Why Are Cats Curious? What to do when curiosity turns naughty

Cats, as adorable as they are, weird and do weird things. They knock objects off the counter for no reason, melt like a liquid to shove in strange places, and pounce around places they shouldn’t. This strange property can be compared with one word: curiosity.

So why cats therefore curious and why is my cat in everything? Mikel Delgado, PhD, Rover’s resident cat expert on The Dog People Panel, says it can form a survival instinct. Cats, at least in the wild, are both predator and prey, a somewhat unique role that sits right in the middle of the food chain. This, combined with an insatiably playful personality, can make for a curious (and sometimes naughty) cat.

Luckily for humans, we can provide healthy supplies for our cats — without sacrificing our houseplants.

What makes cats so curious?

Until we teach our cats to communicate further cat and head impact, we may never know exactly what makes them tick. Based on existing science and years of shared human habitation with curious cats, here’s what we know about their sense of curiosity.

Hunting instincts & motivations

Dr. Delgado explains that cats are intermediate species. This means that they are both predators and prey in the animal kingdom. “Cats should always be aware of what is going on in their surroundings. They can’t miss an opportunity to eat, but they also have to watch out for any danger,” she said. Continuous observation, investigation, and learning (curiosity!) is a tool that cats use to survive.

woman holding feather toy for playful little gray cat

iStock / w-ings

Physiological characteristics

Cats are born with amazing traits, in addition to being super predators and stealthy hunting. From their head ears move independently arrive wrist beard on their hind legs — cats are always attuned to and exploring their environment.

Cats’ inner ears are so amazing that they say they can feel the storm rolled in by a decrease in air pressure. Their small noses are 40 times more numerous olfactory receptors than ours and their eyes has six to eight times as many rods as humans. In a world so vibrant and alive, it’s no wonder cats are curious about it all.


“A vibrant mind is by definition curious,” report philanthropist and researcher Stephen Grand, Ph.D. “Cats often get stuck in trees, stuck in trash cans, or filled with quills — all out of curiosity.” Some people may think that these difficulties signal poor judgment or a less intelligent decision. Dr. Grand says it’s quite the opposite.

Curiosity and intelligence are directly linked, he said. Cats are very smart. So they are curious, and because they are curious, they are always learning.

Kitten behavior

Delgado says that during a kitten’s childhood, curiosity is more likely to form strong and lasting bonds. “Kittens tend to be more curious because they are learning about things in their environment that they have never encountered before,” she says. “To determine if something is safe, a kitten may want to see it, slowly approach it, and possibly touch, smell, or taste it.”

Cats don’t lose their sense of curiosity as they age. Instead, they are less open to forming positive associations and less likely to encounter entirely new stimuli. “The sensitive period for cats is between two and nine weeks of age,” explains Dr. Delgado. “It’s not then that the doors to learning are closed, but they may be slower to form positive associations with new experiences and may be more alert.”


iStock / bombermoon

Hungry and hunting

You might be confused by curious (and naughty) cats snooping over to the counter for your next snack — right after the meal. The International Cat Care says that of course cats will be curious for food when they are hungry, but that foraging does not always coincide with hunger.

International Cat Care explains: “If cats wait until they are hungry before hunting, they will be at high risk of starving to death due to the difficult nature of hunting and catching prey. Your curious kitty simply prepares for their next meal in the rare event that dinner isn’t served.


Curiosity can play an important role in keeping feral cats safe. “Unlike humans, cats are always ready to attack their prey or defend themselves against a larger predator,” Dr. When introduced to a new space, bold and timid cats will display enough curiosity to find a suitable place to hide to protect or attack a passing predator. More daring cats may want to touch, smell, and taste new spaces for signs of food, water, and baths.

house cat climbs the curtain.

iStock / bombermoon

Pay attention and play

What might start out as a curiosity about your favorite houseplant can quickly lead to a fun game and an attention-grabbing activity for your cat. When your cat dance on the kitchen counter or stroke your plants, you can say no and shovel them up. This, in turn, can signal a positive association of do this activity, get people’s attention.


“In our culture, severe hunger or thirst is an atypical condition,” writes researcher RA Butler. In his work titled The Acquired Motivation and the Curiosity Investigative Engine, Butler explored the idea that biological need is not the cause of curiosity in modern civilizations, but that curiosity is manifested by the need to be loved and to belong. Would our modern cats, with automatic feeder and drip fountainit is in therefore curious and therefore Nosy because they want to understand and bond with their favorite person? I like to think so.

When a cat’s curiosity becomes a problem

Like hitting your favorite houseplant, curiosity can lead to destructive or unwanted behavior. Dr. Delgado says it’s prudent to treat unwanted behavior as curiosity. Usually, there is a basic need your cat is looking for.

“I will not consider aggressive behavior is a sign of curiosity,” says Dr. Delgado. For any change in behavior, it’s best to see your veterinarian first. Then, she says, focus on providing your cat with a healthy and attractive environment. Healthy outlets for natural behaviors such as climbing, scratching, and hunting should put an end to undesirable behaviors caused by naive curiosity.

The house cat toy dropped and broke the flower pot with the red rose, looking guilty.  The concept of damage caused by livestock.  Look from the top.

iStock / Nataliia Pyzhova

Take it

Curiosity is a fundamental part of being a cat and is key to their survival. A curious cat that is lovable, endearing, and sometimes naughty. Their curiosity was contagious—why do they love chains and why do they sit on paper? However, curiosity should not be confused with cats talking about needs like getting rich or seeing the vet. When in doubt about your cat’s strange, unusual, or undesirable behaviors, talk to your vet or trusted feline behaviorist.

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