There are times when a cat behaves in a certain way that appears bewildering. Often the cat’s natural instinct that harks back to its ancestral heritage as a hunter comes to the fore. Sometimes the behaviour appears extraordinary for an animal of its size. Even as a pet, your feline will display a range of instincts that owners should appreciate and understand to ensure the wellbeing of a pet.
Cats on the Prowl
How often have you woken in the night to see your cat alert and moving around your house when everyone else is sleeping? It should come as no surprise to realise that cats are nocturnal. A cat has developed an ability to hunt at night. Not only does this avoid a cat coming into contact with other predators it also allows cats to hunt animals that have less ability to see at night.
A cat is more independent than a dog or other pets. Often cats can appear to ignore their owners and do their own thing. Cats can keep themselves amused without human interaction. A feline will happily spend time alone. This can be problematic in households that have more than one. In multiple cat homes, cats will often find their own spatial territory within the home. You may notice that each cat sleeps in a different room or different place and only coming together in one room to eat purely out of the convenience rather than preference. A feline would live more solitary in the wild to prevent competition for food and mating rights.
Cats will defend a territory from threats. A threat could be a neighbouring cat, a dog or people within its cat enclosure. A cat may lash out and attack people without reason. Cats learn behaviours from their mother. They learn how to hunt and how to survive.
Cats will scent furniture and other items and people by rubbing up against them to transfer scents to mark things as theirs and outline their territory. Marking a territory is important as it makes other cats aware that they are entering an area that they are not welcome.
Cats As Hunters
You arrive home to a dead mouse or bird on your doorstep with your cat sitting nearby. This is a natural aspect of development. A mother would bring back food to kittens that have been sufficiently maimed to allow the kitten to hone his or her hunting skills. Having success in hunting allows a cat to survive in the wild. Delivering food to you signifies that your cat believes you do not have sufficient hunting skills.
After a long day, you arrive home hoping to be greeted by your feline friend only to wonder if he or she has been let out accidentally or is lost somewhere in the house. A cat will find places to hide within the home. Often a cat will prefer a particular place, often somewhere warm or high up. Your pet will hide to keep an eye on what is going on around them but from a safe distance. Hiding in boxes and other areas providing cover to prepare for hunting and stalking their prey. A quiet place to hide will provide somewhere safe to rest without being disturbed.
The Body Language of Cats
Cats are very expressive in terms of their body language. The cat’s eyes, ears and tail will give away how he or she is feeling. Cats have mobile ears to help them home in on noises and remain alert. Cats can move their ears in different directions. Ears that lie to the side and forward suggest your pet is relaxed. If the ears lie back and flat, then your pet is becoming more anxious.
People who do not like cats will not look at them. Whereas this works with a dog, it does not work with a cat. Staring suggests something confrontational. If your pet is staring at you, then look the other way to break the stare. If your pet is excited, the pupils of his or her eyes will dilate to suggest fear or excitement. If the pupils narrow to slits, then he or she could be irritated or annoyed (or just sitting in brightly lit surroundings as the pupil moves to different lighting conditions).
A lowered tail is a submissive gesture. A raised tail suggests contentment. It is goes bushy like the hairs are standing out then your pet is getting angrier. Tail lashing can also be a sign of anger or your cat is preparing to pounce when playing or hunting. The tail helps a cat to maintain balance when running. It also acts as a counterbalance when your pet is walking on uneven or narrow surfaces.
If you watch cats interact, you might see one with his or her hair raised and crouching down to make him or her look larger and threatening. A submissive cat will try to look smaller and appear less threatening. Cats that are happy will flop over and roll about; however, a cat could still be preparing to attack when on his or her back as all four paws are available to scratch and kick out.
Cats and Catnip
Catnip can drive one cat crazy with delight and another might ignore it completely. Catnip releases a scent that your pet picks up and triggers the pleasure parts of the brain. Young kittens are not reactive to the effects of catnip until they are a few months old. Catnip is not an addictive substance, so too much exposure to it will not cause your pet any harm. Usually the effects of catnip reduce after 30 minutes.
Cats and Hairballs
Cats ingest hair from constantly grooming themselves. Most hair that enters the digestive tract passes through without a problem; however, if hair remains in the stomach, it collects to form hairballs that your cat will bring up. This is a natural activity. Some cats manage hairballs without a problem while others might need specialised food formulas to reduce shedding and consist of high fibre to allow the hair to pass through the digestive system without problems.
Cats are interesting and intelligent pets and will provide you with many hours of enjoyment. From a playful kitten to a seasoned hunter, your cat exhibits natural behaviour that can be fascinating to watch. Understanding your pet’s behaviour can help you become a better owner, too.