Cats behavior can be unpredictable or even bizarre at times. One moment they can be snuggly companions and the next they can act like supernatural characters. We are used to their predictable ways of amusing themselves by stalking, chasing, pouncing or batting things across the floor. Other actions seem to have no explanation at all, such as running at full speed across the room to settle down to stare at the wall. If your cat is doing this, you may be wondering if this is normal behavior or a sign of a medical problem.

A Sharp Sense of Vision

Cats have a sense of sight far beyond that of humans. They can see sun reflecting off a dust particle or a small spider making its way along the crevice where the carpeting meets the wall. Cats can also detect the most subtle of motions. A 2014 study by Live Science found that cats can see some wavelengths of light that humans cannot, such as ultraviolet light. They have more light-sensing rods than humans which allows them to perceive reflections and glints of light, even when the light in the room is very dim.

A Keen Sense of Hearing

Do you find yourself inspecting what’s captivating your cat’s attention, but you see nothing moving? It may look like your cat is staring at nothing, but it may be that your cat is hearing something behind the wall that you can’t hear. People have discovered rodents in their walls or attics after their cats would seem to stare through the plaster. They can even hear whistling noises in your air ducts.

A Mysterious Brain

Researchers continue to try to understand the cat brain. Experts agree that they are highly curious creatures, and they are very different from dogs. What may catch a dog’s attention for seconds may hold your cat’s attention for hours. Staring at the wall for long periods could be a sign that your cat is trying to figure out what’s going on with a small movement it sees or a sound it is hearing. If they have discovered a small spider or mouse in the wall, they will focus on their prey and stalk it patiently, sometimes for hours.

Signs of a Medical Problem

If your cat stares at the wall in between periods of manic behavior it could be the sign of feline hyperesthesia. Some other signs of this syndrome include:

  • The cat aggressively attacks its own tail
  • The cat’s pupils are enlarged
  • The cat meows or howls loudly
  • The cat is sensitive to touch
  • The cat frantically grooms itself, especially around the base of the tail

Medical experts aren’t sure what causes feline hyperesthesia. It could be caused by stress, abnormal brain waves, seizures or lesions along the spine. If this behavior accompanies your cat’s wall staring and is becoming a problem, you may want to have your vet perform a complete physical exam. If your cat is acting out of stress, you can minimize the stress by maintaining a regular routine and playing with and exercising your cat regularly.

Cute colored cat stares at a white wall outside

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If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.