At first glance, the title of this article seems like a reasonable question for any cat owner. As with most individual members of the human race, we tend to orient our personal world on our own system of logic, predictability, and order. We establish our routines and habits to fit into a lifestyle that gives us a level of comfort free from the fears that always seem to surround us. We’re continually reminded of those fears, whether it’s by the yellow journalism broadcast by the media, or by neighborhood gossip from people who seem to need so much excitement because they’re just bored or think they need some kind of realism. shake to see things the way they do. As narrow as it may seem, there is no doubt that each person organizes his home in some kind of system, that is, a lifestyle, which encompasses the concepts of order and predictability with logical results that ensure peace, comfort and tranquility.
It is high time that many decided that they would like a pet to complete the picture. Some may want the company of a pet because they live alone; others may want to surrogate children, either because they don’t have any yet, or because their children have grown up and left the nest. Of course, there are those who simply appreciate the easy love and fidelity that pets seem so easily capable of. Many will choose to have a cat. It is here that the peace and tranquility that you have established and have come to know and expect will surely be disrupted, if not challenged.
The introduction of any new pet, and cats in particular, will require a new way of thinking. With this new way of thinking, being a successful cat owner will depend on how well you can incorporate balance and perspective, such as an evaluation of yourself, into your new relationship. In other words, one needs to balance their own personal needs and the needs of their cat with a perspective that allows them to see the relationship in the long term, as well as on a day-to-day basis.
There is a lot hidden in that last paragraph.
- Balance and perspective as an evaluation of oneself requires complete honesty in analyzing one’s emotions and reactions to a given situation. Any biased rationalization of an event or circumstance simply does not work when one is looking for the ‘truth’ of a situation.
- A person’s needs can be emotional (a harmonious, peaceful, and happy home environment), spiritual, or physical (food, warmth, and shelter). The same goes for your cat. She has emotional and physical needs not unlike yours. As for the spiritual needs of people or cats, we will leave that for other discussions.
- Perspective is necessary to perceive a relationship with your cat as a long-term affair, what you might call the forest, in light of the activities of daily life, or the trees that make up a forest. Furthermore, reactions to a given situation may change from day to day, some of which may have an altering effect on long-term vision. You can see that moving from the long-term perspective to the short-term perspective and vice versa requires a healthy dose of mental agility.
So what does all this have to do with cat behavior?
Cat instincts have been ingrained over eons of evolution. The qualities that distinguish a cat from all other animals (including people) can be listed as follows:
- cats are nocturnal: Cats learned long ago that they could find prey and avoid predators by hunting at night. Physiologically, they developed senses that allowed them to be quite successful in nocturnal activities. Senses like the eyes that can detect movement in very low light. Hearing that allows them to accurately identify the movements of prey in the dark. Their hearing range far exceeds that of humans, so not only can they hear noises that people can’t, but they can also communicate at those ranges. They have the ability to leave a scent trail that requires no light to follow, which is useful when escaping predators can be the difference between life and death in total darkness.
- Cats are territorial.: A cat will mark an area with its scents and claim it for itself. Typically, her territory would be large enough to support her and any of her kittens with a food source in the form of prey. Her scent mark also warns other cats that this is her land and that it would be better if they just left.
- cats are lonely: Except when mating, cats are used to living alone. This is closely related to the territorial aspect of the cat’s personality. To avoid spending all the time marking a territory, the land claimed is usually small enough for a single cat. Also, many scents can be confusing, especially if you are trying to escape a predator in the dead of night.
- cats are predators: They have learned to be very adept at hunting, especially for small nocturnal prey. The cat hunting technique can be divided into four phases:
Most cat owners are familiar with the staking phase. All cats will stalk from the time they are kittens. But, the success of any cat’s ability to stalk, catch, kill and eat prey depends solely on what their mother taught them as kittens. If they haven’t received good training in these predation techniques, they may be less than stellar for a predator. Still, the instinct to represent the four phases is inherent in the nature of each cat.
- Cats are maternal: Because a female cat is solitary and her territory will only provide prey for her and her litter, kittens need to learn a lot before mom throws them out of the house. Otherwise, there would be too many mouths competing for a limited supply of food. Not to mention all the different smells that saturate the territory. The maternal instinct has to be strong to teach so much in a short time. Unlike pack animals who will share in raising children, a cat can only rely on itself to successfully raise its young and perpetuate the feline species.
So when someone decides to get a cat as a pet, they need to realize that the cat comes with some deeply ingrained characteristics. Most just see a pack that doesn’t require a lot of attention (unlike dogs), is basically clean, and doesn’t have to be house trained. But then, when a person’s logical sense of order and predictability conflicts with a cat’s basic natural instincts… the fur begins to fly!
When a cat feels at home, she will rub her cheeks against prominent furniture, your pillows, or your leg. Most people find that an endearing quality. He is really marking his territory that he shares with you. If you become stressed (due to a change or invasion of your environment, such as a move to a new home, or the introduction of a new pet or family member), or due to certain illnesses, you may feel the need to mark your territory a little stronger, say with urine. In both cases, she is marking her territory, but only one mark is acceptable to you. The other may throw you into fits and wonder why you brought her home in the first place. Your reaction will have a lot to say about you and how you assess the circumstances. It will say less about your cat, since he will just do what comes naturally to him.
Sometimes it’s hard to believe, but cats aren’t really evil.
I know there are many who will disagree with me. But I have discovered that cats are just as affectionate, faithful, playful and need attention as any dog. They just manifest those qualities in a different way that is unique to cats in general. Most importantly, I found that with an understanding of feline instinctual characteristics, many of the problematic behavioral confrontations people have with their cats can be corrected, albeit with some commitment on the part of the person, or avoided altogether. Yes, you will have to be smarter than the cat. And being smarter than anything takes a lot of work. In the end, cats are not evil nor do they want to make your life miserable; they don’t try to get even, even when you think they should. They just do what comes naturally to them. Whether what they do is normal or not… that depends a lot on their childhood experiences. Something that even people have a hard time being. Regular, that is. Kittens’ experiences and how they relate to adult cat behavior will be discussed in the next newsletter. For now, do a little test. Without looking at your cat, ask the following questions:
- What color are your cat’s eyes and fur?
- Describe the quality of your cat’s coat, skin, teeth, and gums.
- What sex is your cat? Is your cat neutered or intact?
- How much does she/he weigh?
- How much do you eat and drink each day?
- When, how much and how often do you urinate and defecate?
If you can answer these questions, then you are well on your way to really getting to know your cat and taking a big step towards a peaceful coexistence that you both undoubtedly want. Learning your instinctual drives will complete the picture. Then your life together will be remembered as a life of harmony. Not fight or relax. Or worse, with her contemplating euthanasia or going feral.
Work in progress: Coming soon to Cat Lovers Gift World there will be a section titled Cat Behavior, which will discuss the concept of the cat’s natural instincts and how they affect the cat in its relationships with people.