Delighting their human caretakers with various antics and behaviors, cats are truly a unique, special species with their own quirks and personalities. Even die-hard cat people can have difficulties deciphering feline behavior. But, there are some common cat antics that can be easy to interpret once you understand the reason behind the action. And, we can use this understanding to improve the environments we provide the indoor cats that share our lives.
A common misconception regarding the nighttime antics of our feline friends, cats are thought to sleep all day and party all night. While they do tend to tear through the house at all hours of the night, cats are not nocturnal. Instead, they sleep in short spurts throughout the day and night, taking frequent “cat naps” to re-energize. This sleep-wake cycle was developed because of their hunting habits. Catching up to 20 small prey animals a day can be exhausting, so cats would rest and recover in short periods to be fully charged to pounce quickly on the next approaching snack.
Since their food dishes are not scrambling for cover throughout the day, indoor kitties no longer require this sleep-wake pattern. But, this nocturnal hunting behavior can be annoying to owners trying to get a good night’s sleep. Engage your cat in playful, mentally stimulating activities throughout the day to diminish nighttime romps.
Being solitary hunters of small prey animals, cats still enjoy participating in hunting behaviors. Staking out their prey, stalking, and pouncing are commonly observed antics, even in cats who never go outside. Supplying a bowl full of food at all times of the day does nothing to satisfy the instincts driving your cat. Instead, try using food puzzles to engage your cat’s mind during mealtimes, or hide small portions of food throughout the house, requiring her to “hunt” for her meals.
In addition to changing the way your cat is fed, choose appropriate toys designed to cater to her hunting nature. Mice, birds, and bugs are considered prey to your cat, so choose realistic toys for her to chase and pounce on to satisfy her instincts.
Also, cats are unique in that they are true carnivores, meaning that they must eat food derived from animal tissues to survive. Many essential amino acids and vitamins cats require but cannot make themselves can only be found in meat. Cats cannot survive on a vegetarian-based diet or a carbohydrate-loaded food. Speak with us about how to feed your cat appropriately based on her lifestyle and age.
Regarded as the perfect pet for busy families or single individuals who are seldom home, cats tend to be a bit more aloof than dogs and don’t usually require as much social contact. Keep in mind, though, that each cat has a completely unique personality. One may prefer to do her own thing, while another may need as much social interaction and affection as a lap dog.
Cats rely primarily on smell for communication, using pheromones to communicate with other cats, locate food, and detect predators. Special glands located on their cheeks, forehead, tail base, and paws leave these scent markers on areas they rub or scratch to “talk” to other cats. Allowing cats to mark appropriate areas with pheromones limits marking with urine, so be sure to provide plenty of scratching posts so your cat can leave her scent without ruining your furniture or home.
Since body language and scent are their preferred methods of communication, cats don’t often meow at each other, but they will meow when they’re trying to get the attention of their human. Still, they tend to ignore our verbal sounds. (This provides proof that our cats really do ignore us!)
Although they are considered predators, cats still have animals that can prey upon them. To help your cat feel safe and secure, provide elevated hiding spots throughout your home. These high hideaways allow your cat to survey her territory for danger and give her a “safe place” away from other animals, noisy people, or other perceived threats.
Think your cat’s behavior is abnormal (even for a cat)? Give us a call at 757-564-9815 to help unravel the mystery that is your cat.