The Star-Herald

What cats want you to know

I got a few chuckles out of a recent Reader’s Digest article by Krista Carothers and Jen McCaffery that said science continues to uncover your animal’s most fascinating secrets. This week let’s focus on some feline behaviors, and check out the dogs next week. 

I’m not sure whether you’re a cat or a human:  While dogs play with humans differently than they do with fellow canines, cats don’t adjust their social behavior much like us.  Putting their tails up in the air, rubbing around our legs, and sitting beside us and grooming us are exactly what they do to each other.  They don’t always show it, but cats like us. For the most part they prefer human interaction over toys, food and even catnip. My tiger kitty Willie may not fall into this category — treats and food are his obsession.  

I hold a grudge:  Your feline not only remembers the sound of the can opener and the jingle of his favorite toy, he also remembers who sprayed him with a water pistol to get him off the dinner table. Cats don’t forgive, and once they realize a person is causing them anxiety or hurt, they keep away.

Yes, I’m talking to you: While feral cats rarely meow, domesticated cats meow all the time — to get the attention of humans. (Although an indoor cat, Willie is sassing me as I type, to go outside.)

And I don’t like being ignored: Cats will more frequently approach and play with a person who is attentive to them compared to a person who is ignoring them.  But then again, sometimes cats just want to be left alone.  Sigh … the struggle to understand your feline is real.

Your nurturing affects my nature:  Just as kids can be influenced by the environment in which they grow up, an owner’s personality can rub off on a cat.  One study found that cats with neurotic owners were more prone to exhibit stress, fear and even aggressiveness. 

You train me, whether you know it or not:  We all think of cats as independent-minded, but we do reinforce their behavior.  Our cats are smart enough to know that we don’t want them walking on the kitchen counter, but they like the attention they get when we run and snatch them off every time.

Confined spaces make me feel safe:  That’s why cats climb right into those shoeboxes and suitcases.  

I don’t like to share:  Sharing food or water bowls or a litter box can make cats anxious. It is best when having multiple cats to separate food dishes and, if possible, have several litter boxes.  Also it’s a great idea to provide your kitty with a place to perch, since cats appreciate high places and autonomy.

I can live with a dog — sometimes:  Research has shown that you’ll be more successful introducing a dog to a home where a cat already lives as opposed to vice versa.  But do it gradually.  Let them become aware of each other first through a closed door, so they get used to each other’s scent. Then provide your cat a safe haven, a place the dog can’t enter.

My meows change as I age:  Cats may become increasingly vocal as they get older.  I can verify this with 17-year-old Willie, who has been very loud and sassy for the past year.  Age-related dementia and failing eyesight are two potential explanations.  An anxious cat may vocalize more, and a feline who’s losing his hearing may also meow louder. The key is to be patient and loving to your animals for as long as you are blessed with them.

Please check out the animals that are up for adoption at the Central Aroostook Humane Society’s Facebook page.  Remember to be responsible: spay and neuter your pets.

Gloria Towle is the secretary and a member of the board of directors of the Central Aroostook Humane Society.

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