Cats often get a bad rap

Many people think that cats are asocial. Quite the opposite is true. Cats are very social animals but their way of showing it is quite different from dogs. Because people are used to dogs, they do not recognize the social behavior in cats. Also, many cat owners have just one cat, therefore they do not see cat to cat social interaction.

            From studying feral domestic cat populations, we have learned quite a bit about the cat’s social structure. Female cats, known as queens, will help each other raise their young. They even act as midwives to a queen giving birth. For example, they will help clean the newborn kitten and nurse them if they are lactating. They will groom and guard the kittens as well. Males, or tom’s will also help defend kittens in their colony.

            Cats will sleep together, touching, even if it is hot, which rules out some assumptions that they only sleep close to each other for warmth. Cats will form special friendships with each other, having preferences in the colony. Cats are very family oriented and are closer to relatives than a stranger. Although the colony will accept a strange cat after a period of time. This takes weeks to months, depending on the situation.

            When cats groom each other, it is almost always in areas that are hard to reach, such as the head, face and neck. It is considered bad cat manners to groom below the shoulders.

Another way cats communicate to each other is by rubbing. Anyone who has owned or seen cats would have seen head bumping, body and tail rubbing. Sometimes cats will wrap their tails together, which is a form of rubbing.

            Adult cats will also monitor the play between kittens. If the kittens get too rough, the adult will break it up. The kittens always listen and will stop their play.

            Cats do not hunt in groups. This is because each cat needs the equivalent of three mice a day to survive. Their hunting technique is to sit quietly, slowly stalk and then pounce. This does not lend itself to sharing the food. It is very rare for more than one cat to hunt together but it has happened, for example when trying to catch a squirrel. Cats will spray to mark their territory so that other cats, even those in the colony do not hunt in another cat’s area.   

Pluskat and Sunshine (budgie) who are friends

            Kittens need to stay with their litter until they are at least 12 weeks old. They go through developmental stages similar to other animals. They learn how to behave and how to interact with other cats while they are young. If they are taken away from the litter too soon, they do not know how to act like a cat. If the cat owner decides later to get another cat, the resident cat will not know how to accept or interact with the new cat. This is one of the reasons why people have trouble introducing a new cat to the home. It is always better to have two kittens instead of one, and if possible, adopt litter mates. Family is very important to cats.

Mimi

            Like dogs, there are many breeds of cats and there are breed traits. Despite the breed of mix of a cat, each individual will have its own personality. Some cats act more like dogs and some are very aloof. Some cats are bold and some are timid. All cats are different due to breeding, family involvement, early training and experiences. It is important to keep this in mind and not label all cats as having the same personality and temperament. By understanding your cat’s natural social behavior, you can make the quality of life for your cat much better.  

Female cats react differently to unrelated distressed kittens than male cats

Wiebke Konerding the lead researcher at the Hannover Medical School and the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Germany studied the reaction of male vs female cats to distress calls of unrelated kittens.

1pluskat

Interestingly, the more distressed the kittens were, the more the female cats reacted, even if they had not raised kittens themselves. The researchers found that there was no difference between the response of male or female cats to low arousal calls from kittens. But there was a difference to high arousal calls. Only female cats reacted differently.

The study implies that the ability of adult cats to react differently to emotional cues from kittens is ingrained and not due to experience. The kittens used in the experiment were not related to either the male or female cats.

Further research is needed to determine if adult cats react differently to their own kittens then they do to unrelated kittens.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/08/160812073702.htm

Excessive licking in dogs and cats

Dogs and cats will groom themselves by licking their fur. This is normal. They will lick their owners as a sign of affection as well. Licking can be a form of play and to let you know they are hungry. If the owner pays attention to their pet when they lick, it can reinforce the behavior, encouraging the pet to do it more often.

However, some pets will engage in excessive licking. Only the owner can determine if the pet is licking more than normal. Excessive licking is a compulsive behavior and the pet may lick everything in sight. This is not good for the pet and the family. Do not try to “correct” this behavior, it will only make it worse.

The first thing a pet owner must do is schedule a visit with your veterinarian. Excessive licking can be due to allergies, including food allergies. Other causes are boredom, stress, pain and diseases.

Try to recall if anything in the pet’s environment brought about the excessive licking. Changes are especially suspect, did you move, change the pet’s food, bed, alter the environment such as adding or taking away furniture, someone in the family moving in or out, a new pet, neighbor or any other change that the pet is aware of. Even a family member changing jobs, or a family crisis can affect a pet.

The easiest way to correct excessive licking is to give the pet an alternative activity. If the pet is a dog, give the dog a chew toy when he starts to lick. Praise the dog for chewing the toy. If the pet is a cat offer a toy for the cat to play with and interact with the cat. Be sure to give the pet a good rubdown or petting when they stop licking. If the pet tries to lick family members gently say “no” and give them something to chew or an activity.

If the excessive licking was due to a change in the home environment it may take a few weeks for the pet to adjust to the change. If the behavior does not stop or if it increases, it is best to consult with a certified canine or feline behavior consultant. You can find one at www.iaabc.org  With time and patience, excessive licking can often be cured.