They shred your curtains, hide inside grocery bags, watch you from the highest bookshelves and pounce on tiny little toys like they’re stalking prey in the jungle.
What’s up with cats?
A new TED-Ed video based on the scientific expertise of Ohio State University veterinarian and cat guru Tony Buffington answers that question. The video has been watched more than 1 million times in the last few days.
“They’re cute, they’re lovable, and judging by the 26 billion views on over 2 million YouTube videos of them, one thing is certain: cats are very entertaining,” says the narrator.
“But their strange feline behaviors, both amusing and baffling, leave many of us asking: Why do cats do that?”
The answer begins with evolution. Cats evolved to be both solitary predators and prey of larger carnivores, so their behavior reflects those stalker/stalked instincts.
“Cats today retain many of the same instincts that allowed them to thrive in the wild for millions of years,” the video explains. “This explains some of their seemingly strange behaviors: To them, our homes are their jungles.”
So. when they seek out the highest spot in the house it’s because in a past life - they have nine, you know - they “climbed to high vantage points to survey their territory and spot prey in the wild.
“Grizmo doesn't need these particular skills to find and hunt down dinner in her food bowl today, but, instinctually, viewing the living room from the top of the bookcase is exactly what she's evolved to do.”
And here’s why your cat tries to shove its head into cereal boxes, tissue boxes and that tiny hole in the sofa cushion: It’s in her DNA.
In their natural environments, small prey hide out in tiny spaces. “So one explanation for Grizmo's propensity to reach into containers and openings is that she's compelled by the same curiosity that helped ensure the continuation of her species for millions of years before,” the video explains.
And about all that destructive scratching ...
“In the wild, cats needed sharp claws for climbing, hunting, and self-defense. Sharpening their claws on nearby surfaces kept them conditioned and ready, helped stretch their back and leg muscles, and relieved some stress, too.
“So it's not that Grizmo hates your couch, chair, ottoman, pillows, curtains, and everything else you put in her environment. She's ripping these things to shreds and keeping her claws in tip-top shape because this is exactly what her ancestors did in order to survive.”
Knowing the science behind all this curious cat behavior doesn’t make them any less odd, notes Science Alert, “but it does shed some light on how conflicted our complicated little weirdos are.”