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Cat Behaviour

Beware of Cat!

Have you ever wondered why a Cat does certain things? Cats have a large range of behavioural patterns and a secret language of their own. Most behavioural patterns can be traced back to when the cat was wild. Below are just a few of the most common behavioural patterns.

 Purring
 Greeting
 Kneading
 Flehmening
 Gifts
 Burying Faeces
 Wagging Tail
 Eating Grass
 Taking Food out of its Bowl
 Mad Dash or Charging Around
 Scratching Furniture

Purring

A purring cat is not necessarily a happy cat. A cat in great pain, distress or even a female giving birth will purr. A little known fact is that friendly cats that are in pain will purr when approached by people; this suggests that cats purr to show that they are friendly and approachable, ready to be stroked or helped.

At two to three days old a kitten will start to purr, the purr is very quiet and can be difficult for a human to hear. As the kitten grows the purr gets louder. A kitten purring is a signal to the mother that all is well and the kitten is contented and getting enough food when suckling.

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Greeting

Cats normally greet each other by rubbing faces. When a cat greets you by standing on its hind legs, it is simply trying to reach your face. If you were to lower yourself so your face is within reach, your cat will rub their face with yours. This is only done to humans that the cat trusts.

Another friendly way for a cat to greet its owner is to roll on its back, stretching its legs as far as possible, yawning and excersing its claws. The "belly-up" position is a very vulnerable position, it indicates total trust of the person involved. It is a lazy way for the cat to greet its owner, a more active cat would probably rub itself against your legs. Cats have scent glands on the temples, around the mouth and at the base of the tail. When a cat rubs itself against you, it is rubbing off some of its scent to say "this is mine". Only other cats can smell this scent.

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Kneading

Kneading is when a cat extends and retracts its claws, usually when it is resting on its owner's lap. This behaviour comes from kittenhood, kittens knead their mother while suckling to make the milk flow more freely. Adult cats will do this when they feel safe and contented. They see their owners as surrogate mothers and, as pampered pets, will retain some kitten characteristics through their adult life. If the cat dribbles or sucking of the owners clothes happens whilst kneading, the cat in question will probably have been taken from its mother too early and never had a chance to grow out of the behaviour naturally. These behaviours are usually for life.

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Flehmening

Flehmening is when a cat screws up its face, the lips curl back baring its upper and lower teeth allowing more chemical aromas to register in the Jackobsen's Organ. The Jackobsen's Organ is situated in the roof of the mouth in two sacs. In wild cats this aids in knowing the "lie of the land", and aids in knowing what other animals may be in close proximity. In the domestic cat this is not so important as with the wild cat and the flehmening reaction is not so obvious. The Jackobsen's Organ is also connected to the part of the cats brain concerned with sexual behaviour and appetite.

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Gifts

Owners of outdoor cats will eventually be presented with gifts of dead creatures, such as mice and birds. For the cat, this is perfectly natural - this behaviour should never be punished in any way. A Queen will bring prey home to her kittens to introduce them to hunting. For this reason, the behaviour is most often seen in female cats. Neutered cats that have no kittens of their own and male cats will also bring gifts home.

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Burying Faeces

A subordinate cat will bury its faeces so as not to demonstrate its presence to more dominant cats. A dominant cat will leave its faeces uncovered. A cat kept on their own will bury its Faeces by scratching on the litter tray, this has nothing to do with cleanliness - it is a sign that the cat feels that its owner is dominant. In households with more than one cat, you will often find that one or two cats leave their faeces uncovered, whereas the rest will cover it up.

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Wagging Tail

A wagging tail could mean the cat is angry or can mean that the cat is feeling indecisive - it wants to do two things at once and cannot make up its mind which action to take.

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Eating Grass

Eating grass often occurs when the cat needs to clean out its stomach by vomiting (maybe to get rid of furballs!). If your cat does not have access to grass, house plants or anything similiar will be used by your cat. Vomiting will occur soon after the cat has eaten grass. It has been said that cats eat grass to obtain "Folic Acid", something that cats need in minute quantities for its well-being. "Folic Acid" cannot be obtained from meat.

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Taking Food out of its Bowl

A very common behaviour with cats is taking food out of its bowl and eating it off the floor. There are many theories as to why cats do this, two of the theories that seem to make sense are:

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Mad Dash or Charging Around

This behaviour is seen mostly in indoor cats, who, not able to burn off energy will dash around jumping off furniture with a wild look in their eyes. This usually occurs late at night with cats younger than five years old, but can be seen in older cats as well.

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Scratching Furniture

A cat needs to sharpen its claws by stripping off the old shell to reveal a new one. Scratching at furniture is one way a cat will renew its claws. All indoor cats will do this if they have not been trained on how to use a scratching post from an early age. It is also a way for the cat to exercise its claws and paws, and for scent-marking (there are scent glands under its front paws).

Show your cat how to use a scratching post, start training as soon as possible, so they will be less likely to damage a piece of your furniture. The secret is to show the cat what to do. Hold them near the post and scratch their claws on the surface. Putting Catnip in and around the scratching post will also help to encourage your cat to use it.

If you have more than one cat then you may find that the dominant cat will not use the scratching post and may need discouraging by using a spray bottle filled with water (use freah water only). This has the advantage of keeping the owner remote from the cat and the scene of the crime.

Quite simply, it involves squirting a jet of water at the cat with such force as to surprise and disconcert it, just at the time it is about to, or is actually, performing the behaviour pattern the owner wants to curb. It is very important that your cat does not associate you with the unpleasantness, as this can lead to a lack of trust, so make sure that you cannot be seen by your cat when using the spray bottle.

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