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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Cat Facts.


Self Grooming 

Somewhere, far back in the evolutionary process, cats must have been imprinted with their own "golden rule" concerning fastidious cleanliness. When they are not sleepinghunting or eating, cats are likely to be primping meticulously. Felines, wild and domestic, are believed to spend up to one-third or more of their waking hours on preening. Far from being a vain preoccupation with appearance, however, the self-grooming vigilance of cats is natural, reflexive behavior that is vital to their hygiene, health and comfort.
Grooming begins at the moment of birth. Immediately after delivering their litters, both wild and domestic females lick off the layer of membranes covering each cub or kitten, simultaneously cleaning and warming the newborns. By 2 or 3 weeks of age, the youngsters have the physical skills and the motivation to groom themselves.
The papillae-spiked tongue is a feline's primary grooming tool. The moistening saliva and rough tongue work together to scrub and align the hairs of its coat. And thanks to the incredible suppleness of its spine, a cat can lick almost every part of its body, except for the head and face. To clean these places, cats lick their paws and then rub them over the face and head. If frustrated by a particularly rough, sticky or dirty patch on its coat, a cat may resort to using its teeth to tear or bite off the offensive material, along with the hairs. As a consequence of all this grooming, felines ingest a considerable amount of dead hair, which they occasionally vomit as hairballs. Longhair domestic breeds are prone to impaction of hair in the intestinal tract and may need regular doses of a hairball remedy to avoid serious problems. Frequent grooming of both longhair and shorthair cats by their owners helps to prevent problems by removing loose hair before it is swallowed.
Grooming also regulates body temperature. In warm weather, the saliva acts as a coolant that can reduce a cat's body heat by as much as one-third. In lower temperatures, the rake-like tongue aligns the hairs of the coat so that they retain heat and keep out the cold.
Depositing saliva on the coat has yet another interesting purpose. When cats scent themselves with their own saliva, it may relieve anxiety, offering a source of reassurance at tense moments. Cats appear to dispel fear, nervousness and pain by seemingly inappropriate or frantic grooming, much like human displacement behaviors such as nail biting or other nervous habits. Impromptu preening, for instance, often follows a domestic cat's fall after a poorly timed jump.

Reading Your Cat

Reading Your Cat

Every feline possesses its own distinct personality, just as people do. Even purebred cats of breeds known for a certain character profile don't always match the description. Your Siamese may not be as boisterous as the majority of his relatives; your British shorthair, a breed known for its calm and self-possessed manner, may be quite skittish. But like a bonding parent who learns to read the subtle body nuances of a newborn, you can become attuned to your cat's temperament and idiosyncrasies, making for a more harmonious relationship.
By understanding how cats communicate with us, and other animals, we can help to foster a safe environment and prevent dangerous miscommunications.
Body Language
Unlike social, pack-dwelling canines, felines in their natural environment often go for lengthy periods without face-to-face encounters with others of their kind. They have very little need for a system of direct visual communication. But when cats do happen to meet, a universal feline body language communicates information. Most of what we know about the feline's body language stems from the observation of cats, wild or domestic, in conflict. The usually aloof animal sends out a variety of physical messages when it confronts another feline. Its nervous system automatically registers stress levels and produces physical signals that reveal whether the animal is relaxed, tolerant, fearful, apprehensive, defensive or aggressive. Properly interpreting these reactions tells us when and how to approach and handle cats.
Feline body language is not intended to deliver refined signals. The messages are broad, such as "Leave me alone." Triggered by fear, a rush of adrenaline causes the cat's back and tail to arch and the hair to bristle. This familiar Halloween-cat pose makes the frightened feline appear more physically imposing. Although the raised hackles may outwardly convey strength and a readiness to do battle, the communication is really designed to dissuade rather than provoke potential attackers. When cats, wild and domestic, are fearful or nervous and defensive, their ears flatten or twitch and their eyes dilate fully to take in as much of their surroundings as possible.
The body language of confident, aggressive cats is exhibited in response to direct confrontations, with intruders on their territory or run-ins with smaller cats. The pupils narrow to slits for better depth perception as they stare down opponents; their ears stand up, facing forward or folded so that the backs are seen head-on. With its rear end held high and tail slung low, an aggressor will often approach the defensive cat in a prancing sideways motion that creates the illusion of being larger.
Not all feline body language is straightforward, however. Messages sometimes seem to be mixed or conflicting. Since most of a cat's body language is not intentional but a reflexive response to stimulus, anger and fear may elicit the same physical response. It is not unusual, for instance, for a fearful feline to display signs of aggression and vice versa.
What Their Movements Mean
A cat's posture, tailearseyes and hair all speak volumes. But frequently, because we fail to understand and interpret the signals correctly, we blame the cat — unjustly. Understanding the body language of felines can be difficult, even counterintuitive, since it is meant to convey messages primarily to other cats. Signs of fearfulness or irritation can be easily misread as playful excitement because a cat's associated behaviors appear to be similar. And misinterpretation of cats often arises out of confusion with the body language of dogs, which is sometimes opposite in meaning.
  • A cat's tail is its signal flag. Held high, the tail is a banner communicating confidence. Curling around another feline's tail or a person's legs, it offers friendly greeting. In motion, it usually indicates excitement. The cat is either in predator mode, having sighted a bird or a mouse, or is feeling playful, hiding behind a chair ready to pounce on a passing person or cat. And while the rhythmic wagging of a dog's tail signals happiness, the agitated whipping of your cat's tail means that he is perturbed or upset. Don't startle a cat in this state. Your reward may be a claw swipe or a bite.
  • Cats are affectionate and love to be touched, but only on their own terms. They may greet members of their household fondly with cheek rubs, but they prefer to initiate this contact. Cats may exchange quick eye-blink hellos with each other, but they seldom stare. Instead, they will respond to a long stare from you by freezing movement and then alternately looking at you and looking away.
  • Huddling with its tail wrapped around its body, a cat may be telegraphing that it is cold. A similar body position, but with a relaxed cat, signals its dreamy contentment.
  • A sick cat often doesn't curl up, but lies in the position requiring the least energy.
  • An alert, attentive cat scans wide-eyed, ears pricked and rotating, tuned to threats, prey, and other felines. Spotting something of interest, the cat stares intently, pitching its ears and its whiskers forward.
A startled, fearful or defensive feline may strike the pose of the classic Halloween cat to make itself look larger and more threatening. It turns to one side with back arched, hackles raised, ears turned back and teeth bared. Sensing a potential threat, a cat tenses its body, lowers its tail and raises the fur on its back and tail. On its toes, it is ready to flee the instant the need arises. If it is preparing to attack, the cat will crouch or lie on its side or back, narrow its eyes to focus on its target, hiss and bare its teeth and claws. A feline that takes this posture isn't interested in your affection; it means business. You're best to stay out of the way.
Few felines are truly aggressive by nature, but even the gentlest of kittens may lash out if annoyed, threatened or over-excited by play, seeming to lose control beyond some threshold of arousal. Claws and teeth can be dangerous, especially to small children, so take signs of impending assault seriously. Keep a youngster who seeks to shower kitty with affection from hugging it, kissing it and lugging it around. While a cat that's in the right mood may put up with a moment's snuggle, it won't appreciate — and may not tolerate — being confined or roughly handled. A squirming cat that switches its tail, turns back its ears or growls is making a clear statement: It wants to be put down. Heed the warning.
How Cats Talk
Felines express a surprising variety of sounds, each carrying one or more messages. On sighting a bird, a cat may clack its teeth in a chatter of excitement. A rhythmic purring usually signals contentment, but a cat also may purr when injured or while giving birth. In response to a threat, a feline may growl or grumble, often as a prelude to hissing or spitting. Owners should read hissing as a defensive, "Keep back. I'm scared right now."
Cats speak to people primarily with meows, which come in many forms and carry many different meanings. You will quickly become an expert translator of your cat's meows. Easiest to interpret is the meow of request, which is usually accompanied by a head-held-high, front-paws-together begging posture. Sometimes a meow expresses complaint, anxiety or confusion. Other easily recognized cat sounds include the hissing, spitting, the caterwauling of battle-readiness and the sharp yelp or scream of pain. And there certainly is no mistaking the yowl of a feline in heat or the boisterous uproar of mating cats.

Feline Intelligence

Feline Intelligence

Pet owners love to boast about the cleverness of their furry companions. 
Dog and cat lovers, in particular, seem to relish unending debates over which animal is "smarter." Dog owners often cap their arguments with the fact that dogs have the ability to perform tricks, while cat people counter with the claim that their pets are too intelligent to perform on command. In truth, such methods of pet comparison are futile animal-world versions of mixing apples and oranges. Dogs are pack animals, motivated by a strong need to follow and please the pack's "top" dog (or a human master) in order to receive praise. The solitary cat answers to no one and is motivated by the need to survive. And while trainability may not be the feline's forte, cleverness and adaptability certainly are.
Incredibly resourceful and self-reliant, the species has survived thousands of years in radically different environments and living conditions. Even domestic cats will show a crafty, strong-willed and versatile nature.
Practice Makes Perfect
Many of the cat's remarkable mental and physical abilities are dismissed as simply instinctive. However, just as humans are born with innate communication skills but must learn over time to master a language, cats refine many of their inborn abilities through practice. The widely-held belief that they learn through observation and imitation of their mother or other cats is now being called into question. Cats do learn, but in a different way than do humans or dogs; they have a special kind of intelligence.
A Cat Never Forgets
Once attained, even if by accident or trial and error, most knowledge is retained for life, thanks to the cat's excellent memory. Even hunting techniques buried under years of neglect in the well-fed house cat's brain will be recalled with ease should the feline, for some reason, ever have to fend for itself.
Easily frightened, a cat will retain very strong memories of any incident that it considers threatening. All it takes is one face-to-face encounter with a growling dog to convince a feline that the entire canine species is best avoided forever. However, positive experiences are just as easily stored and recalled, particularly if they have to do with food or play.
As any cat owner knows, domestic felines respond well to familiar sounds, such as can openers, the rattling of their dry-food bags or the crinkly noise of a favorite toy. Many of them also have an uncanny ability to know the hour of their regular breakfast time, waking up their owner if he or she tries to sleep in.
Training and Tricks
As the feline psyche has become better understood, animal handlers have had more success in trainingfelines to perform in film and television, once the exclusive domain of the dog. Although they won't perform for pats on the head and "good-cat" praise from their owners, some felines, if properly motivated, can be trained to do a wide variety of tricks, from opening doors and jumping through hoops to turning on lights. In what psychologists call operant conditioning, a cat will repeat a behavior for a food reward. This is best achieved if the desired behavior is fun for the cat, even more so if the person doing the training is its usual food provider. More amenable to rewards of food than domestic felines, large wildcats such as lions and tigers have performed in circuses for centuries. Sadly, there were times when unspeakably cruel punishment was used interchangeably with rewards of fresh meat to "tame" these unpredictable and potentially dangerous wild felines into performing desired tricks.

Cat Language

Cat Language

You may be surprised by how much they communicate despite their limited vocalizations. Along with their long-distance olfactory dialogues and close-up exchanges of body-language signals, felines possess their own vocabulary of sounds. Long considered a marginal element in the communication system of cats, their spoken language is surprisingly evolved and effective, especially in domestics.
In the wild, big cats roar to lay claim to territory and intimidate interlopers. Small felines prefer less conspicuous ways of communicating that won't alert predators to their presence. Even if they did yearn to let loose an earth-shattering roar, they couldn't. The bony composition of a structure called the hyoid that attaches the larynx to the skull severely limits the small cat's vocal range, wild as well as domestic. In big felines, the hyoid is composed of cartilage and allows for a flexibility that, coupled with a large chest cavity, produces far greater resonance. Despite volume limitations, small cats still vocalize. When confronting rivals before or during a fight, all felines exercise some combination of growls, high-pitched threats, spits and hisses to tell their opponents exactly what they think.
Speaking Cat
Studies disagree on the actual number of feline vocalizations, but three categories of sounds generally are recognized: vowels, murmurs and high-intensity sounds.
  • The classic — meow — originating in the kitten's plaintive or anxious — mew — contains vowel sounds.Adult cats express variations of this vocalization to state their demands for food or attention, register complaints and convey bewilderment. A slight alteration in tone, pace or punctuation changes the meaning.
  • Murmurs are usually happy sounds, along with purrs, trills and chirrups of greeting or contentment, uttered through closed mouths.
  • The feline's repertoire of high-intensity sounds, such as angry or fearful hissing, spitting, growling and shrieking, is most often directed at other cats. And the ultimate purpose of a female's wail while in heat is to attract males.  

  • Establishing Territory

    Marking Territory

    Self-preservation is at the root of almost all cat behavior. And if the feline's master plan — eat, procreate and be merry — results in what may seem to be odd or unpleasant habits, so be it. Cats must assure themselves of sufficient food, avoid life-threatening conflicts and promote their chances of successful mating. One of the ways they accomplish these goals is to avail themselves of a highly specialized system of communication, one perfectly suited to their largely solitary lifestyle.
    Territorial disputes are at the root of many conflicts between felines, wild or domestic. Altercations between domestics are far more common than confrontations in the wild because of the artificially dense environments of the cities and suburbs where most cats reside. Sexually intact males are involved in the greatest number of disputes, but all cats, wild or domestic, male or female, may become embroiled in conflicts.
    Since direct contact among felines in the wild seldom occurs, they must rely almost entirely on indirect methods of transmitting messages. Through a series of scent and visual markers, cats post their own distinctive "Keep Out" signs or "Welcome" mats to announce their own happy hunting and breeding grounds. Potential trespassers coming across such a marker must retreat or enter at their own risk. Outdoors in rural areas, the suburbs or the urban jungle, domestic cats mark territory in much the same way.
    All felines, wild or domestic, will mark territory for themselves, no matter how small. The size of the territory is dictated primarily by the availability of food. Where it's scarce, cats must stake out large tracts to satisfy their appetites. Where it's plentiful, a small territory will do. Social factors, however, also play a role in territory size. Sexually intact males will roam territories up to 10 times larger than those of their female counterparts in order to find mates. Even neutered domestic males exhibit some degree of the greater wanderlust demonstrated by males in the wild.
    Fighting Over Turf
    What happens if more than one cat claims the same territory? If food is plentiful enough to sustain all of the felines within it, the area may be shared quite peacefully. Lions are likely to have formed prides because of the number and size of their prey. The members of a pride can cooperate in taking down larger, often combative prey, such as a 3,000-pound giraffe, and still have enough food to sustain themselves until the next hunt. The largest prides, often containing as many as 20 to 30 lions, can be found in East Africa, where prey is plentiful. In desert regions, where food is much harder to come by, lions live in smaller groups or even just in pairs.
    In almost all feline flare-ups, one cat is the aggressor and the other is the defensive cat. Because these fights can be extremely violent and possibly life-threatening, even the aggressor seems to realize that it's better to avoid a dispute than to risk injury from combat.
    When two cats cross paths, the aggressor frequently asserts itself immediately, often boldly approaching the interloper to sniff its tail. Through hissing, spitting, bared teeth and other intimidating or defensive postures, cats consciously and unconsciously reveal their intentions, all in slow motion.
    The apprehensive cat may betray its fear in a series of defensive displays, including drawing back slowly from the aggressor. Many feline flaps degenerate into nothing more than lengthy face-offs until the defensive cat eventually breaks eye contact to flee.
    While scurrying from the scene of the showdown, however, the vanquished may receive a decisive bite on the tail.
    Aggressive Fighting
    Sometimes the call to arms can't be denied. Most outright fights occur when the defensive animal is cornered and unable to flee or fails to communicate through body language that it is backing down. The aggressive cat expects the defensive cat to hiss, spit or snarl. And when the fearful cat lies down and turns onto its back, it is taking up the typical defensive posture. With outstretched paws and claws bared, the fearful cat is in the best position to defend itself and inflict the most damage on its opponent. Circling menacingly, the aggressor will angle its body so that it appears to be larger, all the while searching for an opening to lunge at its prone opponent.
    This odd crablike sideways dance may continue for quite some time. Depending on the defender's ability to maintain its guarded position, the aggressor might actually tire of waiting and give up. If not, the fight is likely to be brief but furious, marked by piercing cries, scratching and biting. The aggressor will attempt to grasp its opponent by the head and bite its neck. Frantically pedaling all four legs, the defender will try to toss the attacker aside. At the first break, the defensive cat usually bolts, with its proverbial tail between its legs.
    Equally aggressive felines, whether wild or domestic, wage war in a straightforward, more violent fashion. After a face-to-face confrontational show of strength, one cat attacks the other. An intense, ferocious battle ensues, remarkable for the loud shrieks, the vicious bites and raking of back claws, and the short period of time between bouts. Cats can be thrown surprisingly long distances during these titanic struggles. The fur literally flies. Some felines stubbornly persist in warring with each other several times over an extended period until one of them either leaves the territory or learns its lesson and avoids the other.



Design a "dream machine" for hunting and you'd come up with something very close to a cat. From the smallest domestic to the biggest "king of the jungle," felines are gifted in all the bodily tools and techniques needed to chase prey in the wild or toys in the living room: speed, athleticism and the killer instinct.
Born to Run
If a cat were an Olympic athlete, the only marathon it might win would be insleeping. But watch out in the sprint events. The cat would leave its competitors in the dust. Oddly enough, it is the cat's fondness for sleepthat makes it such a speed demon. Sleep is its way of conserving energy for the explosive bursts of power it needs for a successful chase. More often than not, these brief, energy-sapping episodes of running prowess are punctuated by yet more slumber. But hunting is not the only arena for showing off a cat's running ability. Sometimes its speed is put to the test when the cat itself is the target of a chase. Felines that survive in the wild, especially on open plains, rely heavily on their ability to run — much more so than domestic cats — because their habitats put greater onus on stalking and surprise attack. Given cause, though, all cats are gold-medal winners in high-speed pursuit.
What makes cats so good at running? Observe any feline and you'll find some answers. When they walk, for instance, cats alternate opposite legs. But watch them run and you'll see that the front and back legs work as pairs to attain speed. At a gallop, the cat arches its supple spine as its hind legs propel ahead of its front legs, rendering it airborne for the time between strides. The speed with which cats run comes through their exceptionally long stride and strong back legs. Even domestic cats can reach speeds of up to 30 mph in just a few seconds. But like most great sprinters, the cat has poor endurance over the long haul; a sustained trot will exhaust it. It becomes overheated in less than a minute and must stop to pant in order to cool down.
When it comes to the long-jump and the high-jump events, cats are back in the winner's circle. The same pliable muscles and flexible spine that make them great sprinters allow them to jump vertically or horizontally up to six times their own body length. Wildcats need a well-developed ability to pounce in order to survive, especially those solitary hunters that base successful dining on an element of surprise. Tigers can leap more than 30 feet through the air onto unsuspecting prey. With its exceptionally long hind legs, the puma effortlessly jumps distances of more than 40 feet. Even the relatively short-legged lion, a pack hunter without much need for jumping, can spring as far as four-and-a-half times the length of its body, i.e., some 40 feet. Humans measure in at the low end of the big-cat scale. The average person can barely jump twice his or her body length.
These pouncing, jumping and leaping talents come from the combination of powerful leg and back muscles, along with a calculating mind. Easy jumps are sometimes made during the course of a trot or run. More difficult leaps, especially where landing areas are short or narrow, call for careful planning. Because a cat pushes off with great force, it first tests the solidity of the takeoff point with its hind legs. Next, the cat sizes up the distance to be spanned and then calculates the hind-leg push needed to leap it successfully. Once all of these assessments are computed, the cat crouches forward, tips its pelvis and bends at the hips, knees and ankles. Then, it's liftoff time. Contracting its muscles and extending its joints, the would-be astronaut launches itself.
Whether jumping up onto the top of a bookcase or down to the ground beside its unwary prey, the cat usually lands on its front paws first and draws its hind legs in behind. A safe landing is assured by its flexible shoulders and solid feet, ankles and wrists, which absorb the force of touchdown with little or no lateral movement. Padded paws act as miniature shock absorbers.
Equipped with effective crampons and powerful boosting and balancing systems, cats can go where less acrobatic animals fear to tread. While almost all felines are accomplished climbers, the skills of cats in the wild vary greatly according to body type.
  • Small cats typically are the most talented climbers; however, even the largest of cats can scale heights to some extent.
  • The leopard climbs with ease, thanks to its particularly well-muscled, broad chest and flexible limbs. Like most felines, its shoulders can rotate so that it can grasp a tree trunk between its forepaws.
  • The cheetah, however, is a poor climber. It has a narrow chest built for speed and shoulder joints that are more limited to the forward and backward movement necessary for running.
  • Tigers and lions carry much of their bulk on the front part of their torsos and consequently they have difficulty pushing themselves upward. But even these disadvantaged climbers on occasion will scale a tree, especially when seeking shade from the scorching sun.
Predatory Habits
Today's owners of house cats may be repulsed by the predatory habits shown by an otherwise docile kitty, but in fact it was the feline's ability to catch and kill disease-carrying rodents in ancient Egypt and medieval Europe that led to its domestication and popularity in the first place. Cats are born with the instinct to hunt. Their brain circuitry is wired to make stalking and attacking reflex actions. The mother's role is not to show them how to hunt but to bring them prey so that they can refine this skill. Play with their siblings also arouses natural hunting instincts. Some cats, even when deprived of this practice when young, can develop into great hunters.
All cats are capable of hunting, but some are not adept at completing the job with the killing coup de grace, the nape bite. A skilled feline hunter will dispatch its prey with one clean bite to the back of the neck, breaking the animal's neck and severing the spinal cord. Many domestic cats, however, are incapable of correctly inflicting the nape bite, probably due to a lack of practice in kittenhood. Often the result is a protracted, messy or even unsuccessful kill. In the wild, however, the victim almost always becomes a quick meal. The nape bite is used to dispatch small prey; larger victims are asphyxiated by a powerful clamping bite on the throat. Domestic cats, which have never had to catch their own dinner and are regularly fed by caring owners, sometimes manage to finish off a mouse or bird that happens to cross their path.
Even though hunger is not the motivation, the hunting instinct is strong enough to surface and the prey, either dead, mauled, stunned or alive and kicking, may be deposited at the feet of a usually unappreciative owner.
Dance of Death
Except for lions, which usually hunt in groups, most cats are solitary hunters that will generally attack prey only smaller than themselves. Domestic cats will target small mammals, although their diets can include everything from insects and birds to fish and reptiles. Some wildcats, however, such as the small but ferocious fishing cat of southern Asia, have been known to bring down animals twice their size.
All cats, domestic or wild, take what is known as a "stalk-and-pounce" approach to the hunt. There are several variations of this technique, depending on the prey, the nature of the surroundings and the particulars of the situation.
  • Once the cat has detected and identified its prey, it sizes up the circumstances and chooses a course of action.
  • Both wild and domestic cats generally catch birds on the ground by stalking. Since birds possess excellent vision and fairly acute hearing, cats must approach stealthily which, thanks to their soft, padded paws, they do well. To avoid detection, felines often freeze in their tracks for protracted periods before resuming the silent approach. Under cover of long grass, the cat crouches low to the ground, taking advantage of its flexible joints and shoulders. (On the manicured lawns of suburbia, where the cat's success rate in hunting drops dramatically, it's lucky for the cat that the next meal is just a can opener away.)
  • Cats use the same techniques for capturing most mammals. Those living underground require different techniques. A cat will lie in wait patiently outside the burrow, sometimes for hours, until its victim pops out its head.
In the final movement of this ballet macabre, the cat judges the vertical or horizontal distance to be broached, then launches itself onto its prey. When leaping toward prey such as birds, it swats or grabs at its victim; when fishing, it scoops its prey from the water.
Despite good vision, a cat can't focus well close up, and sometimes must release the prey in its mouth to get a good look and a proper grip. Both to prevent the catch from escaping and for the cat's own self-protection, prey is preferably motionless before it is released. Thus the cat, whether wild or domestic, "plays" with its catch. In fact, this is an attempt to stun the victim into unconsciousness.
Once confident of the prey's submission, the cat uses its sensitive whiskers to feel for signs of movement before it delivers the killing nape bite. Then, it's back home with the kill if there is a litter to feed. Or, as is the case with most wild and feral felines, it's time for a fast-food meal on the spot.


Cat Sleep

Cats are the undisputed sleep champions of the animal kingdom. Only the notoriously slow-footed sloth, which sleeps away an estimated 80 percent of its life, catches more shut-eye. Although the number of hours a cat spends sleeping can vary considerably among individuals, felines spend an average of 16 hours per day in slumberland.
No one is quite sure why, but the solitary cat's lifestyle, punctuated by frenetic, energy-draining bursts of hunting and playing, is thought to necessitate this form of energy conservation. In fact, sleeping wildcats are often described as "resting for the hunt." Because they consume so much energy in taking down large, wily prey, wildcats usually sleep even more than domestic cats. Female lions, the primary hunters of the species, have been known to rest or sleep as much as 20 hours a day.
The cat's diet is also thought to be a contributing factor to its ability to sleep so much. Large grazing herbivores need to feed for hours on end to get enough nutrition to survive and generally only have time to sleep four or five hours a day. The protein-rich diet of the feline, on the other hand, requires no such investment of time for daily sustenance. Instead of eating all day, the cat can stock up on sleep for its short, high-energy chases.

Behavioral Problems

Behavioral Problems

Be realistic in your expectations. Certain behaviors are deeply rooted in the feline psyche and can't be altered. Nighttime romps and furniture climbing, for example, are carryovers from nocturnal hunting and territory surveillance in the wild. Out of respect for the feline nature, you will need to make some accommodations yourself. If your cat makes you up at night, try having a good play session with him before bedtime. Sleep with earplugs until the cat realizes you won't be roused in the middle of the night for an extra feeding. Don't simply scold the cat for scaling curtains and other household items. Satisfy the feline instincts to exercise and to survey the surroundings by investing in a cat tree.
Behavior problems aren't as likely to arise if you understand the working of the feline mind. Understanding what underlies certain behavior will help you determine whether you should try conditioning your cat or whether you'll have to settle for changing your home environment or your own conduct. Modifying your cat's behavior will take consistent encouragement or discouragement, most likely a combination of both. Take a gradual approach and be patient, bearing in mind the feline's natural resistance to change.
Some cats, especially kittens, develop the bad habit of chewing household objects. This may be an instinctive reflex transferred from the wild, where felines must work through skin, fur, or feathers and tear meat off bones, but around the house this behavior can be deadly — especially if your cat gnaws through electrical wires. Hide chewing targets or make things such as cords taste, smell, or feel unpleasant. Wires, for example, can be wrapped in double-sided sticky tape or coated with a commercially available cat-repellent spray.
Litter Box Problems
Many cats occasionally eliminate outside the litter box. Any change in your cat's toilet habits is cause for concern and may signal a health problem. Pain when voiding, for instance, may give your cat an aversion to the litter box. Visit the vet as soon as possible to determine if an underlying illness is to blame.
Assuming the vet gives your cat a clean bill of health, start looking for other causes of his behavior. Is the litter box dirty? Cats have a much stronger sense of smell than humans and will tend to avoid an area where they can smell buried waste, be it their own or another cat's. Remove the waste at least once or twice a day and empty and wash the box frequently — litter-pan liners can make this job easier. Have you changed the type of litter? Your cat may be averse to the consistency or fragrance of a new brand. Many cats dislike scented litter or litters composed of hard pellets. It's usually best to stick with unscented litter of the type your cat is used to; if you must switch, do it gradually. Where is the litter box situated? If the box is located in a noisy or busy area or if your cat was frightened by something while using it, move it to a safe cat-friendly site. Leave a bowl of dry food at sites where you want your cat to stop eliminating; as a rule, cats don't eliminate at spots where they eat. You may need to move the litter box to its final location gradually or enclose your cat in the room where it is kept until he begins to use it again. For more litter box tips, click here.
Another possibility is that your cat is spraying urine outside the box. Your cat will stand, tail raised high and quivering, and back paws often stepping rhythmically. Such behavior is usually sex-related, so if your cat, male or female, isn't already sterilized, have it done at once. If you catch your cat in the act, a scolding, "No!" may stop it that one time, but won't solve the problem. In fact, it may compound things by stressing the cat.
The feline scratching reflex is simply too deeply ingrained to be eliminated. Declawing your cat won't do it and should be avoided if at all possible. In addition to making furniture and other items less attractive to the cat by using physical barriers and other commercially available products, encourage him to use other alternatives, such as a sturdy scratching post. To be effective, the post must be tall enough to allow the cat to stretch to full height without tipping it over and covered with rough, easily shredded material such as sisal rope, cardboard, or tree bark. Some cats love carpet-covered scratching posts, although their claws often get stuck; the more tattered the carpet, the better. Others like the feel of the carpet's underside. While most cats prefer vertical posts, some take to horizontal surfaces, so plan to experiment with different types and materials. Place a scratching post in an open area of your home where the cat's claw marks will be readily be seen. Since most cats enjoy a good scratch when they wake up, situate a second post near your cat's favorite sleeping spot. Rubbing your cat's paws up and down the post may attract him to it once his scent is deposited on it, but many cats will balk at having their paws held. Make the post more alluring by placing a favorite toy on top to climb to or by rubbing or spraying it with catnip. Reward your cat for scratching the post, either with affection and approval or a food treat; if he claws the furniture, apply repellent or double-sided tape to his target and move the post closer to the favored piece of furniture.

Do You Have to Give Your Cat Baths?

When my cat Monkey was about a year old, she escaped through the front door when nobody was looking and took off into some nearby fields. Unable to find her after hours of searching, there was nothing we could do but wait. The next day she turned up at the front door, completely covered in dirt and matted fur, but as happy as could be. We were shocked that our normally shiny-coated kitten had managed to get so filthy. We debated giving her a bath to clean her up, but after just a few hours she had licked and groomed herself back into shape.
Cats don't normally need baths from their humans, because most cats do an excellent job of cleaning themselves regularly. In fact, it might seem like your cat is constantly licking and bathing herself right in the middle of your living room (she doesn't want to miss out on anything if she leaves the room to bathe, of course!). But an occasional bath can help fight bacteria on the cat's skin as well as matting from excess oil. It can also help keep your cat's dirt from getting all over your nice clean house.
When to Bathe
Even though cats are some of the cleanest creatures in the animal kingdom, there might be situations from time to time when you'll want soap her up, especially if your cat's hygiene threatens her health or the cleanliness of your home. One reason to bathe your cat is simple: if she's dirty. If your cat spends time outside, she might come home grubby and unkempt. If you wait a few days she will most likely tidy herself up, but if you're worried about dirt getting all over your home, it's ok to give her a bath.
Another reason to bathe your cat is if she has an odor. A strong smell can indicate that your cat has spent some time around something particularly filthy -- a trash can, a dead animal or even a skunk. It can also mean she's stopped cleaning herself (which, if it continues, may also indicate health problems and necessitate a trip to the vet). As cats age, they can develop weight problems, arthritis or other health issues that make it difficult or uncomfortable for them to clean themselves. In those cases, it might be necessary to intervene with a gentle bath from time to time.
If you notice your cat has fleas, you'll definitely want to bathe her immediately with special flea shampoo made just for cats. Fleas on a cat can not only drive your kitty crazy and spread to other animals, they can get into your carpet and other home fabrics, as well as leave bites all over your skin.
How Often?
You really only need to bathe a cat when she seems dirty, but if you must stick to a regular schedule, every six weeks is a good rule of thumb. Bathing too often can dry out the cat's skin and make it itchy, flaky and uncomfortable for your cat. Regular brushing also goes a long way toward keeping your cat clean, tidy and healthy-looking without needing to bathe her very often, if at all.

Tips to Create Your Cat's Ideal Home Environment

Imagine you're on assignment to learn about indoor cats, with pop culture as your resource. What would you find? Well, Garfield spits out sarcastic comments while lounging around the living room eating lasagna; meanwhile, Tom chases the mouse Jerry around the house until Tom invariably crashes into a mouse hole or a mallet falls on his head.
We all know those scenarios are not real, but it is true that indoor cats often lead pampered, easy lifestyles -- toys, litter boxes, regular food and water and loving humans. Spoiled, maybe, but easy? Not always. You'd think a cozy home and regular meals indoors would be a cat's dream, but if you consider the fact that most cats were outdoor animals up until around the 1970s, the house cat is still a fairly new concept.
By nature, cats are predators and explorers, they love high places, climbing and balancing. They are self-reliant but can be social as well. We bring them in our home to give them a better life but often, we repress some of these natural instincts -- keeping them indoors full-time rather than allowing them to roam the yard, hunting for small prey; ignoring them as they lie on the living room rug, instead of engaging them in play. According to Tony Buffington, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and professor at Ohio State University, this can make for unhappy and unhealthy cats. But, with a little knowledge, you can make your indoor environment as healthy and natural for a cat as the great outdoors.

Tips to Make Vet Visits Less Stressful for Your Cat

Anyone who has had the "pleasure" of taking a cat for a vet visit knows that it's no picnic. It usually begins with a wrestling match to get the cat into a carrier. If you manage to survive with only a few scratches, consider yourself lucky. Then comes the "drive of doom," where he will demonstrate his well-developed hissing and howling talents, followed by an excruciatingly long wait in the clinic's lobby, where your cat will either retreat into the fetal position in the corner of his carrier or pace wildly within it, meowing at you in what sounds a lot like the feline version of profanity.
It's no wonder that a recent survey revealed that two-thirds of cat parents take their pets to the vet less then once a year, in part because of "feline resistance" to the experience. It seems that cats have declared war on veterinary care. Unfortunately, it's a war they're winning handily.
You may be one of the precious few humans whose cat is as cool as a cucumber at the vet. If so, read no further. If not, there are things you can do to help your pet relax during trips to the vet and get the most out of his medical exam. Feline healthcare may never be a walk in the park, but you can make it more manageable with our five tips for making vet visits less stressful for your cat.

Why Do Some Cats Vocalize More Than Others?

The other day my vet told me about her pet Abyssinian. "My cat has something to say about everything," she explained. "The moment I walk in the door, it's like she has to tell me everything she did that day: 'I jumped on the counter, I watched some birds, I ate some kibble...'" Of course that all comes out as meows and purrs, but you get the idea.
If you've ever met an Abyssinian, my vet's description might seem like a joke. That's because Abyssinians are known to be very quiet cats, so an especially vocal one really stands out. But there are lots of reasons cats make noises, only one of which is the type of cat. And some cats just make more noise than others. But why?
Cats vocalize for a variety reasons. Just like humans, they make sounds when they're happy, angry, hungry, scared or even when they just want attention. If you share your home with a feline, some of the sounds you might be familiar with include purring (when your cat is happy or scared), hissing or growling (to threaten or warn), meowing (when she wants something) or even chattering (when prey gets away or is out of reach). Some humans might hear all of these sounds all the time from their furry friends, but others may go their whole lives without hearing as much as purr.
So what makes one cat want to tell you everything, while another minds her own business? There are several factors at play here:
Living Situation
Domesticated cats who spend a lot of time around humans tend to vocalize more often than those who don't. Studies show that cats vocalize more to humans than to other cats, most likely because they've learned that humans respond to verbal communication. In fact, wild cats rarely vocalize with one another, relying more on scent and body language, and less on sounds, to communicate.
Type of Cat
Some cats, like Siamese and Burmese cats, are known to vocalize more often. Others, like Persian, Scottish Fold and Abyssinian cats, tend to vocalize less. Of course there are some exceptions, like my vet's Abyssinian.
Learned Behavior
Cats who learn when they're young that vocalization gets them what they want -- food, water, a belly rub -- tend to vocalize more often with humans. In other words, cats who mew to get attention will make more sounds in order to get more of that attention. On the other hand, cats who are reprimanded by humans for making sounds, or who are ignored when they do, will not vocalize as much because they've learned it doesn't get them anything.
Shouting at or spraying a cat for making too much noise will get results, but makes for a resentful feline. Consistently ignoring your cat when she vocalizes, even when it becomes unbearable, can be one of the most effective ways of discouraging unwanted sounds.
Mating Season
During mating season, female cats in heat, and male cats on the prowl, will often vocalize more often than normal. One way to help curb this behavior is by spaying or neutering your cats.

How to Calm a Nervous Kitty

Nine years ago, my husband and I adopted two kitties: Molly and Agnes. Agnes has never weighed more than 6 pounds (2.7 kilograms) and is what our vet calls a "snuffler." Because she started life as an alley cat, she has a virus in her lungs that makes her breathing sound labored. Agnes had a rough start, and when we opened the cat carrier for the first time to introduce her to her new home, she hissed at Molly, then spent two months hiding from us. For Agnes, the world was a scary place full of mean dogs, cruel people, and not enough food, but after living in our house she's come out of her shell.
A nervous kitty is often head-shy, meaning she will shy away if you try to pet her on the head. She'll also be prone to hiding, and you might notice her slinking -- walking with her legs bent so she's low to the ground. She might also twitch her ears or lower her tail with the very tip curved upward. Our nervous kitty grooms obsessively, and when she's agitated she will sometimes groom until she has bald spots on her back legs.
It's hard watching her feeling so scared! A little bit of hiding and nervousness is normal for any kitty in a new situation, but when nervousness persists for more than a few days it can be stressful for you and the cat. But you can help teach her that she's safe in your home and maybe even with company over time. It just takes some patience, a few training tricks, and a lot of love.