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relaxed. Sideways pointing ears show that the cat is attentive to what is going on around it but may be unsure about it. Not so relaxed. The ears upright and pointing back and the cat is perturbed by something and may become aggressive. If the cat's ears are pointing back and are flat against the side of her head she is fearful and submissive but prone to become aggressive. An enraged cat will show aggression by flattening the ears sideways (and will be giving other cat body language warning signals.) Don't go near that cat!
The Cats Eyes Have It.
In the world of cats, sustained eye contact (staring) is assertive and threatening. Two cats with a territorial dispute may stare at each other until one signals by its body language that it will, on this occasion, be submissive. Alternatively two cats meeting may have no conflict with each other; one may break up the stare by blinking, this reassures the other that there is no dispute.
The tail hanging down is showing the cat to be defensive mode. The arched back and ruffled fur may be an indication that it is observing something that it is unsure of. Cat body language shows that the cat’s ready to protect itself, a defensive aggression.
You may misinterpret your cat if you try to glean a message from her eyes alone. But read in conjunction with the rest of your cat's body language, her eyes can tell you something of her thoughts. Dilated (enlarged) pupils could be signaling fear, pain, aggression or just excitement. Narrow, slit like pupils could mean that your cat is angry but self-assured. On the other hand if the eyelids are also half-closed or fluttering it could mean that your cat is sleepy. If your cat looks at you eyelids fluttering and drooping, it's an indication of her trust in you.
Head and Mouth Signals.
An aggressive cat will hold its head low and with its eyes firmly fixed upon its mark (the assertive stare.) The cat will move in on the mark with its head shifting from side to side. A defensive feline will often hold its head to the side and give sidelong glances rather than looking directly at the aggressor. The defensive cat will back off if it can. Often the cat will hiss and spit,
but it does not want to fight, although will if cornered, it would sooner run from the aggressive cat. When two friendly cats meet they will often engage in head rubbing and sometimes gentle head bumping. It's a cheery hello, or the cat equivalent of a handshake. If your cat uses her head to greet you in this manner she is employing cat body language to tell you that she is pleased to see you. Cats sometimes, but not often, give a hiss or a snarl with an open mouth clearly communicating defensive aggression. If you see your cat appearing to grimace with teeth bared, perhaps staring into the distance, she is not using threatening language but analyzing pheromone scent signals in the air. Cats communicate with us and other pets in many ways. The biggest way they communicate with other cats is through their speech. Meows mean something among other cats. But the greatest way a cat communicates to humans is through their body language. Vocalization is the main way they communicate. Their hissing, purring, meowing, and snarling is an important part of their lives and the way they interact with others. We know what each of those actions mean with our cats and establish a relationship based on their use of those vocalizations. One of the favorite body languages an owner has for its cat is when it arches its back, seems to stretch out a bit, curls its tail upward loosely and puts its head down. This is a big sign that it wants to play and that it likes you. It may even get into this stance and move toward you, as it tries to rub up against you. A healthy, confident and alert cat walks straight with its tail extended and its eyes narrow. If your cat walks like this, it’s a good sign. It likely has few worries and is quite happy with life. A cat that is on alert to be defensive and aggressive toward another cat or person either points its tail straight upward or lowers it to the ground, it perks its ears, and perhaps the hair on its back stands straight up. You may also notice that its ears point downward and point toward the back of its body, that means it’s ready to fight. It’s important for cat owners to get used to how their cats interact and what different body languages mean. If your cat sits focused on you in front of you in an upright and perky position for a long period of time, perhaps it wants to be fed. Each cat will establish its own way of communicating with you. You will need to learn what different signals your cat is giving you throughout the first few months and years you have your cat. Your cat will develop its own body signals when it wants different things from you. It will adopt body signs of when it wants to be playful with you and other pets. Pet owners don’t usually have much trouble figuring out what different body signs mean with their cats.
CAT COMMUNICATION - BODY LANGUAGE 2002-2009, Sarah Hartwell
Cats which communicate mostly with other cats use mainly on body language and scent - this is their "native language". Their body language is subtle, but many owners and cat workers learn to read the more obvious cues. A BRIEF SUMMARY OF FELINE VOCALISATIONS There are at least nineteen different types of "miaow" which differ in pitch, rhythm, volume, tone, pronunciation and the situations in which they are used. The familiar purr may be used for contentment, self-reassurance or an invitation for close contact. Injured or sick cats (and even dying cats) may purr because the sound frequency has been shown to soothe the cat and to promote healing. The "miaow" and purr are just two of at least thirteen different categories of sound made by cats: caterwaul, chatter, chirrup (chirp), cough-bark (rare in pet cats), growl, hiss (with or without spit). meow, mew (of kittens), purr, scream, squawk, yowl and idiosyncratic sounds (i.e. sounds peculiar to an individual cat). There are probably over 30 different sounds. The number of sounds a cat makes depends on how much the cat communicates with (a) other cats and (b) other non-cats e.g. humans. Cats which communicate with humans a lot have a wider spoken vocabulary because they learn that humans understand sounds but cannot easily understand feline body language. Cats learn which sounds elicit the desired response from their human companions and some cats have a wider "vocabulary" than others. Purring and vocal communication is discussed in detail in "Cat Chat - Can Cats Talk". You may also wish to read "Do Cats have Emotions" HOUSECATS, FERAL CATS AND BIG CATS. Housecats develop a wide variety of sounds to alert humans to their needs and intentions. Many are variations on mother/kitten meow or chirp sounds which the cat has adapted in order to "speak" to non-cats. This is quite logical since the cosseted housecat remains dependent on humans i.e. a permanent kitten. Others are adult sounds such as the caterwaul (used in a sexual or territorial context) or the cough-bark (a fear/anger sound usually accompanied by a front paw stamp). Cats kept with other cats are communicating with each other all the time through body language and scent. They are communicating with their owners all the time too, it's our problem that we can't understand their language. Cats work out which sounds elicit suitable responses from humans (positive feedback) and learn to make those sounds in order to achieve a particular aim e.g. for a door to be opened. Since humans are in charge, it makes sense for the cat to learn to communicate vocally though it must sometimes be frustrating to a cat which has clearly communicated its mood using facial expression to have to explain things vocally to humans. It is the feline equivalent of speaking slowly and loudly to a foreigner! Cats have different personalities and this affects how much they want to "speak" to humans. Personalities are partly controlled by genetics and partly by upbringing so both factors contribute to how much an individual cat talks. Like some humans,
some cats probably have nothing much they want to say! Also, some owners are good at reading cat body language and the cat simply doesn't need to vocalise quite so much. Most cats tend not to vocalise with strangers unless the stranger approaches them (less often the cat approaches a stranger for food or fuss). The vocalisation then depends on whether the cat is fearful or friendly. If fearful the cat may hiss or growl and thrash its tail (agitation) to warn the stranger not to approach any closer. If friendly it will meow or purr and its tail will stick upwards (greeting) inviting attention, or possibly begging for food. Stray cats living around restaurants learn to beg appealingly to diners - this is linked to food begging, though some do enjoy interaction and a fuss. Cats also learn to communicate with other household animals e.g. dogs. They are less likely to vocalise because dogs can interpret scent signals and can learn some feline body language. Sometimes the cat must reinforce its unspoken message with a hiss if the other animals ignores or fails to understand body language. Like cats, dogs also rely greatly on body language. In a household setting, cats and dogs are in close enough proximity for long enough that they can learn each other's body language to some degree. Feral cats rely more on their native body language. They don't need so many variations of "meow". They use all the "major sounds" e.g. yowl, growl, etc but they rely much more on non-verbal communication to convey meaning - posture, gesture, facial expression, tail position, whisker position, ear position, scent-marking - with vocalisation often being a last resort to augment or reinforce the non-verbal communication or when they can't see each other properly. Feral cats with little or no contact with humans don't learn so much "spoken" language as do housecats. They have no need to learn a vocalised "second language" because they are communicating with native speakers of "cat body language". Details of big cat vocalisation is out of scope of this article. Big cats have their own repertoire of sounds e.g. the rumbled greeting of lionesses and the distinctive "chuff" of tigers. Two important differences are that big cats such as lions, tigers, jaguars and leopards cannot purr because their throats are built for roaring. Conversely, the small cats, puma and cheetah, screech or yowl rather than roar (this is discussed in Cat Chat - Can Cats Talk"). Although there are a few reports of purring-type sounds (a breathy groaning sound rather than an in-and-out purr) from lions and tigers, it seems that a cat can either purr or roar, but not both. Purring is also found in the cheetah, puma and most small cats such as the serval and ocelot. Cubs may "mew", but adult big cats do not "meow". Individual big cats are sometimes tamed e.g. if hand-reared, but big cat species have never been domesticated in the same way as the housecat. "Cat Chat - Can Cats Talk" suggests that living alongside humans has meant that the process of evolving a domestic subspecies from a wild ancestor went hand-in-hand with increased vocalisation in
domestic cats. Big cats have not been through thousands of years of evolving a domestic subspecies and have not needed to communicate with humans. THE LANGUAGE OF SMELL The first language a kitten learns is that of smell. It is blind, deaf and defenceless but it has well-developed senses of smell and touch (including warmth detection) to guide it to the mother cat's nipple. A kitten recognises its own scent on the nipple and aims for the same nipple each feeding time. The mother identifies her kittens by their individual scent and by her own scent on them. This then is the first mode of communication the kitten learns. Scent will play an important role all through the cat's life. Cats have scent glands on the chin, lips (in the corners), temples and at the base of the tail. Each cat has its own scent signature. When it washes, a cat transfers its scent from these glands to its fur. This scent is then transferred to objects the cat rubs against - a fencepost, twiggy plants, a doorway or a person's legs. For example, most of my doors have a grey greasy mark at cat's cheek level where Cindy marks them over and over again. They use this scent to mark areas and objects around them, other cats, humans and other animals in the household. This helps create a communal smell. A new cat must literally rub up to superior members of the group to mix their scents before becoming an accepted member of the group. Its home territory also has a smell profile and any new smell - another cat or even a new piece of furniture or a scent carried in your shoes or clothing - can cause insecurity and lead to a frenzy of marking activity! When a cat scratches it leaves both a visual marker and a scent marker from its paw-pads. It will mark its territory by rubbing its chin or cheeks onto upright objects (posts, chair-legs, door edges etc) and also by spraying or depositing faeces. Scent is so important that blind cats can navigate around their indoor territories using a combination of memory and scent trails. Cats who are familiar and friendly with each other often have a greeting ritual. They use a similar ritual to greet their humans or other household animals. They rub their head, flank and tail against the other cat or person to exchange odours. They hold the tail straight up so that the other cat can sniff the anal glands. When stroked, cats raise their rumps even higher (almost standing on tiptoe) to invite you to sniff their anal glands! The language of smell manifests itself in a less pleasant - to humans - way as well. Tomcats spray pungent urine to mark their territories and to advertise their sexual status. It's the equivalent of a human marking out boundaries with flags advertising his age, healthiness and his readiness to service fertile females. The urine is sprayed roughly at nose level, making it unmisable to other cats - and unmissable to humans if it is sprayed on doorposts, dustbins or indoors! In areas where territories overlap, tomcats try to spray over other cats' scent markings as well as
Spraying. The most dramatic body language occurs when rival males meet. The height of the scratch marks may be important in communicating the cat's size and strength to any potential challenger. They mix with other cats when mating. middening and scratching ensure that cats are communicating with each other even when not physically present. either on their own. wallpaper or doormat (or even the furniture) this does several things. cats do not generally co-operate to hunt or form cohesive packs. When a cat scratches a tree. more subtle. boundary markers and personal advertisements. raising kittens and in sociable groups such as feral colonies or multicat households. An unfortunate side effect is that some spray indoors in response to scents carried in on shoes or clothing. cats are happy to let other cats pass through their territory or even time-share it. They haven't needed to evolve the social rules for pack living. with other cats or with humans. As well as stropping the claws and exercising the leg muscles. Middens are usually located at disputed areas of territory where challenges are likely to occur. it deposits scent from the paws onto the object. Middening cats deposit their faeces in a prominent spot (often on top of a tuft of grass or the middle of a path). they may use faeces to mark territory .a behaviour known as middening. during courtship or over fiercely protected territory (in general. Female cats also spray and for the same reasons.refreshing their own scent markings. Humans don't see it the same way. Many visual signals are displayed when cats play. . Neutered and unneutered cats of both sexes will spray and Siamese cats (either sex. Although common wisdom is that cats fastidiously bury their wastes. Feline body-language is complex and subtle with ate least twentyfive different visual signals used in sixteen combinations. the usual place being the bed. but the core territory may be fiercely protected). Though these behaviours may be annoying to owners. to cats these scent laden markers are signposts. The height of scratch markings above the ground appears to be important to tigers in advertising their age. Sometimes this is indoors. neutered or entire) are often notorious sprayers. nuances which we don't notice. Neutered cats generally have less extreme interactions. A cat which has been upset by an intruder or unusual event middens in the place which smells most strongly of its human family. Cat colonies are much looser groupings than the strictly hierarchical wolf-pack. size and strength and the same may be true of domestic cats. though less commonly than males. often choosing the same place again and again to advertise their continued presence. BODY LANGUAGE Unlike dogs. There are doubtless many other. Faeces is also a scent-laden marker. scratching post. Most owners can learn to recognise at least some of their cats' visual signals. reinforcing the family bond.
the posture and the tail position.sniffing the scent glands . the cat is encouraging touch or trying see its owners or another cat’s facial expressions. The aggressor or challenger would prefer to win its case without resorting to teeth and claws since it could be badly injured in a fight.a favourite feline activity). pulls in its chin and turns sideways to prevent eye contact it is conveying a lack of interest and the fact that it is not threatening. An inferior cat which is fearful and defensively aggressive will raise its head though. an assertive or confident cat may raise its head. To understand the whole message you have to look at the way it holds its body.The aim of body language is to convey a message and to avoid or end physical confrontation. they sniff each other's faces . Friendly cats will head-but or head rub and will extend this into a full body rub. For example when a cat arches its back. Many disputes are resolved by staring each other down and yelling. Body language has to be read by looking at the whole body . simply walks away from the loser. The nose-bump is another friendly greeting.the face.its tail! If the cat keeps its head down. If its head is stretched forward. sits down and looks in another direction (or start grooming . is it upset or is it friendly? The same basic posture means two very different things depending on the facial expression. In conflict. Sometimes it is so subtle that humans cannot tell there was potential conflict . THE HEAD A cat's head position tells us several things. It will also pull in its chin when relaxed.the dominant cat. To understand the message. An inferior or submissive cat will also lower its head submissively. having won the confrontation. When cats meet. but an aggressive cat will lower its head. whether the fur is bristling and the eyes and the ears. you have to look at the other end of the cat . This is a greeting message. Cats will also head-butt and body-rub their humans. Looking at one of these in isolation is misleading since they all combine into an overall message.
It had just arrived at a shelter and was friendly but nervous of its new surroundings. it may stop whatever it is doing. THE EYES Humans love eye contact .to the cat. For a cat. Yawning is even more reassuring! When relaxed. The cat knows it is being watched and becomes uncomfortable. hoping it will leave them alone. Those who don't particularly like cats will ignore it. They are being polite in cat terms. does it relax again. This is one reason it is hard to study cats! Slowly blinking breaks up an aggressive stare and is a reassuring signal between cats and between owners and cats. so it goes to socialise with them. Cat lovers will be watching the cat. but head turned to face the person approaching it) shows that this young cat is flinching away (see later for details on posture). Rival cats try to out-stare each other to resolve conflicts.around the lips to determine the identity of the other cat and whether it is a family member or not. . When a cat realises it is being watched or stared at. but in a far more self-conscious way. Only when it is no longer being watched. assess the "threat" and then continue with its activity. prolonged eye contact is an assertive. For the cat. Is it simply being perverse? The answer is in eye contact. the eye contact made by the cat lovers is somewhat threatening. most cats have their eyes half-open. This is a friendly action and often ends up as a whole body rub and maybe also tailtwining. or even threatening. The people who don't particularly like cats are not making eye contact . It avoids them. signal. Sara and Ginny head-butting.it is friendly. The classic case is when several people are in a room for a social occasion and the host's cat walks in. The back-turned ears and the posture (pulling away. hoping it goes to greet them. they are signalling that they pose no threat. giving the appearance of being half-asleep. It unerringly goes towards the person who doesn't like cats.
the cat would no doubt prefer the owner to politely gaze into the middle distance and observe the cat using peripheral vision instead of a direct gaze. Interestingly. An angry. It is actually taking in a great deal of information with its peripheral vision. but her dilated pupils indicate apprehension.Cats have excellent peripheral vision and tend not to stare directly at something unless they are getting a fix on a moving object in preparation for pouncing. but most humans read human expressions instinctively. When a cat sits day-dreaming. its permanently dilated pupils cannot convey a message at all. A few readers have emailed me having tried the same. However her pricked whiskers indicate that she is not actually frightened. confident cat has narrowed pupils. She was. aggressive excitement and also the mild excitement of seeing its owner. The pupils of the eyes convey part of a cat's message.it sees us as potential prey. behaviourists have tried the "gaze and blink" trick with big cats in zoos and have reported that lions and tigers will blink back at them. While some owners claim "blink kissing" helps the cat-owner bond. The cat often blinks in response and then acts in a self conscious way. you can relax".it is as if the eyes are trying to take in as much information as possible. If you can read . The eyes alone cannot convey a whole message and if the cat is blind. in fact. Dilated pupils accompany fear. they contract or dilate to indicate mood. rather apprehensive of the strange apparatus (the camera) pointed at her at relatively close range. This sounds like a lot of work. Nutmeg. This is not recommended since a direct gaze is a challenge and a big cat has no real need to reassure us of its friendly intentions . the cat in the photo is alert and interested (whiskers pricked forwards). It is necessary to look at the rest of the cats face to piece together what it is saying. Some owners deliberately engage in "blink kissing" with their cats . the wider its pupils expand . a feline friend or even dinner! The more fearful a cat is. perhaps fluffing itself up or grooming. As well as dilating or contracting according to the amount of light around. it appears to be not looking at anything in particular.when looking directly at a cat the owner blinks in a slow and deliberate manner. This uses the cat's own language to say "I am not threatening you. It may be ready to provoke a fight and by narrowing the pupils it can focus better on detail and also reduce the risk of damage to that part of the eye.
THE EARS Cats' ears are extremely mobile. Ear tufts. Not only do they pan around like radar dishes. The make the ear signals even more visible. If one ear is flattened and the other isn't.human body language and facial expression. If the cat grows anxious. He believes that some pet cats extend this to communicate with humans.g. the signal is more ambivalent and the cat isn't yet sure how to react to what is going on around it. the flatter the ears until they are lying straight backwards. Ear flicking or "ear flagging" (flattening and horizontally moving one ear) has been reported by some of my readers. caracals whose ear tufts were trimmed off were less able to hunt small prey in long grass. its pricks its ears more upright. flat to the skull. If the cat is fearful but aggress. such as seen in the lynx and caracal. If the cat's attention is caught by a noise or a movement. a biology teacher in the UK. its ears move slightly back and flatten down. the ears are important instruments of communication . A similar highly mobile state occurs when the ears are panning round to catch noises. with its permanently folded ears. A cat can move its ears independently of each other.they act like semaphores signals. An fearful cat has lowered ears. This. lynx) compensate for their lack of tail. However. a little practice is all that is needed to learn the cat's facial language. maybe swivelling one or both to track the source of the noise. the visiting cat is signalled in a direction by the resident cat flicking one ear. the ears flatten sideways . The Scottish Fold cat. They can be pricked forward or flattened sideways or backwards. When content and relaxed. he believes. Note: in experiments with caracals. its ears demonstrate that the cat is alert even when it appears half asleep. especially at dusk and dawn when cats are most active. the ear tufts also help pick up sound vibrations.a combination of the forward pointing "alert" ears and the flattened/lowered "fearful" ears. The more anxious or fearful the cat is. With 20-30 muscles controlling them. Some wild cats species have dark ears with white or pale markings on the back. They can swivel through 180 degrees and move up and down. but the cat's entire demeanour will be one of alertness or interest. suggests it is also used as a way of pointing in a certain direction. for example when a door is . the ears shift and change as it processes stimuli and possible responses. John Whitehead. a cat sits with its ears facing forward but tilted slightly back. Generally it will withdraw a short way in order to consider the situation. probably with a slightly twitching tail. is at a slight disadvantage here. can be seen when a cat is on a "walk through" of another cat's territory and encounters the resident feline. While considering. scanning for any sound. also emphasise the movement and position of the ears and may help short-tailed species (e. After a pause and some facing down.
it pulls its whiskers back alongside its cheeks to signal that it is non-threatening. In a normal relaxed "neutral" state. This also makes its face look smaller. I am not convinced about ear flagging. it is the cat's flehmen reaction . they are held slightly to the side. An open-mouthed yawn may signal non-threat. The cheek pads also seem to swell out as the muscles pull the whiskers into position. They are also mobile and help to indicate the cat's mood. An open-mouthed snarl or hiss show that the cat feels threatened and defensive. A more usual explanation is that the cat is in two minds about something and its uncertainty results in ambiguous ear signals. Growls are delivered with the mouth only slightly open.one way in which a cat analyses scent signals. it may signal its intention to stay indoors by ear flicking towards its favourite chair. but it merits further study. ultimately coming forwards in front of the muzzle (a good position for the shorter whiskers to detect the bite point on the prey's neck). . The teeth-bared grimace is not a dog-like snarl. THE WHISKERS AND MOUTH The whiskers are not just for judging the width of gaps or the proximity of objects. the whiskers perk forwards. A cat rarely uses its mouth to signal aggression.opened and the cat given a choice of in or out. As the cat becomes more interested in something around it. If the cat is fearful.
Licking the lips may indicate anxiety or anticipation depending on what is happening around it. The cat is at ease . it is still alert to its surroundings. Sometimes yawning at a timid cat (and blinking slowly while gazing into space) will help it to relax.g.its whiskers are pricked slightly forward. but reserve real lip-licking for the after-dinner wash. When cats yawn they are not so much bored as signalling reassurance and contentment. its ears are pricked (the flattened one is actually listening to a sound!) indicating alertness. Many cats partly flatten their ears when they yawn widely.neither aggressive nor defensive and though relaxed. Her whiskers are pricked outwards and slightly forwards.Flower is yawning. the cat in the photo is yawning . as they stretch. When a cat yawns its whole face appears to split open! THE TAIL . Affy may look angry (narrow pupils. ears back) but she is actually yawning. On the one hand it gives the cat a rather daft look. Her ears are pricked (the flattened one is actually listening to a sound!) indicating alertness. She is neither aggressive nor defensive and though relaxed. it is still alert to its surroundings. On the other hand it gives the cat a look of concentration. Cats also yawn during their waking-up routine e. Flower. Some cats sit with their tongue sticking out a little. be aware of its surroundings. This seems to show relaxation and contentment or that the cat has become interested in something. When reading a cat's expression. Cats may lick their lips slightly as food is presented.
It may spring upright during the final rush. It is highly mobile: side to side. graceful and slow. the slight twitch of its tail indicates how hard it is concentrating. The tail is an important tool for communicating with other cats and with humans.The tail is an organ of balance. thrashing and whiplike. A mother cat may also use it . up and down. The tail also conveys a cat’s interest and concentration with a twitching movement as it corners its prey. edging forward towards prey. when a cat sees something interesting through a window. a rudder/counterbalance for manoeuvring at high speed and a means of communication. While hunting or stalking.deliberately or accidentally . When a cat is crouched low to the ground. It can be a sleep coil folded around a sitting or sleeping cat. . a fluffy scarf across a curled cat's nose or an erect bristling bottlebrush when the cat is frightened. This prevents it from fouling in low-hanging shrubs and prevent the prey from seeing a telltale tail.as a toy for her kittens. the tail is kept almost horizontally behind the cat. You can also see this twitching movement. usually just the tip of the tail.
the tail goes up like a flagpole to convey its friendliness. If it meets a friendly cat or friendly human. When a cat is relaxed. whiskers slightly drooping. trying to lift its rump higher.Relaxed. A mother cat's upright tail is a signal for her kittens to follow and their upright tails may help littermates or their mother to spot their whereabouts. the tail goes up and quivers. confident and alert. This prevents the tail from becoming snagged in undergrowth. Shampoo is off to greet a friendly person. When a cat meets its owner and wants to extend a friendly greeting. it walks with its tail horizontally behind it or even slightly drooping. These two ferals first greet each other by stretching and then by rubbing and tail-twining to mix scents to reinforce their bond.ears pricked. A spraying cat also adopts the tail up posture. the upright tail is hooked over at the tip indicating a degree of uncertainty. tail drooping from horizontal. If it is friendly but cautious of the other cat or person. tail a-quiver and treading/dancing with the hind feet. but there is no . alert and confident .
The first inch or so of the tail is horizontal and the remainder points straight downwards.e. It may pull its upright tail slight forwards over the back. When the cat stretches its forelegs. It is the cat's version of "I am SO happy to see you. Kittens frequently use the inverted horseshoe during play and mock-battle. Very few cats wag their tails in happiness like dogs. This indicates that the cat feels seriously threatened and has become defensively aggressive i. I am overcome with emotion. is an attempt to get attention. It seems to accompany the feline thought process of "do I or don't I?". They droop. kinked down a little at the tip and give a little chirp at the same time. they run to her with their tails upright like small flag-poles. When it stretches the back legs. but can also be seen during the "mad half hour" when the cat rushes around as though it has the wind under its tail. As it becomes more alert or more emotionally charged. Adult cats also tail-twine. twine or rub their tails around their mother's rump or tail to solicit food from her. the tail swishes faster. They entwine tails with friendly cats as they rub against each other (the tail has scent from the anal glands on it from where the cat has washed it). it may also indicate another highly charged emotion . Violent thrashing therefore indicates high excitement or imminent aggression." Many owners refer to this as "feather-dancing" because the upright tail resembles a quivering feather. but if provoked it will defend itself. fuss and food! When a cat is at rest. wider and in a more regular manner. is defensive aggression.spray of urine. . if they are tail-wrapping part of the owner. The "Inverted U" or "Horseshoe" tail. When kittens greet their mother. As well as indicating the cat's state of mind. it makes the cat look bigger than it really is in an attempt to make the aggressor leave it alone.some cats thrash their tail in ecstasy when being groomed. the tail will be thumping on the floor. This both marks the leg or object and. The other easily recognisable tail signal is the upright bottle-brush tail. its tail may come right forward over the head. This invites the cat/person it is greeting to sniff the anal glands and confirm its identity as a group member. A swishing or thumping tail is sometimes an invitation for another cat to join in a bout of play. often with the fur erect. it would rather get away. The "inverted L" is a sign of conflict. If the cat is lying on its side. The tail doubles in size and the hair on the cat's spine also stands erect (pilo-erection). the tail may end up upright and hooked over. often loudly. but readying itself for action. They also wrap their tails around human legs or objects. Though this is most often associated with anger. it sweeps its tail erratically from side to side.
but all of its fur. In both cases. so its rear end will be higher than its shoulders) and erect the hair along its spine and tail into a ridge to make itself look more impressive. The slow retreat is an attempt to avoid provoking a sudden or instinctive attack.Sometimes the upright tail is jerked suddenly and briefly forwards.the cat acknowledges you. the victim may move sideways in a crab-like fashion (frequently seen in playing kittens). A defensive cat erects not only a ridge of fur. it moves slowly away from its aggressor. An aggressive cat will straighten its legs (the hind legs are longer than the forelegs. a defensive cat erects its fur to appear bigger than it really is. perhaps swaggering a little. It wants the attacker to think twice about attacking it. watching for any sign of attack. . This seems to be the feline version of the human "two fingers" obscene gesture. puffing itself out. the cats are bluffing to try to avoid conflict. It arches its back and positions itself side-on to its aggressor to make itself look larger still. but has its mind set on other things and is making a "So what!" exclamation. It denotes mild irritation or derision. A dominant cat will also try to look bigger than it really is. POSTURE As previously mentioned. If the attacker pauses. You might see this if you address your cat as it is walking around .
If the other cat still threatens. the hind legs are especially dangerous as they may disembowel the other animal (and are sometimes used in this way against same-size prey such as rabbits which have not been killed outright . which will go belly-up in full submissive mode. It has done its utmost to avoid conflict. a cat on its back is still a formidable opponent. If this doesn't work. it may sink down on one side demonstrating its submissiveness. Tin this position. victim's fore legs can clasp the aggressor close to the victim's teeth. Unlike the dog. if the aggressor jumps on its victim. . This is an appeasement gesture. It may shrink into a crouch indicating that it wants only to be left alone. a submissive cat wants to appear small and unthreatening. the victim is able to fight back with all four sets of claws and with teeth. Meanwhile.something which can be seen when a cat plays with a stuffed toy).In contrast. the victim will roll over onto its back. turning its head to face its attacker. but if the aggressor continues to press the attack.
Tsar had just arrived at a cat shelter and was nervous of his new surroundings. Other cats. A playful cat will roll over in order to use all four paws. Cats also roll as a way of scratching their backs. His kers are ightly drooped in ation.this is kitten behaviour and an invite for us to "groom" the cat's belly. sometimes mock-biting the other cat or the owner. Although his ears and whiskers indicate alertness. often rolling on hot pavements or in dust-baths. Ears an whiskers are pricked forward in inter Her tail is in the normal horizontal . claws sheathed. those with a great degree of trust and affection. er in a neutral mood. Some cats roll over to greet their owners .There are other reasons a cat rolls over. Tsar's tail is held firmly beneath him in a sign of submissive fear. Unfortunately the kitten behaviour and the adult behaviour often conflict with each other with painful consequences for the owner. His ears are in the ard position. His pupils are Shampoo is making a friendly appro towards owner Philip Harvey. to "defend" itself. love having their bellies rubbed. Oestrus females roll wantonly in front of males to solicit their attention.
since domestic cats often retain juvenile behaviour. some feline behaviour truly perplexing to the point of bordering on a supernatural explanation. To us. It looked like the fourth cat was having an audience with a top cat. Though small. Were the pursuers the grown up offspring of the leader? Kittens will follow their mothers in this way. when Ghengis was 14 years old. USA) had a similar experience of feline follow-the-leader. Linda Louis-VanReed (St Louis. Michael Powell (Dublin. Genghis went roaming with Korat kitten . including aggressive cats. motionless and silent for some 10 minutes. making a remarkable sight. We are not attuned to pheromones or to reading the more subtle nuances of their body language. Ireland) watched 12 cats "of every variety" emerging from a garden across the road from where he stood. Florida. Early one morning in 2002. Was the lead cat on oestrus and were the followers her suitors? This seems the most likely explanation. Genghis Khan was very dominant and was raised him alongside a labrador/shepherd mix pup. Missouri. nose to tail with their heads and tails up. She adopted a small. Not all feline communication or feline behaviour is easily understood. All three cats were staring straight at a fourth cat who was also sitting in the sphynx position directly facing the centre cat. took a sharp left through a hole in the hedge. When they reached the hedge near to his home. just by sitting down and staring silently. but rarely in such an orderly fashion. shared its territory and were "interested parties" in the dispute.d entirely because of the His tail is coiled neatly nd him. but is moving into the frien upright position. The cats pranced across the road in a straight line. even by those ho are used to cats. On another occasion the same witness saw three cats sitting in the "Egyptian sphynx" position. The two smaller cats were probably from the same household as the cat they sat with. then right again along the side of the hedge. they all turned right in strict formation. black long-haired male cat that stumbled onto her porch in need of urgent medical attention. Without knowing the familial relationship (if any) of the cats. Geenghis was an indoor/outdoor cat and this 8 pound ball of attitude routinely attracted and peacefully dominated every group of local cats he encountered. then left at the next corner. Quite possibly this was a boundary dispute with two cats staring each other out over an invisible (to us) territorial boundary. The cats sat like that. They gave the distinct impression of being on a mission. In Orlando. Numerous suitors have been seen trailing after a single oestrus female until she is ready to mate. perhaps this was the case. it is hard to say what was going on. The centre cat was largest and slightly forward of the other two. both of which were angled slightly away from the centre cat so that they were in an arrow formation. It brings to mind the curious parade of cats out of an English town some hours before it was bombed during World War II. right again through another hole in that hedge and out of sight. ENIGMATIC CATS position.
tail up. Unfortunately. human language comprises both verbal and non-verbal components (including the written extension of body language through gestural substitutes such as the <VBG >. Scent is also an . He lead them about 15 yards or so. He stopped. looking very calm. of Changchun city. flicked his tail. communicating feelings and intentions through posture and facial expression. however. He was followed by his romping little charge. His other phrases are 'ren ne?' (where is everyone) on waking up and finding no-one around and 'gan sha ne?' (what are you doing?) when Granny Lv plays mahjong. chest out. After about 2 and a half hours she called for him again. that the reason many owners cannot understand their cats is because the cats are speaking Turkish. His vocabulary included 'laolao' (Grandma) apparently copied from her granddaughter. despite Victoria calling for him. Linda was concerned about Genghis and Naomi because of alligators and snakes in the area. They "speak" to each other through body language. claimed her male cat Mimi could speak Chinese. are these cats really speaking or are their owners just talking turkey? In 2008 a Chinese grandmother. former president of the Siamese Cat Society of America." Genghis lived to 17 and a half and right up to the end he exerted his power of domination/attraction/fascination over other cats. the terms 'speech' and 'talk' are not restricted to vocalization. She says "The hedges next door rustled and out he comes from beneath them. Granny Lv. claimed that their animal could speak with human speech. at which point the others broke formation and ran. but encompass human body language (which most of us read without realising it). all following within a foot of one another.Naomi in tow and did not return for several hours. The cat's vocal apparatus differs from our own and is not designed with speech in mind. :-) symbols within Internet communication). all with tails in the same positions. The 6 local cats were 14-18 pounds Maine Coon males. the 2 women are hearing what they want to hear when interpreting feline sounds. two of whom were not neutered. Frederick Eddy. MESSYBEAST. Further. gestural languages (sign language) and tactile languages (of deaf-blind individuals) which are equally expressive among those fluent in their use.2009 Sarah Hartwell Can cats talk? Many cat owners would like to think so and some even claim that their cats speak a number of recognisable words. and every last one of those large male cats from around the neighborhood. and strolled in to eat. However cats need to communicate. both with other cats and with owners. walking in a tight line. Naomi. Mrs Wang claims Mimi's pronunciation is very clear.COM CAT RESOURCE ARCHIVE CAT CHAT! CAN CATS TALK? Copyright 1995 . but girlish. So perhaps cats are talking Cantonese or Mandarin instead? Katharine Simms in "They Walked Beside Me" (1954) wrote: "Several people have. with tongue firmly in cheek. Her neighbour. has said that his Siamese queen [female cat] Adamina used to greet him every morning with a cordial and distinct 'hello!' " For humans. A Brazilian cat takes claims one step further by apparently being able to sing a number of well known songs while the Fortean Times carried a report of a cat which speaks several words in Turkish and suggested. like it was any ordinary day. until I spoke to him. But before cat-owners rush out for phrase books. turned and looked after them.
they have a vocabulary of sounds ranging from caterwauls to mewing sounds. Jean Craighead George attempted to categorise these according to the cat's age.panicky call for help mier-r-r-ow (chirrup with liting cadence) .and went on to compare the different vocalisations of several popular breeds: Siamese. was not a keen observer of cats. gender and situation:Kittens: • • • • • Mew (high pitched and thin) .ranging from greeting to plaintive . If they would only purr for 'yes' and mew for 'no'. we don't call cat-sounds "words". so that one could keep up a conversation! But how can one deal with a person if they always say the same thing?" On the other hand.protest or whine MEE-o-ow (shrill whine) . from hisses to the "silent meow" which is probably a sound pitched too high for human ears to hear. You may also wish to read Do Cats Have Emotions? DO CATS HAVE LANGUAGE? In "Alice Through the Looking Glass". For more detailed information on feline body language and non-vocal feline communication. single note) . Lewis Carroll. tone and pronunciation.courting call to female Adult cats: • • • • • • • • • Tomcats: .friendly greeting RR-YOWWW-EEOW-RR-YOW-OR . it seems. Longhair (Persian) and British Shorthair.important component of cat communication. or any rule of that sort. volume. and probably to Lewis Carroll. Burmese. Since the sounds don't conform to our notion of grammatical structure. however. Lewis Carroll wrote "It is a very inconvenient habit of kittens that whatever you say to them. In addition. but in our belief that we are naturally superior to "dumb" animals. they always purr.challenge to another male meriow . The familiar "miaow" is used mainly for communicating with humans as we are evidently too thick to understand anything other than kitten-talk.emphatic plea for attention MEOW! . refer to Cat Communication. rhythm. the simple "miaow" is an all-purpose word.caterwaul merrow . The remainder of this article will be concerned with vocalizations . sharp.a polite plea for help MEW! (loud and frantic) . To the uninitiated.righteous indignation MEOW! Meow! (repeated) .a command! mee-o-ow (with falling cadence) . "Your Guide to Cats & Kittens" (1973) produced by Pedigree Petfoods/Peter Way Ltd wrote that "mew" did not do justice to the cat's wide vocabulary .an urgent plea for help mew .a very polite plea for attention (this is Paul Gallico's "Silent Miaow" which is probably a sound pitched too high for human ears) meow . otherwise he would have noticed that cats do not always say the same thing! They make a variety of different sounds which. are aware that there are a whole variety of miaows that differ in pitch.stronger protest MYUP! (short.the vocalizations used in cat/cat communication and the vocalizations used in cat/human communication.plea for attention mew (soundless) . it simply appears that cats lack language. among humans would be called "words". Most catowners.
• Although these may not be used in grammatical sentences.Mother cats: • MEE-OW . one definition of language is "any means.hello greeting to kittens and disarming greeting to adult cats (also used between adult cats and humans) • • • • There is more to felinese than the simple miaow though.distress. they have basic emotions characterised by responses in certain regions of the brain. These basic emotions. Note: While cats may lack the complex and abstract emotions of humans.friendly greeting sound. cats can cough both vountarily and involuntarily) Growl .take cover! mer ROW! . Messybeast. This is not anthropomorphism . a cross between a meow and a purr! (friendly greeting sound with rising inflection. which included consonants and vowels. cold (to attract mother's attention) Purr .threat.contentment. Mildred Moelk made a detailed study of cat vocabulary and found sixteen meaningful sounds.a sound which a particular cat uses in a particular context. Observant owners will notice the following sounds which cats make to communicate their state of mind (this list is not exhaustive.cat wants sex! Chatter . vocal or other.excitement. are discussed in Do Cats Have Emotions?. distress Squawk .surprise.fear. shock (somewhat strangled sound) Yowl . which include fear. but also used in a modified form by some cats seeking attention when owner is out of sight Idiosyncratic sounds . anger. distress and anger.threat. warns others to go away Hiss (with or without spit) . She divided cat-sounds into three groups:• • murmurs made with the mouth closed vowel sounds made with the mouth closing as in "iao" sounds made with the mouth held open. fear. a loud purr invites close contact or attention Scream .general-purpose attention seeking sound used by adult cats to communicate with owners or with kittens Mew (of kittens) . .No! or Stop It! mreeeep (burbled) . warns others to back off Meow . like us. hunger. offensive or defensive.follow me! ME R-R-R-ROW .a threat. since cats will improvise): • • • • • • • • • • • • • Caterwaul . familiar to most cat owners) Cough-bark . frustration e. pain. when prey is out of reach or escapes (involves rapid teethchattering jaw movements) Chirrup . relaxation.g. In 1944. also to comfort itself if in pain (cats in extremis may purr).com is opposed to invasive or otherwise distressing experimentation).come and get it! meOW . challenge.cats' brains have similarities to our own brains and are often studied in laboratory experiments (please note.alarm signal (rare in pet cats). of expressing or communicating feeling or thought" (Webster's Dictionary).
Some owners have claimed that cats can call birds. tone/volume. a non-committal response when we speak to her ("Hmmm"). even flying birds. or a noise to be used when she feels she needs to say something. Teeth-chattering may be related to the build-up of tension in a cat's body before it pounces or rushes its prey . Many prey species don't have good colour vision and rely on movement for their visual clues and are lulled into a false sense of security. It all depends on HOW it is said. closer by chattering at them. Some caterwauling tomcats suffer partial voice loss after strenuous yowling and end up roaring. They learned to interpret the wider range of noises made by their mother. the cat is almost invisible. Some cats may use some of these cat-sounds in different ways when communicating with humans and only our familiarity with our own pets tells us that a certain type of growl is a play noise and not warning of imminent attack. are reasonable and recognisable. grumble. FRS. whimper. In his dealings with Scottish Wildcats. Roaring in pet cats should always be investigated by a vet as it can be a symptom of throat problems. Personally. graded with subtle shades of meaning. Another suggestion for teeth chattering. which we call "foof" or "frooff" can be anything from an exclamation ("Oh!" and "Well"). Scrapper used "mrrrp" in the same way.. but can't think of anything meaningful to say (small-talk and self-satisfied murmuring).] in the cat's voice the French author. counted sixty-three different notes. According to Katharine Simms in "They Walked Beside Me" (1954): "In 1895 Alphonse Leon Grimaldi. It has been pointed out that dogs use only vowel sounds. and vowed that the cat's language is a 'tongue' for 'they always employed the same sound to express the same thing'. but I feel that mi-ouw for beware. burrieu to express contentment. swear. Champfleury. In fact this process continues throughout a cat's life owners who frequently talk to their cats are often rewarded by cats who "talk" back to them. the blind author. "froof" is the all-purpose "supercalifragilistic. The chattering seems to be an overspill of excitement.you can see the cat tensing its limbs.The exact meanings of all of these sounds may be modified or emphasised by facial expression. but cats include at least six consonants in their speech. has published a cat vocabulary of seventeen words which he says repeatedly occur in the talks which cats 'struggle to carry on with members of their household'. body language and context (paralanguage). aelio for food. I have received the same greeting from feral cats. sing etc. Aphrodite. Another sign of emotional leakage in a stalking cat is the twitching tail. and ptleebl for mouse..a series of short and long meows and grunts made in a complaining tone that occur when a cat is moved or made to do something it would rather not do". in outdoor cats at least. But the Abbé Galliani counted twenty inflection.. I consider it unlikely that cats are imitating birds to encourage them to approach and the chattering more likely related to the birds being out of easy ambush range. Initially. I also find it unlikely that the chattering hypnotizes prey such as squirrels or chipmunks though it might make the animals curious enough to overcome caution. newborn kittens only purred (contentment) or mewed (distress). Even in the sixteenth century Montaigne wrote 'doubtless cats can talk and reason with one another. Now a Washington doctor has agreed with Marvin Clark and also compiled a catlanguage dictionary. Mike Tomkies noted that the wildcats would greet him with a loud spitting "PAAAH" accompanied by a footstamp. but it is becoming tense with excitement." of cat vocabulary. but nevertheless there have been several reports of domestic cats that roar. Some cats add their own idiosyncratic words to this general vocabulary such as the sudden exhalation of air used by my own cat. More fanciful and less scientific attempts at categorising cat sounds have produced dictionaries of words. The meaning ("*** off!") is unmistakable and only a fool (or a cat-worker intent on packing pussy off for neutering) ignores it. By sitting still. is to hypnotise prey. parriere for open . published a paper in New York on the discovery of a cat language. and in response they developed the ability to make a wider variety of communicative sounds. though Darwin spoke of only six or seven. The cat's voice is modulated as is man's [. This word. which are by tone of voice. nag.. For Aphrodite." LEARNING THE LINGO Pedigree Petfood's book "Your Guide to Cats & Kittens" observed that a cat’s vocabulary increased as it matured. Marvin Clark. a comment ("So?" and "Huh?"). Maybe those few perfectly healthy cats that roar their territorial claims were lions in a past life. Other idiosyncratic sounds reported include what David Kennedy calls a "Squabble . . although we may refer to them in more anthropomorphic terms: greet. often to proclaim "I am here". and mi-youw for 'I'm here'. Cat-owners will recognise many of the cat-sounds listed. "Roaring" is more often associated with big cats than small cats. may seem far-fetched. Mr Clark adds that as well as the seventeen main words the cat uses about 600 root words capable of inflection and many combinations. Some of these words such as bl for meat.
are usually brief. parents talk even more to their offspring. using motherese to communicate with them. while those of medium pitch are used for less urgent situations such as polite request for food. These efforts are rewarded when baby makes noises back and parents readily identify meaningful noises ("mum-mum") in their babies when the rest of us hear only random babble. Very occasionally. but were often simply dismissed as noisy.who is in no place to translate his feelings to the cat . and cats retain the ability to learn and adapt into their adult life. Cats which simply feel compelled to add their two penn'orth to a conversation often do so in a neutral tone of voice to indicate that they are not being particularly hostile. A range of pitches can none the less be detected. or to attract attention to themselves if they feel they have been unjustly ignored. A mew emitted whilst purring usually means the animal is contented. and unless they are extremely upset the volume of their mews is fairly low. A plaintive miaow is best suited to achieving a goal such as extra grub or an open door while a friendly chirrup elicits a favourable response when the cat greets its owner. A far more plaintive sound is made whet cats wish to be let in or out. Many of these noises are accompanied by exaggerated actions as the cat "acts out" its communication . yowling cats." "Burmese are likewise given to oral communication but. aggression etc.think the kitten realises that the appeal of its face makes noisiness unnecessary. Humans have an innate language instinct and a need to communicate vocally (or through sign language etc) with everyone about them.Kittens learn a great deal from imitating their mother. Siamese cats were well known for talkativeness. they rely on variations in length and volume of their mews to provide a large number of different ‘remarks’. a gentle "brrp" for contentment. They soon discover that humans use sounds in order to communicate and most cats react to this by developing different sounds for certain circumstances. "Your Guide to Cats & Kittens" (1973). In response. Longhair (Persian) and British Shorthair. Sharp sounds generally signify distress or impatience. ARE SOME BREEDS MORE TALKATIVE THAN OTHERS? Most owners of Siamese and Oriental cats say that these breeds are more talkative than other breeds. One feature common to both cats and people is the use of a slightly raised tone of voice to indicate friendliness and a lowered tone of voice to indicate displeasure. any selfrespecting cat is going to have make noises if it is to stand any chance of getting attention! And since the owner lacks much of the necessary apparatus needed for speaking felinese (tail. Adults with small children use a simplified version of language known as baby-talk (called "motherese" by some linguists) where certain words and syllables are greatly stressed and frequently repeated. when uttered. nor unduly friendly." . fluffy kitten quietly requesting attention almost makes a human being . serving to inform people that it has arrived and is passing the time of day. they vocalise a lot less than the Orientals and their mews.by running back and forth between owner and closed door or by licking invisible crumbs from an obviously empty food dish. Cats may respond to this verbal barrage by making noises of their own. mobile ears. nor is there any great urgency about the subject matter. Siamese may be heard ‘speaking’ in the middle of a yawn which would appear to signify that they wish others to be made aware of their boredom or fatigue. a strident miaow for urgency. To see a small. we tend to relate to them in a similar way. used to make complaints of a rather general nature.g. Burmese. Siamese vocabulary included "A longish mew of medium pitch is often emitted soon after the cat is let into a room. Whether or not we consider our cats to be surrogate children. This is by no means an exhaustive list of Siamese ‘phrases’ but rather a random selection. if their humans need to communicate through all this audible chit-chat. This is possibly purely conversational. After all. There is also a lowish stuttering sound. Beneath their non-Siamese colouring Orientals are basically Siamese cats. In contrast. Long-haired breeds. on the whole. as a result of having a slightly narrower range of pitch than the Siamese. British Shorthairs tend to show the reserve traditionally attributed to their human counterparts. produced by Pedigree Petfoods/Peter Way Ltd compared the different vocalisations of several popular breeds: Siamese. Friendly chirrup and foodseeking miaow are usually uttered in a raised tone of voice while the low-pitched growl of a cross cat is undeniably unfriendly. have rather high-pitched voices. with the modern Siamese being chattier than the older style Siamese. whiskers. erectile fur) it is up to the cat to learn humanese. Volume is sometimes used for added emphasis e.
My own observations suggest that some cats learn to imitate certain sounds as well. my personal recommendation is "The Language Instinct" by Stephen Pinker . Like Scrapper. Cats which "talk" are probably making native feline sounds that sound a little like human words and which. I have not found the native cats of Thailand and Malaysia (the Thai/Malay equivalent of moggies) to be particularly talkative. If he did understand what I was saying to him he could have taken the Business Studies exam with me (if he was trying to enlighten me on a particular aspect of management structure then I'm afraid it went right over my head). I say probably. imitate certain human sounds if they know it will get a favourable response? Here I will have to give cats the benefit of the doubt. Tone of voice probably means much more to a cat than the actual words used. According to American vet Dr Michael W Fox cats can learn behaviours through observation. Equally. some cats do indeed make the effort. although many owners maintain that their cat understands every word they say. It may be that. Can cats therefore learn to make certain sounds i. They might simply be inviting us to talk back to them (most cats like this sort of attention from their owners). Language has grammar (basic rules) and syntax (sentence structure). By observing our response they adopt the various tones of miaow for appropriate circumstances. so possibly it is something which was bred into the modern western Siamese breed at the same time that its colour and conformation were being refined.it is both informative and clearly written. Rather than simply distinguishing a "feed me" miaow from a "let me out please" miaow we try to interpret some of these sounds as words and are remarkably good at self-deception.Siamese cats and their relatives are highly talkative while longhaired cats. Just as we look for recognisable sounds when babies learn to talk. if delivered under the right circumstances. with Siamese and Oriental cats being particularly vocal. a demanding manner.including one that resembles "iloveyou"! Coco also makes a cute surprised/interested sounding "oooh". Norman Barron's girlfiriend's cat Coco is also a conversationalist. in spite of lacking the apparatus for speech. are interpreted as words by beings geared to verbal communication. Scrapper (one of felinity's brighter sparks) could hold his own in a conversation with me although I haven't a clue what he was saying.These general findings are repeated again and again . we look for recognisable sounds in our cats' "vocabulary".There are many excellent books about language. so if the "I want more grub" noise sounds a bit like "keow" we think our cat is calling us a cow for not giving it a big enough helping in the first place. Puss probably isn't thinking "I want to go out so I shall ask nicely." he is more likely to be thinking "I want to go out and I know that this type of noise usually does the trick. is not merely a collection of words strung together." In their attempts to communicate with us on our own level. It is interesting that such cats string together a series of different sounds into a single burst of communication. some of which sound similar to English . Language is more than just words. by definition. a forlorn manner or simply as a statement. not only the Persian Longhairs. which an owner likens to a sentence. a mix of different sounds and pauses between sounds. Cats certainly manage intonation and can miaow in a questioning manner. with pauses between "words". CAN CATS TALK PEOPLE-TALK? "Language". . he just liked to talk and liked me to talk back. Some owners say that their cats do much the same and are right chatterboxes. Humans have an instinctive need to communicate with fellow humans and to receive communication in return. This drive is often extended to our interaction with non-humans. Cats can make sounds and work out which sounds elicit suitable responses from humans (positive feedback). it may be that owners are over-compensating for the cat's inability to talk and are hearing what they want to hear. It is a collection of words strung together in a particular and meaningful way so that the words have meaning in relation to each other and can frame an overall concept. plus inflection and intonation.e. regardless of what the cat has really said! Another feature of human speech is that it comes in bursts. Norman has identified 23 distinct phonemes in multiple combinations that significantly diverge from the familiar "meow". some cats put together full "sentences" of noises and pauses. Coco enjoys holding conversations with her humans. tend to be quiet. one like "meeeyr-laackh" (she shakes her head after using a clicking phoneme) and various mumbled words and phrases. These include sounds like a coyote howl. because here there is a slightly grey area. responding to their speech with patterns of sounds that mimic the sounds and cadence of human speech.
even though there are no other humans. Does the ability to communicate with humans provide a clear survival advantage so that good communicators/manipulators survive longer and produce more offspring than poor communicators? Probably not since it is only relatively recently that cats have become house-pets rather than utilitarian animals (rodent controllers). These situations included delaying feeding time. One way Nicastro attempted to prove his theory was by analysing a range of domestic cat vocalisations. Nicastro suggests that cats may therefore have developed different kinds of calls to "hook into human perception tendencies" and alert us of their mood and needs. He did the same using the calls of wild cats in order to compare domestic cat and wild cat "speech". He points out the animals have certainly had time to adjust for people since their domestication in Egypt over 5. soliciting various sounds from the cats by placing them in different situations (with their owners' help since cats rarely co-operate with strangers). Nicastro went to a zoo in Pretoria. is when I am doing the evening shift at a cat shelter and I am convinced that I can hear someone talking. his study suggested that cats. Mandarin or any other tongue. . "Pleasant" meows were shorter in duration. putting them in empty rooms with the recorder. As well as recording pet cats. brushing them beyond the animals' patience for brushing and simply recording the contented meows of cats in a good mood. The wild cats have cries which are harsher and less musical-sounding than domestic cats or. a professor of bio-acoustics at Ohio State University reminds us that cats have evolved different calls to communicate with each other.whether in Turkish. While domestic cats may not know language. have adapted their "meows" to better communicate with humans. they caution it's easy to jump to conclusions. as other people have commented. So far none of the cats have owned up! HAVE CATS EVOLVED TO COMMUNICATE WITH HUMANS? While not claiming that cats have acquired the power of human speech. those from C S Lewis's Narnia excepted. cats have had many more generations to evolve ways of manipulating their owners through their calls. a graduate student working under psychology professor Michael Owren at Cornell University's Psychology of Voice and Sound Laboratory said that cats were obviously very dependent on people for their needs and that they may have evolved to become better at managing and manipulating people.000 years ago [Note: cats were domesticated simultaneously or earlier in Pakistan]. in the vicinity. "like cats on steroids". This theory is flawed because in order to pass on the meow-manipulation skills. before feeding them. can truly speak. a Cornell University researcher investigated whether cats vocally manipulate their humans. With their shorter life spans than people. South Africa to record the calls of the wild desert cats from which modern domestic cats evolved. in 2002. The proliferation of feral cats around the world shows that cats can co-exist with humans very well without manipulating people through their "speech". Cantonese. Douglas Nelson. which have lived alongside humans for thousands of years. Nicholas Nicastro. with lower frequencies and ascended in pitch (began on low notes and escalated to higher ones). The highly urgent calls tended to be the least pleasant-sounding while the highly pleasant ones were rated less urgent. "Urgent" meows were longer in duration. playing these back to humans and then screening people's reactions to each type of sound. Other researchers admit that it is possible that cats may have co-evolved with humans to better communicate with people. The communications with humans are modifications of the noises they use among each other. The second group of 28 people rated the sounds in terms of urgency. He recorded more than 100 different meows from 12 domestic cats (2 of them his own). He compared people's ratings with acoustical analysis of the meows and found a clear pattern.I doubt very much that cats. those cats more adept at manipulating humans would breed and those less adept would fail to breed. What I don't doubt is that there are a number of cats having a jolly good attempt . with higher frequencies and tended to descend in pitch (change from high to low notes). Nicastro played the recordings to two sets of people. only cats. The first group of 26 people was asked to rate each meow in terms of how pleasant each sounded. What is worrying though. but his preliminary findings reveal very different vocalisations. although catsounds are more diverse and more meaningful than Lewis Caroll suggests. Rarely was a meow classed as both "pleasant" and "urgent" at once. These are still being analysed and have not been tested on humans.
The purr was therefore likened to the obsequious behaviour of a submissive cat when avoiding conflict with a larger. The ability of a large percentage of cats to survive a fall (High Rise Syndrome) is legendary. Fauna Communications and ENDVECO initiated a research project recording and analysing the purr to see if it was linked to healing. The Pedigree Petfoods book discussed the familiar purr and noted that cats being restrained for veterinary procedures (blood samples or X-rays) frequently purred. tigers. reduce inflammation and reduce breathlessness.Strangely. it can convey contentment. Ultrasound is often used alongside physiotherapy. showing the amazing self-healing capacity of cats. He had been found as a stray with his fractures already healed. joint mobility. I came across the case of Didi at the Chelmsford CP shelter . Cats are reputed to have nine lives. It is little surprise that a veterinary saying goes "If you put a cat and a sack of broken bones in the same room. Since many cats purr when on their own.why would a cat purr when there is no-one around to communicate with? Though this sounds far fetched." Compared to dogs. The fact that cats purr when injured suggested that it had some survival value. the purr cannot merely be a form of communication . when it needs all its energy for healing? Researchers believed that suggestions that the cat's purr evolved solely to communicate self-contentment goes against evolutionary theory. the bones will heal. improving local circulation and oxygenation. research in humans has shown certain frequencies of vibration relieved suffering in over three-quarters of test subjects suffering from acute or chronic pain. albeit not entirely straight. Researchers believed that vibrating (purring) cats were communicating more than just a sense of well-being to their owners. Their bones tend to heal rapidly and relatively easily. jaguars and leopards cannot purr because their throats are built for roaring. more powerful animal. though previous explanations have attributed the sound to the noise of blood turbulence in the chest! A truly ecstatic cat sometimes vocalises (uses its vocal cords) while purring.cats which are domestic cats in all but their habits.Didi's back legs had been so badly broken he should not have been able to walk. gave low growllike purrs as a warning when a stranger entered their territory. . pleasure or be placatory behaviour (i. This is inaccurate. Cats close to death may also purr. cats have fewer orthopaedic problems or muscle injuries and though attributed mainly to their flexible skeleton. I have had ultrasound treatment on damaged tissue in a broken foot and one curious effect was a hot feeling at the fracture site! The soothing effect of a purring cat is well-known to cat lovers. There are cases of feral cats surviving accidental limb amputations without human intervention. The inference drawn from this behaviour was that the cats were indicating that they were tractable and cooperative and would not need to be forcibly handled. It also noted that some cats.before jumping to any co-evolutionary conclusions! THE ENIGMATIC PURR Although not strictly a vocalisation. A cat may even purr when close to death. augmenting wound tissue strength. reducing swelling and even inhibiting bacterial growth. Effects include (depending on the patient) generating new tissue growth. depending on the cat's situation. Vibration at low frequencies and low intensities can aid bone growth/repair. it must have some function. If feral cats have the same range of meows as their fully domestic counterparts then cat language probably evolved for inter-cat situations and is merely modified for the cathuman situation. the small cats. Although there are a few reports of purring-type sounds (a breathy groaning sound rather than an in-and-out purr) from lions and tigers. My own experience with rescue cats leads me to conclude that Nicastro would do well to analyse inter-cat communication (particularly that between mother and kitten) for its pleasantness and urgency . but not both! Since purring uses energy and has been passed on through many generations of cats. resulting in a shrill noise. the purr is an important means of communication and. for example a healing function. tendon and muscle strength/repair.and compare their use of body language in cat/cat and cat/human situations . suggesting a pain relieving function. As well as purring when happy. screech or yowl rather than roar. it does not appear to have occurred to Nicastro to record the cries of feral cats . "I am not a threat to you"). cats also purr when severely injured. frightened or giving birth. One puzzle was why a sick or injured would expend energy on purring.e. both male and female. Big cats such as lions. Purring is also found in the cheetah. the "growl-purr" is in fact a low growl. puma and most small cats such as the serval and ocelot. it seems that a cat can either purr or roar. Purring is caused by vibration of structures in the throat. puma and cheetah. Conversely.
but cats learn to exaggerate it when it proves effective in getting a response from humans. the researchers concluded that after a strenuous activity (hunting.a sound that humans are highly sensitive to. I don't think he believed me when I told him that cats could talk! Although this web article is now a long way removed from my linguistics assignment. lecturer at Anglia Polytechnic University. Sarah Hartwell "Emotion" is the term we use for feelings. causing them to vibrate. Lead researcher Dr Karen McComb said the research was inspired by the insistent early morning purr of her cat Pepo. Purring and vocalising use different mechanisms so it's possible for the cat to embed a high-pitched cry into an otherwise relaxing purr. Other studies found similarities between a domestic cat's cry and the cry of a human baby . Vocalisation is due to the vocal cords held across the airstream snapping shut at a particular frequency. In places it compares or contrasts human and feline responses or makes references to other animals for illustrative purposes. Researchers wondered if the purr provided therapeutic vibrations to speed this healing. for stimulating my interest in linguistics. This article looks at feline feelings. TWO POLARISED VIEWS . The relative level of an embedded highfrequency sound could increase the annoyingness of the purr and hence the likelihood of the owner responding. Basic emotions appear to cause chemical changes in the body in response to a stimulus. scientists recorded and measured the purring of relaxed cats. The "soliciting purr" is more common in cats that are highly attached to a single person. Recent studies. About 6-10 minutes of purring were recorded. 100 Hz. The cats' purr frequencies were within the therapeutic range of 20 Hz (hertz) to 200 Hz (actual frequencies were 25 Hz. Though to humans. especially in fields such as neuropsychology. some of which are instinctive and some of which are learned from those around us as we conform to society's expectations and norms. The more energy that goes into the cry. Research discovered that the pestering purr was more likely to get owners out of bed to feed the cat while simply meowing got the cat shut out of the bedroom. Cats produce a low frequency purr by activating the muscles of their vocal folds. defending territory etc). 150 Hz). Human emotions range from "primitive" feelings such as disgust. 2003. fear and lust to "complex" emotions compassion and jealousy. show that the more "primitive" or basic emotions have a physiological basis and may be caused by chemical stimuli (such as sexual attractant scents called pheromones) or visual stimuli. it was Mark who challenged me to write the original version. rage. 125 Hz. the "soliciting purr" incorporates a "cry" with a similar frequency to a human baby's. The cry normally occurs at a low level in normal purring. Unlike regular purring. The most therapeutic frequency ranges are 25-50 Hz and 100-200 Hz which speed bone repair. Some people have even mistaken the overheard cry of the Siamese cat (a particularly vocal breed) for that of a baby. the more urgent and unpleasant the purr becomes. The sense of relaxation many owners feel when cuddling a purring cat suggests that the therapeutic function of the purr can extend to humans. DO CATS HAVE EMOTIONS? Copyright 2001. To investigate this theory. a period of purring could act like a massage session and alleviate sprains and strains as well as speeding the healing of any wounds. the purr is most often considered a sign of contentment or of a cat reassuring itself. "Soliciting purrs" sound more urgent and less pleasant than ordinary "non-soliciting" purrs. SPECIAL THANKS My thanks go to Prof Mark Woodroffe.self-healing might also play a part. To measure purr frequency and how purr vibrations spread throughout the cat's body. ADAPTING THE PURR TO COMMUNICATE WITH HUMANS In 2009. researchers at the University of Sussex wrote in the journal "Current Biology" that cats use a "soliciting purr" to manipulate their owners. Essex. These are little bigger than a match head and could be fixed to the cats' skin using washable glue and medical tape. 50 Hz. an ENDEVCO Model 22 accelerometers was used.
scientists have studied how emotions are formed. Where there were gaps. touch . Like us. often by looking at how the individual brain cells are linked together and how they interact and by looking at what happens when parts of the brain are deliberately or accidentally damaged. selective breeding etc and pretty soon the word "Nazi" gets bandied about (ironically Hitler banned hunting). animals do not have feeling. THE EMOTIONAL BRAIN Charles Darwin concluded that animals do indeed have emotions. are anything more than flesh-and-blood "machines" programmed for survival and reproduction. They argue that humans would be reduced to animal status with all that entails: culling. hunting and experimentation unacceptable (many people already argue that hunting and experimentation are unacceptable on grounds of unnecessary cruelty). We interpret their instinctive behaviours according to our own wide range of emotions. changing the whole human/animal relationship and making pet-keeping. but others have a more sinister motive. Some religions teach that man is superior to animals and. Though humans have better vision. Cats and humans are built much the same way and share many of the senses . Owners who veer too far into the "Did my ickle-wickle fluffy-wuffikins miss his mummy then?" approach may not understand (or not want to accept) that a cat's emotions evolved to suit very different situations to our own. the answer is "no". unemotional "primitive" creatures through to highly emotional and intelligent humans. they risk crediting a cat with emotions it does not feel as well as recognising genuine feline emotions. To do this. Owners base their answer on observation of feline behaviour. The brain contains neurons .e. This indicated that the animals acted as if they felt those emotions. Many researchers' scepticism is fuelled by their professional aversion to anthropomorphism. farming. In order to understand emotions. We credit them with feelings they do not have. they may share certain emotions e.Do cats (and other higher animals) have feelings? Can they respond emotionally? According to many pet owners. many scientists have avoided the issue of animal emotions by putting quote marks around words such as "nervous" or "fearful". Politicians and those opposed to "animal rights" believe that according animals emotions would accord them rights (possibly rights equal to humans). there are not enormous gaps between animals.g. the answer is "yes". He went on to explore the extent of animal emotions and found there to be emotional and cognitive continuity between humans and animals i. by extension. some of which are termed emotions. for example.as well as having additional "senses" which are adaptations to our particular environments and lifestyles (e. credit animals with some degree of emotional response and a limited range of emotions (limited in comparison to humans. including cats and dogs. cats feel heat. Other feline behaviour is attributed to jealousy. but without an understanding of what makes a cat tick. This denial of animal emotions allows them to conduct experiments with little regard for their subjects' physical or mental wellbeing. frustration and affection. they have looked at how the brain works. moving. enforced sterilisation. If humans and cats have similar responses to. Cats display a range of feelings including pleasure. Some cultures do not recognise animals as thinking. Others. According to many scientists. Some scientists deny that animals. Physical stimuli may lead to physiological responses. hence the quote marks. Are either of these polarised views correct or do cats also share certain emotions. these were differences in degree rather than differences in the kinds of emotions. we must observe our own and our cats' responses to situations and analyse what an emotion is.g. taste and hearing. Those who deny animals any feelings at all may do so in order to justify animal experiments which others consider inhumane. taste. and how they relate to the rest of the body and to the outside world. hearing. but rather a continuous range from unintelligent. but they did not actually have those emotions and the attribution of emotions was therefore anthropomorphic on the part of the scientific observer. vocalising vegetables. frustration and even vengefulness. the smell of enticing food. pain and other physical sensations. cats have better smell. such as pet behaviourists. perhaps a limited subset of the emotions we feel? To find out. cold. feeling entities. for example the Chinese term for animal equates to "moving thing" and animals in food markets are treated as though they are no more than unfeeling. happiness at the prospect of a satisfying meal. While Darwin accorded animals varying degrees of emotion. however.sight. smell. The denial of animal emotions is their own hidden agenda rather than a conclusion based on study of behaviour. the Flehmen taste-smell reaction in cats). that is). They argue that humans like to anthropomorphise (attribute human qualities to non-human animals) and regard pets as surrogate children.
Not all tests are conducted for the express purpose of researching animal behaviour/emotions . but the existence of more complex animal emotions that involve mental processing is harder to demonstrate.little wonder scientists thought animals could not feel happiness. The same can be seen in cats . Even the most sceptical scientists agree that many creatures experience fear. a neurochemical associated with pleasure and excitement. Fear also raises the heart-rate and blood-pressure. it is quite obviously also fun otherwise adult cats wouldn't bother playing. nervous system and other parts of the body.from laid back Ragdolls and placid Persians. Happy rats also produce opiates. Scientists also recognise the importance of field observations. Behaviour geneticists have selectively bred or genetically modified animals to find out which genes are associated with which emotions and whether how those genes (and their effects) are inherited and can be manipulated. media-friendly ("How the brain works!") disciplines of neuroscience and neuropsychology have changed this. support the argument in favour of animal emotions. researchers investigate how the brain works. viewing it in action rather than dissecting a dead brain. through to "hyper" Siamese. their brains release dopamine. or at least the physical exertion aspect of play. fear is essential for escaping from predators and tackling other threats. Although play is an important part of learning and honing life skills in youngsters. making it active. Fear underlies the fight or flight response as can be seen when some young birds freeze at the sight of a hawk-shaped silhouette overhead. The test subjects are injected with drugs and their behavioural and emotional changes are measured. dopamine is released. Continual stimulation of part of the amygdala to induce terror eventually results in the animal's death. vocal and excited (the effect of this can be seen by dosing rats with dopamine-blockers). Geneticists have further investigated how emotions are affected when certain bodily characteristics are changed. One of the most obvious animal emotions is pleasure. Modern. there are 3 main schools of thought regarding emotions. When rats play. impartially and there are enough observations. There is some evidence that playing. joy etc) arise from inside the brain and can be measured through biological changes. Hardwired into the brain.findings sometimes fall out of tests where animals are used to model the effect of drugs on humans. Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is linked to both information processing and to emotion. The categorical approach assumes that certain emotions (fear. . Brainwaves can be measured using electroencephalographs (EEG) and scalp electrodes. Fear is hard-wired and requires no conscious thought. and chemicals across synapses between the nerve cells. CAT scans (computerassisted tomography) and PET scans (positron-emission tomography). The componential approach considers emotions to be comprised of rewards and learning. The social-constructivist approach focuses on how animals use emotions to communicate or relate to other animals. When a rat anticipates a play session. in fields as distant as ethology (study of behaviour) and neurobiology. the animal's brain could be dissected or sliced and stained for microscopy to see whether certain emotions (such as prolonged terror) caused permanent changes in the brain. there are laboratory strains of laid back mice and highly strung mice. Studies. Other methods look at how the brain operates as a whole. releases "feel-good" hormones in the brain. Some of these can be used when the person or animal is in its natural environment. Because complex feelings are intangible and hard to study under laboratory conditions. another feel-good neurochemical. chemicals that interfere with REM sleep lead to increased irritability and anger (and ultimately in death). as long s those observations are recorded carefully. Even after death. but not at the sight of a pigeon-shaped silhouette. It is evident when your cat snuggles up purring and when it plays. The communication takes the form of electrical impulses from one end of a nerve cell to another. By measuring electrical impulses and levels of certain chemicals. and by interfering with these. These methods are invasive and stressful to the animal (which ends up terminally damaged in the course of experimentation or is killed when no longer required) . giving a sense of wellbeing.(nerve cells) which communicate across synapses. Electrodes placed in certain locations in the brain to can be used to trigger specific emotions. This is because fear is considered a simple instinctive feeling that requires no conscious thought. As a result. there are other techniques such as MRI scans (magnetic resonance imaging). even if they have never seen a real hawk. Psycho-pharmacologists use medication to study the changes in animal behaviour. In experimental psychology. many researchers regarded the field of studying emotions as unrewarding. It turns out that emotions involve the interaction of sensory organs.
offspring or pack-mate. or ignore. Grief varies according to the individuals and some cats show little grief while others can be deeply traumatised. for example "shame" and "embarrassment" are "social emotions" . Oxytocin causes prairie voles to "fall in love" (or more accurately. parent. Emotions are therefore accompanied by biochemical changes in the brain. In evolutionary terms.g. Long-term production of stress hormones can damage the hippocampus (the part of the brain central to learning and memory) and experiments show that stressed-out mothers have more problems producing healthy offspring. This is just as dangerous as anthropomorphising animals in a cutesy fashion. Feline grief at the death of a long-term human or feline companion can include severe mental disturbance. Human language also confuses the issues of "emotion" and "consciousness". Cats will play with their mirror reflections even though they know that there is no cat inside the mirror. to "fall in lust"). To recognise animal emotions would cause problems for experimental laboratories who do not wish to make potentially expensive changes to the environment in which their disposable living "tools" are stored. while blocking oxytocin prevents those females from choosing a partner at all. Animals. Though cats have some self-awareness. Other emotions are not so biologically clear-cut. they do not have consciousness in the same way as humans. for example animals in some of the worst zoos show behavioural/emotional problems: repetitive pacing/rocking and psychological problems. The limbic system is the part of the brain associated with many emotions. Emotions cannot exist in a vacuum . however.the result of attaching emotional meanings to. researchers cannot agree on how great a role social emotions play in non-human animals. In humans. They have different surroundings. the limbic system is an ancient part of the brain and is not exclusive to humans: animals have emotions. Some animals are selectively bred for specific traits and they may not exhibit "typical" or representative behaviour. It is not possible to accurately assess the normal psychological responses of a creature which is treated as an unfeeling biological machine and kept in an unstimulating or highly abnormal environment. that fact that humans are equally variable in how they express grief. unacceptable or inappropriate behaviours. is associated with sexual activity and maternal bonding. the hormone oxytocin. Many laboratory animals show aberrant behaviour (e. Fear is accompanied by the production of brain chemicals that cause alertness and readiness to flee. Their interaction with other animals and with humans are very different. respectively. The question of whether animals have emotions is often confused with whether or not animals are conscious. Oxytocin injections trigger mate choosing behaviour in female prairie voles. experiments show it is active when an animal or person is frustrated while damage to that area produces aggressive-impulsive behaviour. but only humans rationalise those emotions and agonise over their feelings. pleasure triggers the release of "feel-good" brain chemicals.they are (in part) a response to external factors. an almond-shaped structure in the centre of the brain. Animals respond to their environment. including ourselves. Brainimaging studies in humans show that the amygdala is activated when the person experiences fear. . This variability leads some scientists to insist that observation of grief in cats is anthropomorphism on the part of the owner. These are signs of stress and depression. Stimulating a certain part of the amygdala with an electrode induces a state of intense fear. whose amygdalas are damaged do not show normal responses to danger and seem unable to be afraid when placed in dangerous situations. self-mutilation. The amygdala is implicated in other emotions as well. Animal rights/animal welfare campaigners are often accused of inappropriately attributing emotions to animals.Grief has also been observed in many wild species following the death of a mate. often when we talk about how we feel it is unclear whether we are referring to our emotional state or to self-awareness. It is recognised that animals suffer in these conditions. Such scientists forget. IN THE LAB AND IN THE FIELD Laboratory animals and animals in a wild (or domestic) environment behave differently. The amygdala. Experiments with monogamous prairie voles shows it affects attachment among animals. faeces-eating) due to their sterile environment. cats do not recognise the mirror images as being themselves. is closely linked to fear. but are often not termed as such for reasons mentioned earlier. Laboratory animals may have little opportunity for social contact with others or their responses may have been impaired through experimentation or genetics . While emotions such as fear and pleasure are common to humans and animals.
be less prone to disease and have a lower mortality (wastage) rate. A growing number of farmers. This makes the study of emotions in laboratory conditions frustrating. "spite" or "vengeance" to punish an owner who has gone away for a few days. Even in the less invasive techniques.they display gratitude by being happy cats. Many humans do not display typical emotions in lab conditions due to the unnatural methods use and the invasive methods. Feline affection takes the form of rubbing. Dogs transfer their dog-to-dog social behaviours into dog-to-human communication. This is even more apparent in zoos and wildlife parks where environmental enrichment and encouragement of natural behaviour has led to "happier" (less stressed) animals more likely to breed successfully in captivity. not by fawning. the feline sense of time and ability to anticipate regular events (such as food being delivered) has been tested in laboratory experiments. particularly those in the organic sector. Owners rely on feline behaviour and body language for clues about its emotional state. To properly assess animal emotions. Environmental factors must be manipulated in order to produce an emotional change. but they have adapted their innate behaviours to suit a domestic situation. Similar methods are used in assessing the behaviour of very young children. This is a drawback of scientific methods. Recognition that animals have emotions can be taken too far and is prone to misinterpretation. Scientists prefer to measure one variable at a time. scientists and animal behaviourists must study animals in the field or in the home. Unlike inanimate properties such as temperature or pressure which are individually controllable in laboratory conditions. therefore dogs communicate with owners as they would other dogs. lap-sitting and interaction with the owner. Cats are equally capable of anticipating unpleasant regular events. fearfulness or curiousness. Many dog owners misinterpret the submissive or juvenile behaviour of a lower-ranking dog (towards its higher ranking owner) as affection. scientific methods do not like to have too many variables. cats are behaviourally the same as their wild ancestors. Individuals may react in different ways to the same environmental change. Like dogs they apply this to the household. the animal's behaviour may classified according to a shortlist of likely emotions or on a sliding scale for a particular attribute e.Animal experimentation scientists argue that animals are not fully capable of suffering because they cannot anticipate future events. To ensure a consistent approach. The environment can be manipulated. The human tendency to project human-style thoughts. Despite selective breeding for physical traits and friendliness to humans. head-butting. have better immune systems. Cats don't display the same range of submissive or appeasement behaviours because they don't live in hierarchical packs. since wild and feral adult cats are wary. Although some stress is unavoidable in farming. These are retained juvenile (kittenhood) characteristics. Pet cats have traits that humans find desirable: friendliness. The observer must interpret the behaviour and decide whether the subject is fearful. Dogs evolved elaborate systems for social communication in a pack. cuteness and dependence. What is important is how the animal behaves in its own environment and how it interacts with its environment and with others. motivations and desires into animals can result in pets being treated as small furry humans who ought to love us and show gratitude. playfulness. The . apprehensive. While cats cannot anticipate irregular events or far future events in the way that we can. angry etc. and display fear or aggression when approached by the experimenter. Urinating on the bed is often thought to be "anger". Ironically. the human household is a surrogate pack. purring. While our cats probably do love us and feel gratitude (in the feline sense of love and gratitude) they may suffer the consequences of our unrealistic expectations because they don't show gratitude in a human sense or in sufficient quantities (based on the amount a human would show) . In this respect. emotions cannot be isolated. are recognising the need for animals to express instinctive behaviours. yet no-one denies that humans have emotions. dogs are considered to be more expressive than cats. Hence they conclude that animal emotions must not exist. It's easy for humans to misunderstand feline behaviours and intentions. independent and more solitary in nature.g. Many scientists claim it is impossible to prove animals have emotions using standard scientific methods: repeatable observations that can be manipulated in controlled experiments. but the feline social system is not based on pack hierarchies hence cats appear more aloof than dogs. cats have an excellent sense of time and can anticipate regular and near future events such as the owner's return from work at a similar time each day. but cannot be controlled absolutely. such as daily experimental routines. Cats are more solitary than dogs and have looser social structures (most often colonies centred around food sources). animals which suffer minimal stress may be more productive.
If none of the 4 Fs apply the animal may exhibit curiosity or simply ignores the stimulus as irrelevant. THE FOUR BASIC BEHAVIOURS There is much argument as to whether animals experience emotions or are merely showing behavioural changes in response to their environment. These behaviours can be modified through learning or conditioning. the next instinct is "Do I eat it? Do I mate with it?". This is one reason the cat needs to meet a pet-sitter before the owner goes on holiday . These are the four basic instinctive responses which aid survival. A cat raised alongside a rabbit may no longer have a "feed" response to that particular rabbit or to all rabbits. and the cat is simply over-spraying those smells with its own scent to reassert its ownership of suitcase. Pet cats sometimes take prey home. flight. On encountering someone or something. either as a food gift for its surrogate family (in this respect the cat is relating to owners in the way a mother relates to kittens) or because the house is its den and hence a place to eat in safety and at leisure. If neither of those reactions is triggered.the crudity helps psychologists with the mnemonic (the polite mnemonic is fight. breed) The hormone adrenaline is a key player in these reactions. Fight Flight (or hide) Feed (predation or foraging) F*** (mate or reproduce) . The suitcase carries lots of new smells. the most immediate instinct is "Do I run away from it or stay and fight it?". The predatory instinct is hard-wired into the feline brain (electrical stimulation of a particular brain region triggers pouncing behaviour). Cats will often ignore one another to avoid conflict. Pavlov demonstrated conditioning (learning) in his famous experiments where dogs . feed. Animal behaviourists recognise four basic behaviours which are found in most animals.otherwise it may regard the pet-sitter as a threat. urinating on the bed or the owner's favourite chair mixes the cat's scent with the owner's scents and is the cat's attempt to create a combined smell to deter possible intruders who might take advantage of the owner's absence (regardless of whether there is a cat flap or not). These are termed "The Four Fs". Some cats become nervous when the owner is away. possibly smells of other animals.same is believed if a cat sprays the owner's suitcase when the owner returns from holiday. This is a self-preservation reaction.
Most are linked to our perception of comfort and discomfort. In humans. Four basic responses are sufficient for primitive animals. FEAR A self-preservation instinct. Fear leads to alertness. In modern humans it is also applied to other stimuli (the thought of doing something. disregard etc). Cats.if we had to spend time learning these. sorrow.fear. or similar.e. Learning affects the thinking route. and probably in cats. even though we haven't identified the object. It is likely that cats have equivalent physiological responses to the same. For example. hide. The "quick and dirty" route gives an instinctive. or primary emotions. This looks at how an animal's emotional states interact with its day-to-day functioning. For example most animals will bolt (flight reaction) at a loud noise close by. dogs and other more advanced animals need more than four basic instincts if they are to cope with a rich and varied environment.were taught to associate a sound with the presentation of food. an image DISGUST . After a while. These "primary emotions" involve lower brain stimulation and do not require cognition. Over a period of time. like us. The study of animal emotions generally defined in terms of an animal's adaptive and integrative functions (types of learning) rather than the physiology of emotions. The "thinking" route takes slightly longer and modifies the animal's reaction. instead of fleeing from the vacuum cleaner. in ourselves and in other animals. all behaviours and emotions improve the individual's chances of surviving and breeding. fearful rats have measurably higher levels of epinephrine levels. come into the world pre-equipped with a number of emotions that help them adapt and survive. for example. there are 6 basic responses i.but recent research in humans has expanded the number to 6). cause an instinctive response in our brains and bodies. It prepares the body for flight or defence. Therefore there is a mental component involved and emotions are not induced by physiological changes alone. the dogs reacted to the sound even when food was not presented. These emotions are linked to particular brain areas in humans or to hormonal or chemical responses. They are hard-wired survival mechanisms for a very good reason . Mental responses. caution and possibly to flight. when an object flies towards our faces we duck. What we term "love" could be unromantically considered a type of attachment that bonds a breeding pair together (sometimes for the duration of the mating act. do not necessarily follow physiological reactions. For example.the rate at which they need to adapt might be several lifetimes (in which case adaptation is through genetic variation) or a single lifetime (in which case learning and intelligence are essential). A complex environment requires a greater complexity of response. In humans. it might simply remove itself to a vantage point on a book case. not just in our minds. gundogs and police horses are trained to stand their ground though they may still show instinctive startlement. but injecting epinephrine into non-fearful rats does not make them fearful. stimuli. and bonds one or both parents to the offspring until the offspring can survive alone. They are survival responses to protect us from adverse conditions and to make us seek out favourable conditions. Humans. These basic responses. joy . sometimes for a longer period). In the human context. THE SIX BASIC RESPONSES What is the role of emotion in an animal's life? In the wild state. Animals must adapt to a changing environment . freeze. and therefore improve the chances of the whole species surviving. almost instant reaction. Emotion contains both innate (hardwired) and learned (acquired from experience) components. we might well be killed before perfecting them as skills. Fear is the recognition of a potential danger rather than the instinctive (and possible energy wasting) flight from potential (rather than actual) danger. cats. emotions which are rooted in our physiology (there were initially believed to be just 3 basic responses . a cat might modify the innate fight/flight response to an initially threatening situation. "Love" therefore improves the survival prospects of the individuals (who look out for each other) and the species. originally this prevented us from eating contaminated food or coming into contact with filth. Fear allows the animal to assess how real or immediate the danger is and to take appropriate action (flight. Evolutionary psychology is used to measure emotions that have changed over time and can be used to measure emotions that will help animals to survive in the future. these responses have two parallel routes through the brain.
Awareness of these factors allows vets to administer pain relief to their patients appropriately. temperament. Humans have a wide range of sadness-emotions varying from grief. moderate or severe effects on animals. immobility. chemical reactions are involved . assessment of a potential mate's suitability and courtship behaviour rather than just with copulation. A cat has an excellent sense of smell and can detect food which is stale or contains medication. whose livers are not good at dealing with toxins.or a situation). but love requires a degree of abstraction which cats probably do not possess. It is associated with mate-seeking. RAGE . A reaction to a non-ideal situation when we intend to fight. the will take the appropriate response. Cats show fear and lust in response to the appropriate sights. "fight" is relatively transient. In cats it is most often seen as "contentment" and is also evident in cats and kittens during play. DESIRE (LUST) Associated with the basic mating urge without which we would not breed. vocalisation. depression. Separation anxiety in cats and dogs may be partly due to the sadness mechanism. It is an avoidance mechanism. and clinical changes in cardiovascular. Cats exhibit depression in some situations and some cats have been reported as "inconsolable" when a close companion dies. nervous. Most vets are familiar with sheer feline fury though it is hard to distinguish "anger" from the "fight" reaction. sex). anger (a bad mood) does not pass so quickly (a cross cat will stay angry even when the stimulus is removed). A form of psychological discomfort experienced in non-ideal situations. In cats. and causes chemical reactions in our own bodies when we experience it. it helps us to avoid non-ideal conditions. love is the emotional baggage which surrounds and tempers that urge in most humans. Lust is the mating urge. Cats which are handled against their will exhibit obvious anger. transient upsets and some forms of depression (a chemical disturbance in the brain) have symptoms like sadness. locomotion. the avoidance of stale food is probably caused by a similar mechanism. and muscular systems.feelgood chemicals are released in the brain. Cats rely on smell. sounds and smells. it is simply the way the cat's mouth is set to pass scent molecules over the Jacobsen's Organ. chemical reactions occur in the body as part of the fight or flight response. Physical and emotional pain have been studied in terms of an animal's body language. Humans have a wider range of emotions and the emotions which we share with cats are more refined in the human species. After flehming. It can also result in displacement activities such as self-mutilation. Veterinary procedures are ranked as having minor. Play is a self-fulfilling behaviour which produces "happiness" by release of feelgood chemicals. respiratory. Desire is associated with pheromones and body language. taste and "disgust" to avoid tainted food. Though the sneer looks like disgust (humans wrinkle their noses when disgusted). It helps us seek ideal conditions or repeat beneficial behaviours (eating. SADNESS HAPPINESS ANGER The feline sniff-and-sneer reaction is the Flehmen response to "taste-smell" something. A form of psychological comfort/satisfaction experience.
g. This is usually explained as an anxiety response. These give alternative outlets for pent up energy. Different animals have different stress levels. DEPRESSION EUPHORIA . It is generally viewed as an emotion in itself rather than a displacement of the initiating emotion.The "rage" network is closely connected to centres in the prefrontal cortex that anticipate rewards. Any approach from even a familiar person may trigger a fear or fight response. Also a form of continue unhappiness including unhappiness due to pain. A cat which has lost a fight to another cat may lash out at its owner or may flee from a familiar person. Cats are highly adaptable but they retain many wild instincts which need to be expressed e. In territorial animals and birds there may be displacement activities such as shrieking. Cats are wild creatures at heart. the six basic emotions. Many are resolved through modifying other behaviour through the learning or conditioning process. but it is possible that pleasurable sensations overflow into the rage circuits and the cat automatically lashes out. Frustration is what we feel when we cannot fully express ourselves or when the situation makes full expression impossible. or is not. Female cats with a frustrated maternal instinct may abduct and protect another cat's kittens. When the stimulation is withdrawn. It affects the immune system. hunting. This is a response to unfulfilled expectation and is known as the "frustration-aggression hypothesis". This might also explain why some cats lash out when being pleasurably groomed. These include (but are not limited to): STRESS Stress results from continued unhappiness where there is no escape from the stimulus. the cat bites. tearing vegetation (humans may cry in frustration) etc. Playing provides an outlet for predatory behaviour and produces satisfaction in return. There are a number of other basic emotions which are recognised in humans and in cats. or combinations of. impractical or unsafe. other small animals or kitten-like inanimate objects such as slippers. an owner must provide a stimulating environment to reduce feline frustration. designed and programmed for outdoor life. Continued elevation of adrenaline adversely affects other organs. Secondary emotions are therefore more flexible. fully expressed. The build-up of physiological effects demands some sort of outlet. but those that are exhibit a sort of drugged euphoria due to its effect on the brain. Some cats are nervous and more easily stressed than others. It is hard to think of euphoria in cats unless you have witnessed the effect of catnip. it may attack other cats in the household. The teeth chattering is a frustrated form of the neck bit the cat would have used to kill the prey. reducing the immune response. These produce physiological responses and are varying degrees of . Frustration is often associated with a state of agitation or high emotion. territoriality. Experiments in cats have shown that stimulating a cat's reward circuits gives it a feeling of intense pleasure. OTHER BASIC EMOTIONS Secondary emotions involve higher brain responses as they must be evaluated and the appropriate response determined. Depression can override survival instincts. The cat's body is still full of adrenaline and primed for fight or flight. Feline frustration is obvious when a cat watching prey from behind a window chatters its teeth. Not all cats are susceptible to a catnip high. Similarly. In modern indoor cats. For a cat living in a human world there are many frustrations which it resolves as best it can. The chemical effects in brain can lead to withdrawal to the point where the animal loses the will to live. The rage and reward circuits turn out to be intimately linked. stamping. FRUSTRATION Frustration is what happens when a basic emotion cannot be.
the cat seeking to better its place in the household hierarchy or an opportunist or stronger cat competing for food or attention.ABSTRACT AND COMPLEX EMOTIONS At present. Learned responses My surrogate parent/surrogate littermate has returned I am curious I will greet enthusiastically with submissive actions (rolling on back) or play actions appropriate to my status as a kitten. Is he punishing you? Very unlikely .that is a human interpretation of the cat's actions. s/he doesn't smell like a suitable mate for me. The presence of a companion/caregiver (surrogate parent) produces happiness (a basic emotion). Interpreted as "pleased to see me" by owner. often a modified cat/kitten relationship. No. they are trying to rationalise a feline emotion into human terms. No action is required so I shall do nothing. my owner is not a food item. Look at it from the cat's viewpoint: Trigger: Fight or Flight Response Do I run away? No.he may avoid interacting with you until the household has settled down into a pattern of behaviour again. its feelings will be more along the line of "I am stronger or fitter than the other cat. Sulking? That may be as good a description as any . In the . I will investigate and greet him/her. relief etc. may be our rationalisation of a emotion or a mixture of one or more basic emotions. they will establish a pecking order." Cats are not as strictly hierarchical as dogs. Feline "jealousy" may be a response to any number of stimuli . No. Do I fight? Food or Mate Response Do I feed? Do I mate with him/her? No. The cat does not rationalise it in terms of "I am jealous of the other cat" or "I covet what the other cat has". S/He is no threat. AFFECTION Cats show obvious pleasure in company of a familiar person. Is kitty really being bloody-minded or mean (in the American sense of mean-spirited. Is he really sulking or punishing you? If you have been absent.. the more abstract emotions are believed to be human only. I deserve to be dominant cat around here.your return has altered the hierarchy again and he is not certain of its own position until the owner-cat (a sort of cat-kitten) bond is re-established. your cat may take a while to become reaccustomed to your presence . I have been neutered and in any case. However. Interpreted as sulking/punishment by owner. Unless I am a very nervous cat or my owner has unusual scents about him or makes unusual sounds. but where several cats live in a single household. Owner has returned. in Britain "mean" means "miserly"!). is not food and is not a mate. When owners say their cats are jealous. what we define as altruism.
Cats may express grief through nightmares (quite possibly a dream of the missing person has been replaced by wakefulness and the abrupt realisation that the person has gone). Cats are aware that a familiar person/cat is absent and may search for that person/cat. most cats adopt a kitten role. Sappho woke up whimpering and fearful from sleep and required physical reassurance from me. the cats displayed mental pain. As with affection. The absence of a familiar part of the environment causes sadness. play with them and provide food and warmth. Its behaviour was so severely affected that the foster carer considered force-feeding unsuitable. Male cats have been known to show affection to their mates and towards their own kittens . The display of grief in cats is due to the absence of someone familiar. The cats refused to eat while in the shelter. Whether they make the link between a corpse and someone previously alive is not certain. over-attached. I have personal experience of a pair of cats whose owner had died. however the cat's motives cannot be verified. In humans it is. Sappho. The major difference is that cats show grief for someone who has been a close companion while humans show grief for a distant relative or at the death of a public figure.this is similar to the behaviour of lions towards their own cubs (but not towards unrelated cubs). The underlying causes of affection are actually very similar! GRIEF Grief is the result of abrupt or unexpected severing of attachment. smell changes etc. humans must analyse exactly what causes and sustains human grief before arguing that animals do not feel a comparable emotion.body temperature changes. If this happened at night. One of my cats. they were fostered in a household and the vet prescribed appetite stimulants. COMPREHENSION OF DEATH (BEREAVEMENT) Cat appear to comprehend a state of someone not being alive . This is part of maternal care. at the other extreme. to our understanding of the permanence of death. had repeated nightmares after the traumatic death of the owner in the cat's presence. . this stress is termed grief. Cats simply lack the abstraction (and the memory capacity) that allows humans to grieve for someone we have never met or who has been absent from our life for a prolonged period of time. As well as the physical pain of engorged mammary glands. due to the realisation that we will never see that person alive again i. There is little doubt that most pet cats enjoy the company of their humans and give affection in return. Mother cats show affection towards their kittens.. but many cats stop looking for an absent companion after being shown the body of a deceased companion. The other continued to pine and became critically ill until it had to be euthanized (prolonged fasting results in hepatic lipidosis or fatty liver disease). One cat recovered but remained withdrawn for a long period of time. in part. In the context of a bereavement. crying out (initially at a rate of one vocalisation per second) until her fear and grief subsided. allowing us to groom them. Humans often have elaborate or ritualised ways of dealing with their grief. Humans have long been believed to be the only creatures that cry in sorrow or grief. Post mortem showed no sign of disease except for that caused by failure to eat. Those who deny that cats can be affectionate should analyse exactly what it is that makes humans affectionate. the cat had no interest in life. she actually climbed into bed and hid as far down the bed as possible. Grief is a reaction to the sudden absence of something or someone which caused happiness/satisfaction. There is one instance where a streetwise cat was believed to have committed suicide by deliberately walking in front of a truck a few days after the owner had died. There is some evidence that other animals form tears when in physical or emotional distress. It might not be grief in the human term.domestic setting. Mother cats whose kittens were taken away and destroyed often looked for their kittens for many days.e. Cats may become withdrawn or. The continued absence of that person or thing can lead to stress. Therefore cats probably have some comprehension that something dead cannot become alive again. It may change an established hierarchy as well as being the absence of a familiar companion. To reduce stress. but the sudden absence of something familiar is distressing to many cats. By demonstrating their happiness (which we term "affection") they reinforce the catowner bond and ensure a continued supply of companionship and care. all the while pacing and crying out.
Even experienced cats will occasionally search behind a mirror or TV in case the pretend prey has emerged from it. but the cat doesn't expect to catch the object (unless it has never encountered the TV before).PLEASURE Pleasure appears to be an abstracted form of happiness/satisfaction which persists after the original stimulus has gone or which is felt in anticipation of an event. In many contexts. For this reason. This reward leads to happiness/satisfaction for the cat. Some of the play tactics are interpreted as a sense of humour e. This doesn't stop them making use of them as play objects. A cat is not only a predator.g. A cat which engages in clownish behaviour has learnt that its behaviour results in a reward from the owner .cat speak for "nothing has happened"! JEALOUSY "The cat will be jealous of the new baby and harm it!" "My cat is jealous of the kitten and keeps urinating on the bed!" "Tiddles sulked and moved next door. A cat "smiles" with its eyes and with its tail. Pleasure can also occur through memory and through anticipation. they accept the image as a plaything. many cats hide signs of illness. This is play and is practice of the cat's ambush hunting technique rather than a practical joke. Observant owners soon learn to distinguish a cat's "happy face" from its "sad face". that it has not shown any weakness." Jealousy and sulking are human emotions. Unless a newcomer is carefully introduced so that it is accepted as a "family member". If it shows any indication of weakness. If it is a sense of humour. A human may make excuses for why a similar human mishap happened (the ledge was icy or slippery). injury and pain. they may become startled. Scientists used to believe that a cat playing with its own reflection in a mirror or with a TV image is unable to distinguish an image from reality. pleasure is a synonym for happiness/satisfaction. The "smile" on a cat's face is due to conformation of its muzzle. A cat is protective of its territory and defends it. Whether it is genuinely humour is debatable. physical contact etc. loss of status or loss of respect (these are all related. SENSE OF HUMOR This is a tricky topic. but modified by culture and circumstances). Batting a moving object is instinctive. it may be challenged by a younger or fitter rival and ousted from its territory. Many still think that way. EMBARRASSMENT At first this seems like another tricky abstract emotion. Embarrassment in humans is associated with potential loss of face. but it is always worthwhile checking just in case! Suspension of disbelief in this way is sometimes considered to be the feline sense of humour.e. therefore the behaviour is repeated. Inexperienced cats and kittens expect to find the reflection cat behind the mirror.. In addition it is programmed to fight other cats for its territory and for mates. After a few unsuccessful checks behind the mirror (and the lack of any scent of the "other cat"). this is simply a human way of saving face. a territorial fight/flight . It is an outlet for predatory behaviour and it results in happiness. Cats do not tell jokes (certainly not that we know off) but they do engage in clownish behaviour. A cat which has fallen off a shelf in plain sight will pretend the event has not happened i. It doesn't really expect to find anything. A cat which clumsily falls off a shelf and acts differently according to whether the owner is watching or whether the owner is believed to be out of sight is thought to be showing embarrassment. When the image puffs its tail and hisses (albeit silently) back at them. Cats speak with their bodies and an "embarrassed" cat will most often sit down and wash nonchalantly . attention. it is one which has been conditioned (albeit unwittingly) into the cat.food. Pet cats learn very early on that reflections and TV are "not real". it is also prey for larger animals. Batting a picture on a TV is a safe outlet for hunting behaviour. A cat can suspend its adult behaviour and revert to kitten behaviour . The loss of status may be permanent or temporary. jumping out of hiding at the owner or onto a cat companion.
With a little consideration for feline behaviour and emotions. John C. After one or two such encounters the cat usually gives the child a wide berth until the child learns to behave more considerately. Most often the child (who is unable to read cat body language) has made a "threatening" move (grabbing fur. The owner's reaction confuses the cat. The child cries. but they show many responses indicative of emotions. Few cats respond to a new arrival with enthusiasm. We must understand how a cat views the world about it and to understand how it is responding rather than interpreting feline reactions as human-like emotions. There are new smells and sounds and a bewildering change in routine and environment. Ph. it's probably realistic to assume cats feel emotions. said. he says that in certain situations. The child has molested it. rage that let me know. Wright. Its relationship with the owner changes. The cat has swatted the child. DVM. emotions. When a newcomer arrives. they have brain structures. not feline. By mixing its scent with the owner's scent. or other animals. Urination on the bed (or elsewhere) is an attempt to scent mark territory in an attempt to repel an intruder. Although I have used the term "programmed". it is better to understand how cats perceive the world and to adjust our behaviour to accommodate their physical and emotional needs as best we can. to reduce cats to little more than pre-programmed machines with a finite set of available reactions would be wrong. Based on feline physiology. jealousy and vengefulness are human. They have a more limited range of feelings than humans and their reaction to environmental stimuli is different to humans. Cats are mammals. Some parents are so over-protective that a curious cat which sniffs a baby is interpreted as a jealous cat about to attack. the owner's attention is suddenly divided. Things become unfamiliar or stressful and the cat may become unhappy or depressed. the cat is saying "My clan own this territory".D." . The cat receives less attention. The "defeated" cat may remove itself from the situation. their behaviors might be similar to how we would behave in that situation. the cat's behaviour is punished. However their feelings must be interpreted in the context of their own physical needs and their own environment. are entirely lacking in feelings do this to justify their own treatment of animals rather than through any true understanding of those animals. The newcomer may receive a disproportionate amount of attention. he continued.response is triggered. Although there is no way to tell for sure without talking to the cat. believes cats feel emotions. the newcomer is ousting the cat from its territory. introductions can be managed carefully to avoid these cat/human misunderstandings. Cat therapist Carole Wilbourn said cats definitely have emotions. The child's behaviour is reinforced. In feline terms. Six behaviorists share their opinions. Those who deny that cats. A cat acts the way it feels. pulling tail) and the cat has responded to the perceived threat. Cats respond to the situation according to their more limited range of emotions. sadness.DO THEY HAVE FEELINGS? Cats and other animals have feelings. Rather than attribute full human feelings to cats. SO . and the way their brain works is similar to the way the human brain works. When a child gets scratched it is rarely an attack by the cat. Wayne Hunthausen.. The parent consoles the child and chastises the cat. "They can express different moods happiness. Cat Emotion Can Cats Feel Emotion? Many cat enthusiasts have long believed that their pets feel emotions. this is interpreted as sulking or the result of jealousy.
Hetts urges owners to use caution when doing this. strangers or friends who come to visit." One of the hardest things for cat owners to understand is their pets' behavior. Suzanne Hetts. Hunthausen said fear is expressed through opposite actions. Wilbourn noted that a cat isn't a person. but I know enough that I give her a lot of space to heal. Wilbourn said certain behaviors express a cat's happiness. DACVB." Eckstein said. she experiences fear. He never used it. but they definitely feel the same emotions we feel. Every time the carrier comes out. and that person is as unique to the cat as the cat is to the person. While a visitor cat was here last week. she experiences fear. "They may not react the same way. such as withdrawal and avoidance. Cats feel emotions "but not necessarily in the same way we think of them. "when owners don't realize the cat has a range of emotions and don't know how to react to the cat when it might be feeling anxious or depressed. There is a bond between them that is not . so she hid. but she wanted nothing to do with that cat or the carrier. Ph. I stroked her and scratched behind her ears while saying soothing. seeming to will himself to die. She was damaged both physically and emotionally during her trip to me. we experience these kitty emotions first-hand. DVM. Cat owners are prone to ascribing human emotion to their cat's behavior." "A lot of problems arise.D. I don't know all the things that happened. that she was totally traumatized each time she has to go to the vet. used the litter box and such. Jealousy. When I found her. but she is a lot better than she used to be. such as purring and relaxing their bodies. Grief." These are emotions that he feels are common in cats. Princess used to run for cover. She still wouldn't move. She had such a traumatic trip to me. being in the kitchen with me and many other things. but we can only infer from their behavior. animal behaviorist Warren Eckstein said. which is most likely not the case. This is being proved by neurobiologists and behavior observationists in current research studies. Dr. you have to treat it like part of the family. Dr. She is terrified if I pick her up." Debra Horowitz. Cats become very attached to their person. The cat seemed to do fine for a while.. Cats and Emotions Cats feel five basic emotions: Fear. A cat I know is grieving for his deceased person. I'm sure she ate. loving things to her. "There are emotional aspects to their behavior. the carrier was in the living room in case he needed a place to hide or to find solitude. She is afraid of thunder. said.Cats feel every emotion humans feel. my recliner. and Princess stayed in a chair the whole time he was here. said cats probably experience emotions. when a dog chases our cat. She was afraid. Anger and Love. because the interpretation of the animal's behavior may lead to punishing animals because they are convinced the animal acted out of spite. and then stopped eating. fast moving feet. It's still hard to take care of her medical needs. What does this mean for the cat owner? As cat owners. He is grieving. "When you take a cat into a home. When there is a storm or our cat awakens suddenly." On a less definitive note. but people and cats share emotions. That person was quite elderly when she passed. Science is just finally proving what we've always known. When a stranger comes into our home.
Scunch. that I really hated to give him up. Since my last trip out of town. They are hard-wired and soft-wired to do some amazing things.without the cat. JinJin and Curious. In fact. get up NOW and feed me!” A scientist in the UK wondered about that special type of purring. Beasley was extremely jealous. I know that cats have emotions. twitch and growl in their sleep. they have to satisfy objective empirical tests. I felt such a responsibility to him because of what his life had been like before he came to me. Beasley and Princess feel love. for one. I think that science hasn't caught up to this. hiss. know that they have emotions. but they all survived kittenhood and made it into cathood. it is not really neccessary. that if he was on the bed and she jumped up. Cats get angry. and did a study. was gone overnight and came home late the next day . Cats also dream. I know that you as a cat lover. Oscar. I've met some not-so-smart cats. I think it has to do with a visitor cat we fostered for a few days on his trip to his new home. prefer my way to science in this instance. it was harder to give up Squeaky than to put Oscar down. They also missed me a lot. They learned how to eat. use the litter box. in all fairness. since I left with that cat. . he seems to be better. the carrier is still in my car. yet. and they all loved me in their own way. and was so sickly his entire life. but he used to leave whenever she was getting scratches and cuddles. They whimper. but that they are my family. These are just some of the cats I've known in my life. I see no reason to bring it in. In some ways. It even got so extreme for a while. Cabbit. They get vengeful and get even. we do not. clean themselves. Toni. The other one I really miss is Squeaky. I. They are possessive. territorial. Squeaky. So did Napoleon. Midnight. Beasley and Princess now know that we will occasionally have other cats come to visit. Cats manipulate your emotions with their purring July 13. Simone. because he had been with me for thirteen years. and as cat lovers. The hardest to lose for me was Oscar. When I brought Princess into my home. Capone. Cats grieve. 2009 You know that special kind of purring your cat does in the morning that clearly says “Hey. very emotional beings. Fatty Cat and Rugrat. But. he would immediately leave. He still is. We can take our subjective experiences and proceed as if things were the exactly perfect the way they are. While I do like being validated by science. with cats. They are usually pretty smart.duplicated by the best possible care. Now. fight their littermates. he just turns his back so he doesn't have to watch. and cajole humans into providing all the cuddling they wanted. So cats have some pretty neat mental skills. Cats think.
"The key thing (that made the purrs more unpleasant and difficult to ignore) was the relative level of this embedded high-frequency sound. The perceived pitch of that sound depends on the size. Pepo." While miaowing might get a cat expelled from the bedroom. but it seems our feline friends have found a way to manipulate us humans. the lead author of the study that was published in the journal Current Biology. Dr McComb said that this pestering purr often convinced beleaguered pet lovers to get up and fill their cat's bowl. And once your cats figure out what sound you respond best to.giving them a score based on how urgent and pleasant they perceived them to be. The team said cats have "tapped into" a human bias . "After a little bit of investigation.producing a sound that humans find very difficult to ignore. Researchers at the University of Sussex have discovered that cats use a "soliciting purr" to overpower their owners and garner attention and food." explained Dr McComb. said the research was inspired by her own cat. "We could then relate the scores back to the specific purrs. Impossible to resist: Cats use sounds . To find out why. It’s the kind that sounds most like a crying human baby. her team had to train cat owners to make recordings of their own cats' vocal tactics . How annoying? She and her team also asked the volunteers to rate the different purrs . even those people with no experience of cats found the soliciting purrs more urgent and less pleasant. this sound incorporates a "cry". the vocal folds (or cords) held across the stream of air snap shut at a particular frequency." explained Dr McComb. length and tension of the vocal folds." said Dr McComb. Dr Karen McComb. So we aren’t crazy and just projecting onto our pets… …It’s true: our pets actually ARE manipulating us. Cat owners may have suspected as much." "When an animal vocalises.recording both their "soliciting purrs" and regular. This probably isn’t surprising to animal lovers. "He would wake me up in the morning with this insistent purr that was really rather annoying. Unlike regular purring." Dr McComb told BBC News. "When we played the recordings to human volunteers. "non-soliciting" purrs. I discovered that there are other cat owners who are similarly bombarded early in the morning. But it’s always nice when researchers confirm these things.The results of the study? Turns out that cats are able to identify the kind of purring sounds that elicit the best response from their humans. they use that type of sound. with a similar frequency to a human baby's.
Historically. in the United States. animals served primarily a utilitarian purpose in people''s lives.a sound that humans are highly sensitive to. Previous studies have found similarities between a domestic cat's cry and the cry of a human baby . Maybe you even let the cat sleep in your room or in your bed." said Dr McComb. Sometimes a connection is made in just days. Have you ever agreed to take care of a stray cat for a couple of days until the owner is identified? Or have you ever fed a stray cat in your backyard thinking the cat will probably disappear in a day or two? Or have you ever rescued a kitten off the streets with the intentions of taking it to a shelter the next day? What often happens (fortunately for the cat and for you!) is you become connected in a short time." She added that the trait seemed to most often develop in cats that have a one-on-one relationship with their owners. toys. and dogs protected the farm." said Dr McComb. It evolves and changes over time. "But they learn how to do this. and drank milk. especially if the cat has been traumatized. Dr McComb said that the cry occurs at a low level in cats' normal purring. However. animals have entered our everyday life. Nearly 50 percent of pet owners consider their companion animals to be a part of the family. You look forward to coming home to see the cat. "Obviously we don't know what's going on inside their minds. and litter. How does the bond with a cat actually form? The bond can be formed in weeks.credit where credit's due." explained Dr McComb. and then they do it quite deliberately. The human-animal bond field has gained momentum in recent years. You and other family members become emotionally involved.stimulating them to vibrate. so I'll forgive him .that humans are "highly sensitive" to "But cats are able to produce a low frequency purr by activating the muscles of their vocal folds ." Pet ownership is at an all time high Nearly 50 percent of pet owners consider their companion animals to be a part of the family Pet ownership is at an all time high. or years. cats are able to embed a high-pitched cry in an otherwise relaxing purr. ate rodents." So how does Dr McComb feel about Pepo now she knows he has been manipulating her all these years? "He's been the inspiration for this whole study. . You do everything to make the cat comfortable in your home or yard. months. "How urgent and unpleasant the purr is seems to depend on how much energy the cat puts into producing that cry. It has not always been this way. Since each of these sounds is produced by a different mechanism. Maybe you spend time and energy picking out food. In fact the University of Denver announced in January of 2008 the establishment of an endowed university chair dedicated to studying the bond between humans and animals. over the past century. Many people report that their pets sleep with them. You have cat names going through your mind. Cats lived in the barn. "But we think that (they) learn to dramatically exaggerate it when it proves effective in generating a response from humans. Mules pulled plows.
3. has many toys for playtime. you can build quiet time into your relationship with your cat. It goes like this. You can often tell by the way the cat looks at you that she senses you are trying to help. getting up at the same time every morning. stretches out flat. Here are five specific ways the human-animal bond can evolve with your cat through your time commitment: 1. I play this wacky game with Lexie Lee each time I come home. the black cat met me at the front door limping. passing quickly through the kitchen on the way to the living room. It will be impossible for you to give up a cat that is becoming family. I discovered she had been in a fight. paying attention to her. she suddenly appears and is ready for playtime. she grabs the feathers in her mouth and pulls them to the floor. we headed to the kitchen for her breakfast. Lexie Lee. Katarina. spins around 360 degrees. Shortly thereafter. loved to crawl in my lap the minute I sat down in the living room rocker to enjoy morning tea. always waited patiently until I got out of bed. but her favorite one has three brightly colored feathers suspended on a string from the end of a flexible pole. and turns summersaults! I store the toy in the pantry and whenever I open the door. and I medicated the sores until she was healed. We greet each other at the door where I drop my bags. talk softly. My role is easy. the family disagrees. The cat quickly catches on to what is supposed to happen when these times of the day roll around. and gazes into my eyes. My cat. Affectionate Time ? A pat on the head. Then we proceed up the stairs. you can grow closer. She leaps high in the air. Well. She zooms past me. Sometimes. But the moment my feet hit the floor. she started wildly meowing and knew exactly what to expect. That moment is how we started and shared the early morning together for sixteen years. Upon closer examination. That is because the cat has touched you on some level and is becoming part of you. or being groomed every evening provides consistency and stability for your animal. and playing her games help establish a connection between the two of you. Being the caregiver of six cats in my life has given me numerous opportunities in times of trouble to develop the bond more deeply. Another one of my beloved cats. rearranging the tablecloth. We look forward to this affectionate moment every day. and caress the cat. and it probably won''t be long until your furry friend joins you. Perhaps the conversation never even reaches that point. she uses her paw to capture them. or a jubilant welcome home are appreciated gestures to show your cat affection. that was just the beginning of the story! She was taken to the veterinarian. Concern or Crisis Time ? When your cat is hurt or sick or dealing with a terminal illness. You can snuggle together. She pauses for a moment for me to catch up. 2. Maybe you will take a catnap together! For example. Tatianna. She would stay there for as long as I remained in the chair. I flop down on the couch at the same time that Lexie Lee flies onto the coffee table. Quiet Time ? To contrast from the fun and games. I rub her on the head.With the first mention of taking the cat to a shelter. a scratch behind the ears. one of my beloved cats. All I have to do is hold the pole and swing it around at varying speeds and heights while she feverishly tries to catch the feathers ? which she does quite often. because everyone forgets about giving up the cat. She could always count on it! 5. I pat my chest and she jumps onto my chest. This moment of concern accelerated the intensity of our bond. I remember a stray cat appearing on my property and slowly working its way into my heart over several months. then we race simultaneously to the couch. the black stray moved . But one afternoon when I came home from work. Consistent Time ? An established routine can foster the feline-human bond. You can curl up in your favorite spot. Lexie Lee is a natural for this game. Morning after morning for almost seventeen years. Fun Loving Time ? Playing with the cat. Other times. 4. Being fed at a certain time.
The over-attachment may itself have been a result of an unresolved emotional trauma in the owner's life. a slightly incompetent and nervous cat goes to live with a caring. or experienced a bereavement or divorce. Is there a particular type of person that finds themselves in this predicament? In my caseload of over-attachment problems there are elements that these cases have in common. By regularly committing time to engage in fun loving games. Linda A. Many referred to themselves as being perfectionists. Mohr is the award-winning author of Tatianna ? Tales and Teachings of My Feline Friend and Catnip Connection blog for Seattle Press-Intelligencer. knowing the intensity of emotional dependence is vital if a behaviourist needs to tell a person that she needs to change her relationship with her beloved cat. This can be very helpful in highlighting the issues. and only about 10 per cent of cases relate to behavioural problems caused by over-attachment. and the cofounder of Pet Apothecary. aggression etc. However. affectionate gestures. Owners didn't go on holiday or visit friends or family overnight because they didn't want to leave their cat. Common elements in over-attachment cases • • • • • • • • Owners are women. These relationships are sometimes not about the cat at all. emotional owner resulting in undesirable attention-seeking behaviours and over-attachment. For example. Some people exhibit extreme emotion and tend not to progress through the stages of grieving in the usual way which leads to acceptance of the loss. Veterinary practices may see the aftermath of over-attachment problems when the animal dies or is euthanased and the owner is unable to cope. Of course all of us will recognise something of ourselves in some of the categories and that is only to be expected. She is a member of Cat Writers? Association with human-animal bond expertise. solicitous. you will build a deep and meaningful relationship with your cat. Owners are anthropomorphic about their cats (refer to their cats as if human). eager to please and desperate to do the right thing. solicitous. The bulk of my work involves indoor urination/defecation. consistent routines. Lives often revolved around the daily requirements of their cat. a professor at Northwood University. The most common presentation is unusual cat/owner responses on both sides. The other scenario tends to be highly intelligent. However over-attachment problems occur when many of the elements occur together. Cats are kept exclusively indoors or allowed restricted access to outdoors under supervision for reasons of 'safety' owners worry that their cat would be exposed to unacceptable dangers if he or she were to go outside. If working.inside and was named Marnie! Each cat passes your way leaving a series of unique influences and impressions. This information is volunteered to me. Visit Linda Mohr or Catnip Connection. owners will be asked to keep a diary of interactions and of the problem for a couple of weeks before the appointment. urine spraying. Burmese) meets caring. Over-attachment could be defined as 'having an emotional bond with a pet that is so intense that it is detrimental to the physical and psychological wellbeing of either the human or the animal'. My job as a cat behaviour counsellor means I see a lot of cases on referral from vets in the South East of England. occasionally these relationships can cause problems. . Many conducted the consultation by talking to the cat rather than make eye contact with me. particularly when either the cat or the human or both become 'over-attached'. emotional owner the result can be learned helplessness in the cat and over-attachment. Owners live alone or with a partner or companion with whom they spend little time. Why is the bond so strong and what goes wrong when cats become overdependent or under-attached? Vicky Halls . owners made incredible provisions for the wellbeing of their pet during their absence and they couldn't wait to return home. quiet moments. It may or may not be relevant. Owners have been or are on Prozac or similar psychotropic drug or have been treated for a psychological problem. and critical care. sensitive cat (eg. These are mainly 'behind closed doors relationships' that many of us will never fully appreciate or understand. However. Siamese. Often on initial discussion where a bonding problem is suspected.a report from FAB Conference 2000 We all know someone who we think is slightly 'over-the-top' in the way they behave towards their cat (not counting ourselves of course!) but it is usually harmless fun that gives pleasure to both the cat and the owner.
Behaviour modification programme Lucy had to try and control her concern for Chichester and understand that while he continued to be constantly focusing on her. Burmese and other highly intelligent and sensitive Oriental breeds. It was suggested that. However. Chichester lived with three other cats and his owner. He had also learned that his frustration was diffused when he sprayed. A behaviourist is not there to judge but to try and help. However. they just tolerated each other without being particularly sociable. Lucy always used to leave the flap open but he had got into someone's car one day through an open window and the driver had driven off before realising he was there. CHICHESTER It is not uncommon for cats to manipulate interaction with their owners by using various attention-seeking methods. She was asked to stop feeding the stray cat as any further contact could lead to an acceleration of Chichester 's problem. He had a cat flap to allow access to outdoors but this was shut at night and when Lucy wasn't in `for safety reasons'. He was Lucy's favourite cat. Chichester had started spraying urine indoors and this behaviour progressed until he sprayed all over the house and usually in front of Lucy. she put a mailshot through her neighbours' doors to ask them to check . A magnetically controlled cat flap would prevent other cats coming in again.attachment has caused. over-protective owner and an intelligent highly sociable and manipulative cat had created an intense relationship. spraying urine is an extremely effective way of getting attention! This is seen mainly in Siamese. The stray cat had come into the house through the cat flap and it is likely that Chichester started spraying in response to that. the programmes themselves look relatively simple. Lucy. since she felt he needed her more than the others did. Such as case was Chichester. One lady placed seven bowls of food down every day with different varieties in case the cat wasn't in the mood for one particular variety on that particular day. His requirements for attention had increased since she had shut the cat flap and deprived him of other activities. it was just as disruptive and stressful for him as it was for her. a quick spray of urine would solve both the attention-seeking and the frustration. his behaviour had then taken a sinister twist when he learnt that Lucy's response to his spraying was attention. Problem behaviour Approximately 18 months previously. To an extent we all have some similar. Explanation The combination of a very loving. Lucy also fed a stray in the garden. One lady got up at 3 am to cook fish because that was when the cat asked for it. a four-year-old male neutered Oriental. elements such as these in our own relationships with other people or pets. if she was worried. Chichester constantly approached Lucy for all his interaction and stimulation. The cases can be very time-consuming because owners may need a great deal of emotional support after the consultation to fulfil the programme that is put in place. so we discussed leaving the flap open. He had an unremarkable medical history. Although usually seen as a territorial or anxiety-related behaviour. He had also developed a fussy appetite. even though they desperately wanted to go out. He slept in the bed with her every night. Chichester was fed a wide variety of proprietary sachet foods and Iams dried complete cat food and M&S chicken breasts cooked every day. Chichester had virtually nothing to do with the other cats in the household which were less reactive and more independent. She felt it corresponded with him wanting attention from her. • • • • Many such people are in desperate need of something to care for and something to love and they all have different life experiences and different genes that have made them all very unique individuals. Many of these owners kept their cats in 24 hours a day for fear of some harm coming to them. Case histories Here are a few examples of the sort of case I see and the techniques used to resolve the problem that the over-attachment or under.These are a few genuine examples: • One lady left the heating on all night in case the cat got cold and stayed awake for most of it because it was too hot to sleep. so if Lucy was talking to someone and her response was not immediate. Chichester's spraying was more evident when the flap was shut at night or during the day. but perhaps not so extreme. Written down. One lady put an Elizabethan collar on her cat permanently and kept it in a tiny 10 foot x10 foot room because it had scratched its ear 18 months previously and she was concerned that it might hurt itself if it got out of the room or out of its Elizabethan collar and started scratching again. the most challenging aspect is to get people to listen to you and trust you enough to change the way they behave towards their beloved pets.
When he was quiet and good. Explanation George was very unsociable in character but he also lacked confidence which prevented him from filling his day with lots of challenging activities. A cleaning regime for sprayed areas was advised. he would try harder.their cars. GEORGE Under-attachment can also be a problem for some people. The teenage children were enlisted to build a cardboard assault course with lots of hiding places for food and catnip. The goal was for the family to get pleasure from him and vice versa in a positive non-harmful way. Friends were to come round as regularly as possible and play with Chichester using a fishing rod toy. The pattern continued but his bites and scratches became painful as he got older and stronger. George was fascinated by running water so they installed an indoor fountain in the conservatory which he loved. There was so much to see and do outside that his approaches to Lucy reduced instantly. Behaviour modification programme The first change was George's feeding regime the idea was to make him work a bit harder for his food. Outcome Opening the cat flap had a profound effect on Chichester. tentatively at first and at his own pace with no intervention from his owners. Although he was always around when she came home. in fact the family were thrilled that the cat showed some interest in them and actively encouraged it. There has to be no eye contact. He was wary of strangers and jumped at sudden non-verbal noises. neighbours reported that he had been out and about during the day.gamblers will tell you how addictive random reward can be! Lucy started to go to Chichester when she wanted affection and not vice versa. Asking over-attached owners to ignore their pets is the most difficult task they will probably ever perform. A strict feeding plan listing actual quantities for all the cats was put into action. she was asked to reward with love and praise. George's confidence increased. This seemed to satisfy her sufficiently to follow this instruction. He lived with his owners and two teenage children in a large two storey house. George had access to outdoors but would only go out if the family were out or it was warm. The occasional weakening and gesture towards him would have made it difficult to extinguish the behaviour since it would have represented a very tempting regime of intermittent reinforcement . and then in more hidden spots. One case that was actually referred for an aggression problem illustrates this point. He didn't interact with them at all now since they had stopped playing with him. When he did play a game he got over-excited and hurt people. Lucy was asked to ignore Chichester if he sprayed urine or was overly demanding. He had a good appetite and was fed Iams dry cat food and Whiskas tinned food four times a day. . They had eventually stopped playing with him completely. They re-assembled his old activity centre that they had stopped using when George was about six-months-old and added bits on to give him a high vantage point to watch the birds outside on the bird table. no verbal communication and a closed body language that is unfamiliar to the cat so that the signal is clear and can be understood. After about three weeks. The majority of his dry food was placed in various locations throughout the conservatory. She was warned about the frustration factor when Chichester didn't get what he wanted initially. Problem behaviour Ever since he was a kitten he had attacked people's feet. All interaction in future would be on her instigation rather than his. Outcome As he became more and more enthusiastic about life in general and all the new activities. He was remarkably quick at realising that Lucy meant business with her withdrawal of attention. she socialised more with her friends because she was not afraid of leaving him at home and she even developed better relationships with her other cats. There was a lot of food wasted in the household because she offered such a variety. He was very unsociable with people and withdrew from any physical contact. but it is a very subjective issue since one man's under-attached cat is another man's normal independent moggy. When he was young it was considered amusing. his owners left the conservatory door open one day very casually and allowed him to make his mind up whether or not he went out. as instructed. The family felt that George wasn't a member of the family and frankly they couldn't see what purpose there was in his being there and this was the main problem. He loved to play with fur mice and the children threw these around the house for him. a surgical spirit wipe down and Feliway (a synthetic version of feline facial pheromones) sprayed over the site. This had become a learned behaviour as a result of the family rewarding it so much when he was a kitten. The games he so enjoyed would now take place on the end of a long bamboo cane so that the owners were remote from the game and their feet were so far away that they were no longer a target. quite obvious places at first so that he got the hang of it. George was a two-year-old male neutered British Shorthair. usually after playing with one of his fur mice. The key to the success of the programme was consistency in Lucy's non-reward of Chichester's behaviour. Lucy was to feed all the cats twice daily and leave biscuits down all the time for ad lib feeding. He did.
SP3 6LD . High Street. whether in a boarding cattery. Explanation BF was suffering from a severe bonding disorder. The owner had had enough and requested euthanasia. At the age of five months he was rehomed with another kitten one month older to a couple who were out at work during the day. BF was a one-year-old domestic shorthair castrated male. (a mood stabilising neurotransmitter) to try to reduce his reactivity by dietary means. This is a sad but important point about dealing with bond-related issues. It may also have been a clinical problem. George was not being subjected to human contact against his will but discovering for himself how rewarding interaction with humans could be. A full haematology. His attentions were definitely focused on this one person. The faeces appeared to be voided without conscious control (no loose motions) and the act was proceeded by vigorous rubbing around the owner's legs. If this advice has helped you care better for your cat please enable us to help others by making a donation. BF The next case relates to a cat called BF. Problem behaviour BF paced and vocalised continuously in his pen or when he was not with his owner and he defecated when he saw her. Taeselbury. even on her feet. When he returned he started to defecate when he greeted his owners in the evening. All was well until. UK. an amino acid that converts to serotonin. The family felt more affectionate towards him because he appeared lively and relaxed in their presence. To do this you can either click here or send a cheque to the address below (made payable to ‘Feline Advisory Bureau') FAB. The success of any programme to resolve the problem is dependent on the owner being emotionally able to comply with it. eg. sometimes these bonds are stronger than we are! ©This information sheet is produced by the Feline Advisory Bureau The Feline Advisory Bureau is the leading charity dedicated to promoting the health and welfare of cats through improved feline knowledge. should be aware of the potential intensity of the human/cat bond. A programme of other people interacting with him together with stimulation and interesting feeding opportunities (he had a big appetite) resulted in his starving himself for two days rather than exploring the possibility of obtaining his food in a novel way. The next plan was to try and introduce a diet high in B6 and tryptophan. Unfortunately it is not clear what his motivation was for this behaviour.5mg/kg bodyweight with no obvious effect. He was taken in by the Cats Protection at 10-weeks-old along with a litter mate. Wiltshire. The owners returned him to the Cats Protection. Outcome We were too late. rescue centre or in veterinary practice. He even used to try and climb up her clothing to place his head inside her mouth! He never stopped actively seeking her company and he never appeared still or relaxed. Behaviour modification programme His vet put him on clomipramine hydrochloride (licensed for use in dogs as Clomicalm to treat anxiety-related problems) at 0. He then lived at a Cats Protection foster home with the lady who socialised him originally and he spent his time partly outside in a cat pen and partly in the family home. Tisbury. This particular over-attachment problem put an enormous strain on this very sensible and experienced cat owner and sometimes the outcome is not satisfactory for just this reason. If anyone gets involved in helping owners with relationship problems with their cats it can be fascinating and rewarding. serum biochemistry. at the age of nine months. When he was close to her he hyperventilated and appeared overexcited. Anyone who works with cats and their owners.George improved enormously and the aggression disappeared overnight. It was just a matter of time before he explored the possibilities of direct tactile contact. An increase to 1mg/kg coincided or caused an increase in the intensity of the symptoms. a neurochemical excess or insufficiency. thyroid function and neurological examination were planned to rule out a clinical cause. However always remember that not all of these problems can be resolved. to help us all care better for our cats. Currently we are helping almost 4 million cats and their owners a year. It may have been frustration and fearful insecurity or a bizarre form of attention-seeking behaviour which had received inadvertent reinforcement from the owner. a sad example of overattachment/bonding problems on the part of the cat and not the owner and an illustration that not all cases have a happy ending. he went missing for a week. We discussed a programme of clear signals of response should BF make a low arousal approach to his owner and a method of displaying non-reward for the high arousal approaches accompanied by defecation.
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