Friday, 28 September 2007

September 28th - Play Cat Behaviour and Human woes

Cats are strange creatures and no matter how hard we try to study their behaviour they will always do things that they will break the ground rules that us humans might have established as general rules to explain their behaviour.

One of these 'grey' areas that they seem to be really difficult to undestand why they behave in certain ways is their playing habits.

The fact that they actually know that they are playing and not for example that they are hunting is one of the things that for me can be seen as proof of the fact that they are really intelligent. They are using play to amuse themselves and to keep themselves busy so they don't get bored.

The fact that they can catch real mice or birds but still decide to play with toy mice and treat them like they were alive it is a sign of a similar behaviour that children exhibit, using playing to entertain themselves and to learn about the world they are living.

Also cats can easily adapt to their humans' environment and routine with very little training and effort required from the human part.

My cats will get up when I get up in the morning and they will be willing to play with me or on their own in the middle of the day when we are moving about. They are very prompt on the daily schedules and they have certain times during the day when they do things.

For example Choo Choo's playing time is between 11 and 12.30 in the morning, when he will use the staircase as his base for his playing behaviour, chasing balls and mice up and down or chasing the light from the laser light if me and my partner can provide it. After he had his playing in the staircase he will start playing hide and seek in the paper bag and boxes he will find around. After his play time he will be ready for his lunch and after that he will find a quiet and depending on the weather sunny or warm spot where he will go to sleep making sure that he will not be disturbed for a few hours.

Sheng Chi on the other hand she will wait till Choo Choo has gone to sleep before she goes into playing mode herself usually starting carrying around and playing with her little toy mouse and then moving into paper and other balls which she will hide into the tunnel or paper bag or cardboard box. After her playing she will climb on her box by the patio door and she will wait patiently for me to brush her fur before she have her afternoon snooze.

As for Ripley being the oldest and the one that she can't be asked to do a lot of running and chasing she will be at the top of the staircase around 7 o clock in the evenings waiting for one of us to bring upstairs the feather toy so she can chase it downstairs. This s is the only toy that she likes playing with and of course she also likes finding catnips spots on the carpet so she can roll around or she will just use her catnip cushion.

But what it is really puzzling is the things that they find interesting and want to play with. As a responsible and caring cat 'owner' you do feel obliged to buy them toys that you see either being advertised or you see them on pet shops (like buying gadgets for yourself but instead you feel less selfish by buying gadgets for your cats...).

And of course pet shops know how you feel about your cats and that you want to make sure that you buy them the latest and more entertaining toys available which of course is not what your cats more than likely think.

So you end up spending an arm and a leg so you can buy a nice cat entertaining centre for them to play and they chose the box it came in instead. They give a very weary and puzzled look to your expensive entertainment area and then they just jump inside the cardboard box in which their new toys has just arrived to spend hours of having fun while you are spending hours regretting the money you've just spent on another never going to be played again toy. Of course this doesn't mean that you've learned your lesson and that you've never going to buy them another expensive toy, no, no of course not. You will stay away from expensive cat toys at least till you see again something new and fun for them to do (while at the back of the room your cat is chewing the new box she has just found....)

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Previous Postings

September 21st - Form of aggressive behaviour...

Quite often it seems that cats are accused of showing of what might simply be incorrect identified as aggressive behaviour towards other cats under the same roof. For humans sometimes it is really difficult to distinguish between a real aggressive behaviour and what it might just be simply rough playing or even just trying to engage another cat in a playful situation.
People who care for cats often they don't seem to realise that when cats have left their mother, brothers and sisters at a very young age they didn't have the opportunity to learn the social skills that young cats will normally learn from their mother and the other kittens. One of which would have been to be able to read another cat's body language and therefore to know when that cat wants to play or fight.
My two female cats joined our family at a very young age (I expect that it actually was much younger of what I was then told due to the size and behaviour they were exhibiting at the time) and they found themselves in an new environment with other cats around none of them of a young age, who would have amde them willing to engage in the play activities the kittens normally do.
With other words my other two male cats when each kitten arrived were far too old to want to play with them and although they were very understanding and tolerant (as Sheng Chi used to ride Flouffy - one of the males- like a horse), they couldn't be asked to be chased and play with any of the kittens. As a result each kitten got all the attention and play time from us, the humans, as well as at the same time through self exploring and finding on her own things to do and play with.
Therefore when they grew up they both felt closer to the humans than to other cats that they were living in the household. They seem more capable to be able to understand our own body language than they can read Choo Choo's or each other's.
This became quite obvious when Choo Choo joined our family, who had quite obvious being around cats from a very early stage. When I first met him he used to follow around our neighbours' female cat and who unfortunately died in a traffic accident and whose lost seemed to left him with no playmate and friend). So when he joined our family and saw the other cats he believed that he'd found new playmates but unfortunately that was not the case as our other two cats didn't know how to play with him. They simply can't understand his body language when he is in a playing mood and they think he is about to attack them and of course this result in them getting defensive.
The first few months therefore there was a lot of noise; hissing, growling and the occasional 'biffing' of Choo Choo which sounded and looked really bad but it wasn't really what it seemed to be. It wasn't an aggressive behaviour but what in human terms we'd have called as a 'lack of communication' between the cats. One wanted to play and the other didn't understand or knew how to get involve in a play activity with another cat.
Of course after a while these noisy 'encounters' became less frequent as eventually the two cats accepted Choo Choo as another member of the family and Choo Choo himself learned by now that he couldn't engage the other two cats in play and he could only play with the humans or himself (of course occasionally he would still try to get either Ripley or Sheng Chi to play with him but he will soon give up and look for a willing human instead).
So it is possible that in some occasions cats are not really fighting over territorial or hierarchical issues but the whole thing it might simply be a misunderstanding as one cat might not be able to read the other's body language. In which case time and human involvement might be required.

September 20th - Playing Behaviour

Many books and experts will tell you that cats are normally active in the early morning hours and evening as when in the wild they would normally hunt and chase their prey. So cats are expected to be playful and active early in the morning at first light....Perhaps!

This is where I think that our cats today seem to have adapted to their current environments. My cats are a very good example of how their behaviour has changed of what is considered as 'normal' for cat behaviour.
They do get their moments when they are playful and to compare them with children they will look for someone else to play with, being a human or cat, they will show their willingness to play and if there is no positive reaction they will simply find something to play on their own.
They don't have certain specific times when they want to play, it could be anytime during the day (never at night or early in the morning at which time they are usually too sleepy to be bothered and they will just stare at you with sleepy eyes if your disturb them which in human terms it will probably translate to something like:'What do you want? Can't you see I'm sleeping?') or in some cases in the evening, probably at a time when you want to watch something on TV or preparing dinner!
Choo Choo will be in his play mood normally after 11 o clock in the morning after he had his elevenish in which time he would climb up and down the staircase, he will sit promptly on the step in front of me when I'm trying to get downstairs normally when I'm holding something and he will look at me expectantly with his ears pin back and his tail constantly moving in anticipation. If I'm lucky and manage to get down without tripping as he tries to grab my feet while I'm trying to jump over him, he will then go upstairs looking for other playmates; often more than likely the other two cats (who they will be hiding from him at this stage) and quite possible for Ripley who prefers to snooze on the bed at that time.
He first will make sure that he manages to wake her up so he can get her in the mood for playing but as his efforts will more than likely fail and he would only manage to annoy her and force her to go into hiding intead. Eventually he will give up on his efforts to get Ripley to play with him and he will come downstairs still trying to find somebody else to play with, usually my partner who will be in most cases more than willing to get involved (as this will be good opportunity and excuse to stop working for a while keeping the cat happy and stopping him from disturbing the others too - his excuse!).
In the situations where my partner might be too busy to play with him (not that often) then he will finally resign to playing with himself, often by running up and down the stairs, playing with the bannister or hiding in boxes and paper bags hoping that someone would join him in his play and seek game.Some hidden toys then will magically appear to keep him busy for a while or himself would discover lost and hidden toys and balls.
Although his regular playtime is in the evening when we try to engage all the cats to some active play he has set his own time for his own playtime in which time he will find ways to get himself busy. And normally after he has finished and he is ready for his snooze, while he is zooping (the word I use for the kneading that cats do with their paws) the sofa cover or the chair pillow, it will be time for Sheng Chi to start her running and chasing in the house with normally her little toy mouse hanging from her mouth, which she will move from one room to the next and play with it like it is a real mouse. At which point of course Choo Choo will be too tired to join in although he will keep looking with interest at Sheng Chi's activities while he will be still zooping.
As for Ripley she is happy to just have some fun in the evening when we get involved as well, as she is a bit too 'serious' to play silly games on her own.
Sometimes I do find really fascinating how cats can show a remarkable capability of adapting to their environment and to their humans' habits and routines and how often being quite more than happy to do so. They only need a bit of time to adapt to our environment and us.

September 19th - Blackmailing

Sometimes it is really difficult to ignore your cat's demands. Particularly if he used to get his own way because of certain circumstances in the past (e.g cat was ill for a certain time, is a new member of the family and he was before abused or neglected, etc).Especially if it is the latest you often feel that you need to make up for the hard times he might had before and of course you should, but at the sometime you need to think how your over-attention and satisfying his ever need will affect his behaviour in the near future.
It isn't unheard for cats that before they were adopted by their current humans to have had and needed very little food or attention and afterwards, after a few months of human pampering to become almost impossible to live with because of their constant demands for attention, good food and treats.
The problem often can escalate out of proportion when one or more of the humans in the household will ignore all the warning signs and advice. I've often came across cases of cats that they will even wake up in the middle of the night their human carer so they can feed them,they will constantly meow till they are fed or got the attention they want, they will attack or bother the other cats till they get what they want and they will even attack their humans and start bite feet, hands, etc till their demands are met.These cats have already learned how to blackmail.
As I have mentioned before my partner is the weakest human in our household, the one that normally Choo Choo will go when he wants more food or attention. And although I have warned him in many cases that by giving in to Choo Choo's demands he makes things worse he tends to ignore my warnings and to use as an excuse the fact that Choo Choo was neglected and abandoned (more than two years ago!).
But of course as all cat carers know cats are very clever and they will soon learn through trial and error what works on humans and what it doesn't. So today after a lot of meowing and following around Choo Choo found another way to get his own! He got inside the cereal cupboard and refused to come out. The logical solution would have been of course to just let him there with the door open till he got bored and came out on his own and to simply ignore him but of course my partner being the trained humans he is, he quickly gave in and put some food for Choo Choo on his feeding table. Of course as soon as Choo saw the food, which he wanted in the first place he quickly came out to eat it, having succeeded to get what he wanted in the first place. Of course my partner saw this as a success story from his part as he thought he succeeded where according to him I failed; to get the cat out from the cupboard. To what cause I wonder....I guess tomorrow we will found out!

September 17th

On the subject of cats imitating their humans (the more time they spend with them)I have also found that it is also possible particular if they were adopted by the humans quite young, 7 to 8 weeks old (and therefore became attached to the humans since they would quite naturally see them as a replacement for their motherand there were no other kittens around) that this will eventually have a major affect in their future behaviour towards other cats.

My two female cats were adopted as young kittens and because they were no other cats of their age around (they were older ones) they spent most of the time near us (me and my partner) getting not only food and care but also playing and getting trained by us.This training is perhaps one of the reasons that now, in some ways, they feel that they are more like us than normal cats.
Of course what is a normal cat these days it is very debatable as cats of today are very different from the cats from the past not so much in the physical sense but mainly in the way they are being treated by us and in the way themselves are behaving.They have evolved and adapted to the human environment they live.
A good example of what I'm trying to say could be the different way my two female cats are behaving towards Choo Choo who used to be a stray/abandoned cat and who we took in.Choo Choo is a good example of those cats that they are better off living permanently indoors. He has always being a very friendly and trusting cat, who used to live in an area with a lot of fast and very dangerous traffic and not with that many pet friendly humans around and he was also physically in a very poor condition (suffering from skin conditions, ear ticks and fleas as well as having a very thin and dull coat and he was also suffering from malnutrition). After he moved in with us and he was treated for his ears, skin, fleas, etc in a short period of time he became a completely different cat, healthier and happier (our neighbours who used to feed him before thought he was a different cat).
Now after 2 years of living permanently indoors he doesn't care to go outside even when windows and doors are wide open. A good example of how easily he has adapted and accepted his new easy and care free life.
But because he was used to be around other cats he is very playful and extremely friendly and always willing to play with cats and humans. But unfortunately my two female cats although they don't mind his presence and have accepted him as a member of the family they won't play or interact with him although they will share sleeping and resting areas with him. Those two when they want attention and they are in the mood to play they will either come to us to get entertained or they will play on their own and they will stay out of Choo Choo's path when he wants to play. Choo Choo on the other hand he has finally figured out that when he wants to play he either will have to get us involved or that he should try and entertain himself.
And of course cats when they do feel like playing or want to entertain themselves they would always find ways to keep them selves busy, even if that means by simply chasing invisible cats or discovering hidden and thought to be lost for ever toys. Of course playing with them always help and it is advisable as both sides can gain something, exercise and entertainment at the same time.
The other thing that I want to emphasise very strongly here is the importance of when deciding on getting a kitten to think it over very carefully before hand and if possible to get some good advice on the matter as cats and in particularly kittens require a lot of care and responsibilities. Also that is always better if the option of two kittens is chosen instead of the just the one as this will help to avoid further future behavioural problems from developing and if this is not possible then the human carer should try despite how of cute and adorable the new kitten might look to try and prevent him/her from becoming too dependable on them. If the human is to take the role of the kitten's mother it is important to always keep in mind that kittens are not small human babies but small cats who they need to be treated as such. It is important therefore for the human carer to make certain that the young cat learns the appropriate social skills and behaviour that a cat will need for a happy and healthy long life.

September 15th

It is bizarre how all three of the cats are less active over the weekends, as they seem to know that it is the weekend and despite the weather they will always spent most of the day and night sleeping, they are becoming lazier than normal.
The more I observe my now three cats the more I found that they adapt and show more human characteristics in their behaviour as each day passes by (What others think? Please feel free to email me with your thoughts and ideas). It seems that the more time they spend with us the more they show signs of copying human behaviour and now that both me and my partner are working from home they spend a lot more time with us which at times can be not a good thing as they become more attached and more likely to show signs of separation anxiety if we spend a long period time away from home.
Good example is Choo Choo who always looks for the best and more comfortable spot in the house to sleep and when he wants to go there he wont let anything stop him from doing so, cat or human. Even when my partner is working during the day he will still demand to sit on his office chair and he will get his way without making any kind of effort by simply just starring at him and standing next to the chair. He has trained my partner to give him his chair when he wants it and my human partner although he will moan about it he will still do it (see photo opposite) despite my warnings that Choo Choo has trained him.

Another example was earlier today when both my other half and Choo Choo were sitting on the sofa watching TV (couch potatoes) and Choo Choo decided that he wanted more space to stretch his legs and paws and he gradually (by gently scratching at my partner's back and pushing) got his own way.When I came downstairs pussycat was stretched on the sofa and male human was sitting on the floor, looking very uncomfortable. Of course I refused to play their game and listen to his moaning about how my cat (he emphasised that he was 'my' cat of course) 'kicked' him off the sofa again. He never listens or believes me when I tell him that Choo Choo has trained him and he should not give in that easily to the cat's demands so he suffers the consequences.Strange that, how Choo Choo never 'pushes' me off the sofa!

September 14th

Today it started very quiet and all the cats seem to be really lazy, lying around the house wherever they can find sunny spots on the carpet.Of course Sheng Chi being the 'Top Cat' sits in the most prominent spot in the house, on the top of the box in the living room by the patio door. This way not only she can sunbath but she can also keep an eye on what is going around, mainly keeping an eye on Choo Choo.
Choo Choo on the other hand because of some catnip that it has been rubbed on the carpet from last night feels a bit braver and keeps on rolling on the carpet and getting closer and closer to Sheng Chi who at the moment she doesn't seem to mind.
Sheng Chi is the only one that Choo Choo doesn't seem to understand or know how to behave and even fears at times, as she can be at one time very friendly and show her belly while the next she won't even let him go upstairs.She is in charge and he knows it now, the hierarchy has been established.
But at least we found something that all three of them seem to enjoy at the same time, a feathered toy (the one that I've got yesterday) that is being hanging from a very long like fishing pole stick.Yesterday Sheng Chi spent quite a while chasing it around and even doing little jumps and today all three of them they were chasing it at the same time without arguing and hissing at each other. A very good toy which it seems to help in the process of cats becoming friendlier to each other (the only small side effect we had was when Sheng Chi jumped accidentally on the water bowl....) while at the same time manages to keep my other half also busy and amused as well. Well at least this toy seems to worth its money....Anybody has anything else that works with their cats? Let us know!

September 13th

Today with the plumber coming around to sort out the bathroom sink Ripley showed an unexpected brave behaviouras she was more than willing to get out from the bedroom and to investigate even when the plumber was still around.

On the other hand Sheng Chi despite the fact that she is acting like the Top Cat in the house and wants to know everything that is happeningdid not show any signs of wanting to investigate what was happening in the bathroom and she spent quite a lot of time hidden under the bed even after the man had long gone.
She is therefore the boss only when we are around.
Finally today the two toys I bought for the cats online arrived and as I was expected it to be the cats showed no interest whatsoever!
The only one that both Sheng Chi and Choo seemed to like was the feather toy but that interest lasted a couple of minutes only! As for the flashing ball well, Sheng Chi got scared and Choo Choo ignored!Back to the paper balls again I think!
Who on earth comes with such ideas for cat toys? Does he/she have cats? Do they try them first on cats before they put them for sale. They should give them to my three and I will then tell them if they worth their money or not! Please email me with ideas and toys that work for your cats. Maybe we can then tell these pet shops what our cats really want. Email me at with your cat(s)' favourite toys and where you got them from!

September 12th

The Bach Flower Remedies had a great effect on Ripley's really timid personality and they helped her to particularly adapt and accept the new environment she found herself very quickly. At first she was refusing to come downstairs but after I've started adding the Rock Rose into her favourite water bowl she started coming downstairs more often. Last evening she spent all evening downstairs, although the catnip on the carpet might have also helped too!
Her way of getting attention and food, is loud meowing when she is upstairs, or she will come down a few steps and then she will make sure that she can be seen looking downstairs in the living room or she will simply stand at the top of the staircase and then she will wait till she sees a human passing by to get the attention she wants.And as a last resort she will finally come downstairs and she will then start meowing or she will just stand there staring you in the eyes and she won't leave till she has being fed. Now she has learnt to stand her ground more against Choo Choo and Sheng Chi and not to get scared that easily.

Stubborn & Human Ignorance

Cats are known for being in some cases really stubborn and so do humans. So quite often the case is of who is being more stubborn, the cat or the human?

I bet the answer in most cases will be 'my cat of course' as you will normally give to her demands more easily, being more cute and having a slight edge over the partner.

This could be of course anything from getting up at insane early hours to feed her because her meowing would have you worrying at first that something is wrong with him/her and then when you are up there is no real reason then not to feed him/her; to let her have your favourite chair or spot on the sofa because she is looking at you expectantly with these big but very cute eyes and because she looks really cute when she is begging, etc.

The fact that in 9 out of 10 cases you will give in to your cat's demands but not that often in your partner's (unless he is really ill...) because you think that your cat deserves the attention she wants while your partner doesn't (besides he has hands and can make his own cup of tea/coffee...).

It is true, today we are more tolerant towards our pets than we are towards our partners, other relatives, friends and in some cases even children and it is really difficult to explain why. There have quite a few attempts to explain our extreme tolerance and devotion towards our pets starting from similarities to human babies and therefore based on natural parental instincts, to healthy and psychological benefits that they can offer in exchange as well as the social role that they play today, taking up social roles that today humans can't fill up anymore as the society keeps changing not always for the better, etc.

The truth is that we don't really know or can explain with certainty; for some humans, pets have a different and more important meaning than others and each and every one of us has his/her own reasons for living with and looking after pets. But whatever these reasons might be, it is very important to always remember that they are not humans, they shouldn't be treated like small people while at the same time that they still have their own rights as they have now establish their role in our society and they deserve to be treated as equal to humans - at least when it comes to respecting their rights to live without mental and physical suffering.

On the other hand as I have said so many times it is important for cat carers to realise that they need to look after their cats properly, not only provided them with just food and sleeping accommodation but also to take responsibility for their behaviour outside their homes. It is not fair when cats are named as 'killing machines' and they are published as such on TV and media because some cat carers can't look after their cats properly!

As each responsible parent would like to know what their child is up to when it is outside the same it should apply for our cat's behaviour not only for her/his own safety but for the safety for other pets and animals in the area. Cat carers who simply let their cats roam outside 24 hours a day and they don't care or know when they are and they only start worrying after they have not seen their cat for days are not responsible enough and they shouldn't allowed to keep pets.
Humans who decide to adopt a cat or a dog or any other pet they should always keep in mind that they will have to look after them for life and to make sure that they will train them to behave accordingly outside as well as inside their homes. Before the decision is made to whether they really want to adopt a pet they need to think long and hard whether they will be able to look after them and offer the care and attention they will need for their rest of their lives and whether they will be able to look after them when new members might join the family (partners, babies, etc) and whether they would be able to take responsibility for their pet's actions. Pets are not toys but living creatures who will need a lot of attention and care for a long time. It is not fair one the pet when a pet carer after 10 years or more living with that pet decides that he/she can't keep that pet anymore because he/she now has a baby or a new partner who doesn't like cats or dogs. You wouldn't consider giving your child for adoption if your got a new pet? Then why should it be the either way round? Pets are members of the family and they should always treated as such.