Tuesday 20 May 2014

Popular Press Need Educating About Domestic Cat Social Behaviour

Although, historically, cats were considered to be solitary animals and asocial with no need for companionship, it gradually dawned upon the scientists that the modern day domestic cat is quite a sociable species.  Unfortunately, the popular press has not caught up with modern day thinking and many reporters and journalists still consider the domestic cat to be like it's wild cat ancestor, a solitary creature.  This is unfortunate because when they write about the domestic cat they tend to disseminate misinformation which some readers might digest, take in and an act upon, which in turn may lead to the management and care of cats that is not in the best interests of their welfare.
Friends in a shelter. Photo: Mendocino County Animal Care Services

During the past 25 years scientists, in studying free-living or feral cats in colonies, have noticed that they engage in a variety of social interactions and have a complex social organisation.

Cat owners who are not scientists and who have responsibility for a number of cats in their household can readily recognise that the domestic cat can form friendships, can like and dislike other cats in the household.  There are many thousands of webpages on the Internet written by visitors seeking advice about how they can ensure that one of their cats gets on with another.

Many behavioural problems in multi-cat households are due to a failure to understand the social needs and social relationships of cats.  This can lead to problems such as inappropriate elimination and aggression.  Both of these so-called cat behaviour problems are at the top of the list of problems that cause people to relinquish their cat to a shelter.

The popular press has a responsibility to report stories about the behaviour of the domestic cat with intelligence supported by an adequate knowledge of domestic cat social behaviour.  There is always a need amongst cat owners for education about cat behaviour to further the welfare of the domestic cat. Irresponsible reporting in the popular press may achieve the exact opposite.

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