Cats are undeniably mysterious creatures. They do a lot of things that may seem strange to people, but your cat acts as if they are perfectly normal and not something that should be questioned. Most people consider these behaviors endearing parts of the cat’s personality. However, there are some behaviors that may be more concerning than others, such as when your cat stares at a seemingly boring wall for a considerable part of the day.
This behavior, although strange, is generally harmless and often just means that your cat is trying to look for a sound it may have heard. There are cases where it can mean more than this, though there are often other accompanying signs.
Reasons Why Your Cat Might Be Staring at a Wall
It can go without saying that cats are inquisitive creatures, curious about the world around them and happy to explore strange, new concepts. Sounds, sights, and smells can all be intriguing to your cat, and it may follow a path that human eyes cannot see if it picks up on sounds or smells beyond what humans can perceive.
Maybe They See Something You Don’t
While a cat’s eyesight isn’t particularly good in terms of focus, color vision, and clarity, they have a wide range of sight.
For comparison, standard human sight encompasses a 180-degree view. Cats have a slightly wider angle on life at 200-degree view, with greater peripheral vision than humans. They can also see far better in low-light settings.
These factors, and the cat’s natural instincts as both predator and prey in the wild, mean that cats are more inclined to pick up on movements from a bug or even a cobweb attached to the wall that you may not be able to immediately see.
Maybe They Hear Something You Don’t
Part of the way that cats compensate for their lack ability to focus is their far superior hearing.
Again, for a comparison, the standard human hearing range is between 20Hz to 20KHz. Cats can hear at a range of 55Hz to 79KHz.
This means that they can hear much higher-pitched noises than people can, and depending on which wall your cat is staring at, it may be picking up on something that you’re not able to hear. It could be music from a neighbor, or it could be someone trying to cut down a tree across the street.
Maybe They Are Just More Curious Than You
And finally, to top off their natural ability to see movement and their keen hearing, cats are simply curious about the world around them.
Cats have a natural inclination to understand aspect of their claimed territory, or in other words, your home. It has been shown that cats are particularly attentive to detail and recognize when something in the room has been changed even if it is as minor as moving around a pile of clothes.
If your cat is staring from the outside of a room looking in, it may be trying to understand what has changed. Or, in most cases, your cat may just be curious about something that people wouldn’t understand.
Wall-Staring Behavior is Not Often a Cause for Alarm
For the most part, a cat staring at a wall is a strange but completely harmless behavior. It causes no harm to the cat to sit in front of a wall, and in most cases, it is not distressing to the cat either as it has chosen to look at the wall for whatever reasons it may have.
As long as the cat is acting normally otherwise, including eating, drinking, and socializing with either you or other cats in the house, you can assume that your cat is staring at the wall out of curiosity.
With that being said, if you see signs that your cat may not be behaving normally, such as manic behavior that goes beyond what normal cat “zoomies” are in addition to staring at the wall, then this may mean that there is something more going on in the cat’s mind.
When You Should be Concerned About Your Cat Staring at a Wall
Of course, there are times when behaviors are not normal even when they are seemingly harmless. It can be hard to understand what goes on in a cat’s mind and there are many things that animal behaviorists and scientists alike do not know about cats.
What is known, though, is that there are times when a cat may stare at the wall between manic episodes of behavior. It is important to distinguish this from a cat’s beloved “zoomies” before you jump to any conclusions about your cat’s health.
There’s a condition known officially as feline hyperesthesia syndrome. It is also known under the names of “rolling skin disease,” “atypical neurodermatitis,” “twitchy cat disease,” and “apparent neuritis.” This condition is characterized by seemingly manic behaviors when the cat is touched, most commonly on the back and around the base of the tail.
As the names of the condition would suggest, one of the hallmarks of it is when you touch your cat in one of these areas, the skin on its back will twitch or look almost as if it is rolling.
In addition to the strange skin behaviors, during an “episode” of this condition (brought on by being touched in the triggering area, commonly the base of the tail, but it is different for all cats) the cat will scratch, bite, or groom its tail and its paws. It may exhibit manic signs such as widened pupils and running around.
More vocal cats may meow loudly during an episode. When the cat runs around due to an episode, it may stop and stare at the wall with widened pupils before running off again.
The manic episodes of this condition bear much resemblance to a cat with the “zoomies,” a behavior in both cats and dogs characterized by the animal “zooming” around randomly at a high pace.
In feline hyperesthesia syndrome, there will be considerably more grooming, biting, and possibly attacking its own tail in more severe cases.
What To Do If You Suspect a Mental Health Issue
If you suspect this condition, the first thing you should do is talk to your vet about it. While many cases are benign and can be akin to a behavioral quirk, because it features neurological symptoms, more severe causes should be ruled out.
Aside from the triggering cause of touching a cat with this condition, epilepsy, brain and spinal lesions, stress, and diet can exacerbate this condition. Recognizing when this is the cause of your cat staring at the wall will mean looking for other symptoms, such as the cat becoming agitated when it is touched at the base of the tail, aggressive cleaning of the wail when being touched, and the trademark rippling skin upon being touched around a triggering area.
The good news about this condition is that although it is believed to be life-long, it is fairly harmless and mostly a disturbance for your cat. Of course, if your cat is prone to self-mutilation, this will need to be addressed, but aside from that, this condition has not been shown to have any impact on lifespan and most cats will live full and healthy lives, especially with dietary changes and stress management.