21 Strange Cat And Dog Behaviors That Have Fascinating Scientific Explanations

Has your dog or cat ever done anything totally bizarre, but in a really cute way? Maybe they tilt their heads just so when you talk to them, or they follow you into the bathroom when you’re taking care of private matters. You’re left wondering, “Why do they do that?”

Well, scientists have broken down different odd behaviors that nearly all our fluffy friends exhibit, and as it turns out, there is a rhyme and reason for their quirks. With their findings, you’ll never have to wonder what in the world your “odd” pooch is doing…

1. Although adorable, cats are natural predators, so they like to hide in places where they can observe others. Boxes help them do that, which is why they prefer cardboard to the very expensive bed you bought them.


2. If a dog approaches you and just starts licking your face, it’s not because you have food on your cheek; they’re trying to show you that they come in peace. You can try and reciprocate it, but that might be odd.


3. Has your cat ever made a strange, open-mouth face? It’s not because she’s shocked. Felines do something called flehmen, where they draw in air over their vomeronasal, an organ in their mouths. This lets them pick up different scents that their noses can’t.

Pet Meds

4. When human’s yawn, it’s a physical response to being tired or bored. Dogs will yawn when they’re tired, yes, but they’ll also do so to express passive behavior in a group. If a dog feels comfortable, yawning is their way to say they aren’t aggressive and everything is cool.


5. A cat tongue has little spines on it to help them groom themselves and their family. It has a sandpaper feel, so it’s not always the best feeling in the world when they lick you. Be honored though, they’re grooming you because they think you’re family!

Blue Sky Science

6. The most heartwarming thing on the planet is when a dog looks at you with a tilted head and floppy ears. Scientists hypothesized they’re just trying to understand what you want from them. They might tilt their head to get a better look at your facial expression, or to adjust their ears to hear you better. 


7. No one really knows why cats go completely bananas for catnip. But when catnip is ingested or smelled, it produces the chemical compound nepetalactone. When the molecule binds to the cat’s internal receptors, there is a physical response in the form of extreme vocals or squirmy bodies.

Andrew Marttila

8. It’s a dangerous game giving a dog a bath — you’re always in the splash zone! The obvious reason why dogs shake is to dry off, but this action goes back to their natural roots. If fur is wet, it doesn’t keep them warm, and they run the risk of losing body heat, which directly correlates to survival.

9. Have you ever caught your cat scratching at your walls, your furniture, or basically anything they can get their claws on? Cat paws have scent glands on them, so they scratch things to leave their scent behind. Essentially, they’re marking their territory and warning others to stay away.

For Birds Only

10. If a dog picks up an interesting scent, they’ll roll around in it so that it attaches itself to them. It’s believed that this is a leftover trait from their wolf ancestors, who would bring a scent back to their pack. Basically, you’re family and your dog just wants to share what they found with you. 

K9 Turf

11. Another reason why dogs will rub their bodies on grass or carpets is to remove a scent they don’t like. For example, if you bathe them with a shampoo that has a strong smell, they might try to remove it by rubbing their body on something else. They might also be trying to tell you their skin is irritated.

Pet MD

12. Cats who spend part of the time outside will eat grass even though it makes them throw up. They do this on purpose, though. It helps them remove any unwanted material from their digestive tracts, like bones or hairballs. 


13. Household dogs tend to follow their owners everywhere, including the bathroom. While humans understand that at certain times you need privacy, dogs see it differently: they like to be with their pack (you). You protect them, and they protect you.

Inside Dogs World

14. When a dog’s tail wags it means they’re happy…well, not always. If their tail is low and wagging, it means they’re uncertain of the situation they’re in. If their tail wags mostly left, that means do not approach; a right-biased wag means please approach.


15. Cats only meow to humans and not other cats. While kittens will meow to their mothers, adult cats will only hiss, growl, or scent mark each other. If your cat is meowing at you, they’re either trying to tell you that they’re hungry, want some lovin’, or just want you to acknowledge them.


16. A majority of cats will show you their belly and then attack you when you try to rub it. They don’t actually like their belly’s rubbed, but they are showing you they trust you. So when you reach for it, you’re breaking their trust. Try petting their head instead.

17. A lot of dogs will circle before they lay down to take a nap. This is because, in the wild, circling helps pat down grass and expel any insects in an area they’d want to sleep in. It’s just another leftover evolutionary trait dogs have — they’re just trying to get comfortable!

Pet Life Today

18. Cats tend to sleep a lot during the day not because they’re lazy, but because it’s a way that wild cats conserve energy for hunts. They power down in a light sleep mode so that they can easily wake up if they need to.

Jane Friedman

19. A dog on their back can oftentimes indicate submissive behavior, but when they’re playing it’s all about strategy. Sometimes they roll over to avoid a bite, and sometimes they roll over to give a bite. If a big dog is playing with a small dog, they’ll get on their back to give the smaller dog a fair chance.

Classical Mechanics

20. A dog’s sense of smell is 10,000 to 100,000 times better than humans’, and they use their noses to interpret information. When dogs meet an unfamiliar dog, they tend to use their noses to sniff around the dog’s bum. This is because glands in that area secrete scents that determine reproductive status, health, emotional state, etc. 


21. Chewing relieves a lot of stress, so if your dog is chewing through your personal belongings like crazy, it’s probably because they’re experiencing separation anxiety and trying to cope with it.

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