BARKS from the Guild September 2016

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Carolyn Kocman investigates whether there is any truth in the oft held belief that cats are

ats are “aloof.” They Cats are sometimes thought of as aloof but “don’t listen” and in fact, plenty of pet “cannot be trained.” cats are highly social Cats are “destructive.” I am with their owners and other household pets “notacatperson.” There are a plethora of reasons that people determine not to like cats…but are any of these reasons valid? Moreover, do cats live up to the reputation that some have ascribed to them? Domesticated cats display as many personality characteristics as people do. While there are cats that are more independent and less likely to “listen,” there are many that will cuddle up on their owners’ laps and enjoy the attention of the family. So while some cats may be blamed for giving others a “bad rap,” it is time to dispel the myth that they are “all the same.” When one knows and understands how an animal communicates, it becomes easier to appreciate that creature. Cats have their own communication system that is both similar and disparate from that of other animals. Cats communicate with eyes, ears, mouth, whiskers, tail, body position, and vocalizations. Communication is expressed in actions as well. While, then, one may perceive a cat’s actions as being “aloof,” there may be far more that is being communicated. In an effort to understand the feline better, it is essential to separate fact from fiction. Some of the myths surrounding cats need to be dispelled and replaced with a correct understanding of feline behavior. A few of the more common myths amongst the “non-cat-loving” community follow – along with some facts to replace them.

Myth #1: Cats Are ÂUnfriendlyÊ and ÂAloof Ê When one studies the wild cat (from which domesticated cats have descended), it is clear that these creatures are both bush dwellers and tree dwellers. Some stay low to the ground while others are climbers. The domesticated feline carries the traits of its ancestors. Cats maintain the need to hide and to view their surroundings from above. These behaviors are not an effort to be aloof or unfriendly, but rather are instinctual. Being in a high posi44

BARKS from the Guild/September 2016

© Can Stock Photo Inc./Noppharat


“unfriendly” and cites the many reasons for dispelling the myth

tion or in a place of hiding provides a comfort level for the cat and is not only natural, but healthy for the cat. Contrary to this myth, many cats enjoy the company of their humans. The cat that is left alone may be a cat that exhibits symptoms of stress. Interacting with a cat on a regular basis is actually essential for her well-being. Feeding, playing, cuddling, and walking are all essential components to connecting with your cat. Myth #2: Cats Are ÂMeanÊ The domesticated cat enjoys a playful spirit. If your cat is playful and you find that you are suddenly being shredded, you may be misunderstanding cat play. Cats are predators. Play behaviors are necessary for kittens to learn how to catch prey. Older cats maintain this instinct. Thus, it is important to use actual toys in play – as opposed to your hands. Cats will mimic hunting behaviors in play. If your cat cannot take much petting from you without an “attack,” it is not about being mean, per se. Cats (some more than others) will have a sensory limit for touch. Know your cat’s limits and don’t exceed them. It’s not that he wants to be mean. It’s just about having sensory overload. When this occurs he may become aggressive, a phenomenon known as petting-biting syndrome. The key is to be able to read his body language well enough to stop before he ever gets to that point. Signs that he