Thursday 10 November 2022

What type of cat behaviour is this?

Here is a video from social media and accompanying it is the question: What is this behaviour? And the answer which you probably know all too well is that this is feline play-hunting behaviour.

All domestic cat play is based on hunting, which inevitably means chasing, stalking, attacking, tearing to bits, killing an artificial prey animal. The toy should be made of a material which can be destroyed (killed) to keep them interested.

Cat play-hunting
Cat play-hunting. Screenshot.

In this video we have a cat hanging on to a bit of ribbon which looked like a cat tease. At the other end is the owner pulling on it. The cat resists because for her or him this is a prey animal trying to escape their grasp. 

From the cat's perspective she has caught the prey animal and now it is trying to escape. This is the tug on the ribbon which is being resisted by the cat.

That is the answer. And it is the reason why petting your cat can lead to your hand being scratched or bitten. Your cat may be stimulated into believing that your hand is a prey animal because you are petting a little bit too provocatively or too firmly or for too long. 

And your cat will suddenly pounce on your hand and trap it and then bite on it sometimes. Petting can become playing and playing is always about hunting and attacking and killing.

You never therefore play with a cat using your hand. Your cat will start to think your hand is a cat toy and whenever you wave your hand in front of your cat's face, she will grab it in her teeth or swat it. In fact, it is wise never to flick your finger in front of a cat's face because this mimics quick movement of birds and it might be attacked.

I always place the back of my hand towards a cat and do it slowly. That also protects my hand because if a cat does want to attack the back of the hand is more robust than the tips of the fingers. It hurts less!

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