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If you share your life with a feline family member, you're no stranger to weird cat behavior. There are everyday actions (like kneading) that you're probably familiar with, but what about the not-so-common cat behavior?
1. Jumpy around Cucumbers
Videos of cats jumping at the sight of a cucumber made the rounds a while back. Experts surmise that cats probably are so frightened by cucumbers and similarly shaped items because they perceive the objects as snake-like predators. Their survival instincts kick in, so it's particularly stressful if that predator invades her personal space, like where her food dish is located.
But as National Geographic emphasizes, "Trying to startle your cat on purpose could cause them to injure themselves, break something, or lead to prolonged stress. Instead, it's best to introduce any novel items gradually." Signs that your kitty is stressed include hiding, aggression, rapid heart rate, and excessive grooming.
If you do want to play a game of "surprise" with your furry friend, don't induce stress. Instead, arrange a safe meet-and-greet with your kitty and the cucumber. Once comfortable with the veggie, she can show off her impressive farming/hunting skills.
2. Sitting in a Tape Square
It's no secret that cats love to sit in boxes. Hiding in small spaces is par-for-the-course weird cat behavior. But what about "non-box" spaces? This is seen in another cat viral video sensation: clips of cats sitting in a square space that's mapped out on the floor with tape has become so successful that they've earned the hashtag #CatSquare.
Cats, like many animals, have a nesting instinct. Pet parents see this when their kitty burrows under the bed covers. A small, hidden space also offers safety from dangerous predators. A simple box provides the same comfort to them, and this instinct is so strong that even a delineated "non-box" box provides comfort.
"The box may have no walls at all but simply be a representation of a box—say a taped-in square on the ground," explains cat expert Nicholas Dodman in "The Conversation" on PBS NewsHour. "This virtual box is not as good as the real thing but is at least a representation of what might be—if only there was a real square box to nestle in." So, what you might see as a weird cat behavior, is just her way of feeling protected. You're just the person to help her feel protected and give your fur baby that real box! A sturdy cardboard one is the best and least expensive item to include in your trove of cat gear.
3. Pushing Things off of Flat Surfaces
Let's be real: cats love to knock stuff over. You've seen this in your own home, and you've seen the videos all over the internet.
While it's definitely a weird cat behavior, it can also be an aggravating cat behavior. So, does your cat do this because she hates you? No, but she's probably trying to get your attention. When she pushes off your coffee cup, your rapid response — typically punctuated with a loud shriek and flailing arms — is awesome for your cat because she sees this as a playtime. Cats are very intelligent creatures; she knows the next time that if she wants you to stop working and start petting, knocking over your things is a sure-fire win.
Scientists don't know exactly why cats display this strange behavior, but don't count out the possibility that your kitty is simply entertaining herself. Cats enjoy playing just to play (and not necessarily to ruin your day), and they retain their strong hunting instinct, which you see when she's stalking toys.
As certified animal behaviorist Amy Shojai tells PetMD, she also may be checking out her surroundings: "Cats use their paws to test and explore objects, and the movement, sound, and touch or feel of the object helps them understand what might be safe or not." In this case, your furry friend wants to be sure your mobile phone isn't an interloper that needs to be taken down.
Whatever your cat's favorite quirk, it's common for cats to display seemingly abnormal behavior. If she shows signs of illness or injury, contact your veterinarian right away, but if she's just being a goofball, enjoy her antics and feel free to join in!
Christine O'Brien is a writer, mom, and long-time cat parent whose two Russian Blues rule the house. Her work also appears in Care.com, What to Expect, and Fit Pregnancy, where she writes about pets, pregnancy, and family life. Find and follow her on Instagram and Twitter @brovelliobrien.