Over one quarter of American households own cats. Despite the large number of cat owners, cats are very misunderstood creatures. Even some cat owners misunderstand basic feline psychology and physiology. Let’s explore the ways in which cats are unique, your cat will appreciate your newfound knowledge.
Cats are Hunters
Cats, even your cute, fluffy, little kitten are born with the instinct to hunt and kill. Feral cats must hunt and kill small mammals and birds to survive. Although living inside provides comfort and safety, it does not provide the mental stimulation cats have outside. Without mental stimulation cats can become bored, stressed or destructive. Allowing your cat the ability to hunt or roam outdoors is not always feasible or safe. Providing toys and play sessions that allow a cat to “hunt” can be very beneficial. Making a comfortable window seat or setting up a cat tree near a window can provide stimulation as well.
Scratching is a Natural Reflex
Scratching is another natural behavior cats exhibit. It is healthy and normal for cats to scratch. Cats communicate with others through scratching. The presence of scratch marks signals to other felines this territory is taken. Scratching is a natural reflex for cats. Stretching, sharpening, and cleaning their claws is important. Punishing a cat for scratching or taking away scratching surfaces can cause stress for your cat. This will most likely lead to increased bad behavior.
To encourage your cat to scratch in way that is not destructive to your home, give them appropriate options. Pick a fibrous or rough surface like the tree bark cats would use in nature. A cheap or free option for cat scratching is cardboard. Many cats love the feeling of shredding cardboard. A cardboard box can also double as a play and hiding spot.
Cats are Very Sensitive
Cats are very sensitive to changes in their environment and their owner’s anxiety levels. Cats can develop a condition called stress cystitis. A cat under stress may develop bladder inflammation typical to a urinary tract infection. Symptoms include straining to urinate, blood in the urine, vocalizing, hiding and discomfort. Cats can develop stress cystitis for a variety of reasons. Common reasons for stress cystitis include an owner taking vacation, adding a pet to the household, getting a new couch, the presence of fleas, or a new feral cat outside the house.
If your cat is exhibiting any of the above symptoms please contact us right away!
Cats Must Consume Taurine
Taurine is an amino acid that is essential for heart function, vision, fetal development and digestion. Cats are unique because their bodies are unable to manufacture taurine from other amino acids. They must consume taurine in their diets. Commercially manufactured cat food contains the appropriate amount of taurine for your cat’s life stage. Because taurine is not available in appropriate levels in dog food or all human food it is important to feed your cat feline specific food.
Vomiting vs. Hairballs
Sometimes cat owners can mistakenly assume vomiting or coughing is hairball production. Cats groom themselves frequently. Hairballs are dense, cylindrical clumps of hair with a little liquid around it. Vomit can contain a combination of hair, bile and food. Owners shouldn’t be concerned when an otherwise healthy cat produces true hairballs once or twice a month. Cats producing more frequent hairballs should be assessed by their veterinarian. Brushing your long-haired cat or taking it to the groomer could help resolve frequent hairballs. Owners should bring vomiting to their veterinarian’s attention. If your cat is in a crouched position and making noises but not producing vomit or hairballs he or she might be coughing. Typically, cats do not get hairballs or vomit “stuck” on the way out.
We all love our cats. Let’s show them some extra appreciation in December by recognizing them for the special creatures they are. When their unique dietary, behavioral and physiological characteristics are recognized they will truly thrive.
Dr. Janelle McFarland
Wags & Whiskers