The Truth About Cats and Their Annoying Behavior


Cats are known for engaging in a variety of behaviors that seem intentionally designed to annoy their owners. However, most of these behaviors are simply instinctive cat ways of seeking attention and stimulating their natural curiosity. While cat owners may find certain behaviors irritating, it’s important to understand the underlying motivations and find constructive ways to manage annoying cat habits.

This article examines some of the most common annoying cat behaviors, the reasons behind them, and tips for addressing them properly so that cats and owners can happily co-exist.

Cat Behavior

Cats have natural hunting instincts that involve behaviors like pouncing, biting, and scratching. These are innate behaviors passed down from their wild ancestors and allow cats to hone their physical skills. Pouncing helps cats develop coordination and timing when jumping on prey. Biting and scratching help cats grasp onto prey and deliver killing bites. While convenient for hunting mice or birds, when directed at people these behaviors can be seen as annoying or aggressive.

Young kittens especially exhibit these behaviors frequently when playing. Kittens will pounce, wrestle, and bunny kick their littermates. This play mimics adult hunting behaviors and allows kittens to practice skills for survival. Adult cats continue to engage in mock hunting and play as well. It serves as both exercise and entertainment. These natural behaviors are normal, even if humans get caught in the crossfire with bites and scratches. With proper outlets like toys, cats can satisfy their hunting urges in a harmless way. (

Why Cats Bite and Scratch

Cats often bite and scratch their owners due to natural instincts, boredom, or as a way of seeking attention. Scratching is an innate behavior in cats that allows them to remove the dead outer layer of their claws and mark their territory with scent glands in their paw pads [1]. When indoors, this instinctual scratching can be directed towards furniture and carpets. Biting and scratching people can also occur when a cat is overstimulated from petting and needs the interaction to stop. Cats typically provide warning signs like swishing their tail, twitching their skin, or rotating their ears back before biting or scratching a human.

Boredom is another reason cats may bite and scratch their owners. Cats need mental stimulation and play time to satisfy their prey drive instincts. Without adequate playtime and exercise, cats may bite or scratch to release pent-up energy. Providing appropriate scratching posts, toys, and daily playtime is important to prevent boredom in cats. Interactive play with wand toys that allow the cat to chase and pounce helps provide an outlet for their natural hunting behaviors [2].

Cats also sometimes bite or scratch to get attention from their owner. Gentle bites or scratches while being petted can signal a cat’s desire for more interaction and play. Cats who lack enrichment and quality time with owners are more likely to act out with biting and scratching to gain attention. Making sure to engage in regular play sessions can help prevent this attention-seeking behavior.

Meowing and Yowling

Cats meow excessively for a variety of reasons. Meowing is one of the main ways cats communicate with humans to express their needs and desires. According to WebMD, excessive meowing or yowling can be a sign your cat is hungry, thirsty, in pain, or has an underlying medical issue that needs treatment (source). Cats may meow persistently when they want food, attention, playtime, access to a closed room, or to be let outside. Meowing is also how cats demand things from their human owners.

In addition to demands, excessive meowing can indicate your cat is in distress. Cats that are anxious, stressed, or frustrated may vocalize more frequently. Changes in environment, adding new pets or family members, moving homes, or introducing unfamiliar people can all trigger anxious meowing. Senior cats with cognitive decline may meow excessively as well. According to, pain from arthritis, dental issues, wounds, or other conditions can lead to meowing (source). If your cat is meowing excessively, especially at night, take them to the vet to rule out medical causes.

Knocking Things Over

One of the most frustrating behaviors cats exhibit is knocking things off tables and counters. This can be chalked up to a few key reasons related to a cat’s natural instincts and personality: exploration, boredom, and attention seeking.

Cats are natural explorers and use their paws to investigate their surroundings. Knocking over objects allows them to explore how things move and react. Their sensitive paw pads give them feedback on shapes, textures, and more. Pushing items off edges satisfies their curiosity. According to the ASPCA, this investigative process starts in kittenhood.

Boredom can also lead cats to bat objects off surfaces. They may be understimulated and looking for activity. Knocking things over provides mental and physical stimulation. The sounds, motion, and reactions can be rewarding for a bored cat. Providing more enriching toys and playtime is key to curbing this behavior.

Finally, cats may knock things over simply to get their owner’s attention, even if negative. This inappropriate behavior can still give them the interaction they crave. It’s important not to inadvertently reinforce it with too much scolding or reaction. Instead, reward and engage with the cat when displaying preferred behaviors.

Undesired Scratching

Cats often scratch furniture and other household items as a way to sharpen their claws. Cats’ claws continuously grow and require maintenance to keep them sharp. Scratching on rough surfaces helps shed the old outer layers and keeps the claws in good condition (Purina, 2022). It’s a normal behavior that cats engage in to maintain healthy claws.

In addition to nail maintenance, cats also scratch to mark their territory. Scratching leaves both visual marks and scent marks from the paw pads. These marks signal to other cats that they are entering the territory of the scratching cat. Scratching objects and areas in the home is a way for cats to feel secure in their environment (Humane Society, 2022).

While scratching is natural for cats, it can damage furniture, carpets, and more when done on household items. Cat owners will often want to redirect the scratching to more appropriate surfaces like scratching posts. Providing plenty of vertical scratching posts, cat trees, and cardboard scratchers can satisfy a cat’s scratching urges on surfaces the owner approves of.

Waking Owners Up

Cats often wake up their owners during the night for a variety of reasons. One of the most common is boredom or lack of stimulation during the day. Cats are natural hunters and need activity and playtime. If they don’t get enough stimulation, they may act out at night by meowing, scratching, pouncing, and otherwise making a ruckus to get their owner’s attention (Source).

Another reason is hunger. Cats tend to eat many small meals throughout the day and night. If their food bowl is empty, they may wake up their owner demanding to be fed. Some cats also enjoy eating snacks or treats during the night and will wake up the owner for that purpose (Source).

Cats are creatures of habit and will often try to stick to a routine. If they are used to getting attention, playtime, or food from their owner at certain times, they will persistently wake them up expecting the same (Source).


Counter-surfing is a behavior many cat owners struggle with. Cats jump up on kitchen counters for a few main reasons – the smell of food, curiosity, and boredom. As natural hunters, cats are drawn to food smells and like to explore new spaces. When left alone for long periods, cats may also jump on counters simply out of boredom and to interact with their environment.

According to cat behavior consultant Ingrid Johnson, cats jump on counters because “it’s rewarding to them in some way” ( The smells of human food are appealing. Counters also allow cats to survey their territory from an elevated vantage point. Cats are naturally curious and will explore counters simply because the space is there.

To curb counter-surfing, it’s important to meet your cat’s needs for play, environmental enrichment, and quality time with their owner. Providing appropriate scratching posts, toys, window perches, and daily interactive playtime prevents boredom. Placing sticky tape, aluminum foil, or citrus peels on counters may also deter cats. Overall, understanding natural cat behaviors like curiosity, play, and food motivation helps owners address counter-surfing in a positive, effective way.


In summary, cats do not intentionally annoy or bother their owners out of spite. Much of cats’ attention-seeking behaviors stem from natural instincts, needs not being met, lack of stimulation, or even health issues. While some habits like meowing, scratching, knocking things over, etc. can be frustrating for owners, it’s important to understand the underlying cause and address it with patience, training, and meeting their needs. With time and effort, annoying behaviors can be minimized. The bond between cats and their humans can thrive when there is understanding and compassion on both sides.


[1] Mikel Delgado, “Food for Thought: Do Cats Really Annoy Us on Purpose?,” Cat Behavior Associates, August 15, 2017. Accessed March 2, 2023.

[2] Pam Johnson-Bennett, “7 Annoying Cat Behaviors and What They Mean,” PetHelpful, October 9, 2019. Accessed March 2, 2023.

[3] Kate Hughes, “Cats acting out? Here’s what their behavior really means,” The Conversation, January 9, 2020. Accessed March 2, 2023.

[4] Mikel Delgado, Cat vs Cat: Keeping Peace When You Have More Than One Cat. Ten Speed Press, 2019.

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