores you all day along and then the minute you're dozing off, he's suddenly got to cuddle.

And one of my females sometimes gets pissily territorial about having me to herself, again, only at bedtime when I'm in bed. There's something about us putting on our jammies and hitting the hay that brings out the needy kitten and/or sex maniac in a cat.
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:39 AM on July 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the answers, everyone. Sublimated sexuality/bedtime affection seems to be what's going on (this cat is awfully possessive of me, especially during bedtime hours, and has been known to mourn my absence when I am required to sleep away from home). And oh dear god I am praying that there are no blocked anal glands involved.
posted by jtron at 1:56 PM on July 26, 2007

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