Anyone who’s ever shared their life with a cat has spent time watching them. Cats are fascinating creatures, and when an owner takes the time to watch them they get a better insight into the mind, instincts, likes and dislikes of their feline friend. If you live with multiple cats, you can watch them interact with each other. Domestic cats are not as large as tigers or lions, but you get a glimpse into what life in a pride may be like when you watch a group of cats. We might not always understand why our cats do what they do, but there’s always a reason behind their actions.
Your cat’s behavior may be driven by instinct, or one of their senses (smell, hearing or sight). I had a cat that tried to bury their food bowl by folding the cloth placemat the bowl sat on over their dish. This is instinctual and is done to protect the cat from predators. While domestic cats don’t hide their food up a tree (as a jaguar does), by burying it they are hiding their meal from another animal. Kittens learn to bury food from their mother. This is also a behavior for self-preservation; it keeps a predator from finding the kittens in the nest. Cats that drop toys in their water dish are hiding them in a place they feel is safe.
Kittens knead their mother to increase the milk flow from their mother’s nipples; a cat may do it as they settle in your lap for a nap. It is a pleasurable remembrance from kittenhood that’s done to show love to their owner, and may be accompanied by purring and drooling. Sucking on fingers and toes may be performed by a kitten when their mother is not available for a snack. It is also an adult behavior linked to weaning too early, as is sucking on wool, clothing, buttons, zippers or small objects around the house.
Does your cat wait until you are in bed to begin playing? They race up and down their cat tree at the speed of light. They whiz through the bedroom bouncing off the furniture and charging underneath it. They attack your feet under the blankets or bring you their favorite toy in an attempt to get you to play with them. Cats will even try to hunt the insects they see buzzing outside the window. A cat’s eyesight is superior at night and instinct tells them this is when they should be hunting. Cats sleep between sixteen and eighteen hours a day; if you work away from home, they don’t have you to play with during the day. If this nighttime behavior is unacceptable to you, try tiring your cat out before bed by playing fetch with them or using an interactive toy like a peacock feather.
Does your cat jump on the sink when you’re washing your hands or dishes, and begin drinking out of the faucet? Or do they sit in the bathroom sink and meow for you to come and turn it on for them? Cats would rather drink running water than water sitting in a dish. It contains more oxygen and is fresher than the water in their dish even if it’s changed every day. Consider getting a cat fountain. The one I like recirculates the water and comes with charcoal filters to keep the water clean. You can even purchase a hydroponic wheat grass accessory and grow your own cat grass right in the fountain.
Have you ever walked into a room and your cat grabs you around the ankle and bites you? If your cat is a kitten they may be teething. An older cat may have aggression issues and need an outlet. Declawed cats may begin biting due to frustration. It could be due to a simple case of boredom. If your cat waylays you in the same place, carry a favorite toy in a pocket and toss it for them before you are grabbed. A cat being petted in your lap may bite or growl suddenly to let you know they’ve had enough and want you to stop. Offer a toy as a safe alternative to distract them from you and teach them that biting people is not appropriate with a forceful “No.”
Does your cat chitter at something they see on television or outside, like a chipmunk, bird or a bug? Cat behaviorists compare this sound to a bite that wild cats use to dispatch their prey quickly. An inside cat may become alert and seem excited; the sound may be accompanied by rapid tail wagging. Does your cat meow in an excessive manner? See my article on night calling for some solutions.
Observing your cat gives you a chance to see inside a world non-cat owners don’t understand. Remember that cats are ruled by instincts, and their senses can make life easier and more enjoyable for all.
Read more articles by Ruthie Bently
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