Cats are the second most common pet, with 29% of households owning a cat. Yet there’s still a lot we don’t know about our feline friends—including what they think of their owners.
Cat behavioural experts have been observing pet cats for several years, and there are some intriguing conclusions, such as: Pet cats don’t really understand us the way dogs do.
There’s been a lot of research with dogs and how dogs interact with people. It’s become very clear that dogs perceive us as being different than themselves: As soon as they see a human, they change their behaviour. The way a dog plays with a human is completely different from the way it plays with another dog.
However, researchers are yet to discover anything about cat behaviour that suggests they have a separate box they put us in when they’re socializing with us. They obviously know we’re bigger than them, but they don’t seem to have adapted their social behaviour much. Putting their tails up in the air, rubbing around our legs, and sitting beside us and grooming us are exactly what cats do to each other.
More research needs to be done to figure out exactly what cats’ think of is. It’s not an area that’s received sufficient attention. Cats are not wild animals, so ecologists might think, ‘Well they’re not really animals at all.’
Some surprising research is how stressed a lot of pet cats can be without their owners realizing it, and how much it affects the quality of their mental lives and their health. Cats don’t always get on with other cats, and people don’t realize how much that can stress them out. Other than routine visits, the most common reason cats are taken to vets is because of a wound sustained in a fight with another cat.
More cats are mysteriously getting dermatitis and cystitis (inflammation of the bladder) and it’s becoming abundantly clear that these medical problems are made worse by psychological stress. For instance, inflammation of the bladder wall is linked to stress hormones in the blood.
One solution is to examine the cat’s social lifestyle, instead of pumping it full of drugs. For example, that could mean making sure two cats that don’t get along live at opposite ends of the house. Quite often the whole problem goes away.
Some questions commonly asked at the clinic:
Why might a cat yowl when it’s by itself in a room?
Cats learn specifically how their owners react when they make particular noises. So if the cat thinks, ‘I want to get my owner from the other room,’ it works to vocalize. They use straightforward learning.
Why do some cats treat one human member of the household differently?
They’re much smarter than we give them credit for: They learn what works with what person. They know if one member of the family is prone to get up at 4 a.m. and give them some treats.
Why do cats knead us?
They are using behaviour that they would use toward their mother—all the behaviour they show toward us is derived in some way from the mother-kitten relationship. The kitten learns to raise its tail, rub on its mother, and knead and purr. Grooming is what mothers do back to kittens.
So they’re using bits of behaviour already in their repertoire to communicate with us. There aren’t very many behaviours—maybe half a dozen.
Can you train cats?
Yes. Cats can learn what they’re not supposed to do. If your cat has developed a habit of jumping up on the kitchen table, there are limited ways to prevent it.
You could use a spring-loaded toy, so when a cat jumps up on something, the toy goes bang and up in the air—the cat doesn’t like that and jumps down. Another reasonably benign strategy is to use a child’s water pistol. But make sure the cat doesn’t realize you’ve got it. Cats don’t forgive, and once they realize a person is causing them anxiety or hurt, they keep away.
What do you want owners to know about their cats?
Acknowledge that cats are sociable animals to a point, but not sociable to the extent that dogs are. A lot of people who have one cat decide they would like to have another cat, thinking two cats are twice as much fun. But the cats may not see it that way.
The simple message I would like to get across is if you do want to have more than one cat, go about it in a careful way—and be prepared to give up on it if it doesn’t work.
Here are some products we recommend to use if your cat is stressed:
Vetalogica Feline Tranquil:
- Contains natural ingredients plus Tryptophan and B group vitamins to help maintain emotional balance in cats
- Unique, natural “Non-Drowsy” formulation
- Delicious tasting treat for cats with Real Australian Chicken and Duck meat
- NO Corn, Wheat or Grain. NO Artificial Colours or Flavours
Calmaphan® complex care blend for pets is a unique, proprietary blend of Tryptophan and B Group vitamins in precise ratios which provides maintenance of emotional balance in cats. This superior, scientific formulation contains natural ingredients in a unique ‘Non-Drowsy’ chewable tablet. Vetalogica’s world exclusive Calmaphan® complex care formulation is the result of numerous years of research and development by Scientists, Chemists, Veterinarians and flavour experts.
Hills C/d Stress diet:
How It Helps:
- Contains ingredients to help manage stress
- Dissolves struvite stones in as little as 7 days (Average 27 days)
- Reduces the risk of struvite & calcium oxalate stones
- Recommended for lifelong feeding of adult cats
How It Works:
- Promotes desirable urine pH levels
- Enriched with antioxidants, potassium citrate & Omega-3 fatty acids
- Controlled levels of magnesium, calcium, & phosphorus
A healthy bladder starts with the right balance of vital nutrients. Excess minerals can encourage the formation of crystals in the urine, which may lead to the creation of bladder stones. They can cause discomfort and lead to more serious problems that require the care of a veterinarian. Stress in the home has been shown to negatively impact bladder health as well.
Hill’s nutritionists & veterinarians developed Prescription Diet® c/d® Multicare Feline Stress clinical nutrition specially formulated to support your cat’s urinary health while also managing stress. In fact, c/d Multicare is clinically tested nutrition to lower the recurrence of most common urinary signs by 89%.
Cats naturally deposit pheromones from their cheek gland by rubbing their face on objects. Feliway mimics this, as it contains a synthetic version of feline facial pheromones. By spraying either furniture / bedding this replicates the natural scent and inturn makes the cat feel that they are in a safe and familiar environment. Help to stop unwanted scratching, urine marking and reduce aggression towards other cats or pets.
The Feliway diffuser offers constant comfort and calming at home.
Studies have shown that the use of Feliway is 90% effective in helping reduce or eliminate scratching and urine spraying. A significant reduction in these behaviors is usually seen within 7 days.
Feliway MultiCat is clinically proven to help reduce tension and conflict between household cats.