|By Mike Golec|
If you’ve ever owned cat, then you know that they have their individual quirks. Mew loves green beans. He will hide underneath any chair with that green bean and growl if anybody comes near him. Fluffy enjoys playing fetch with gold necklaces. Kitten loves to have the ABC song sung to him. Henry has no use for catnip, whatsoever.
But for the most part, there are a lot of common cat behaviours and we like to think we generally understand them; like when they start kneading their claws as you pet them. Since they would have started this kneading action when still nursing from their mother in order to make the milk come faster, it’s a sign of comfort and contentment. Or, that time Fluffy brought you a dead mouse and thought you would be pleased? He was actually just trying to look out for you by teaching you how to hunt. This is something cats would normally teach to their kittens and since you haven’t brought any dead birds in the house lately, they just want to give you a hand.
So how can we possibly begin to understand what these creatures are up to most of the time? Providing some surprising insights into these confusing creatures is Dr. Carol Teed, who founded the Cat Clinic of Niagara fifteen years ago.
Most of us are used to the calming sound of a cat purring while he is being pet, and assume it means happiness. But contentment is not the only reason they purr. “We often see kitties that are very ill that are purring,” reveals Dr. Teed. “You want to think that they’re doing it because they are happy, but often I know that they will purr when they are in a lot of discomfort and are feeling bad. I think that they’re often doing that just to comfort themselves.”
There are also some behaviours that can be disruptive and problematic if not addressed or fully understood. According to Dr. Teed, cats very clearly tell us what they need. “When a kitty urinates out of the box, for me that’s telling me that, okay, we’re not meeting all this cat’s needs,” explains Dr. Teed. The disruptive behaviour is a means of acting out, because you, the owner, are not responding to what they need in their domestic environment. “Behavioural issues are much, much more common in indoor cats and especially in multi-cat households,” Dr. Teed continues. “I don’t advocate having kitties go outside, but there’s a whole range of problems that we see in indoor cats that we simply don’t see in outdoor cats.”
Why are indoor cats so much more likely to develop behavioural problems? “It often has to do with the fact they can’t express all their catness when they’re indoors,” says Dr. Teed, who explains that having multiple cats can also increase the number of issues. “Often there is crowding, really where a kitty can’t find the space that it needs when it needs it.”
One of the most common behavioural issues that she deals with at the clinic is litter box related. “I can tell you, it’s a given that you’re going to have out of the box behaviours if you don’t have the right number of boxes. Or if you don’t have multiple locations and you’re not cleaning them at least every single day,” stresses Dr. Teed. “That’s why the rule about the litter box, one box per cat, plus an extra one, is really, really important once you have more than a cat in your house.” Would you want to use unclean facilities when nature calls? Didn’t think so. Well, neither does your cat!
|By Mike Golec|
One of the best ways to help your indoor cat avoid going stir-crazy is having a safe way for them to experience the outside world. “There are lots of structures you can build on the market that could even be attached to the house with a cat door,” says Dr. Teed. This type of controlled experience with the outside helps to enlarge their world, which is beneficial. “A lot of interesting things happen outside for a cat. You know, just watching the insects, and the wind through the leaves and all of that. And of course, birds. It’s really expanding, life expanding for them,” insists Dr. Teed, who believes that expansion is a natural part of a well lived life.
You should also play lots of games with your cats to keep them from getting bored and help them stay active. Dr. Teed’s tip is to hide treats, because it not only keeps kitties active, but simulates their instinctive need to capture prey.
Despite their reputation of being lazy and rather blasé about life, cats also experience life stresses. These can include moving, a caregiver leaving, or enduring the introduction of a new pet or even a baby. These changes can be hard for a cat to deal with, but we can help them through these experiences by spending extra time with them. “Basically for them, home is where the mom is. So as long as they are with us, things are pretty good, but they need time and extra comfort from us, during those times,” Dr. Teed patiently explains. “Lots of extra love goes a long way.”
One of the most important things to remember is a cat’s personality. “Every cat is an individual so look at them individually and decide what they need,” says Dr. Teed.
Cats will probably always be mysterious creatures, but we can still make sure that they have the appropriate means to live happy, healthy lives and properly express all their catness in fine feline glory.
By Allison Vorstenbosch