Where the Wild Things Are . . .
No, not the famous children's' book by Maurice Sendak! Rather, an entertaining evening at Neko HQ listening to Dr Trepheena Hunter, of Wild Things Veterinary Behaviour Services, explain the behaviour of cats.
Surrounded by friendly kitties, we listened intently to find out about how cats communicate and socialise. We also learnt how to make our indoor kitties happy and found out that no cat is ever too old to train.
Here are a few snippets of wisdom that I took away from her talk.
Cats communicate mainly through body language. By learning to read the signs, you can gauge whether your feline friend is feeling relaxed, anxious, fearful or aggressive. Always good to know!
A relaxed cat can be in any position, but there is no sign of tension. Usually, its:
eyes are closed or blinking slowly
ears are relaxed
whiskers are to the side
tail is neutral or soft.
An anxious cat usually lowers its head. Its muscles are tensed and its:
eyes are open but not blinking - the pupils dilated
ears are rotating or low and flat
whiskers are pulled back to the side
tail is still or moving from side to side.
A fearful cat can be standing or crouching. Its head is usually lowered and its:
eyes are wide open - the pupils dilated
ears are flattened right back
whiskers are bristling
tail is twitching.
An aggressive cat is trying to be the boss. Its:
eyes are direct, hard and focused - the pupils are narrowed
ears are down
whiskers are stiff
tail is tucked.
As well as body language, cats also use a range of vocal sounds to communicate. Most common are the:
loud, rumbling purr (e.g. as it cuddles up next to you on the couch)
contented murmur (e.g. as you scratch its ears in the morning)
offended squeak (e.g. if you accidentally stand on its paw)
plaintive, hungry meow (e.g. that will not let you sleep in past 5 am)
hissing, growling and spitting - (e.g. that can suddenly appear when it feels threatened - along with the fluffy, raised and quivering tail).
Cats like to mark their territory with scent. They do this by rubbing up against the object or human using the scent glands located in the skin of their head and neck.
And you thought your kitty was just being friendly . . .
Scratching is not just about maintaining their claws or destroying the furniture. Cats also have scent glands between their toes and use this as another way to mark their territory with scent.
As a visual marker it is also a great way to leave a message to the other cats in the house. For instance: Stay out of this room - it is my space today and I do not wish to be disturbed!
Cats are independent creatures. We all know that you cannot force a cat to spend time with you. But if you respect your kitty and let it make its own decision, you might be surprised at the time it chooses to spend with you.
About Wild Things Veterinary Services
Wild Things Veterinary Behaviour Services is the first of its kind in Victoria. Although there are many behavioural vets practising in Melbourne, including one specialist behavioural vet, Wild Things VBS is the first stand alone behavioural clinic.
They treat a range of animal behavioural issues including:
anxiety, fears and phobias
house soiling issues
About Maneki Neko Cat Rescue events
Maneki Neko Cat Rescue is run entirely by volunteers. To enable them to keep up the good work, they need your help. To raise money for the kitties, they host many fundraising events throughout the year. These are all advertised on their Facebook page.
To read more about this Maneki Neko Cat Rescue, try these posts: