Metamorphosis - Why do cats behave the way they do?

Hi everyone!

My inquiry question for this cycle is “Why do cats behave the way they do?”. It’s been really fun so far learning about cat behaviour, and I plan to continue with this inquiry question for the next cycle of research.

How my inquiry now impacts my thinking

From this research, I’ve learned that cats may give signals that can possibly have two completely different meanings. For example, a cat with extremely dilated pupils may either be defensively aggressive, or they may be simply playful. Another example is when a cat is lying on its back with its belly exposed. This often means that they are relaxed and trust you, but it could also mean they feel cornered and unable to escape, so they are getting in this position to defend itself. That is why I realize now that it’s important to look at the whole picture sometimes, rather than only looking at one signal that could mean multiple things. For finding out if a cat with extremely dilated pupils is being aggressive or playful, I would ask myself: are they growling or hissing? Is its fur on end and their tail puffy? Did I do anything to aggravate it? If yes, then I would assume that the cat is being aggressive, and I would give it some space. Otherwise, I would assume that they are simply being playful, and I would get a toy to play with the cat (because using your hands to play with a cat isn’t a good idea, even when they’re only play-biting).

How this investigation will impact the decisions I make

Now that I have a better understanding of cat behaviour and what they are trying to tell us when they do certain things, I can use this knowledge to decide how I myself may behave towards and treat my cat, or other cats, in certain situations. For example, if a cat is communicating to me that it is angry or frightened, I will give it some space. In addition, this research has made me think more about how cats, although domesticated, are still little wild creatures, as they are fully capable of living on their own without the help of humans. Therefore, I think it’s important that I and other cat owners give their cats enough stimulation by giving them toys to hunt and play with, high places to climb, and places to hide in that make them feel safe. Another thing that I like to do to give my cat more stimulation is taking her out for walks on a leash. That way, she can have fun exploring the outdoors, but she won’t be able to get hurt, run away, or catch any birds since cats have had a large impact on the diminishing bird population.

The broader impacts this knowledge may have on others locally and/or globally

With this information, cat owners around the world can now understand why cats behave the way they do, and what they are trying to communicate to us. Even people who aren’t cat owners can benefit from this information because if they meet someone else’s cat, they can understand why the cat is behaving in a certain way and what they might be trying to say to us. As I mentioned above, people can use this information to decide how to behave towards a cat based on the cat’s behaviour. Moreover, people should make sure that they aren’t just leaving their cat home alone all day without anything at all to stimulate them and keep them occupied. While it’s true that cats sleep a lot, I learned that cats and other animals are still capable of getting bored, anxious and depressed just like humans.

Overcoming challenges

One challenge I had was that many of the websites that popped up on google did not always seem that reliable, and it was difficult to find any good articles about cat behaviour. Even on ebsco, there seemed to be practically nothing on cat behaviour. To overcome this challenge, I made sure that any information I wanted to use was backed up by more than one source. Otherwise, I would question its reliability. However, I had yet another challenge, and it was specific to just one piece of information I was trying to find: I wanted to know how many scent receptors cats have, but every single website I found either said they had 60 million, or 200 million. Funnily enough, one source contradicted itself. I was using a CBC Nature of Things documentary for a lot of my research, and their video said that they had 60 million, but their website said 200 million. I’m not sure where all of this confusion came from – why does half of the internet say 60 million, and the other half say 200 million? In the end, I just ended up stating that cats have at least 60 million scent receptors.

That's all for now! For my next round of research, I plan to focus on personalities in cats. I will look at the stereotypes for personality types in different breeds of cats, and try to find out why different breeds supposedly have set personalities and whether or not it's true. I will also look at potential personality differences in sexes, and potential differences between spayed/neutered cats compared to those that are not. Moreover, I will talk about individual experiences a cat may have faced and why these experiences might cause certain behaviours/personalities in a cat. 

Thanks for reading!

Original Post

Hi Jessica!

The appreciation of learning is great,i like the fact that you have learned to tell the difference in cats behavior.i have learned much too from your post and all that relates to dogs too. i dint know this before but now i know "cats and other animals are still capable of getting bored, anxious and depressed just like humans", and that affects the way i will be treating animals around me.looking forward to your next post.

happy holidays


Hey Jessica,

This is such an adorable topic! I am very excited to see the research you find about the designated personalities for the different breeds of cat. I've always been interested in how each dog breed is associated with a certain group of traits and what makes every dog breed the way that they are. To see the reasons behind why different cat breeds have different traits would be incredibly cool! Good luck with your research!

Erica Won.


I honestly love the fact that you are truly interested in finding out more about the cats. While I was in Canada, I got to visit China town and one of the most interesting places a got to visit was the cat cafe. I had previously never heard of such a thing that people would pay some cash to pet cats which were apparently looking not concerned with their business. I wonder how the cats were chosen and considered polite, calm and unlikely to attack someone so that they could be adopted to the cat cafe. Back in Kenya, establishing a cat cafe is unheard of, that would be probably one of the hardest things to be done by many people. People tend to take less concerns to the domestic animals which offer little ( not as much as they expect) help unlike in Canada where I think cats are mostly kept primarily as pets. Some cats are orphans as well, maybe because their owner did not find their importance in their house. Do you know that there exists many cats living in the town centers living a haphazard life,simply  because they ate meat...eggs...chicken...or did other petty mistakes in their owners house? Your research greatly touches on how cats should be treated..the global society should hopefully learn from you.

All the best in your next cycle of research.

I didn't even know that cats lying on their backs have multiple meanings. I have two cats in my parent's home and we don't get along that well. Since I read your explanation, I started thinking that perhaps they felt unable to escape when I tried to stroke their backs, so I'll check this out in the future. Speaking of pets, I also have two dogs, so I wonder, do you think the same is true for dogs?

Good luck with your next research and enjoy your holidays!

Add Reply