Felines Are Mysterious: Can we Really Unlock Their Secrets?

mysterious felines

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Cats are indeed mysterious creatures! Trying to figure out what really is going on in their highly intelligent brains, and truly understand what motivates their often fascinating behavior can be mind-boggling for those of us who absolutely adore them.

While there are experts in feline behavior who are constantly studying and observing kitty characteristics and, as a result of their tireless scientific research proclaim that they have finally discovered the reasons for each and every miniscule action that our beloved fur-family members make, I find myself often scratching my head in bewilderment. I mean – really – while their answers seem quite logical, how can any human truly unravel the mysteries of their behavior?

Take kitty feeding time, as an example. Since we are devoted to our cats we want to please them. We offer them up their favorite food and cross our fingers that they will oblige us by eating it. Nine times out of ten they get busy chowing down on that dinner, but for no apparent reason, on that tenth time – they glance up at us with that all too familiar accusatory look as if we had suddenly gone bonkers.

So you will understand my frustration, let me explain what goes on at our house. When Dr. Hush Puppy refuses what has historically been a meal that he relishes, in response to his bald-faced displeasure, I get down on my knees, pick up the dish and substitute the refused food with a different variety fervently praying it will be accepted. And just as I am speaking to him soothingly, and placing the bowl before him, of course he turns up his nose at my offering.

However all of a sudden, perhaps after catching the scent of raw meat, Sir Hubble Pinkerton arrives on the scene. My only explanation for this behavior is that he thinks that what I have offered Dr. Hush Puppy is definitely the “bees knees” and far better than sliced mice. He makes a giant leap for Hush Puppy’s food dish and begins to consume it at record speed. What follows is that in spite of Dr. Hush Puppy’s recent rejection of the meal, all of a sudden Dr. Hush Puppy decides that he wants it; and makes no bones about it.

He gruffly pushes Sir Hubble Pinkerton aside and plants his body over the food dish and ravenously begins vacuuming it up as if it was the last food on the planet; and he was starving to death. Following this rude intrusion, Sir Hubble then looks up at me with a condemning expression on his face. Of course this bring tears of guilt to my eyes, so to redeem myself I open another can of that particular food and set it down for Sir Hubble.

But somehow my attempt to atone for my sins of neglect falls on a deaf nose. Because what invariably happens next is that Sir Hubble become belligerent and covets Dr. Hush Puppy’s dinner. He then shoves Dr. Hush Puppy aside and polishes off the now- puzzled kitty’s dinner.

What makes this behavior even more exasperating and mysterious to me is that since Sir Hubble purloined Dr. Hush Puppy’s dinner, Sir Hubble’s plate is still filled with the same food. But Dr. Hush Puppy only sniffs at it, turns up his nose and without even touching it at all, walks away in contempt.

I would love to know what Cat-Daddy Jackson Galaxy would have to say about this strange interaction and explain its meaning to me. Why can’t they just eat together peacefully like they always did? Is the grass always greener on the other side of the fence? Perhaps someone reading this may have some rational reasons for what seems to me as very odd behavior. What is your diagnosis of this ever- repeating frustrating situation?


Photo credit: Jo Singer

17 thoughts on “Felines Are Mysterious: Can we Really Unlock Their Secrets?”

  1. Jo, that is so amusing, even though frustrating 😉 Dr. Hush Puppy must have been craving your attention and love, knowing he’d get more food and could even be selective about it; then Sir Hubble Pinkerton [Glad he’s back with you!] smells the really good food, and Dr. HP’s primal instincts kick in and he MUST–oh must!–guard his newly acquired raw meat from Sir HP, which of course takes precedence over having wanted just the extra attention from you. Am I getting this? What an amusing scenario. LOL!

  2. I would have to agree with Dee’s comment. /However, it doesn’t only apply to cats, but my dogs do the same thing and so do horses. Horses are natural born bullies and they think someone else’s foods is better than theirs, or, they want their food too. So this behavior of cats does not surprise me at all.

    • Vicki,

      Boy do horses ever get pushy when it comes to the food they want- I have seen them practically run over their pasture-mates to get that teeny piece of apple. At least cats are more easy to handle- since of course they are so much smaller:)

      • Jo, I have written a couple of pages about cats and horses. Do you have any experiences of interactions between cats and horses? They get along well despite the enormous size difference.

        • LOL Michael,

          Most of the time I see horses and cats as buddies. Cats like to sleep with horses in their stalls, and of course do a herculean job of ridding grain bins of mice!

          But I had a horse-once- who was terrified of cats. I have no idea why she was so scared of them- but if a cat happened to cross our path when I was on board, this generally quiet mare- that you could put a kid on with no worries, would turn into a bucking bronco.. And I mean really big bucks almost doubling herself under me- trying to hang on to her mane just to stay on.

          That’s another story for another time, of course.

          • I am sure there are some horse and cat stories out there. Love and hate. But I sense that there is the potential for a lot of love between cats and horses and I am not sure why.

  3. I love your article, Jo.
    I see similar behaviors and can’t figure much out.
    There are many uneventful feeding days inside here. Then, there are others that make me want to rip my hair out.
    On those days, some refuse the food they loved yesterday, some bully their way in to steal another’s food.
    I have been known to open can after can just trying to figure out how to make all happy, and it rarely works for me.
    What seems to happen is that they want whatever another has, regardless of whether they turned their noses up to it before.
    Are cats truly selfish with one another? Are they selfish at all?
    I’m making up commandments for them, but they won’t listen:
    Thou shalt not bully thy sisters and brothers
    Thou shalt not covet the food of others
    Thou shalt not guard the water dish so no one else can drink
    Thou shalt not slap your blind sister because she annoys you
    Many more, but they fall on deaf ears; but, they help me cope just having them in place.

    • I love your commands, Dee. But we must remember the most important command back from our kitties, “Guardian, thous must not issue us any commands”. LOL.

      I wish you luck on your success- and please do let us know if they are responding at all to your loving pleas!

      • LOL!
        True, they’re only for my benefit, grandiose and without merit.
        Alas and, as always, I know my place and that I am not in charge.

  4. Yea well my cats are all diffrent rebel seems to constantly be hugnry. Ozzie is the dominant one and gets not happy when the right food is not there i.e whiskas meat selections. When there is no food for him he jumps up on the bench and looks at me straight with a kind of glare look. the others are not too bothered what they get.

  5. Lilly does this kind of thing. She only wants someone else’s food but isn’t interested in hers. Sometimes she even demands food and then just leaves it.

    I have no idea why – I was thinking maybe Lilly is just a bit dominant.

    • There are probably all kinds of influences other than simple hunger. I know Charlie, when he is genuinely hungry, eats food that he would not give a second look at if he was indulging in food therapy – there is element of that for the domestic cat. Eating for pleasure. It is a guess but possible.

      General boredom – bored with a taste – hierarchy – food quality variations, are some factors that create a unclear reason why cat’s might reject food that they previously liked. This is what I think but I don’t know for sure.

      • Michael- When Sir Hubble Pinkerton is hungry- he is definitely a “foodie” and I can attest to the fact that he eats for pleasure. There is practically nothing that this cat will not eat… good barometer to let me know that he may not be feeling well if he refuses just about any kind of food. Right now he is on a strict diet of boiled white meat chicken and A/D … and he is not at all happy that he can’t eat what his brother, Dr. Hush Puppy is enjoying.

  6. Thanks for this Jo. I agree that we have to accept that we do not understand some aspects of cat behavior. Experts like to give the impression that it can all be explained.

    I think the basics can be explained: a wild cat species living in a domestic setting. We can always refer to wild cat behavior for underlying motives and drives etc..

    There is certainly an interaction between your cats which affects their behavior. There may be a hierarchical influence. Is one or other of the cats slightly dominant? If so that would affect the behavior of both and in relation to feeding areas hierarchy plays a role.

    On a different subject, I find that a cat’s dislike of a normally liked food can be due to manufacturing variations. Some cans or pouches can contain a low quality batch that I believe smells wrong and cats as we know rely heavily on smell to select food. This may (on occasions) explain why food that is liked is sometimes rejected.


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