I've had many cats as pets throughout my life. There were only brief transition periods where I was without a kitty around the house. All of my cats were rescues, either from a shelter or just simply finding them or them finding ME! I'm a sucker for a needy cat, and even ones I brought home "just until I could find a home for them", ended up staying. If I didn't have control over myself, I could easily become a cat lady hoarder!
My current kitty is a rescue, but not a typical rescue. Holly Berry was born into a feral cat colony living in my neighborhood. Her litter was born under my backyard deck. A feral cat is one that is a totally wild animal, having no experience with human touch. They are very skittish and do not view humans as friendly unless they have had an opportunity to become acclimated to human interaction. I was able to trap Holly in a live catch trap when she was young, and with great patience and research about what to do with a feral, I was able to tame her. She is a loving and awesome house pet. Doing this was a long process, especially since she was an "older" youngster. I will write more about her journey from the wild to our home in a future Musing.
Today's topic is about how cats communicate. People think cats are very distant and minimally involved with people. It's true that cats can appear to be very snobby, with an independent streak. Typically cat behaviors don't involve doing what YOU want them to do, but the cat getting YOU to meet THEIR needs and having YOU do things for THEM. However, there are exceptions to the rule. My current cat is more doglike than catlike...but that's a topic for a future Musing.
Understanding cat communication will help cat parents (is anyone really a cat owner??) care for their cats and enjoy their company even more than they already do. There are cable shows that are popular that help cat parents deal with "problem" behaviors that are causing havoc in the house. Enter the "Cat Whisperer" to analyze kitty's behaviors and suggest interventions, some incredibly simple, to solve the problems.
Cats use their entire body and vocalizations to communicate. Like people, cats display many moods. Improving your ability to read and understand kitty's body language, moods and communication can be easy to do. Here's a few examples of kitty communication.
A cat's wagging tail does not communicate the same message that a dog's wagging tail does. It could mean she's had enough petting or is soon to attack. They might be ready to bite. Have you ever seen a cat watching a bird through the window? Their tail is very active.
My cat often "kneads" me like I'm bread dough! This behavior is connected with behaviors of a nursing kitten. Kneading is an indication the cat is happy.
What's with all that rubbing on furniture, wall corners and on YOU? This is actually an affectionate expression of happiness and "marking" of people and things with their scent to tell other kitty's "this is MINE". Marking by spraying has the opposite, being a sign of anxiety or aggressive territorial marking or a sexual calling card.
Cats nap alot. It's perfectly normal for cats to sleep 2/3rds of the day away. Playtime is important too and can be a good bonding activity. Cats like interactive play that connects with their stalking and prey drive. One of the favorite games my cat likes to play is chasing a simple shoelace! As cats get older, it's natural for them to become more sedentary and lose that kitten playfulness. However, most cats will still appreciate an opportunity to chase and stalk. One important thing to remember is to never use your "hands" as the toy for kitty to attack. That can lead to obvious problems with biting as kitty has the idea it's OK to attack and bite YOU!
Try not to let your kitty's independent nature let you fall into the habit of only interacting at feeding time. They are responsive to human touch and attention. Be sure to pet your kitty and provide opportunities for play. Brushing your kitty is important for controlling shedding and it can be a great bonding experience.
There are many resources available to help you become familiar with "kitty talk". Take the time to become a better cat parent. A few interesting resources are listed below: