It’s no secret that cats are unique creatures. Though they’re descendants of the African Wildcat, they’ve evolved to become a much-loved family pet and faithful companion. But cats have still retained some feral traits that don’t always make sense to their human owners.
Some cats offer dead prey to humans, while others will lick their privates in public. Cats are also known to eat their feces, drink urine, and spray around the house. If a cat has an irritation around the anus area, they might scoot across the floor to get relief. Cats also enjoy eating earwax due to the high protein count and, in very extreme cases, may even consume you if you die.
Cats offer so much to be intrigued about. But the reality is that while certain behaviors might seem disgusting to the human psyche, many make sense in the feline world. If you’re curious about all the gross things that cats do, read on to find out more about why they do them.
Table of Contents:
- 1 Why Are Cats So Disgusting?
- 1.1 Bring You Dead Animals
- 1.2 Sniff Each Other’s Bums
- 1.3 Show Their Bums
- 1.4 Lick Their Privates in Public
- 1.5 Eat Their Feces
- 1.6 Drink Their Pee
- 1.7 Drink from The Toilet
- 1.8 Walk Through Their Litter Tray
- 1.9 Spray Around the House
- 1.10 Scoot Their Bums Across The Floor
- 1.11 Eat Their Vomit
- 1.12 Eat Their Earwax
- 1.13 Eat You If You Die
- 1.14 Sweat from Their Paws
- 1.15 Drink from A Human’s Glass
- 1.16 Poop Every Time You Eat
- 1.17 Mother Cats Eat Their Placenta
Why Are Cats So Disgusting?
What’s disgusting to us isn’t repulsive to cats. However, cats do many things that are off-putting for humans. Remember that irritations, illnesses, and diseases can cause many cats’ strange behaviors. If a cat is acting strangely, there are likely to be underlying health conditions at play.
Other strange traits might be merely behavioral. A cat that’s not getting enough stimulation or is simply intrigued by its surroundings will do certain things that might confuse its owners.
Bring You Dead Animals
As instinctual hunters, cats often kill birds, mice, and other small prey animals. As reported on Nature, cats that are allowed to roam outside kill around 1 to 4 million birds and 6 to 22 billion small mammals each year in the United States alone.
But cats don’t always kill their prey to eat. Instead, they often bring their catch home to their owners – whether dead or alive. Not only is this unpleasant and distressing – especially if the animal is decapitated or left in a bloody state – but it’s unhygienic. And more often than not, the owners are left to dispose of the bodies or remove wild animals that are still alive from the house. Catching a fast-moving bird or mouse is rarely easy.
A belled collar can prevent cats from catching and killing animals by alerting the prey to the predator’s presence. As a result, a collar can stop dead or live animals from being presented as a gift or saved somewhere in the house to be a tasty meal later on.
Sniff Each Other’s Bums
Cats don’t see very well up close and don’t recognize other felines by the way they look. They have peripheral vision designed to track prey, so their sense of smell enables them to ascertain who’s close by. This is why cats sniff each other’s bums – it is a form of greeting and how they distinguish familiar cats from other felines.
More specifically, cats have anal sacs located on either side of their anus. As detailed on the US National Library of Medicine, these anal sacs secrete various volatile compounds that function as chemical signals about the scent owners. Tests show that cats utilize short-chain free fatty acids that are emitted from anal sax secretions to obtain scent information about individual cats, helping them to recognize familiar felines.
So the next time you see a cat sniff another’s bum, it’s not as gross as it looks – the cat is simply saying hello to its friend.
Show Their Bums
Cats predominantly use body language to communicate. While cats also meow at humans to get their attention, body language is an excellent indication of how your cat is feeling. As already mentioned, it’s also normal for a cat to sniff each other’s bums as a form of recognition.
When a cat shows you its bum, don’t be grossed out – it is hugging you in its unique way. It is also letting you know that it trusts you completely. Cats that feel threatened or are in no mood for affection will keep their tails down.
Cats are territorial by nature, so their ‘butt scent’ is a way for them to place their scent on you to lay claim to what is theirs. By petting a cat, you are doing the same thing.
Lick Their Privates in Public
Cats display many embarrassing behaviors but licking their private parts in public is one of the worst. To humans, the concept is unpleasant. But to cats, it’s a simple grooming procedure to remove dirt, discharge, or debris. It’s particularly common after a cat has urinated or defecated and feels the need to clean up.
However, this behavior could also be an indication that something is wrong. If a cat displays the following symptoms, it might be licking its private parts because there is a health issue:
- A red or swollen vulva or penis
- Increased urination
- Difficulty urinating
- Scooting across the ground
- Red bumps on the skin
- Skin discoloration
- Foul odor from the affected area
- Discharge from the penis or vulva
Eat Their Feces
Coprophagia is the scientific term for eating poo. While it’s not hugely common in cats, some felines consume their feces – which is a disgusting concept for humans to understand. There are many reasons why cats will do this. Health reasons can be to blame, including vitamin or mineral deficiencies, malnutrition, parasites, diabetes, or thyroid disease.
Other reasons are often due to behavioral problems. Cats that have been recently punished, demand attention, or are hiding a mistake, might eat their poo as part of one of these processes.
A cat that eats its feces is not displaying normal behavior. Therefore, treatment or intervention is often required to try and stop it. Actions might involve moving the cat’s litter tray to a quieter area, cleaning up the litter tray as soon as the cat defecates, or changing its diet. Worming might also be needed roundworms or tapeworms are found to be the cause.
Drink Their Pee
It might sound strange and bizarre, but cats will drink their urine. Though, this isn’t usually for fun – cats will drink their urine if severely dehydrated and can’t find an appropriate water source.
It’s crucial that to prevent cats from drinking their urine, clean and fresh water is provided daily, especially during warm weather periods. If the problem persists, even if the cat has access to water, there might be an underlying health issue that needs treatment. Issues could include urinary tract disease, bladder inflammation, ruptured bladder, tumors, or kidney disease.
Urine drinking can also be a sign of a behavioral issue. Cats that have had a poor upbringing or a troubled past may have developed this habit to cope with their surroundings. Cats that don’t have access to the outdoors might become bored, leading them to drink their pee.
While unpleasant, urine isn’t dangerous to cats. Don’t panic or scold your pet. If you spot it sampling its pee, try to find out why it is doing so.
Drink from The Toilet
While it might be uncommon for a cat to drink from the toilet, it happens. And for most humans, this is questionable behavior. Though, the reason why cats do this is not as disgusting as you might think.
Cats are drawn to the colder water in the bowl, which is likely to be tastier than room temperature water that’s been sat in a dish. The water in the toilet bowl may also taste fresher, as regular flushing keeps it regulated and oxygenized.
Some cats might enjoy watching the water swirl around in the bowl each time the toilet’s flushed. Therefore, the flushing process may pique the interest of a curious cat, who will then go on to playfully drink the water and plash about in the toilet bowl with its paw.
Alternatively, if a cat can’t find a suitable water source for hydration, toilet water is a suitable replacement. It’s nothing to worry about unless you’ve recently put harmful chemicals into the cistern to clean the bowl or, in contrast, haven’t cleaned the toilet at all. The latter could mean that harmful bugs and bacteria are present in the water. Regular flushing should prevent this.
Walk Through Their Litter Tray
Once a cat has done its business in its litter tray, it will proceed to hide the urine and feces by covering it over with litter. As reported on Live Science, this is a natural feline instinct to mask the scent – cats love to keep themselves clean. But it also stems from their time in the wild, when they hid their waste to show dominant cats that they are not challenging them.
Cats who bury their feces or urine are showing their human owners that they recognize them as the alpha of the house. The problem is, cats are likely to step in their waste and then walk it around the house. This is especially messy and unpleasant if your cat is suffering from unhealthy bowel movements.
Cleaning up your cat’s litter tray as often as possible will help eliminate the risk. And while cats clean their paws, giving them a wipe using a wet towel will remove dirt and litter debris that could otherwise be walked through the house.
Spray Around the House
A cat that sprays around the house can be frustrating and is often difficult to stop. Cats are meticulously clean animals and, once trained, are experts at going to the toilet in the right places. This includes a litter tray, a yard, or the outdoors. Finding out that a cat has urinated in the house can be troubling and challenging to clean. The ammonia found in cats’ urine is particularly strong and can linger for months, even after a deep scrub.
Illness, a sudden fright, or being trapped in a room can cause a one-off accident. However, spraying is different from urinating as it’s usually a signal used to mark the cat’s territory. To spray, a cat will stand upright and deposit a small amount of urine onto a vertical surface – usually the wall or curtains.
There are several reasons why a cat might do this, including old age, urinary tract infections, or a fear of something either inside or outside the house. It’s vital to ascertain why a cat is spraying around the house to stop the behavior as quickly as possible.
Scoot Their Bums Across The Floor
A cat dragging its bum along the floor can be an amusing sight. But it’s a sign of irritation, itchiness, or pain around the anus area. Cats will find any means of relief, and often the rough textured surface of a carpet or rug provides ample respite from the problem. It is merely trying to relieve itself. Other causes of scooting include:
- Worms, which is a common cause of itchiness
- Items stuck to their bottom, including litter or dried poo
- Anal gland issues, including blockage or infection
- Itchy skin or other skin conditions
- A painful lump or another type of growth
If you notice your cat scooting more often, look underneath its tail for any visible signs of discomfort. Check for dried feces or garden matter that could be causing irritation. Redness, discharge, or indications of dry skin are also vital signs that something is irritating your cat’s anus area and may need further veterinary treatment.
Eat Their Vomit
Vomit is unpleasant in its own right. But when a cat eats it, it’s understandable to want to know why. Random vomiting is quite frequent in cats. Many cats throw up hairballs or other foreign objects to remove them from the stomach. However, unlike the well-known myth, it’s not healthy for a cat to vomit regularly.
The truth is, no-one really knows why a cat eats its vomit. Many experts believe it to be behavioral. Some cats might simply like the taste, while others might want to clean the mess up. A cat might even hide its sick from predators or other threats so that it can’t be found.
It’s more important to understand why a cat is being sick in the first place. Prevention and treatment can help stop a cat from eating vomit. The most common reasons for sickness in cats include:
- Kidney or liver failure
- Poor diet
- Foreign bodies
- Gallbladder inflammation
Eat Their Earwax
Cats are drawn to earwax. Whether it’s through cleaning another cat’s ears or licking the earbud you’ve just used to clean your own, some cats just can’t help themselves.
Cats have 200 million scent receptors in their nasal cavity. To put this into context, a human has 5 million. Earwax contains dead skin cells, fatty acids, and small amounts of cholesterol. Using their excellent sense of smell, cats can determine that because earwax is made up of mostly proteins, which cats are particularly sensitive to the smell of, it has nutritional value.
Cats only have a few hundred taste buds, so earwax doesn’t taste as bad to cats as it does to humans, who have over 10,000 taste buds. Arguably, earwax is beneficial to a cat’s health as it provides a good amount of nutrients for the animal to thrive. While you may not want to make earwax a staple part of your pet’s diet, it won’t hurt your feline to sample it from time to time.
Eat You If You Die
According to a study on the National Centre for Biotechnology Information, scientists found that cat owners are at risk of being eaten by their hungry cats when they die, after discovering that two feral cats broke into their research center to consume deceased bodies. Over several weeks, the cats kept returning to the bodies, showing a preference for the soft tissue of the shoulder and arm.
If a person with pet cats unexpectedly dies, the animals need to find a food source to survive. However, this only really applies if the deceased lies undetected for an extended period. Scavenging is also far more common in free-roaming cats. Tame cats aren’t likely to eat human flesh until they begin to starve. On that basis, it’s nothing personal.
Some scientists have theorized that cats may cause injuries to dead bodies not by eating them, but by attempting to get attention or to revive their owners.
Sweat from Their Paws
A cat’s paws are like baked beans. While cute, you’re likely to get a nasty scratch if you try to go near them. But did you know cats sweat from their paws?
Unlike humans, who have numerous sweat glands to cool themselves down, cats only have these glands in their paws, lips, chin, and skin surrounding the anus. These sweat glands work as an efficient cooling system and also secrete a smell that cats use to mark territory. This means that cats often walk their sweat through the house.
When a cat’s body temperature gets too high, the brain sends a signal to these glands to start sweating. The sweat will then evaporate, cooling the body down. You’re most likely to notice wet paw prints on a hot day or on the examination table during a stressful visit to the vets. Cats will also sweat through their paws if they feel anxious or threatened by something.
Drink from A Human’s Glass
Cats love fresh water that is off the ground. A nice, tall glass of clean water is incredibly tempting for cats, and they’ll have no reservations about drinking from it. This isn’t a pleasant concept for humans – particularly when you consider that cats lick their private parts after going to the toilet.
The biggest draw for cats when they spot a glass of water is the freshness. Cat’s don’t drink much water anyway, but they will turn their noses up at stale, lukewarm water if they can find a fresher option elsewhere. They might also feel safe if they’ve seen their owner using the same glass.
Posture might contribute to why a cat enjoys drinking from a glass, as it might be easier to access the water. Cats are also particular about how they position themselves when they eat or drink. If their water bowl isn’t in an easy-to-reach spot, they might reject it altogether. Angling the water bowl a little in front of a wall allows a cat to find a comfortable position when it needs hydration.
Poop Every Time You Eat
Whether it’s coincidental timing or carefully thought out, cats always seem to time their bowel movements to coincide with dinnertime. This is enough to put anyone off their food.
Needy cats will do this because they have stopped receiving attention while their owners eat. Another reason is that the litter tray is too close to the dining area. Humans will be more sensitive to the smell when they are around food, which will only heighten the unpleasantness.
If your cat regularly poops when you sit down to eat, it’s worth considering moving the litter tray to another permanent area where mealtimes can’t be disturbed. Encouraging a cat to do its business outside is another guaranteed way to ensure the family can’t be disturbed while they eat.
Mother Cats Eat Their Placenta
Placentophagy, also known as placentophagia, is when a mammal eats the placenta after giving birth. A scientific study on the US National Library of Medicine confirms that cats frequently eat the placenta. They do so to hide evidence of the birth and protect kittens from predators. As house cats rarely have to worry about predatory threats, this is mostly instinctual.
Eating the placenta is also part of the cleaning up process. Once a kitten is born, the mother cat will break through the amniotic sac, chew through the cord, and lick the kitten to remove blood and other birthing matter. This process also encourages the kitten to breathe.
So while it might be uncomfortable watching a mother cat eat its placenta, it’s done so for the kitten’s health and wellbeing. There are also arguments for the nutritional benefit of the placenta, which offers an ample source of energy and food for milk production. This is vital, considering mother cats often don’t leave the nest for over 24 hours after giving birth.
Cats are curious creatures – and that’s why feline fans love them so much. As long as a cat is happy and healthy, there’s no reason why their quirks and unique behaviors shouldn’t be embraced. Every cat has a very different personality that needs nurturing. In turn, they will offer love and companionship like no other animal.