An Introduction to Cat Behaviour for Owners

05 Jun An Introduction to Cat Behaviour for Owners

Feline Behaviour – Article: 6

An Introduction to Cat Behaviour for Owners

Overview of the article:

Recent Feline Behaviour research indicates the cat to be a much misunderstood pet and that the welfare of cats is often severely compromised though owners’ lack of understanding of cat behaviour. Here we provide an overview of Feline Behaviour to help you understand your cat’s needs. This is a brief article – for a fuller understanding of the topic we suggest the Feline Behaviour Qualification Course.  See the end of the article for the link to the prospectus.

Introduction:

Cats are becoming increasingly popular as indoor pets as they seem to fit in more easily with our modern busy lifestyles. In an Animal Behaviour survey of cat owners taken several years ago, the following list of characteristics in the cat were viewed by people as positive reasons for owning a cat in preference to a dog:

  •  cats were perceived as being cleaner than dogs
  • cats did not require constant human companionship as dogs do
  • cats were easily left at home and can be fed by a friend or neighbour if the owner is away
  • cats did not need exercising

But recent Feline Behaviour research is pointing to the fact that the cat is a much misunderstood pet and that the welfare of cats is often severely compromised though owners’ lack of understanding of Feline Behaviour. But from the owner’s point of view, it is not always easy to read Feline Behaviour or their emotional problems, not least because of two behavioural strategies of the cat when it feels threatened:

  1. avoidance – frightened cats simply leave the room or run away (we all know stories of the cat that leaves a noisy household filled with boisterous children and moves in with the quiet granny next door)
  2. immobility – under a lot of pressure, cats will not move at all. The cat that spends all day sitting on a bed in a spare room may not be lazy at all but may, in fact, be frightened.  For more on Feline Behaviour you might consider the Feline Behaviour Qualification course: Feline Behaviour Qualification Course

 

Handlings threats

All animals on the planet – including people – have four main ways of dealing with frightening things:

*          fight

*          flight

*          freeze

*         ‘fiddle about’ or appeasing behaviours

Usually most cats resort to flight when first threatened. Drop a saucepan on the kitchen floor or observe a dog chasing a cat and you will see that not only does Feline Behaviour result in flight but the direction of flight is vertical, in other words, they will run up our curtains, jump onto counters or run up trees to avoid the threat.

But sometimes Feline Behaviour, particularly body language of cats can be very subtle from our perspective. Enter a room where there is already a cat present and you will see the cat blink his greeting at you – how easy to miss that one!  But cats also use blinking as an appeasing gesture (what we call the ‘fiddle about’ behaviours – more on the Feline Behaviour Qualification Course).  In these cases, a cat is trying to communicate that he wishes to avoid an aggressive encounter and he does so in a very subtle way – no doubt, the cat thinks his behaviour is extremely overt.  A few years ago, a Feline Behaviourist suggested to vets that they try getting down to the cat’s eye-level on an examining table prior to examining them and blinking at them – and the vets who tried it reported less avoidance and aggressive behaviour from the cats.

The problems with this kind of body language though, mean that Feline Behaviour problems tend to be under-diagnosed, more often because the owner has not even spotted them. Given this dire situation we do all we can to encourage those interested to become Feline Behaviorists, click on: Feline Behaviour Qualification Course for a free prospectus.

An Arrangement of convenience?

Cats were domesticated by the Egyptians around 6000 years ago – certainly the hieroglyphic evidence in the Egyptian tombs unequivocally shows that man and cat were already co-habiting at the time. But many people think that the cat was never truly domesticated and that instead, it is what is known as a ‘commensualist’: that the cat lives with man only for the reasons that warmth, shelter and food are provided. Before you owners (who just know that your cat lives with you because he loves you) rush to disagree, consider this. Thousands of cats are put down every year, simply because they are unwanted and there are not enough homes available for all these cats.

Research performed by Southampton University in the1990’s, showed two crucial things:

*          Cats are highly social

*          Cats are highly territorial

The lion in your parlour?

The research showed that feral cats had a social structure much more akin to that of lions and so the prevailing attitude that cats are solitary – and by extension therefore, it is acceptable to keep just one cat, even though you work all day – was thrown into question.  Not only were cats in these Feline Behaviour studies found to be social, females were shown to be both co-operative and collaborative with each other. They lived in groups of related females and even shared suckling of their young, just as female lions will do.  (Many cats who live together under domesticated circumstances are not related – hence many find it difficult to settle in the same household as this is not really natural Feline Behaviour.)

If you are moved by this feature to now introduce a new cat into your existing household of one moggie, then have a qualified Feline Behaviourist help supervise the new introduction. Ensuring that all runs smoothly is a subject for another day not least because of cats’ high territorial motivations, but if you are in the position now of acquiring a new kitten, think about getting two and bringing them home together. In so doing, you will make your new kitten’s life far more enriched and fulfilled.

Keeping a cat on its own may in fact, be an extremely stressful experience for the cat but as its stress increases, it uses body language which often becomes more and more subtle – and so, we miss those stress signals. How often I hear people say ‘He was such a lovely, playful kitten but he’s turned into such a lazy adult’ when in fact, the cat has resorted to being immobile for most of the day, purely as a way of trying to cope. (We cover specific topics like this on the Feline Behaviour Qualification Course in far more depth allowing you to assess the client’s cat using applied Feline Behaviour and find positive solutions to improve the cat’s welfare.)  The implications of this research of course call into question the main findings of the earlier survey. Feline Behaviourists now know that things like expecting a cat to eat solitarily or live a life without other feline companionship, is a potential welfare issue for that cat, although very convenient for owners.

Equally the Feline Behaviour research showed that neutered males on the other hand, were found to live in groups known as ‘brotherhoods’ and again, as the name implies, they were usually all related to each other. The dominant, breeding tom cat was the only one who led a primarily solitary existence but even when they got older and no longer had access to females, they re-joined brotherhoods.

So if you want to live your passion: make helping cats your life skill,

we provide all the Animal Behavior & training you need on the Feline Behaviour Qualification, to setup your very own practice: 

Click on:  Feline Behaviour Course

Or on the website choose the ‘Animal Behaviour’ tab on the home page, then then 1st item ‘Equine, Canine, Feline Behaviour Qualifications Stage I’ on the drop down menu, scroll down and click on the picture of the horse for a free Equine Behaviour Course Prospectus.