Cats are very intelligent animals and need to be stimulated both mentally and physically. If they don’t receive enough attention cats can become bored. Bored cats tend to act restlessly and can become destructive. It’s important for cats to socialize with other animals and humans. It’s no secret that cats and dogs do not always get along. But you will help your cat become more sociable and deal with situations where they encounter other animals or people.
Some cats may have experienced an early negative experience that has left them afraid of certain situations or animals. We look at how to deal with fearful cats, as well as touching on their emotions and the best way to understand them.
Cat behavior explained
Cats are fascinating creatures to live with but sometimes their behaviour intrigues, perplexes and even frustrates owners. Below are a few insights into the minds and behavior of cats and why they do what they do.
Cats like their environment to have their scent, so when foreign-smelling objects invade their space, they will often choose to mingle their familiar scent with the new one. One of the most effective ways of transferring scent is to urinate or spray on objects.
While it may seem disgusting to you that your cat has urinatedin your suitcase or embarrassing that they have sprayed over your friend’s handbag, this behaviour may actually be relieving some of the anxiety your feline friend is feeling.
You can prevent this happening by being very tidy with your belongings and by relieving your cat’s anxiety.
Cats love to rub up against their owners. This movement may involve their entire body or sometimes just their foreheads and cheeks. Most owners see this as a sign of affection and welcome this behavior.
When cats rub against objects, they are transferring their scent. It is almost as if they truly are claiming ownership and we’re one of their belongings. Your cat head-butting or nuzzling your face deposits scent from glands in their cheek area. Their weaving through your legs, usually as you prepare to feed them, transfers scent from their sides and tails on to you. This behavior is also an effective way of making sure that they have your full attention.
Cats need to scratch surfaces to sharpen their claws but they also use this behaviour to deposit their scent. Cats have scent glands on the paws and rubbing their paws along objects places their scent there.
If your cat has the annoying habit of scratching furniture, it is often because this is an area that attracts many different scents. The sides of sofas, for example , are favoured areas and these may have the scents of outdoors, our guests, our bags or shoes. In performing the scratching behaviour, your cat replaces the foreign scent with their own.
If scratching is a problem, then scratching posts are a must. Place these in areas that cats prefer to scratch and then gradually move them towards your preferred location. There is no use hiding scratching posts in corners, as cats need to scratch in prominent areas. They also often like to scratch at different angles so provide horizontal and vertical scratching surfaces.
Cats meow to communicate with humans. This endearing method of speech is heard in young kittens, to get their mother’s attention but is rarely heard between cats. So when your cat meows to you, it is a special form of cat-to-human conversation.
You are able to encourage your cat’s meow by responding to it. Alternately, if your cat talks too much, you should ignore the meows and respond when they are quiet.
Cats kneed prior to relaxing. This involves pacing with their paws, on top of a soft object – often a bed, a blanket or our lap. Some cats will purr and on occasion even drool at the same time. Kneeding is often a pleasant behaviour – until the claws come out.
Kneeding first begins when kittens are suckling milk from their mother, the padding behaviour stimulating milk release. Cats carry on with this behaviour, perhaps to recreate pleasant feelings, to create a comfortable spot or even to place their scent on the underlying object.
In the event that you enjoy your cat in your lap but can’t stand the claws, keep their claws trimmed and place a thick blanket between you and your cat.
< id="6">Swishy Tail
Cats communicate to other cats and to humans using feline body language. The tail is an important part of this communication.
A swishy tail signals high arousal, frequently due to anger or play. The swishing tail is a warning – of impending attack. If your cat holds their human body low and the tail begins swishing, look out. They are probably about to pounce. Direct their energy onto appropriate toys and enjoy.
Toileting is a normal function in an animal’s life. Urination and defection rid your cat’s body of waste products and, together with spraying, they also deposit your cat’s scent around their environment, signalling that the area belongs to them. This helps them feel secure.
Cats might occasionally have toileting problems. For some, this will be a rare event when they are unable to reach the great outdoors or their litter box. For others, this inappropriate elimination becomes a habit.
The most common reasons that cats toilet inappropriately include; urinary tract disease or other illnesses, litter box issues or stress.
• If your cat toilets next to doorways or windows, or sprays on the outer walls of your home, chances are they have been bothered by something outdoors. Check for neighbourhood stressorssuch as other cats, dogs, kids or noises.
• If your cat toilets next to their litter tray, it is usually a problem with litter cleanliness. Clean more often or provide more litter trays.
• If your cat toilets around your home when guests are visiting, your cat is probably stressed. Your cat will need to be desensitised to people.
• If your cat toilets on your personal items such as clothing, bags, chairs or beds, separation anxiety could be the problem. Teach your cat to cope with being alone by introducing gradual separation from your own cat while you are at home together.
Owners need patience while they work on a cat toileting problem. Solutions will depend on the cause of the problem and owners may need to try a combination of veterinary care, litter changes and stress reduction to solve their problem.
Firstly, a vet check is necessary to rule out any medical issues that the cat may have. If your cat is straining to toilet or there is certainly blood in their waste products, simply take them to the vet immediately.
Litter box issues are varied but some general rules, to increase attractiveness of the litter tray as a toileting spot, include:
• The larger the litter tray, the better.
• The cleaner the litter, the better.
• Some cats prefer covered boxes, some prefer open.
• Most cats enjoy privacy to toilet, so locate the tray in a quiet area.
• Provide at least one litter tray per cat.
• Try a different litter if the cat does not use the one provided.
• Clean the tray regularly, without using harsh cleaning products.
• Clean up toileting ‘accidents’ using an enzymatic cleaner, as this will remove any scent residues that may attract the cat back to the same spot.
If your cat is stressed, try to remove the cause of the anxiety. If this is due to other cats in your house, you may need to separate them until they can be gradually introduced to one another in a positive way again. If outside stressors are bothering your cat, try blocking views. Extremely stressed cats may benefit from veterinary medication.
Cats can be affectionate towards their owners, searching for our company and purring contentedly as they sit or sleep beside us. To many owners this signifies that their cat loves them and this may be true.
Love may be defined as an intense feeling of affection and lots of us have this for our animal companions. We can never know their true feelings towards us but in most cases we can be sure that they enjoy being with us.
Actually cats are more likely to relax and also to confidently explore their surrounding when their owners are present, rather than when alone or in the company of a stranger. This behaviour is used to indicate human infant attachment behaviour so we can conclude that our cats are indeed attached to us.
Differences in the behaviour of our feline friends may depend on their individual personalities, with some cats being more active or more inquisitive than others. Interactions between cats and their owners may also be influenced by the owner’s lifestyle, with factors such as gender, family status and whether the cat is allowed outdoors impacting on the cat’s behavior.
Dogs and cats show their attachment with their owners in different ways. Dogs rush to greet us, wag their tails enthusiastically, perhaps lick us or follow us from room to room. Cats may possibly act similarly or they might not, tending to interact on their own terms and in their own good time. This huge difference in behaviour has led many non-cat owners to believe that cats are aloof and fail to demonstrate affection. Since we know that both cat and dog owners love their pets equally, this means cat owner probably value the independent behaviour of their cat.
There is no doubt that cats know how to get our attention. They have even learnt to ‘speak’ to us, giving a ‘solicitation purr’ to get their owner’s attention and to receive food.
Cats may also use other subtle means of interacting with us and we are able to use these to build the bond between us. Try some of the following:
1. Encourage your cat to sit near or on you. Cats only do this once they are comfortable.
2. Purr with contentment. Purring might be a self-soothing behaviour but it addittionally serves to relax us and help us enjoy their feline company.
3. If your cat exposes its stomach region while relaxing or playing, this implies they trust you. Enjoy that behaviour but only interact if invited by your cat. Some cats dislike being touched in this area.
4. Allow your cat to rub against you. Cats do this to deposit scent on you which claims ownership. Try winking or blinking at your cat when they do this to you. Your cat does this when they are relaxed in your business.
5. Keep your cat indoors as indoors cats are more interactive with their owners.
Although these are subtle behaviours, they are your cat’s method of saying ‘I love you’.
Owners who are not attached to their pet may be more inclined to surrender their pet to shelters or to provide inadequate levels of care. One of the major concerns unattached owners have, is the lack of affection that their cat shows. Working on the relationship between cat and owner may be the key to ensuring that cats receive love and give it.
Although most people associate training with dogs, with the right motivation cats may also be taught to perform a range of tricks and behaviors.
Litter training your cat should start as early as possible, ideally as soon as you bring your new kitten home. But if you have adopted a cat from a shelter they may already have some unusual habits or simply may never have been house-trained. Cats are naturally clean animals so going back to the basics of litter training can help them to learn where the appropriate place is for them to toilet.
Cats may become stressed or confused when their environment changes and will often toilet in inappropriate places to spread their scent around, mark their territory and reduce anxiety. Try to identify the underlying cause to why your cat is stressed and correct this, the toileting issue will often resolve itself.
Can you teach an old cat new tricks? Of course you can! Just like dogs, cats respond best to reward-based training. This can be in the form of treats, affection or a game with a special toy. Find out what your cat likes best and use it to reward them for doing the right thing or learning a new trick such as shaking ‘paws’ or rolling over.
The most important thing to keep in mind when training your cat is to have patience. Training is a wonderful way to further the special bond you share. Read the following section to be sure you’re on the right track to a well-trained cat.
Follow our 6 quick tips for training your cat:
• Work with cat behaviours that come naturally, to make it easy for them to obey. Then progress to more difficult commands.
• Rewards are the key to motivating your cat. If you are using food along with your cat is not responding, they may not be hungry enough. Try a training session before a meal. (But don’t ‘starve’ your cat to make them eager to learn, as a hungry cat will quickly become an annoyed one. )
• With time, you can lessen the use of treats. Your praise or a pat may be a great enough reward on occasion.
• Eliminate any distracting noise from the TV or stereo during training time since it will make the process almost impossible.
• Keep training sessions short, ending them before your cat gets bored or tired. Always finish a training session on a positive note and remember that, just like us, sometimes cats are not in the mood.
• If possible, train your cat regularly, preferably every day. Training your cat once a month won’t get the results you want.
Still want to find out more? Why not watch our video on training your cat?
Discover the meaning behind your cat’s meow
Did you know that cats meow to people, but not to other cats?
Ever wondered what you cat is trying to tell you? Understandingyour cat is an important element of your relationship. By taking a look at their vocal patterns, you can begin to recognise your cat’s communication techniques. Explore the meaning behind your cat’s meow and find out what they’re trying to share with you.
Cats speak to one another through scent, facial expression, complete body language and touch. Meowing however is a language developed exclusively for humans.
The only meowing done amongst cats is done between a mother and her kittens. Kittens use their tiny meows to get attention from their mother, which is why once they’re grown, the meows stop.
Cats meow to people for similar reasons. Your cat depends on you and has learned that you do not respond to scent messages or body language. They use meowing as a way to communicate and scientists believe they’ve refined this language to specifically converse with humans.
There are dozens of meow sounds in the cat language that vary in pitch, length and volume. A short, high-pitched meow is your standard ‘hello’, while a drawn out mrrrooowww is a demand for something like ‘open the door NOW’. By paying attention to the different meow sounds, you’ll be able to find out what your cat’s trying to say.
Pleasant sounding meows are generally used as requests for food or attention, whereas unpleasant meowing is usually reserved for demands or to express annoyance. It will come as no surprise that ‘cat people’ understand these often subtle differences in tone and pitch better than others.
Decipher your cat’s language:
Short meow or mew: Standard greeting. “Hello! ”
Multiple meows or mews: Excited greeting. “Great to see you! ”
Mid-pitch meow: Plea for something. “I’d like to eat. ”
Drawn-out mrrroooow: Demand for something. “Open the door NOW. ”
Low-pitch mrrrooooowww: Complaint of a wrong you have done. “Hey – my bowl is still empty! ”
High-pitch RRRROWW!: Anger or pain. “That’s my TAIL you just stepped on! ”
Is your cat a chatterbox?
Excessive meowing is often because the cat has learnt that this type of nagging behaviour will get them what they want. In this situation, the best thing to do is to ignore their cries. Your cat is used to getting what they want when they meow, so only give them food when they’re quiet. Make sure you give them a lot of attention when they are quiet and non-e when they meow excessively.
When guests appear does your cat disappear?
While most cats are pretty laid back creatures, true masters of their domain (at least in their eyes) and even ignoring guests in their home, there are a few cats who stress when the doorbell rings. Inviting guests to your home for coffee, dinner or a week-end visit is a fear-filled nightmare for these scared cats.
Your feline friend may be anxious around visitors if he or she:
• Hides under the bed, only appearing when guests have gone away
• Leaves home or hides in your backyard when guests come to stay
• Sleeps a lot more of the day than is typical
• Reacts aggressively to a friendly advance from your guests
• Begins to toilet inappropriately around your home or on your guest’s belongings
If your cat is still young, then it is critical to introduce him or her to a variety of people and make these introductions as pleasant an event as possible. Have your guests feed your cat a tasty treat or play with a toy will usually encourage your kitten to accept people. Encourage your cat to stay around your home when visitors are around but enable him to get away from annoying children or over-devoted cat lovers by giving him shelves and window sills to retreat to.
De-stressing your feline friend
If you have a scaredy cat, here are a few tips to help him become more of a friendly feline:
• Keep your cat in the same room as your guest, giving him a box or a high shelf to retreat to. Here he can see, hear and smell your visitor, learning their behaviour, without having to interact.
• Plan a summary of guests to your home. Start with quieter ones or those types that your cat is more likely to accept. For example , some cats prefer men but may be scared of kids. Gradually build up to the ones your cat fears most. If he reacts badly to a person, then you have gone too fast.
• Have lavender around your home as this may help animals relax. Rescue remedy can also help, as can veterinary medication in severe cases.
• If your cat tends to urinate on your guest’s belongings, make sure you keep them away from your cat. If this is a common a reaction to stress then you may need to work on your cat’s toileting dilemmas as a separate problem. (See Cat Toileting Problem Solved video.
Smokey was a 9 year old tabby cat who had lived alone with an elderly lady until she passed away. He had then come to live with a noisy family, which he loved but could not accept when guests came to visit. Instead of hiding under their bed, his family gave Smokey a bed (an upturned cardboard box) in the corner of the room where a quiet guest was present. The guest was instructed to ignore Smokey (no touching and no eye contact*) but his owner occasionally gave him a cat treat. Over the course of the visit, the guest was able to quietly approach Smokey and feed him a treat.
*Eye contact can have an effect on a cat’s emotions as it can be perceived as a threat to many animals, especially those who do not know you