Any animal lover knows cats are complicated — hence the reassuring popularity of Grumpy Cat, the feline celebrity whose charmingly choleric mug unlocks a universe of emotional mysteries to all those who gaze upon it. But for pet owners who have stared into their own cat's placid, unblinking eyes and seen only the void, here's a simple guide to interpreting seven of the most common and easily misunderstood feline behaviors.
1. Oh no! There's a dead mouse on your pillow!
It's no fun to find the half-eaten corpse of a rodent carefully laid out on your bed just as you're settling in for a blissful night's sleep, but the good news is that your cat's not just messing with you. It just wants you to know it loves you!
2. Actually, instead of killing that mouse, your cat insists on cruelly toying with its prey.
Uh oh... your cat's in the corner, pawing indolently at a squealing, quavering critter but refuses to just go ahead and put the poor thing out of its misery already. Wake up, pet owner! It's not the mouse that your savage-but-adorable furball is taunting — it's you. By refusing to kill its prey and hand it over, your cat is wordlessly communicating that it thinks you're chump who doesn't deserve the thoughtful gift of a dead animal. It may be time for you and Miss Whiskers to start working on your relationship.
3. Your cat tries to trip you on your way to the shower.
When your cat does its best to send you flying on your face as you're hauling your bleary-eyed, late-to-work self to the bathroom in the morning, it's almost surely because you have been a bad, neglectful, selfish owner and haven't been giving it the attention it wants. Forget showering and call in sick, because you won't be going to the office at all today. Instead, you'll be staying home to give your loyal, loving pet pal the attention it needs.
Ignore it at your own peril! If you choose gainful employment over tum-tum rubs, your cat will spend the rest of the day strategically vomiting all over your stuff to show you who's boss.
4. It's been staring at the wall for the last hour.
Maybe there's a mouse back there.
Or maybe cats can alter their brain vibrations to project their consciousness into other fields of existence, and your cat is now sailing across the astral plan.
It's probably the first one, but it really seems like it could go either way, right?
5. Forget that wall, now it's glaring at you with a look of pure hatred.
Many people think that the Evil Relentless Stare indicates their cat is plotting to murder them. Paranoid much? In fact, it's merely inducing a hypnogogic trance so it can control your mind.
Yes, feline hypnosis can be unsettling but if you were reasonable enough to just do your cat's bidding in the fashion it expects, it wouldn't need to control your mind. (Reminder: it likes the expensive, unhealthy wet food better.)
6. You just woke up and... something's not right.
While you were sleeping, your cat decided your face made a very appealing scratching post. Now you've got permanent scars and your eyeballs are missing (or at least, it feels that way).
Try not to panic. Actually, it's kind of cute! Your furry companion is just trying to remind you that it gets hungry and wants to be fed! To avoid similar mishaps in the future, set your alarm for 3:30 in the morning so you can wake up and make sure its snack bowl is sufficiently topped off. (No respectable cat will deign to eat from a dish that's only half-full.)
7. It looks grumpy.
In the strange mind of a cat, grumpiness is next to godliness. Which means that when you observe your cat scowling, furrowing its brow and going all scrunch-face, you're actually witnessing it in a moment of ultimate, perfect cattiness.
Oh, who cares what it means? It's cute! Maybe now would be a good time to toss around the Fur-Toy so that it can amuse itself by staring at you and the toy with an expression of withering disdain. Or, better yet, now that you truly understand the fickle, saturnine, and ultimately lovable mind of your kitty, why don't you two cuddle up on the couch, pour some eggnog, and spend some quality bonding time watching Grumpy Cat's Worst Christmas Ever, premiering on Lifetime on November 29 at 8/7c. That scary hissing sound means it likes it!
Bennett Madison is the author of several novels for young people, including September Girls (HarperCollins 2013) and The Blonde of the Joke. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.