Our Love Affair With Cats?

sleeping cat Tomoaki INABA Flickr

Over 4,000 years ago, the Egyptians loved cats, keeping them and providing medical assistance to them. However, our love for cats began when humans started domesticating them over 9,500 years ago from descendants of ancient wild cats from Eastern Europe. Relicts have been found in Cyprus from around this date. Evidence from China from 5,300 years ago also support the close bond formed between humans and cats.

kitten - Moyan Brenn - Flickr  persian cat - Helmuts Guigo - Flickr  cats eyes - Kevin Dooley - Flickr

While we spend hours watching cats do weird and funny things online, cats are actually quite complex animals. Today, there are about three cats to every dog in the world, but there is so much we have to learn about our cats including what they think of their human owners. Cats do not understand humans in the same way as canines do.

What do Cats Understand About Humans

Dogs understand that humans are different to them and adjust their behaviour accordingly. You will notice this in how a dog interacts with its human owners compared to playing with other dogs. However cats do not appear to separate us from their feline counterparts and socialise with us in the same way. They acknowledge that humans are much larger than they are but they have not altered their social behaviour with us. If you watch cats greeting one another they will put their tails up and rub around them or sit beside them and groom another cat in the same way as they do with us.

spitting cat - Hannibal Poenaru - Flickr  cat city - Moyan Brenn - Flickr cat sleeping - Moyan Brenn - Flickr

It is no surprise that cats were attracted to rats and mice that followed humans as they began to increase their levels of agricultural activity, growing millet and other grains in China during the Yangshao period. Archaeology has uncovered old burrows used by rodents leading to areas where grain was stored and ceramic vessels designed to prevent rats and mice from spoiling grain stores. This probably led people to encourage the wild cats to come in and manage the rodent population. Some cat remains were analysed and found to show that one cat had a fairly vegetarian diet and another cat had lived to old age suggesting that these wild cats were being fed by humans in agricultural settlements.

Cats Get Stressed!

Cats can become stressed for a variety of reasons and their owners will not always notice the signs. Stress affects our cat’s mental wellbeing. Cats do not always get along with other pets and increasing numbers of cats in the neighbourhood will stress them out. Cats will fight and end up requiring veterinary care if fights are serious enough. Psychological stress is increasing in cats. This has become evident in increasing number of cats presenting with cystitis (bladder inflammation) and dermatitis. If you keep more than one cat, you might find providing them with time apart in the house or garden will help alleviate their stress levels.

Clever Cats

Cats are clever critters. We do not automatically think they are. A cat will learn how to best interact with people around them to get what they want. If a cat believes that if they interact with someone in particular way to get a treat, then they will continue to interact in that way to get the same reward.

Cats Do Weird Stuff

If you own a cat, you will have noticed that it will begin to paw and knead on you. This behaviour is noticed between a kitten and its mother; in fact most of the behaviours we notice from a pet cat come from the relationship of a kitten and its mother. From a young age, a cat learns to rub against its mother, raise its tail, purr and knead its paws. Grooming is also an important behaviour that is picked up from a cat’s mother when it is a kitten.

Training Cats

While training is something that we tend to associated with dogs, it is possible to train cats to do things that they would not normally do. Remember that behaviours that have been reinforced will become habits that are difficult to break. Using a water pistol to distract a cat from jumping on your favourite chair or mahogany sideboard will work, but make sure that the cat does not realise that you have the pistol in your hand otherwise you will find that your cut will refrain from coming near you. Understandably, cats do not like people who cause them harm. They are not as forgiving towards mistreatment as a dog. It is important to be calm and consistent when using such forms of discipline and not randomly using such forms of training for no reason. In this way, your cat will learn but not become fearful of you.

Cats Not As Sociable As Dogs

While dogs are pack animals and sociable with other dogs and people, cats are less so. Cats are happy living alone. If you have one cat do not necessarily think another will provide it with company when you are not around. Remember that you have to be responsible and devote time to your pet and not just leave them to their own devices. Cats are territorial and will fight intruders. You may be able to reduce the impact of a new addition to the household by making a fuss of the resident cat and nearly ignoring the new addition for a few days.

Why Cats are Irresistible

Research has found that the sounds of a hungry cat towards its owner are found irresistible. Cats achieve this by mixing up their purring noises with whines that compare in frequency to those cries used by a human infant in distress. These cries are different to normal purring noises that could be easily ignored.

It is intriguing why cats purr because they should not be able to do so. Cats have small vocal folds that should prevent them from producing low frequency sounds such as a purr. Cats manage to purr because rather than just relying on their throat to make sounds they actually vibrate the muscles beneath their vocal folds to create the purring noise. This does not rely on the use of the vocal fold’s inner edges so these can be used to create the high pitched noise. This noise is more closely related to cats that have a single owner. In busy households cats will tend to rely on loud meows to achieve the same degree of attention from their owner.

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