That Darned Cat
Have you ever wondered why cats do the things they do? Cats have a large range of behaviours particular to the feline and a secret language all of their own. Many cat behaviours can be traced back to when cats were feral creatures, living in the wild. Below are just a few of their most common behavioural patterns.
A purring cat is not always a happy cat. A cat in pain, distress or giving birth will purr. A little known fact is that friendly cats that are in pain will purr when approached by humans, suggesting that cats often purr to show that they are friendly and approachable, ready to be stroked or helped.
At two to three days old a kitten will start to purr. The purr is very quiet and can be difficult for a human to hear. As the kitten grows the purr gets louder, eventually sounding like a bag of jangling marbles! A kitten purring is a signal to the mother that the kitten is happy and getting enough food when suckling.
Cats often greet each other by rubbing faces or sniffing their hindquarters.
A friendly way for cats to greet their owners is to roll on their back, stretching their legs as far as possible, yawning and exercising their claws. The “belly-up” position is a very vulnerable position. It indicates complete trust of the person it is interacting with.
A cat will sometimes rub itself against your legs. Cats have scent glands on their temples, around their mouths and at the base of their tails. So when a cat rubs up against you, it is rubbing off its scent to claim the human as its own.
When a cat extends and retracts its claws, usually when it is resting on its owner's lap, or on a soft blanket, it is kneading. This behaviour comes from kittenhood. Kittens knead their mother while suckling to make the milk flow more freely.
Adult cats will sometimes knead when they feel safe and contented. Cats often dribble or suck their owner's clothes whilst kneading. Adult cats will often retain some of these kitten characteristics. These behaviours are usually for life.
Owners of cats allowed into the outside world will occasionally be presented with gifts of dead mice and birds. For the cat, this is perfectly natural and this behaviour should never be punished in any way. In the wild, a queen will bring prey home to her kittens to introduce them to hunting. For this reason, the behaviour is most often seen in female cats, although neutered cats that have had no kittens and male cats will sometimes bring gifts home to their owners.
Cats will often eat grass when it needs to clean out its stomach by vomiting or, more likely, to get rid of hairballs. If a cat does not have access to grass, house plants might be eaten by the cat. To avoid your cat eating your houseplants, cat grass is available for house cats in all pet shops and often in the supermarkets. Vomiting will occur soon after the cat has eaten grass. Some say that cats eat grass to obtain folic acid, something that cats need in minute quantities for their well-being. Folic acid cannot be found in meat products.
It is essential that cats have a plentiful supply of water. Always make sure that the bowl of water is fresh at least twice daily and that it is kept well away from food, otherwise your cat will not drink it.
It is a fallacy to say that cats should have a saucer of milk. Milk is not good for cats – nor is any kind of dairy produce – and should never be encouraged. It could make your cat very ill.
Removing Food from the Bowl
A common behaviour with cats is that they will take food out of their bowls and eat it off the floor. Although there are several theories as to why cats do this, two of the theories that make sense are that cats find the pieces of food too large and put them outside of the bowl to make it easier to separate into smaller pieces. If the cats whiskers touch the side of the bowl the cat may find it uncomfortable to eat from the bowl, so will take the food out. So always make sure that the cat's bowl is large enough.
The following poem is mini story told in haiku verse about dinner time for my two cats, Rosie and Mr Jim. I hope you enjoy it.
The Cats' Dinner
“Time for dinner, Rose.
Come and get your lunch, Mister.”
Rosie stares and glares
from her soft cushions.
Mister Jim is kitchen bound
ready and waiting.
I smile at my cats
as they lift paws in greeting,
watching me dish up.
“What are we getting?
Is it our favourite meal?”
Claws are out, ready.
“Don't think you're getting
more than me.” Hissing, spitting,
not friends any more,
Rosie dives on Jim.
Squealing, she runs out the door
leaving Mister Jim
to eat delicious
tinned tuna all by himself.
He eats it all up
gazing out the door
while watching Rosie prowling
out in the garden.
Then he licks his lips,
lifts up a sweet silken paw
and washes his face.
Copyright 2011 Sheila Newton