Is It Normal for Kittens to Act Hyper?

Few living creatures exhibit joy and energy better than kittens do. They can go from energetic to full throttle at a certain life stage.

Tracie Hotchner, author of the book The Cat Bible: Everything Your Cat Expects You to Know, explains that between 4 and 16 weeks of age, kittens start to demonstrate the first of two types of play: social play. This is when kittens will chase and stalk their siblings, often biting and pouncing on them -- but nothing too serious. As Hotchner humorously writes, kittens during this period will often propel themselves “in a whirling dervish, only to collapse five minutes later and fall fast asleep.”

The other type of play that occurs at around this age: object play. Like the name suggests, object play is when your kitten bites, chases, catches, carries and bats almost anything it can grab with its mouth or little claws. This type of play promotes exercise and allows your cat to learn hunting behaviors. Social play, on the other hand, teaches your kitten how to get along with others while still retaining important survival skills.

After the 16-week period, your pet will still be energetic and playful, but it should gradually start to simmer down a bit. Some adult cats are kittens at heart, though, and will continue their high-energy ways. Hotchner advises that you praise your pet for good behavior and “clap your hands to startle her for doing something you don’t like.” Other than that, Hotchner says it’s best to “ignore the bad and reward the good.”

Cat Sleep Routines

Many cats follow the same routine before sleeping, and yet several aspects of this ritual remain somewhat mysterious to us. This much we do know: Cats sleep an average of 16 hours a day, according to a Nebraska Humane Society fact sheet. Most healthy cats therefore sleep two-thirds of their life away, with the time affected by your cat’s age, its hunger, its sense of security, and even the weather.

The sleep-centered lifestyle revolves around your cat’s ancestral ways. Hunting excursions would interrupt long naps. These were often unsuccessful, requiring conservation of energy. Or if successful, they would promote rest for digestion, similar to how you might feel tired after consuming a filling, meaty meal.

The sleeping ritual often begins with the cat slowly marching around in a tight circle, often kneading as it moves. Kneading is frequently a precursor to sleep, says Kristen Hampshire, co-author of the Cat Lover’s Daily Companion: 365 Days of Insight and Guidance for Living a Joyful Life With Your Cat. She explains that it’s a sign of happiness and security going back to kittenhood, when kittens knead while nursing to communicate, in part, that they are present and OK.

As for why cats move in a circle before going to sleep? Veterinarians at Meisel’s Animal Hospital in New Jersey posted on Facebook that “dogs and cats turn in circles before lying down because in the wild this instinctive action turns long grass into a bed.”

I also have to wonder that cats are thoroughly marking the spot with their scent to perhaps remember it in the future or to appease their senses while they sleep. If someone else invades the spot, the cat would then perhaps be more alerted to the stranger’s scent.

The truth, however, is that no one has fully figured out this mystery. Hopefully future studies on cats will reveal more about their behavior, helping us to better understand our pets.

Do Cats Hate Water?

Most cats loathe being in water. Some even go to great pains to drink water at a careful bodily distance away from the bowl, allowing only the tongue access. It’s understandable why water and most cats don’t mix well. Cats are extremely sensitive, taking tremendous care when grooming themselves so that each piece of fur is in place. Water may ruin all of that and cause cats to feel cold, weighed down, out of control and absolutely miserable.

However, there are notable exceptions -- the Turkish Van being the most famous. Nicknamed “the swimming cat,” this feline is thought to have a genetic predisposition for being in and around water so long as proper, safe early exposure is provided.

In their book, Legacy of the Cat: The Ultimate Illustrated Guide, Gloria Stephens and Tetsu Yamazaki explain that the Turkish Van first developed in the Lake Van region of Southeastern Turkey. Cats and fishermen there must have learned to love each other; felines swam out for meals, and fishermen benefitted from the cats’ onboard rodent-hunting ways and good companionship. Over time, the breed even evolved (or perhaps was bred to have) a waterproof coat and fur that could grow to withstand various temperature extremes.

With very early, controlled and relatively stress-free exposure to water, individuals from other breeds might learn to like being in water too. Both nature and nurture, therefore, help explain why some cats enjoy being around water, but others don’t.

Do Cats Cry Tears When They Are Sad?

Countless animals, including cats, shed tears. The question, as you point out, is whether or not these tears are emotional. Even for humans, the reasons behind crying are still somewhat of a mystery. Why did we evolve this ability? It could be because we sometimes cry when we are in pain, so the tears function as a visual signal that others may respond to. Unless the individual is a great actor, tears are also usually honest, meaning we cannot fake them as easily as cracking a pseudo smile or feigning surprise.

According to Margaret H. Bonham and Caroline Coile, authors of the book Why Do Cats Bury Their Poop: More Than 200 Feline Facts, Fallacies and Foibles Revealed, cats don’t tear up in response to emotions. Instead, cats may shed tears in response to eye irritations, allergies and clogged tear ducts, and for other eye-maintenance reasons. There is no evidence demonstrating that cats cry emotional tears of joy, sadness, pain, grief and more.

However, there are many anecdotal reports of cats crying tears in response to some traumatic happening. The emotional lives of cats are rich -- certainly more so than was suspected decades ago -- but I’m not sure cats would benefit from releasing feeling-based tears in the way that we do.

Cats’ Companions

Google’s “define” feature describes a friend as being “a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations.” The word “person” obviously rules out cats, but I think the rest of the definition holds true, save for the fact that, like other close buddies, they are often considered as being family members.

Connections with cats can be just as rewarding as those with humans, although the experience is different. With people pals, we rely so much upon either written or spoken language. Steven Hales, author of the book What Philosophy Can Tell You About Your Cat, points out that cats may have better access to our emotional ups and downs than do many of our human companions. Why? Their heightened sensitivity to touch, noises and visual signals allows them to understand your feelings even before you open your mouth to express them in some way. “Our cat companions, then, may be able to penetrate to the heart of our emotional lives in ways that our human companions cannot,” says Hales.

Therefore, I think that cats have friends -- including human ones -- but that these friendships are not precisely on par with those shared between people. In terms of what cats think, we cannot be certain, but cats have an incredible memory for good things, like warm laps and tasty food. However, a recent study in the journal Behavioural Processes determined that cats are drawn to people for reasons other than just food. The cat version of friendship is surely one of them.