More than 600 million cats share the planet with us, and although we have cohabitated for close to 12,000 years, cats and humans don’t always understand each other. Researchers at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine say that a cat’s brain is actually more similar to the human brain than to a dog’s brain, yet feline behavior can be baffling. Plain and simple, cats are mysterious and difficult to decode. One minute, your furry pal is purring and rubbing against you, and then suddenly, claws are out and teeth meets flesh!
In celebration of Answer Your Cat’s Question Day (Yes, it is a real thing every January 22nd), take a little more time than usual to tune in and connect with your favorite pussy cat. You may uncover a question or two she has been dying to know the answer to, and in the process, you may unlock some of her puzzling behavior.
In my quest to determine what cat’s want to know, I discovered these topics pique feline curiosity:
Why do humans keep on petting even when cats have had enough?
Snowball is purring and you are enjoying the touch of her soft silky fur against your fingertips. Suddenly, hyper-dermic-like teeth penetrate your arm! A love-bite? Maybe, but some behavior experts refer to this as petting-induced aggression, and Snowball’s response is simple, “I’ve been annoyed by your constant petting and you didn’t stop.” Although your canine pal may let you continue on and on and on with a belly rub, cats are not small dogs. They are different creatures altogether, and the non-stop pressure on their tender bodies has its limits. Pay attention. You cat will give you signals: flattened ears, whiskers pulled back, pupils dilated and a whipping tail, all mean it’s time for a break! Taking a different cue from your kitty though, is understanding her head-butting or bunting, which is a form of feline affection. Cats have scent glands at the base of their tail, between their toes, under their chin, along their temples on their ears and at the corners of their cute little feline mouths. With so many scent glands on your kitty’s noggin, her bumps are nudges of endearment as she is marking you as her territory.
You rub, pet and scratch at my fur, but when I want to stretch my body, exercise my muscles, leave my scent and a few old nail sheaths behind, you go whacko on me. Why do you yell at me for scratching?
Dearest Kitty, I realize that scratching is a physiological need. You need to stretch and flex your muscles and joints, remove bits of nail, and apparently, you enjoy leaving your scent behind, marking various corners of our home as yours. Us humans however, work hard to buy furniture, carpeting and accessories that make us happy, and when you pull the threads and damage these things, we are unhappy. Let’s compromise. I will make sure you have cat trees and scratching mats so that you can scratch to your heart’s content, while the things we hold precious (in addition to you, of course), will remain untorn.
Why must you shoo cats off countertops and laptops?
This is for all the cats out there. Yes, we do understand you like places with a view, as well as warm spots to rest on however, countertops are where humans place food, and cat hair is not a desirable condiment! If you must eat on the counter to keep out of Fido’s reach, perhaps we can designate a spot just for you, but the rest of the counter is off limits. As far as laying on the laptop when mom or dad work, kittens on the keys cause mistakes and frustration. Could you instead, kindly snuggle against my warm body as I type, or stretch out on sunny windowsill? I promise I will make special time for us to be in the moment together once my work is done.
Why are you obsessed with my poop but get upset when I pee on the carpet?
My precocious furry friend, I’m worried about you! What goes in, must come out, and it should look a certain way if you are a healthy kitty cat, so although your poop is not my favorite thing to look at, I’m trying to keep tabs on your health. If you don’t poop often enough, too frequently, if it is runny, dark or has blood, mom or dad need to get you checked out by your vet. Same goes with your pee. You know your manners by now, and I know you’re not trying to be a bad kitty, so if you’re not answering nature’s call where we agreed upon (in your litter box), that must mean you can’t make it there in time and might have a Urinary Tract Infection or other problem. I do know that cats are finicky and like a clean bathroom, so I will do my best to clean your box regularly, provide you your privacy and use the litter that you like best.
Cats and humans have much more to discuss, and I’ll bet you a felt-mouse filled with catnip, that your cat also wonders why you meow back at her. Although it may seem the polite thing to do, and is our feeble attempt at conversation, to a cat’s ear, most of what we say is similar to how humans are depicted in Charlie Brown cartoons, “Blah, blah, blah!” According to Modern Cat Magazine, generally a meowing cat wants something, food, in or out, or attention. Chirps and trills mean excitement, while chatter might be kitty showing interest in a bird outside the window. There’s no mistaking a hiss, while caterwauling announces your cat’s eagerness for a mate. Be sure you know what messages you are sending to your cat, to keep life copacetic, and do your best to tune in to your cat each day to make sure you are getting wires crossed but rather…enjoying precious moments together.
Denise Fleck is the Pet Safety Crusader™ having personally taught more than 31,000 humans to rescue Rover or help Fluffy feel better. Her mission is to help YOU make a difference in the life of an animal through Pet First-Aid, Senior Pet Care and Disaster Preparedness classes and books. Learn more at www.PetSafetyCrusader.com