Cat Behaviour:   Drinking from the tap.  

Many cats will drink from the tap at any opportunity.  The reason for this is that cats have a very ineffective method of drinking normally… they dart their tongue out, curled under at the end, barely dip it in the water surface then quickly pull it up and try to “catch” any water that sticks to it by surface tension.

This has got to be exhausting, and often seems to take more time than it’s worth.  So, yeah, I’d drink from the tap whenever possible too.

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If It Fits, I Sits - Cat Behavior

This is a cat behavior that confounds a lot of people.  What the hell is it about sitting in boxes that cats find impossible to resist?

Well, I have an idea.  It’s just a guess, but I hope you see the logic in it.  It may sound a little bit crazy, but stick with it. 

Most cats are ambush hunters, from tigers to tabby cats.  Carnivores who might not be able to run faster than their prey, so they hide in wait, utilize camouflage and cover until their prey is close enough to give them the advantage.  This also conserves energy that helps avoid expending more than the meal would provide.

Of course, their quarry also adapt and evolve, improving their skills at detecting predators, or else they wouldn’t be here today.  Ever try to catch a mouse?  This constant battle between sharpening your skills or becoming extinct pushes these skills in both hunter and hunted until they become razor sharp, automatic and immediate. 

So, what happens when these long perfected skills are no longer needed?  When centuries have gone into molding your cunning until you can be near invisible on the hunt - the perfect killing machine - but you now get your meals from a can?

Serendipity.

The very same thing that took us humans from grunting and pointing all the way to operas about barbers who cut their customers throats and bake them into pies.

Language in humans developed for our survival, and it worked phenomenally well.  Waving our arms around, spitting, and howling slowly, over millennia, developed into the most complex and successful method of communication ever known, far more advanced than any other animal.  To the point that today it has far exceeded our need for it in the survival of the species.  But since it’s there, we use it… in literature, music, even operas about butchering barbers, as silly as that seems, using our perfectly developed survival skills on delightful wastes of time.

Serendipity.

I think the same is true for cats and their boxes, or anything else that fits.  They have these deeply ingrained skills just sitting around doing nothing.  Skills that used to be used for hiding, crouching, taking cover behind shrubs or in trees, finding safe dens… for being invisible, and even though the skills are no longer needed, they’re still there, nagging away at the kitty… take cover, hide, crouch, get somewhere they can’t see you.  Hey, what about that box?

© 2014 Andrew Scott

Cat Behaviour:  Hissing

As intimidating and scary as it can seem, hissing is simply the way a cat swears.  My own cat is so sweet, I know she loves me, but she swears like a sailor.  Any little thing can set her off, like a snag while brushing… "Fuk u!  Watch what ur doin there. That hurt!"  She’s over it in a second, and back to her laid-back self, and in all honesty I do love a foul-mouthed girl.  Just a tip though, never laugh at somebody who’s pissed enough to swear.

Many make the mistake of saying “Shhhh!” when their cat hisses, but when you think about it, to the cat it probably just sounds like you’re hissing right back.

As with humans, the kind of anger that can lead to foul language may end in violence, but is usually just a release valve, a way to let off steam. Of the two kitties in this gif, the one who’s most likely to swipe at you is the top one.  You can tell because it’s ears are laid waaaaay back.  It’s seriously pissed, and ready to take it to the next level!

In any case, people usually make too much of hissing, and it does sound more nasty than it really is, but, next time puss hisses at you, just say “Fuck you!” right back, and give it some room to cool down.  Cats may be quick to anger, but they are even faster to forgive.

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Cat Behaviour: Purring.  

Really the ultimate cat behaviour, and this one’s a 2fer, cause we’re also going to cover “Sleeping on your head/neck.”  I think they’re connected.

There really is a lot of hoopla and foofarah over the how and the why of purring… we’re mostly going to deal with the why.  You can check the link if you need more about the how.

Since every kitten knows that Papa was a rolling stone, and Mama had to do it all alone, mama was forced to go out and hunt leaving her kittens behind and vulnerable for the sake of all of their survival, and this (my own theory and conjecture) is the origin of purring.  We all know it’s a social thing, soothing and comforting, an exclamation mark on closeness.  I really think it developed as a method of keeping the litter calm, together and right where Mama stashed them, out of danger while she’s out hunting.  The proof that it works is how they always sleep in a pile, on top of and all over each other.

It’s also an insight into why they sleep on our heads or necks - something that quite alarms some people.  It’s a sign of family, and closeness, going back to the litter, and an attempt to get their purring apparatus actually on and in contact with us.  A way to say “Stay with me, just like this.”

Now, one of the things often mentioned in articles or discussions of purring is the confusion around the fact that some cats will purr when in pain, or even dying.  A distraction from all we thing about the good and happy function of purring.  

When you think about humans calling for their Mommy, dying soldiers on the battlefield or sick children in hospital, I think it starts to come into context.  A hurt or sick cat may be doing just that, trying to comfort itself by recalling the very thing it associates with its mother and siblings.

But lets not end on this sad note.  There’s nothing like holding a purring cat to your chest and just letting that soothing rumble sink into you.  If humans could do it, they’d certainly do it when hugging.

video: A Den of Kittens, upped by DrNworb, produced by Vancouver Orphaned Kitten Rescue Association

© Andrew Scott, 2014

Cat Behaviour: The Myth of the "Statement" Poop

I have heard so many people refer to it over the years… “My cat is mad at me. She pooped in my shoe/bed/favourite chair.”  It’s really quite ridiculous, and requires us to believe that…

A:  Cats regard poop with disdain and loathing, as we do, and

B:  Cats innately know our feelings about poop and are willing to use it against us

Nothing could be farther from the truth, as anyone who has a “Come With” kitty (one who insists on accompanying you to the bathroom) can attest. They will head-bonk your legs, rub against them, purr and nuzzle you no matter what evil you are unleashing on the bowl, without so much as curling their nose.  In fact, it can seem to them that there is no better time for a little cuddling.

Considering this, it only stands to reason that if they find nothing objectionable about it, it just wouldn’t come up as an insult, or act of vengeance.

If your cat is having litter box troubles, it is more likely an issue with the box itself, and these can be many.  It’s in an undesirable place, such as too close to heavy traffic areas, or their food.  The box itself is too small. The type of litter is very important to some cats - something other than their usual brand, or a sudden change can throw them off.  Too little litter can hurt their feet (think of kneeling on deep sand on a beach as opposed to one layer of sand on a hard floor.)

And, of course, cleaning.  Even if they don’t feel as repulsed by the smell as we do, ammonia is a very potent chemical that can cause dizziness or even nose-bleed if inhaled deeply.

They usually pick other spots based on criteria such as bury-ability, privacy, some physical or aromatic resemblance to their box.

Finding the issue will generally correct the behaviour immediately.

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