DEAR JOAN — Seven years ago, I lost both of my cats within weeks of each other. I took it very hard. They had been my constant companions for a number of years, and I just didn’t think I could open my heart again.
But I missed not having cats, and when a friend found herself with two cats that she couldn’t take in, I decided maybe my heart had healed enough. I am so glad I decided to take the risk, even though I know I’m opening myself up to heartbreak later on.
The cats are such a joy to me. They aren’t quite kittens and not yet adults, and they are so fun and playful. They both like to snuggle, one in my lap and one beside me in my chair. Having cats again has also reminded me of some questions I have about their behaviors. One rubs his head on me frequently, and I don’t know what that means. They both like to get in boxes and that made me wonder, because my other cats did it, too, and I’ve seen a lot of videos with cats trying to squeeze into boxes or vases that don’t seem to be able to hold them.
— Lois G. in Oakland, California
DEAR LOIS: First, my condolences on the loss of your two furry pals. It’s an absolute crime that our pets don’t live as long as we want them to, but then again, forever would seem too short. And congratulations on finding the strength to love again. I’m sure your new cats already are giving your broken heart.
As for the cat behaviors, your cat rubbing his head against you is not only a sign of affection, it’s a way of marking you as his person. It’s called bunting, and when he does it, he’s releasing pheromones, marking you as his.
Now, that might seem a bit creepy, but in this case, he’s just letting other cats know that you hold a special place in his life.
As for cats trying to squeeze into teeny spaces, it might appear the cat has no awareness at all of its own dimensions, but there’s actually a very good explanation for it. Cats don’t like wide open spaces, and they feel much more secure and safe when they’re in a more confined space, or at least one with definite borders and boundaries.
It relates back to when cats lived in the wild. They had to be on constant guard against larger predators and dangers, so snoozing in the middle of an open field was not something they would do. Instead, they would conceal themselves, and if they could find a spot that was protected on all sides, that was gold.
Cats also like to nestle into spots where they can quietly observe prey, and launch themselves at it. Small spaces are great for that, too.