Showing posts with label Behavior. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Behavior. Show all posts

Wednesday 27 December 2023

The reason why cats don't migrate

People sometimes ask if cats migrate. They are normally referring to the small and large wild cat species. The truth is that cats do not migrate and the reason is pretty straightforward which is that they don't need to!

And they don't need to because they have the resources that they need to sustain themselves where they live which is in their 'home range'. And that is another reason why they don't migrate; they like to occupy their own territory which we call a 'home range' and which provides a stable environment for them.


They defend this home range against intruders to protect resources. And the female, although having a smaller home range than males, regards their home range as their natal territory, a place where they can give birth and raise their offspring.

In essence, the current arrangement which has evolved over millions of years is that the small and large cat species stay put because they can survive very nicely by doing that.

Twenty percent of bird species migrate but they need to do so for survival reasons. Ungulates i.e. hooved animals sometimes migrate because they're looking for fresh pastures during different seasons. Once again they need to migrate to better survive. That is how they evolved.

The wild cat species have adapted to their specific habitat in which they live and are part of the ecosystems of those habitats. They've evolved to exploit what scientists regard as a niche within the area where they live. It provides them with all the resources they need.

Of the animals that migrate, the majority do so to find food or a suitable place to breed and raise their young. And some species migrate to warmer climates to escape extreme cold which makes food more difficult to find.

Birds are a species which people know migrate not infrequently and they do so to find food and to find a better environment to raise their offspring.

It might be fair to say that sometimes humans migrate, once again to improve their chances of survival - find better work and lifestyle. Currently in the world there is mass migration of people from, for example, Central America and South America to North America to find a better life and from North Africa and Eastern Europe to Northern Europe for the same reason. 

These are often desperate people who are prepared to take dangerous steps in order to find a better life. It is mass migration and is causing great consternation in the governments of European countries and America.

Although when people migrate they don't follow a pattern (e.g. a season) whereas for animals they invariably follow a pattern based on the seasons.

These reasons for migration are not a concern for the cat species of which there are 37 if you include the domestic cat.

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P.S. please forgive the occasional typo. These articles are written at breakneck speed using Dragon Dictate. I have to prepare them in around 20 mins.

Thursday 21 December 2023

The reason why kittens, adult domestic cats and small wild cats play

Playing for both the domestic adult cat and kitten and in general small wild cat cubs is about self-training and practising for improved predation for survival and to defend their home range.

Play is for honing motor skills in practice for predation
Play is for honing motor skills in practice for predation. Image: MikeB

I would argue that for the small wild cat species, as stated, it is normally only for cubs/kittens to play and who do it intensively in order to train themselves in terms of coordination and general motor skills to become better predators (and survivors) when they are adults. And it is fun.

For the domestic cat it is a little different as they are cared for by their human caregiver. The human caregiver is a surrogate mother and this tends to keep the adult cat in the mental state of being a kitten and therefore they tend to have a kitten attitude or personality which translates to kitten-like behaviour which in turn translates to playing as an important aspect of their lives even when adult. 

Domestic cats and kittens play a lot because it's instinctive but it doesn't stop when they become adults. That's the point I'm making.

Experts have observed small wild cat species playing with prey animals such as mice in the same way as domestic cats. Some people think that the domestic cat is torturing a mouse when they do this. And they criticise the domestic cat for it. It's not true. It's normally because they might be a little frightened of being bitten because they lack practice in predation or they are instinctively practising predation and killing as was observed in a Geoffroy's cat in a captive environment.

The point is that the underlying reason why the small cats which includes domestic and wild cats play is, in the words of Jim Sanderson PhD, "to develop their motor skills". That's the purpose behind it rather than simple entertainment.
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P.S. please forgive the occasional typo. These articles are written at breakneck speed using Dragon Dictate. I have to prepare them in around 20 mins.

Tuesday 31 October 2023

Cat direct register gait seen brilliantly in the snow

Direct register cat gait is seen clearly when walking in quite deep snow. Image: MikeB from screenshot taken from video below on Twitter.

The domestic cat walks with direct register which means that cats place their hind paws directly in the same spot where their front paws landed. This creates a narrow track with overlapping pawprints in the snow as you can see. The reasons why cats and in fact many other animals do this is because of the reasons set out below the video.


Stealth and balance. It allows the cat to move silently and precisely. They minimise the amount of noise and of course disturbance that they make while walking. And in the snow, it is probably quite important because walking in the snow can be quite noisy and if the hind paws registered directly with the forepaws they don't go into the snow. They are silent.

It looks like this cat has walked along this snow track before and returned, using the exact same positions for his or her feet.

Cats instinctively walk silently and stealthily because they are one of the world's most skilled hunters. And when hunting they need to go undetected.

Direct register walking also helps in maintaining balance particularly when the cat is walking along a narrow surface or along a branch for instance.

Energy conservation. With a gait in direct register, the cat as a skilled predator can move more efficiently and they can conserve energy. They minimise the distance travelled by their bodies' center of mass between each step. This minimises their movement and reduces unnecessary movements which allows them to retain energy for more important activities such as a surge in speed when hunting or escaping larger predators.

And also, it goes without saying when looking at this video and the still image that walking in direct register provides a kind of camouflage for the cat's presence. The cat leaves a narrower and less conspicuous trail. This makes it more challenging for a predator of cats to detect and attack them.

The direct register gait of cats applies to walking. Cats do not maintain a direct register gait when they are running. They transition to a form of movement called the "rotary gallop". This form of movement allows them to move much faster while the direct register method of walking is mainly used for slower, stealthy movements. The rotary gallop is used for quick bursts of speed when hunting over a short distance after the stealthy approach.
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P.S. please forgive the occasional typo. These articles are written at breakneck speed using Dragon Dictate. I have to prepare them in around 20 mins.

Tuesday 10 October 2023

Duvet cover tells cat where to sleep

Duvet cover tells cat where to sleep
Duvet cover tells cat where to sleep. Shame they can't read English. Image: FB.

I like this duvet cover. Cool idea and it looks good. Shame cats can't read English. The duvet does tell a big story of cat intrusions on the bed. They do tend to hog it and sometimes interfere with sleep. You could write a book about cats in the bedroom.

There is the ever-present question of whether to let your cat come into the bedroom at night or whether you keep them out of the bedroom at night. A lot of people keep their cat out of the bedroom at night but I think it is a bad idea. So does Jackson Galaxy the American cat behaviourist. The bedroom is a great place for a cat but, I admit, it isn't so great for the person using the bed at night.

But cats just love to be with their owner on the bed at night. You are going to tell me now that your cat doesn't like to sleep on your bed with you which is fair enough but most cats do like to do it.

And then you've got a hold another chapter to write in this book about how cats wake their owners up at four in the morning because they want their breakfast. That's about domestic cats being crepuscular. Everybody knows that now. I think when you have a domestic cat you can expect to have your sleep broken sometimes at least. But it's a great trade-off. It's worth it. All cat owners would more or less say that.

You know what Jackson says is the best compromise about allowing your cat into the bedroom? It's to make a little bed for your cat in the corner of the room and that bed contains smelly items from you and your cat so they feel very comfortable sleeping on it. Because cats are attracted to the bedroom by the smell as in the words of Jackson, the bedroom has a "scent soaker". He means that it is soaked in the body odour of their owner. Yes, it doesn't sound great to humans but it is wonderful to cats.

Monday 7 August 2023

"Curiosity killed the cat" is an adage which was "Care killed the cat" meaning anxiety

We all know the old saying "Curiosity killed the cat". It's a saying which fits cat behaviour. Domestic cats are, indeed, very curious. It gets him into trouble sometimes which is why they can be harmed because of their curiosity and even, rarely, killed. Therefore, the adage has some veracity.

Domestic cats' lack of understanding of activities and objects in the human world makes them nervous
Domestic cats' lack of understanding of activities and objects in the human world makes them nervous. Photo: Pixabay.

But the original version of this proverb, from its first appearance in the 16th century until the end of the 19th century was, "Care killed the cat".

Care meaning anxious

In this saying, the word "care" means to worry about or to be anxious about something or other. It points to the possibility that cats could become so anxious and worried about something that it could even kill them. And this, apparently, used to be a belief by many people back in the day when the saying was first created.

And interestingly, this concept of worry killing cats is being revisited by veterinarians. Perhaps it's being revisited in terms of the fact that anxiety in domestic cats can harm their health which can lead to on occasions a serious health problems and even death.

But apparently, about 25% of cat owners surveyed in a 2008 study believed that their cat was incapable of feeling anxiety or sadness. Times have changed thanks to the internet I would say which has educated many cat owners. It is believed now that cats can at least experience the basic emotions that humans experience which includes anxiety or sadness.

And if asked today, scientists would agree that the old version of the proverb is to a certain extent true. Anxiety does present as a serious and real affliction for many domestic cats.

Anxiety is defined as a fear of something that is not currently happening. And you will find that there are, today, some anti-anxiety drugs which have been developed for humans which can be used on cats off-licence. Although, we are still unsure as to whether domestic cat feels the same kind of anxiety that humans feel but we are sure that feline anxiety is similar to human anxiety.

Elavil for anxious cats sometimes. Last resort.
Elavil for anxious cats sometimes. Last resort. Image: MikeB

Interestingly, in the study I mention, more than 60% of cat owners thought that domestic cats can be jealous. Almost 20% of the participants thought that cats can feel the emotion of embarrassment and more than 20% believed that cats can feel shame. Around 35% believed that cats can feel guilt and 40% were sure that cats experienced grief. About 60% thought that domestic cats experienced empathy.

Home range issues

The most common cause of anxiety in cats is to worry that their home range i.e. their territory is about to be invaded by other cats in the neighbourhood. This might apply to full-time indoor cats when looking out the window into the back yard.

Or they might feel this anxiety when living in a multi-cat home and where their territory is very compressed. Under these circumstances home ranges overlap a lot and there is a greater possibility for cats to develop anxiety because of intrusions into their home range.

When Dr. Jon Bradshaw conducted a survey of 90 cat owners in suburban Hampshire and rural Devon in 2000, the participants reported that almost 50% of their cats regularly fought with other cats. They confirmed that 40% of the cats were fearful of cats in general.

He states that he has a colleague, a veterinary surgeon, Rachel Casey, specialising in cat behavioural disorders who regularly diagnoses anxiety and fear. She believes that these emotions are main factors driving cats to urinate and defecate indoors outside of the litter box.

Forced to live with cat they don't trust and owner absence

As about half of domestic cats on that survey suffer from anxiety the old adage that I mention above carries some truth. And this leads to inappropriate defecation and urination inside the home. When cats defecate on bedsheets which by the way happened to my ex-wife's cat after my divorce, the cat is desperately trying to mingle their own smells with their owner's smells to establish ownership. 

It can be reassuring for a cat to do this. In my ex-wife's case I don't think this was about ownership of space but more about anxiety about her absence. Although she had introduced a new cat to the home which would have probably compounded the matter.

The stress of being forced to live with a cat or cat that they don't trust can affect a cat's health. The classic illness caused by stress is cystitis which veterinarians call idiopathic cystitis because there is no apparent cause of it.

66% urination problems

Dr. Jon Bradshaw tells me in his book Cat Sense that "As many as two thirds of cats taking to vets for urination problems-blood in the urine, difficult or painful urination, urinating in inappropriate places-have no obvious medical problems, other than inflammation of the bladder and intermittent blockage of the urethra by mucus thereby displaced from the bladder wall. The factors triggering such episodes of cystitis are therefore psychological."

Lack of understanding

When you think about it, there are a lot of things about the human world that domestic cats are going to struggle to understand because they are human. They can become acclimatised to them but constantly fail to understand them.

Certainly, new events and activities can make them anxious because of this failure to understand.

It's a reminder that we are different species and that our relationship as is an interspecies relationship and therefore quite special.

There are numerous activities which occur throughout the day and throughout the year which can cause anxiety and which are exclusively human in nature such as fireworks, delivery vans outside, the doorbell going off, the hoover being used and so on and so forth.

Owners aware

I think based upon this article that many cat owners should really be switched onto the possibility that their cat companion is going to stressed at some stage of their lives and they should look to the causes, the most common of which, as mentioned, is another cat or cats.

Tuesday 11 July 2023

How do cats automatically know how to use the litter box?

Well, the answer is obvious so I'll keep it short. Cats instinctively look for a suitable substrate on which to urinate and defecate. There is nothing in the home which anywhere near meets their criteria for an effective substrate except the litter in the cat litter tray which is somewhat like earth or sand from outside the home except better as it is made to be more absorbent. So, they make a beeline for it.

Substrate: an underlying substance or layer.
Cats and kittens use them instinctively as the substrate is ideal. Image: MikeB

They can poop and pee on it and if they feel the need (not all domestic cats do) they can bury it. Most often they bury poop. My male cat did not. Perhaps because he felt confident enough not to hide his scent. Hiding poop is a sort of submissive act to make themselves invisible to more dominant males.

Of course, after they've used the new litter tray for the first time it smells of their poop and pee so they recognise the litter tray as their toilet. They already know it is a nice substrate. Becoming their toilet reinforces its use.

Cat litter trays should not be over cleaned and disinfected as it kills off the cat's scent which they like. It is just possible that a cat might stop using their litter tray if it is bleached and scrubbed to well.

It should be kept clean but not overclean.

Indoor/outdoor cats don't need a litter tray indoors as they'll find a suitable area outdoors in the same way: a nice substrate. Although if you put down a litter tray, they'll probably use it as it might be more comfortable for them.

Jackson Galaxy says that in general cats prefer uncovered litter trays as covered ones might be a bit of a barrier. I disagree. Covered litter boxes are more private and cats like that. And cats feel more protected in covered litter trays during what is a vulnerable action.

Declawed cats are seven times more likely to pee in inappropriate places.

Declawed cats can find litter substrates of any kind uncomfortable to use because of their sore feet. They may pee and poop outside the box. Declawed cats are about 7 times more likely to do this than non-declawed cats. A warning to those who are considering this obnoxious operation (mutilation).

Another warning: don't use litter substrates which are too dusty as kittens will inhale a ton of dust when digging a hole to poop into. The worse cat litter and the most dangerous as far as I am concerned is Tidy Cats Lightweight Cat Litter. Avoid the stuff please. It is no good. Some cats have died using it.

The manufacturers sold out health and safety to make Tidy Cats more convenient for women to use as it is easier to carry. The directors thought it was a good idea as cat litter can be heavy but they overlooked the health implications.

Environmentally Friendly Cat Litter

I asked Bing's AI for advice about the best cat litter substrate. The response it not great:

The best cat litter substrates are made up of natural materials that are safe for your cat and the environment. Here are some of the best cat litter substrates and why:

  • Clay: The cheapest and most popular material for cat litter, clay is good at absorbing liquids but it gets dusty and smelly (which your cat will hate), so it needs regular cleaning.
  • Wood shavings or sawdust: Wood shavings or sawdust are biodegradable and eco-friendly. They are also good at absorbing liquids and controlling odors.
  • Sand: Sand is a natural material that is good at absorbing liquids. It is also easy to clean and does not produce dust2.
  • Whole wheat: Whole wheat is a natural material that is biodegradable and eco-friendly. It is also good at absorbing liquids and controlling odors.
  • Potting soil: Potting soil is a natural material that is biodegradable and eco-friendly. It is also good at absorbing liquids and controlling odors.
  • Chicken feed: Chicken feed is a natural material that is biodegradable and eco-friendly. It is also good at absorbing liquids and controlling odors.
  • Walnut litter: Walnut litter is a natural material that is biodegradable and eco-friendly. It is also good at absorbing liquids and controlling odors.

I hope that helps!

Friday 20 January 2023

Why is my cat constantly peeing by my front door, he doesn’t do it anywhere else just in that one spot

 The full text of the question:

"Why is my cat constantly peeing by my front door, he doesn’t do it anywhere else just in that one spot,we have 3 litter boxes that are cleaned daily,he’s peeing in there also but constantly by the front door (6 months old maine coon x bengal booked into be neutered on the 28th." 

The person who posted the question and who was seeking help describes inappropriate elimination ('peeing') but I don't think it is peeing. It looks more like spraying to mark territory as it occurs near the front door. This is a major point in the cat's 'home range'. The area that he considers to be his claimed territory. 

They describe their cat as a Maine Coon x Bengal cat cross. A very rare cat breed. The cat looks more like a Bengal to me. Here he is:

Why is my cat constantly peeing by my front door, he doesn’t do it anywhere else just in that one spot
Why is my cat constantly peeing by my front door, he doesn’t do it anywhere else just in that one spot. This is the cat who looks more like a Bengal cat to me. Picture: u/beccamx41

If the cat feels that there is a threat outside the home and perhaps that threat is another cat (or a person) who comes into the home through the front door they might mark it to provide the strangers with a clear signal that they are stepping onto his territory.

The key is the 'front door'. Domestic cats will tend to mark territory in prominent place within their range such as on the boundaries and intersections. 

I feel that a front door might be the boundary of this cat. He might be an indoor cat. The walls and doors of the home is the boundary. 

Spraying is likely to be on the walls or door that is vertical surfaces whereas peeing will be over horizontal surfaces. That'll be the clincher. 

Check the exact location of the urine.

My cat is acting weird. She’s standing on her rear toes with her butt in the air. What does it mean?

The exact words of the cat's owner asking for help on Reddit.com are as follows:
My cat has been acting weird. All day she’s been standing on her rear toes with her butt in the air always pointing it at me. She’s never done this before what does it mean?

I shortened them for the title. The picture accompanying the words immediately tell us what is going on.

My cat is acting weird. She’s standing on her rear toes with her butt in the air. What does it mean?
My cat is acting weird. She’s standing on her rear toes with her butt in the air. What does it mean?. Female (queen) in heat prepared to mate. Image: u/OMGJay on Reddit.

Their female cat is in oestrus (heat) and is seeking a mate and ready to copulate. She raises her bottom slightly and places her tail to one side. The classic pose of a female cat waiting to be mated. Before doing this, she would have provided other signals to males to indicate that she was ready to mate such as rolling around flirtatiously.

Clearly, the owner has adopted this cat and unusually not had her spayed (sterilised). He/she may have rescued her informally (found her). The vast majority of people in the West i.e. Europe and America, spay and neuter their female and male cats. 

If there is a lesson here it is to check if an informally adopted female cat has been spayed. It can hard to find the scare from the operation. You might like to ask a vet.

The veterinarians say that female cats are happier when they been spayed and it helps to remove the possibility of certain diseases affecting female cats. So, it is highly recommended.

The spraying operation is more severe than the neutering operation for male cats but I argue that male cats' appearance changes when they are neutered. They become more feminised whereas for female cats there is no change in appearance. I prefer the non-neutered male cat appearance.

In the spraying surgery, the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries are removed. The operation prevents the queen (unsterilized female cat) from coming into oestrus and eliminates the problems of cystic ovaries, neutering infections, false pregnancies, irregular heat cycles and confinement during the mating season. 

And it also reduces the frequency of breast tumours. Spaying reduces the chances of a female cat developing mammary tumours by 90%.

Spaying does not make a cat fat and lazy. It might slow their metabolism and this can be countered by a fresh diet and some more exercise.

The best time to spay a female is at 5-7 months of age before she goes into her first heat.

Veterinarians believe that a spayed female makes an outstanding pet and she is able to devote herself exclusively to her human family. 

Plus, you don't have the risk of acquiring a bunch of kittens to care for and find homes for.

Sunday 27 November 2022

Five cats make a supermarket their home. Is this a problem?

NEWS AND COMMENT-WALES: It has been reported that five cats have made an Asda store (a UK supermarket chain) their home. They stroll into the foyer of the supermarket and sit there. Clearly, they are coming in out of the cold seeking some warmth. 

Some might be also seeking some company. These must be domestic cats because they're not frightened of people. They probably live nearby, and their owners are away all day, so they saunter into the store as a way of passing the time in relatively warm conditions during the winter.

Five cats make an Asda store their home after they stroll in and get comfortable
Five cats make an Asda store their home after they stroll in and get comfortable. Image: Asada. Dan Roberts/Pwllheli Store Manager

That's my assessment. Initially there was one who routinely started to visit the store. That cat became a feature of the store, and it appears that the vast majority of shoppers accepted him or her. Some actually found his presence charming and I guess some fed him.

It appears that some of the staff tried to discourage the cat from visiting but he returned, and his presence has encouraged for others to join. On the face of it this presents a problem to the store manager because some customers will think that the cats are unhygienic.

There is this mentality about distancing domestic cats from the kitchen counter in the home. The reason behind that is because people don't want the cat to bring pathogens onto the counter which can contaminate food. I get that but this is an overreaction because domestic cats are no more likely to introduce pathogens to food than are humans.

So, these five cats are completely harmless in my view to the customers' welfare. They remain in the foyer in any case. Any disease that they might have will nearly always be not zoonotic. This means that nearly all feline diseases cannot be transferred to humans.

There is no genuine problem but there is a presentation problem in that it doesn't look good to have a group of cats in the foyer and I understand that. It's a presentational thing which goes against the culture of a well-run supermarket store.

But people shouldn't be worried about it except for the fact that if a gaggle of cats habitually start to gather in the foyer of this supermarket on a regular basis it is going to cause a problem. Some people won't like it and the manager won't like it. It depends if it can be contained.

Ciara Faulkner, the 'ambient manager' at the supermarket said that they tried to encourage customers not to feed the cats, but they can't monitor them constantly. They encouraged the cats to leave but they come back.

Fortunately, Ciara Faulkner reports that: "We have had one or two customers who aren't very happy, but most people think it's cute. They just sleep there really; they are not causing any harm."

That I think is the attitude to take. Leave them alone provided the existing maximum five cats don't encourage another five and so on! Then it will be a problem, not of disease transference but in giving the wrong impression that the supermarket has become a cat rescue centre!

Saturday 8 October 2022

Domestic cat's instinctive desire to entertain themselves based on hunting

This charming, short, video of a ginger tabby cat playing on a loose flagstone and with water is novel in my opinion. It shows a domestic cat instinctively using his hunting skills to entertain himself through play. 

And he's observed that when he pounces onto a corner of the flagstone water is ejected. The pouncing behaviour is reminiscent of the hunting technique of the serval which often hunts for small prey animals such as rodents in long grass. 

Domestic cat's instinctive desire to entertain themselves based on hunting
Domestic cat's instinctive desire to entertain themselves based on hunting. Screenshot.

The serval picks up the sound of these rodents even though they can't see them and then leaps into the air and stuns the animal when they make contact with the ground.

This 'stunning technique' is very clear in this video. The cat is effectively hunting, and it is not clear to him why the water is being ejected upwards as the flagstone squashes it underneath, forcing it out and up.

It is a variation on play-hunting in using whatever is available as a "toy". It caught my eye but please note that this is an embedded video from the Reddit.com website which may well end up being converted to a link to that website or the video may disappear. If that happens, I'm sorry but I have no control over this.

Friday 16 September 2022

2 reasons why domestic cats 'play' with prey (and it is not because they are psychopathic)

You might know the 2 reasons why your domestic cat - if she is allowed to go outside - 'plays' with the mouse she catches but I'd like to play with the topic for a while. Sorry about the pun. 

2 reasons why domestic cats 'play' with prey (and it is not because they are psychopathic)
2 reasons why domestic cats 'play' with prey (and it is not because they are psychopathic). Image: MikeB.

The first reason is that most domestic cats don't really get enough hunting time. Hunting is in their DNA, and they need to express this desire. For indoor cats it is in the form of play-hunting. When a cat is able to successfully catch a mouse, they want to extend the fun as long as possible and so they toy with the poor animal both before they die and after death. It looks horrible, callous and psychopathic to some humans, but we can't measure cats by reference to human characteristics. 

Cats are insensitive to the pain they cause. They are insensitive to the emotions of the prey animals that they terrorise. We must avoid anthropomorphising cats. So, the first reason why cats play with prey is to extend the excitement of the hunt and the kill because they don't get enough of it. 

Hunting becomes more than an act of survival. It is playing out the hunting instinct and as you know cats hunt when they are not hungry.

The second, instinctive, reason is linked to the first. Many domestic cats get a little bit out of practice on their innate hunting skills and want to make sure that they don't suffer a nasty bite from a highly defensive and athletic little mouse. And so, they bat, slap and toss around the poor creature using their paws thereby avoiding getting their head near the animal, which exhausts the mouse and makes them less of a threat in terms of acquiring an injury. 

Cats want to kill mice with a bite to the head but that exposes them to a bite from mice. The safer way to kill is to exhaust them and this has the added advantage of taking longer. As there is no need to eat the mouse taking longer over the kill is not a problem. In the wild, the domestic cat's ancestor would not mess around so much. They get on with killing and eating.

Rats certainly can harm cats. You don't see domestic cats playing with birds so much or hardly at all because they are harder to catch and less of a danger to the cat. Also, when birds are caught by a cat they don't respond in the same exciting way as mice. 

They just try and fly off. Mice gallop along the skirting board and hide. Cats love that. They love to prod and poke their paws into tight places where the mouse has found sanctuary. And one cat hunting strategy is to sit and wait by a burrow. When a mouse hides under the sideboard it is the same thing to a cat.

The whole hunting process for a domestic cat is like a play - another awful pun.

Sunday 24 April 2022

Siamese cat behavior - 7 topics covered

Classic Siamese. Seal point. Not extreme.
Photo: in public domain

Siamese Cat Behavior does have a certain reputation but this may be slightly exaggerated. There are 7 areas to cover when discussing Siamese cat behavior if you want to do a thorough job 😉.
  • What the experts say about the Siamese family of cats.
  • General cat behavior.
  • Differences in behavior from cat to cat (individual personality). This is probably greater than any differences from breed to breed.
  • Siamese cat behavior.
  • Whether there are any differences in the behavior between the types of Siamese cats of which there is an endless spectrum. There are though essentially 3 types, the Modern and Traditional, with the Classic in between. Is the classic body conformation the Thai cat?
  • Spaying and neutering - the effect on behavior.
  • Illness - modern Siamese cats have the most inherited diseases of all the cat breeds.
As this is a very long page in which I discuss domestic cat behaviour generally as I must when discussing the behaviour of a cat breed, you might like to dip into the early part in which I report on what an expert says about the behaviour of the Siamese cat family. And there is a Siamese cat family because the Siamese cat is within a number of other cat breeds such as the Balinese, Oriental Shorthair and Oriental Longhair. And there is a range of Siamese cat types. It is a pretty big topic.

Expert opinion on the Siamese cat family

Gloria Stephens who is a past cat breeder and cat show judge (book: Legacy of the Cat) states that cats of the Siamese cat family "are vocal to the point of loudness and are quite active". They really like to sit on their owner's lap and sleep next to their owner at night. In her words, "They want to be as close as possible, and their need for closeness verges on the desperate."

And as they are intelligent, they like to investigate and "comment on everything their owner does". This makes them "demanding cats". But then to satisfy this demand all you have to do is to be close to your Siamese cat, hold them and stroke them. In short love them as an excellent cat caregiver.

General cat behavior

Obviously, a Siamese cat whether Modern or Traditional will have common domestic cat characteristics, which will be more pronounced than the particular breed characteristics. Realistically all purebred cats are very similar in character. It is usually the exotic wild cat hybrids that show some differences such as the Bengal cat.

Cats will act instinctively, which means reacting to what is going on around them. They are essentially, if one goes back thousands of years, domesticated wild cats. This is relevant as what they do is rooted in wild cat behavior. Their hunting skills come readily to mind. They are adapted to hunt so they have great senses. Play can lead to a scratch if it is too rough, for example. Play is a learning process for hunting.

Intelligent cats - and some breeds are I believe more intelligent than others (although there is no hard evidence to support this) - will be more inquisitive and generally more active than less intelligent cats. 

The Sphynx cat is thought to be more intelligent than average. We know that the Persian cat is affectionately known as a piece of furniture (i.e. static and undemanding). I wonder how cats feel about this? Being thought of as being a lesser cat breed in terms of intelligence. 

Cats don't mind as they're more tolerant than humans. We should agree that intelligence has a say in cat behavior generally. Siamese cat behavior will be subject to these general cat traits and Siamese cats are intelligent. This should include close relatives such as the Oriental Shorthair, Balinese and Javanese.

Susan Ford, daughter of Gerald Ford, and the family's Siamese cat, Shan, in 1974.
Photo: Wikipedia under CC license. Image: A1206-12A, Courtesy: Gerald R. Ford Library

Personality traits 

Due to nature (genetic traits) and nurture (environmental impact) individual cats will have differing temperaments. For example, difficult early years will or might make your cat more defensive. This will translate to being more static and less adventurous. This in turn may lead to weight problems. Or, a cat may be more prone to being nervous. This might translate to poor litter habits. These are individual traits which are similar in their variety to those found in humans. 

Siamese cat behavior (as a cat breed) will be substantially modified or completely altered by possible individual traits. This is less likely to happen in a cat bought from a quality Siamese cat breeder as the breeder will ensure that cats in her charge are well socialized (well-balanced characters and good with people and pets). A quality breeder will effectively take out of the equation the variation in character due to environmental factors.

Persian Siamese and non-pedigree cats. Human participants in a study believed that the Persian and Siamese made better pets than the non-pedigree. Is this a true result? Is it distorted by purchasing cats compared to adopting a non-pedigree from a rescue centre?
Persian Siamese and non-pedigree cats. Human participants in a study believed that the Persian and Siamese made better pets than the non-pedigree. Is this a true result? Is it distorted by purchasing cats compared to adopting a non-pedigree from a rescue centre?


Spaying and neutering

Cat breeders keep unaltered cats for breeding purposes. They often keep their male cats in outdoor pens. That just about says all you need to know about the behavior of male unaltered cats. Castrating a male cat eliminates the natural sex drive which has the pleasant effect of reduced territorial fights and injuries. Spraying urine (scent marking) is also reduced significantly. The lack of sex drive makes them more inclined to stay at home, a trait which makes them more domesticated, in effect. 

In other words, it makes domestic cats less like wild cats and more like domestic cats; the cats that we like to live with. As for females they spray too and there is no pregnancy to worry about once neutered. Altering as some breeders call it, is pretty well essential despite seeming a little cruel. It is really a consequence of living as a domestic cat.

Illness

Illness can affect Siamese cat behavior. Sometimes unexplained behavior, perhaps untypical aggressive behavior can be put down to an illness or injury. A vet is the only person to decide the best course of action in this instance. Illness though can affect behavior generally. I wonder if the propensity of the Siamese cat to having a squint (cross eyed) affects this breeds behavior?

Siamese cat behavior

I mentioned cat intelligence earlier on. It is not surprising that Siamese cats are at the top end of the intelligence league. This is reflected in this breed's vocalizations and attachment to humans. This is a cat that is involved in the human/cat relationship and the Siamese is not backward in coming forward in asking for something when the occasion demands. So, all other elements being equal and on the assumption that your Siamese is well socialized and well balanced she should be a little more inquisitive, involved and interactive than the average mixed-breed cat and the majority of the purebred cats. This means more input for the person keeping the cat.

This "people orientation" may translate into an issue if another cat joins the family. I immediately think of Helmi Flick's F1 Chausie that lived with her for a time. An F1 Chausie is a wildcat hybrid and quite demanding. They form close relationships with people. They are intelligent. I could see a disturbance to the balance in the relationship if another cat or person was introduced into it. 

One site called it jealousy but this is not an emotion that cats feel (or am I wrong?). However, cats love routine and if the cat has a close relationship with a person and this is disturbed it would cause upset that could be seen as jealousy. Cats take a long time to settle into a routine. Routine provides a comfort zone, something all animals (including humans) like and don't want disturbed.

Siamese cat behavior is considered by some to be extrovert in comparison to some other cat breeds perhaps because Siamese tend to be more vocal. Their need for human companionship is expressed in their vocal demands. But let us remember that all domestic cats depend on us, as that is what makes them domestic cats.

In truth cat breeders and the cat associations tend to exaggerate the characteristics of a cat breed, particularly the breed they are breeding to distinguish the breed from others. It is important to distinguish breed from breed to justify the breed. The variations from cat to cat will sometimes outweigh the differences from Siamese cat to another cat breed.

The Wikipedia author proposes that the Siamese cat coat (white with points) contributes to this breed's character in that the coat makes this breed less well camouflaged and therefore more dependent on people for survival. Hence the desire for a closer connection with humans. This begs the question as to the development of the coat color and pattern. It is certainly not the best for survival. That accolade for that must go to the tabby cat coat.

From the point of view of people living in the West the history of the Siamese cat starts late in the 1800s on the importation from Siam of a Siamese cat. This cat was a Traditional cat. What happened in Siam (now Thailand) to create the pointed coat? The pointed coat is probably due to a genetic mutation. 

If this happened naturally in Siam (and the history of the Siamese cat goes back a long way in Thailand) then this theory could have merit. It is a development that leaves the Siamese more vulnerable. Think of all the wild cats (except the big cats) such as the Scottish Wild cat and the American Bobcat .They all have the best tabby coats you can see. These provide great camouflage. The top cats like the Tiger are not well camouflaged as they have no predators.

There are a number of posts on cat behavior on this website, which discuss cat behavior from various aspects. You can use the labels panel to select these posts. Here is one on cat breed characteristics.

The Different Siamese cat types

There used to be one Siamese cat, the standard regular looking cat as imported into the UK in the latter part of the 1800s. Now things have changed. This change was brought about entirely by cat breeders breeding for a more "elegant" and "extreme" or plain skinny figure. These contemporary cats that I have called "Modern Siamese" may have altered characters.

My research indicates that they are less robust from a health point of view. But do they have different characters from the Traditional Siamese cats? The answer is probably not. There is certainly no obvious evidence that Modern Siamese behave differently. But being noticeably thinner and therefore more prone to being affected by ambient temperature may affect their character and eating habits (greater heat loss). Modern Siamese are in my opinion less healthy and this will be manifest in an altered behavior (depressed and less active). The Modern Siamese may also be nervous.


Friday 21 January 2022

Cat body language 101 - exposing the belly is not an invitation to be petted

The video covers a number of domestic cat body language signals. I will let you explore them (Galaxy is good) but one of them is always important. It is when a domestic cat goes 'belly-up' and presents their belly to their human caregiver. How do you interpret it? And I think the answer actually is not a black-and-white one. And it is also difficult to generalise. Different cats respond in different ways.


But you'll find that Jackson Galaxy makes one essential point. He says that when a dog presents their belly to the human caregiver it is a request to be petted in that vulnerable area. This is not the case with domestic cats, however. It is not an invitation to pet their belly but more a signal that they trust you and even love you if you believe that there can be love from a cat to a person.

RELATED: ‘Cat love bites’ – what do they mean and why do they happen?

It is a signal that a cat is relaxed in the company of their human caregiver and in the home. And to take that as an invitation and pet the belly may result in the cat doing what Jackson Galaxy calls the "wraparound". This is when your cat grabs your hand and arm by the hindlegs and forelegs and then bites the hand, all at the same time. And it can be quite difficult to extricate your arm from that sort of clamp! This is due to overstimulation. It can happen when petting too much in any situation.

RELATED: ‘Cat Whisperers’ don’t just read cats’ facial expressions but body language too (plus a quiz).

However, if you pet very gently when your cat does this it may work out okay or even well. It depends on the cat's character, which is why I have to say that, sometimes, domestic cats do invite their human caregiver to rub their belly albeit gently. My cat does this. It seems to be instinctive to them. Perhaps it is a natural extension of the signal that the cat feels reassured. 

Provided you do it very gently and with great respect, I believe a cat can take pleasure from having their belly rubbed. Once again this points to different circumstances and different reactions from different individual cats. 

Jackson Galaxy talks cat behavior
Jackson Galaxy talks cat behavior. Screenshot. In this still image Jackson is talking about cats' pent-up energy like a balloon expanding.

Some people think that when a cat presents their belly to a person or another animal it is an act of submission. I think that you will find this argument no longer holds water. However, you will see cats who are friendly to each other and playing when one rolls over onto their back to invite more play.

However, it cannot be denied that the one sure signal that a domestic cat sends to their caregiver when they lie on their back with their belly up is that they feel confident enough to do it i.e. present a vulnerable part of their body to others. They need to feel reassured in their own home to do it. They need to be sure that the people they are living with won't harm them. This all comes about because of a great relationship between person and cat and a calm, agreeable home.

And it is not too uncommon that domestic cats roll onto their back when they are very warm i.e. on their human caregiver's lap. Or on the bed next to them. This combination of warmth plus being in contact with the owner creates a feeling of great reassurance which sometimes results in the cat having enough confidence to present their belly.

Monday 20 December 2021

Michelle Pfeiffer has just noticed that her cat uses her right paw to drink water

Hello Magazine tells us that Michelle Pfeiffer was stunned to discover that her cat drinks water using her paw. Specifically her right paw. It is as if the earth has moved off its orbit. The online newspaper paints the event as if it is the most shocking thing that has happened in history of humankind. But it's just something that is very normal. We see a lot of it.

Michelle Pfeiffer has just noticed that her cat uses her paws to drink water
Michelle Pfeiffer has just noticed that her cat uses her paws to drink water. This is her cute cat. She looks like a Ragdoll, perhaps. Her name is Bella .Screenshot from video by Michell Pfeiffer.

And a lot of people have thrown their hat into the ring to try and figure out why domestic cats like to do this. They want to give her their valuable advice. They say that Maine Coons in particular enjoy drinking water with their paw.

I am not sure that that is correct. Individual cats because of their character might use their paw from time to time when drinking water from a bowl. The habit is not necessary breed-specific.

Enjoy doing it - inquisitive

There might be a specific reason but often times I believe that they do it because they simply prefer to drink water that way. And why not? Humans do it. When humans drink from a stream they use their hands. Admittedly humans don't have feline tongues. The tongue of a cat is designed to "pick" water up using surface tension and inertia. They don't actually scoop up the water with their cupped tongue but employ some fancy physics to get it into their mouths.

When I've seen cats drink water with their paw, I've seen a cat that is entirely healthy and normal. There is no apparent reason why they're doing it. In that case, I would say they do it because they simply want to do it. It's a variation on the usual method. This may be borne out of boredom. It makes drinking water a bit more interesting.

Other reasons

You could theorise on a range of possibilities such as the domestic cat's wildcat ancestor occasionally drinks water this way in order to test it or to be cautious about a potential predator under the water. I've heard that said before.

The classic reason is that the bowl is too small and cats don't like their whiskers brushing against the side of the bowl because they are super-sensitive. Therefore they are forced to use their paw instead. This may, indeed, be a reason.

RELATED: Why is my cat not drinking?

Stimulation

Another thing that you might notice when you see a cat using their paw like this is that they look at the water falling off it. They look at what is going on inquisitively. They seem to be interested in the way the water falls off their paw. There may be something in that. It may provide us with a hint as to what is going on in their mind.

To me, it hints at a need for stimulation. They are injecting something different into their lives and trying to stimulate their brains. They make the world more interesting around them. This is the reason why cats knock an item off a mantelpiece or a table. This is not vandalism 😉. I think drinking water with their paw has the same underlying reason as knocking objects of tables and mantelpieces.

When they knock something of a mantelpiece they watch as the item falls to the floor and bounces. They are creating something which is animated and therefore interests them. I'm driven to conclude once again that this activity originates in boredom and a lack of stimulation.

Play

My message to Michelle Pfeiffer is to test out that theory by playing with her cat more if she has the time; to see whether her cat stops drinking water with her right paw.

Friday 8 October 2021

Ethical rule in using pharmacotherapy for cat behavioural problems

Pharmacotherapy for cat behavioural problems means treating certain behavioural problems in cats with drugs. Medical problems can cause behaviour changes, for example, due to endocrine imbalances or neurological disorders. These are quite specific but sometimes cats might benefit from antianxiety medication. 

I think that this sort of medication such as amitriptyline (off-label for pets) or Valium (off-label for pets) is more problematic when given to cats (only give these drugs under vet supervision). A cautious approach should be taken because these drugs cannot provide a magical cure and they should only be used in conjunction with a program to modify behaviour plus, perhaps, a repositioning of the cat caregiver's expectations as to what is 'normal cat behaviour'.

Ethical rule in using pharmacotherapy for cat behavioural problems
Ethical rule in using pharmacotherapy for cat behavioural problems. Picture: Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

The ethical difference between using pharmacotherapy for cats versus for humans is that cats cannot give their informed consent. That is obvious and perhaps it's stupid to say it but what it means is that their caregiver should only agree to drug treatment if it is entirely for the benefit and welfare of their cat and not because the owner wants behavioural modifications to suit themselves.

I'm sure that there are lots of instances when owners have false expectations. They want their cat to behave in a certain way but they don't. Perhaps they try and force the cat to do certain things which makes matters worse. This is expectation management based on education. You will find that most cat behaviourists tackle so-called feline behaviour problems by first addressing the expectations and knowledge of the cat's owner. That in itself can straighten out lots of "bad cat behaviour".

Clearly, there are some genuine cases of cat mental health problems which can benefit from drugs but they should be assessed very carefully and a drug therapy treatment regime should always be prescribed under the direct supervision of a qualified veterinary behaviourist.

Wednesday 25 August 2021

Ricky Gervais is wrong on domestic cat behavior

Ricky Gervais is on YouTube talking to Ellen DeGeneres on her show about cats and dogs. Ricky Gervais is a well-known animal lover (well-done). He doesn't keep dogs because he travels too much which is entirely understandable. But he gets it wrong on cats. I'm a bit surprised by this.

Ricky Gervais is wrong on cats
Ricky Gervais is wrong on cats. Screenshot.

He says that you can leave cats alone for as long as you want because they don't care. But you can't do the same thing with dogs. He thinks cats are highly independent. This is his first error. And before I go on, I want to say that I respect Ricky Gervais for his love of animals. But the fact of the matter is that cats are not independent. They are dependent upon their human caregiver for company, sustenance and security. And they mind when left alone for long periods.

Perhaps the problem in this instance is that Ricky does travel too much and therefore he does not have an ideal connection with his cat. It would appear that he leaves his cat without his company for considerable periods of time. This is not going to help the relationship. He thinks dogs can't cope with this and cats can but I would argue that cats can cope with that separation better but it does not promote a strong relationship.


Note: This is a video from another website. Sometimes they are deleted at source which stops them working on this site. If that has happened, I apologise but I have no control over it.


And I think there is a huge misconception about domestic cat independence. In the right homes where the caregiver is good at their job domestic cats are very emotionally connected to their human companion. They miss them when they're gone (separation anxiety and idiopathic cystitis). They welcome their human companion when they come home having waited by the door for hours. They want to be next to their human companion. They like to place their paw against their human companion to make sure that they are in contact with them. There is a plethora of indicators which scream to us that domestic cats are connected to their human caregiver very strongly.

And you can't simply turf a domestic cat out onto the street and expect them to survive which is what you are more or less saying if you call them independent. Ninety percent of domestic cats are almost entirely dependent and very often cats are in a codependent relationship with their human caregivers. I am for instance and I'm proud of it. It's a good relationship. It is a good substitute to the human-human relationship. There is nothing wrong with it. It is mutually beneficial. But in effect the parties are mutually dependent.

Secondly, he talks about brushing his cat and then stroking her. He says that she asks to be brushed which is very typical because cats enter into a routine with their human caregiver and they know that if they meow in a certain way their human caregiver will respond by doing what they want which is in this case to brush them. But Ricky Gervais says that after he has brushed and then stroked his cat, she bites him. And he puts that down to his cat asking to be brushed and not stroked. His cat is complaining that he should not have stroked her. He's sort of joking but at the same time he is being serious.

The truth is that this is not a question of his cat receiving something that wasn't requested and therefore complaining with a bite; it is that Ricky Gervais has overstimulated his cat because he is brushing and stroking her too vigorously, forcefully or for too long and his cat thinks that this is play rather than petting (which cats perceive as being licked). 

So, his cat is being stimulated to play and for a domestic cat play involves slapping with the paws (claws out) and biting with the mouth. That's why his cat bites him when he strokes her after brushing. He puts it down to his cat being fickle. I'm afraid it's not; it is down to him brushing and stroking her not quite in the right way. I don't want to be critical but that is the truth of it.

You can tell that Ricky is very close to his cat because he understands variations in her meows. This is partly, though, because a cat will request certain things at certain times under certain circumstances which can be interpreted not necessarily through the vocalisation but because of those circumstances.

Tuesday 29 June 2021

The paradox and unusualness of the lion

The lion is the most famous cat in the world (with the tiger) and at the same time the least typical member of the cat family. While other cat species are solitary hunters, the lion is a cooperative group hunter or at least the lionesses are. Male lions like to hunt alone in denser vegetation using the stalk and ambush technique whereas lionesses, as you've seen in video, cooperate with wing lionesses and a central lioness when chasing prey.

Male lions in a coalition. Photo: Daily Mail. These are black maned lions. The dark mane is attractive to females.
Male lions in a coalition. Photo: Daily Mail. These are black maned lions. The dark mane is attractive to females.

This difference in the behaviour of the female and male lion is also shown in the quite stark difference between the male and female in terms of appearance. Most cats do not have great gender differences in appearance. 

There will be size differences but other than that they look very similar. But with lions the huge mane of the male sets him apart from the maneless female (some females have manes). Lionesses prefer males with dark manes. They presumably sense that they are more likely to have better genes and more able to create a healthy family.

Black knob at the end of a lion's tail and a cub who wants to play with it. Photo: Pinterest.
Black knob at the end of a lion's tail and a cub who wants to play with it. Photo: Pinterest.

And unusualness about the lion is that it is the only cat species to have a knob-like tuft of dark hair at the tip of its tail.

The paradox of the lion is that it is both the most popular animal in the world or at least in the top three. It is also the most admired with the tiger and yet trophy hunters seek to destroy it for their entertainment. And the rarer the individual lion the keener trophy hunters are to shoot it dead. It's a great paradox that there is both admiration and the desire to destroy present in the minds of these people at the same time.

And it also appears that the lion is both in the top 10 of animals loved and hated. It is loved because of its power, courage, aggressivity, dignified bearing and handsome appearance but it is also hated because it is a killer of nice animals, pleasant animals such as antelopes and zebra. The lion is a brilliant killer with huge amounts of aggressivity.

Our admiration for the lion is tinged by a fear of its ability to kill. The general consensus is that the lion wins in a lion versus tiger fight but genuine fights between these species are rare because they live in different parts of the world.

Sunday 11 April 2021

Resting domestic cat has traffic bollards placed around her for safety reasons

from Cat GIFs via Gfycat

The video is amusing and meant to be but I'll take a serious approach. This is a practical example of how you respect the cat. Respecting the cat is a rather amorphous concept. What does it mean in practice? Well, this, as mentioned, is an example in practice. I know it was done for entertainment purposes. But respecting the cat really is about allowing the cat to behave naturally and respecting their innate behaviours and the drivers behind it. 

It is allowing the cat to express themselves and taking charge of that responsibility. It means that the person takes charge of the relationship and ensures that their cat has the freedoms that they need within the limitations of safety. 

The first step in respecting the cat is to understand domestic cats and in order to understand domestic cats you have to understand cats in general and the domestic cat's wild cat ancestor. I preach (!) that people should love their cat as a family member but treat the cat as a cat. 

What that means is you don't treat your cat as a little person because that can result in feline behavioural problems and problems in the relationship between cat and person. It's a lot to do as well with expectation management. 

People need to have the right expectations when it comes to their cat and their cat's behaviour. I am sure that there are many homes were people adopt cats expecting something and the cat delivers something else and there is a gap between expectations on delivery which causes disappointment which in turn can lead to a cat being given up somebody else or a cat shelter. 

The only way you avoid expectation disappointment is by understanding domestic cats before you adopt them. It means doing your homework. I know this is incredibly tiresome and utterly boring but you've got to do some work on it before you take that big step. 

And it is a big step because there cannot be failure. It has to be a successful relationship. There are no other options. This is for the life of the cat.

Thursday 15 September 2011

Silencing the noisy Siamese cat

The title is a bit brutal. Personally, I am fine with a vocal cat unless it is three in the morning. But for some cat caretakers it might grate a bit from time to time. Also cats ask for food and a lot of us, most of us, respond by giving it. If we don't our cat asks again and again...If your cat is a Siamese cat the ask might sound like a shout!

Linda P Case in her book The Cat, Its Behavior, Nuitrition & Health, says that for cats that are very vocal, and the Siamese heads that list, the cat can be silenced eventually when meowing excessively for food, by "withdrawing all interactions whenever a cat meows...".

This leads to "extinction" of the meowing under those circumstances. Perhaps a balance is needed. I feel that a complete withdrawal of response it not good on the basis that it is a failure to interact and we keep cats to interact with them.

Monday 25 July 2011

Siamese Cat Heat Signs

Siamese cat heat signs will be same as the signs of any cat that is in heat. I guess that is obvious.

As it happens I have some pages on cats mating and what happens before and after! Cats make vocalizations when in heat as we know. These are vowel sounds. There are a number of female cat behavior changes during heat (estrus or estrous).

Click on the last link to read about cat heat signs that apply equally to the Siamese cat. Cat pregnancy can follow....

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