Does Your Cat Play Tricks on You?
Part of what makes a cat a cat is the quirky, funny, even absurd things they do that make us laugh or gasp. Cats have the ideal makeup for playing tricks on people – or other pets. Cats are smart, cunning, playful, agile, patient, and if they're indoor cats, they have plenty of time on their paws. Given that they're are hard-wired to stalk and hunt, you (or other pets) get to be surrogate prey, or unwitting stooge for their funny cat tricks.
Most cat play that becomes kitty pranks are simply misdirected hunting behavior fueled by boredom. Cats love to ambush; that's just normal cat behavior. But many cats stretch beyond stalking and pouncing and devise clever schemes such as hiding your keys, mimicking your child's voice, or coaxing the dog into a precarious situation.
British cat behavior expert and author Sarah Hartwell says, "Mostly cats will play tricks as a way of getting attention or to redirect hunting behaviour. The reward is the attention, even if it is sometimes negative attention!"
One cat owner is occasionally awakened in the night by her clock radio turning on. Living alone, it could only be the cats. It's likely it happened the first time by accident, the cat unwittingly stepped on the button. The "cat prank" was repeated because her owner awoke, investigated, and perhaps spoke to her cat. To the playful cat, hitting that button is a funny trick. It turns a boring situation (sleeping human) into an amusing one (baffled human).
Some Cats Plan Their Pranks
Not all cats act alone. Sometimes cats play tricks as a team. One trio of funny cats we know loves to play "Made You Look!" They will all sit staring in the same direction until their owner eventually goes to see what is so interesting. She looks in the direction of her cats' gaze, then when she follows their "line of sight" back to her cats, they're gone. Tee hee!
When your cat plays tricks on you, it may not be a spur of the moment thing, such as your cat pouncing on your head as you happen to walk by your refrigerator. Sarah Hartwell says cats may plan a prank a few hours in advance. They have a good sense of time and know your routine, making it all the easier for your cat to be sitting in the bathtub, peering ominously over the side, at the precise time when you are about to bathe.
If you don't like your cat's trick, ignore it, and make it no fun for kitty. Then again, some cat pranks are not funny or playful, and are impossible to ignore.
"One of my cats has twice peed on my head while I was asleep," Sarah says, "I'm not sure if this is a prank, but it certainly got my attention."
Some cats tricks are mysterious and unexplainable
Usually when cats play tricks, it's funny in the amusing sense of the word. Here is one woman's story of her cat playing tricks, which was funny – in the strange sense of the word. Unexplainable.
When we first moved into our apartment, we had nothing in the cabinets but air. I had left one cabinet open and noticed my cat go in. After a long time I realized she never came out. I wanted to shut the door so I looked inside first and saw nothing. She's a black cat, so I felt all around inside just in case I was wasn't seeing her. Nothing. So I shut the door. Hours later, I heard a cat crying. Neither my husband nor I had opened the cabinet since I shut it earlier. I opened it and there was Lily. Out of thin air. We decided she was magic.
The next time our cat amazed us was when we had to get both our kitties into their carrier. We were both in front of it where the only door is. We put Lily in first and shut the door. Then we put Loki in and shut the door. When I checked on them, I saw only one cat. Lily was gone. We found her later under the bed.
If your cat plays tricks on you, it's all normal cat behavior. Your cat is just having fun in an effort to get your attention. If it amuses you, react well for a repeat performance!