Cat FAQs: We’re Answering All Your Burning Questions About Cats

Cats have a reputation for being curious, but their peculiar behaviors sure have humans asking a lot of questions. Like, do cats actually hold grudges against their humans? Or why do they play in their litter box? Is hacking up a hairball as awful as it sounds? (That noise can wake a hibernating bear from slumber.) And what the heck is the point of whiskers, anyway? If you’ve thought it, wondered about it, or asked it, we’re answering it below.

Why Do They Say Cats Have Multiple Lives?

OK, so cats don’t actually have nine lives (but we’re sure you knew that). This saying comes from an old English proverb: “A cat has nine lives. For three he plays, for three he strays, and for the last three he stays.” Interestingly, the number of lives a cat is said to have varies from country to country. For example, in Spain, they say it's seven, and in Arabic nations, it's often six.

The saying likely came from the inherent curiosity in felines, and therefore all the “trouble” they tend to get themselves in. Also, cats are built very well, making them more impervious to dangerous scenarios compares to other creatures. Evolutionarily, they're adapted to live in trees so they can survive long falls. They're also extraordinarily flexible and have lightning-fast reflexes.

How Come My Cat’s Obsessed with Drinking Water from a Faucet?

If you’ve ever owned a cat, you’ve probably noticed your furball has an affinity for hanging out around faucets. In fact, they often prefer it to that bowl of water you dutifully keep filled.

In their (very smart) cat brains, moving water is a healthier, safer option compared to stagnant water. Out there in the wild, still water is more likely to harbor bacteria and germs so that running faucet is a real beacon. You can solve this issue at home with cat fountains, like this Catit Flower Plastic Cat Fountain ($34.99 at Chewy).

Does Catnip Really Get My Cats High?

Catnip contains an oily substance called nepetalactone, which does an excellent job of stimulating Fluffy's pheromone-sensing receptors. This actually does cause them to feel a sense of feel-good euphoria. It’s not quite the same as “getting high,” but it really does make them feel great! You’ll notice that catnip makes them roll around, flip, flop, rub, play, zoom, purr, or chill out. Each cat reacts a little differently. Interestingly, lemongrass has a catnip-like effect on cats, too!

Why Does My Cat Play in the Litter Box?

Ew, fluffy! The thought of cats playing in the place where they do their #1 and #2 business makes us humans want to scrunch our noses and give major side-eye. Rightfully so! However, this is a pretty common cat behavior, and even more common for kittens.

There are a few reasons why they do this. First off, it’s a way of claiming their territory, especially if you’ve recently moved or cleaned the box. Second, it feels like a “safe spot” for them. Think of how vulnerable they have to be when using the litter box in the first place! You may notice your cat hangs out there when there are visitors over or loud noises outside or in the house. Another reason cats play in the litter box is because they’re “dust bathing.” This is the process of coating themselves in dirt and dust to create an extra protective layer over their coats.

(Note that if your cat is spending more time in the litter box using it to pee or poop, this could be a sign of a medical issue. Consult your veterinarian.) 

Is My Cat Capable of Holding a Grudge?

It might seem your cat is holding a grudge, but we’re happy to inform you they’re not still mad at you for that thing you did last week. Cats don’t have the same spectrum of emotions as humans do (and grudge-holding requires highly complex emotional processing).

If you feel like your cat’s angry at you or punishing you, they’re probably just acting in a certain way to get a certain behavior from you. (Who’s the trained one here?). For example, a cat that goes outside of its litter box may be doing so because they know you’ll clean the box up immediately after they do so. And if they swat at you or hiss, it’s probably because they’re feeling territorial, scared, or annoyed in that moment only versus punishing you for a prior grievance.

What’s the Point of Cat Whiskers?

Whiskers do more than make your cat look cute! They play a key role in your cat’s ability to swiftly navigate the world around them. The follicle of the whisker (the base) is full of nerves and the tip of the whisker has a sensory organ in it. Both make your cat highly tuned into their environment. Fun fact: cats also have “whiskers” on their forelegs, eyes, ears, and jaw. 

Are Hairballs Dangerous?

As awful as they sound, hairballs are considered a normal part of being a cat. It’s even more common in medium and long-haired cats or cats that are fastidious self-groomers. That said, hacking up a hairball definitely isn’t your cat’s favorite part of the week, and in rare cases, it can lead to some digestive issues.

You can reduce your cat’s instances of hairballs by regularly brushing them. Whatever ends up in the brush won’t end up in their body! Another helpful tip is to feed them hairball formula foods, which essentially bolster your cat’s fur health to minimize shedding. Also, try to curb excessive cleaning if you can. Also consider hairball gels, such as Vetoquinol Laxatone Lubricant for Hairballs Maple Flavor Cat Oral Gel ($11.08, Chewy).

If you have more cat questions, download the Purrch app and bring your Q to a community pet owners!

Purrch is powered by a team of ultra-passionate pet peeps, adoption advocates, and fellow pet nerds who believe that animals big and smol make us—and the world—better. We can’t wait to see your heckin’ cute pets, watch your Tails, and build friendships along the way. You can download the Purrch app here