Understanding cat behavior can seem impossible. Why do cats purr? Why do cats sleep so much? Why do they meow? These are just a few of the questions that many people have about cats. Come along as we explain the basics of cat behavior so you can finally understand your feline.
According to doctors Foster and Smith, there are three reasons cats purr.
In short, purring is a non-verbal way for cats to communicate with their owners and other cats. There are actually many non-verbal ways cats communicate including blinking slowly, scratching, spraying, stretching, and facial rubbing.
Anyone how’s owned a cat has probably wondered at some point, “Why do cats sleep so much?” The truth is actually pretty simple: it’s in their genes. The average cat will sleep for an astonishing 16 hours a day and senior cats can actually sleep as much as 20 hours a day.
Their sleeping patterns are part of the way cats have evolved. In the wild, they need to hunt to eat. They must stalk their prey, catch it, and kill it. These activities use a lot of energy so it’s wise of wild cats to sleep between meals. This has simply been built into the genes of house cats too.
You should also remember that sometimes cats look asleep when they’re actually just lightly snoozing. They’re alert enough to wake up and pounce at a moment’s notice but they’re getting rest. You can tell when your cat is in this situation because their ears will twitch and their eyes will be open slightly.
The only time you should be concerned about how much your cat is sleeping if there is a sudden and significant change. For example, if they’re usually very active during dinner time and all of a sudden they’re in deep sleep, or they’re not sleeping much at all, then it may be time to talk to the vet.
According to the ASPCA, there are many reasons cats meow:
There are two main types of bites: love bites given by cats when they’re being petted and more serious bites from aggressive cats. We’ll cover both issues and some solutions for them.
Some cats gently bite your hand when you’re playing with them or even when you’re petting them. It could mean one of two things: that they’re happy with you or that it’s become a bit too much. Some cats are sensitive in certain areas – especially their lower backs.
Love bites may be a gentle way for them to say to you, “That’s enough of that!”
Some cats are aggressive and bite out of anger. Generally speaking, this is caused by cats that don’t feel safe. If you’re playing with your cat and they become aggressive stop playing immediately and don’t give them attention. This will help prevent them from turning to you for attention by biting.
No matter why your cat is biting, whether it’s from aggression or love bites, there are a few tips you can follow to help them learn they shouldn’t be doing it.
Cats lick for a number of reasons. In some cases it’s a way for them to bond with you, in other cases they simply like the taste of the salt on your skin. If your cat licks you excessively you can simply distract them to get their attention focused on something else or withhold affection when they’re licking. They’ll get the hint.
However, if your cat has never been a licker and has suddenly started licking himself or you excessively then it’s time to talk to the vet. This can be a sign that they have a skin irritation or other potentially serious health issue.
Distemper in cats can be a serious issue. According to doctors Foster and Smith, distemper in cats is more commonly known as panleukopenia, or FPV, and is a viral disease that affects not just cats but raccoons and mink too. Common systems of distemper in cats include:
The good news is that a simple vaccine can prevent it. The best way to avoid this issue is to make sure your cat is vaccinated.
Occasional cat vomiting is generally nothing be concerned about. It’s usually caused by something simple like a cat eating something that didn’t agree with them, aggressive play too soon after eating, or eating too much. However, there are some instances where cat vomiting is an issue to take note of.
You should see your vet right away if the cat vomiting continues or you notice any of these additional symptoms:
If your cat has no other symptoms then you may be able to treat cat vomiting at home. Try withholding food and water for two hours after they last vomited. Then introduce water slowly and feed them a bland diet. Essentially, treat your cat the same way you would a sick child.
Just like humans, cats can get allergies, and just like humans, cat allergies are caused by a cat’s immune system becoming overly sensitive to certain substances. It then identifies them as dangerous and causes an extreme reaction as the body tries to get rid of what it thinks are toxins.
There are many symptoms of cat allergies including:
Cats can be allergic to almost anything but the most common cat allergies are:
If you think you’re dealing with cat allergies then you should visit your vet. They can do a complete history of your pet and a physical exam. They may also use skin or blood tests, or even an elimination diet, to find out what your cat is allergic to.
According to the CDC, cat scratch disease is described as a bacterial infection that cats spread. Cats get infected with it from flea bites or flea dirt getting into open wounds. They can also get it if they fight with a cat that has cat scratch disease.
The germs can only be spread to people if a cat scratches or bites a person hard enough that they break their skin or if the cat licks at scabs or wounds. If you’ve been scratched or bitten by a cat then you may need to take precautions.
It’s very rare, but cat scratch disease can have effects on a person’s brain, heart, eyes, and internal organs. Cats rarely have symptoms but in a few rare cases cat scratch disease can lead a cat’s heard to be inflamed which leads to labored, heavy breathing.
Yes, they can. There are a few different types of ear mites in cats. The most common one cats get are called Otodectes. They are tiny and eat the oils and waxes in a cat’s ear. Ear mites in cats live about three weeks and are so small that you likely can’t see them.
They can affect both the inside and outside of your cat’s hear and can lead to more serious issues including skin and ear infections. When ear mites in cats have moved on to the infection stage, there’s generally a dark discharge and debris that’s almost like coffee grounds.
Ear mites can affect both cats and dogs (though they’re much more common in dogs) and are passed from contact with an infected animal. About half of ear infections for cats are caused by mites but humans are immune to them. Symptoms of an ear mite infestation include:
If you suspect you’re dealing with ear mites then you should contact your vet right away. They’ll swab the discharge and evaluate it. Don’t try to diagnose it yourself because there are several types of bacterial infections that have similar or identical symptoms.
According to the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University, hyperthyroidism in cats is the most common glandular disorder in cats. It’s caused by too much thyroid hormone in the bloodstream and the symptoms include:
Hyperthyroidism in cats can occur to any type of cat, whether male or female, but is most common in older cats. Just over 5% of diagnosed cases happen to cats younger than ten years old. On average, this happens to cats between 12 and 13 years old.
There are three main ways to treat this glandular disease:
Hopefully this guide helped you understand cat behavior, what’s normal for a cat to experience, and what the symptoms are that could lead to a vet visit. Your cat and you have a long life together and the more you understand them the more love they’ll give you.
It’s true that cats are graceful and can often right themselves when they fall. According to biologist Corwin Sullivan, cats don’t have collarbones.
That combined with the fact that they have flexible backbones means they are graceful – but that doesn’t mean they can’t be harmed when they fall. It’s a myth that they always land on their feet.
The truth is that all animals have trouble digesting the milk of other species. In fact, many cats are actually lactose intolerant. Regardless, there’s no nutritional value for cats in cow’s milk and it is not a healthy snack.
Some people think of declawing their cat as giving them a nail trim. Good for the cat, right? Wrong. According to the Humane Society, when a vet declaws a cat, they’re actually surgically amputating the first joint of a cat’s toes. This is more and more seen as inhumane and some even refer to it as mutilation.
One of the most important facts about cats is that they’re obligate carnivores. This means that they need animal protein to survive and be healthy.
A cat’s diet should be made up mostly of protein and moisture. A vegan or vegetarian diet simply isn’t healthy for a cat.
As is true with most pets, the average lifespan of a cat will vary based on the breed. However, a general rule of thumb is that the average lifespan of a cat is between 12 – 15 years. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the oldest cat in the world lived to be 38 years old and three days.
Because the lifespans of humans and cats are so different, cat years to human years are different too. Unlike with dogs where you can simply multiply the number of years of a dog by seven to get their age in human years, cat years are a little more difficult to figure.
The easiest way to figure out cat years to human years is to use an online cat year calculator. Simply plug in the age of your cat and find out how old it would be in human years.
For many years, researchers didn’t know for sure if animals dreamed. In the last decade they’ve done extensive testing on the brainwaves of animals to confirm that they do indeed dream. But some people don’t just wonder do cats dream – they wonder what they dream about.
It’s likely that cats dream about the same types of things we do: friends, dinner, playtime, etc. The things your cat does during the day are processed during their sleep and are thus relived. That’s why you may see your cat’s whiskers twitch or their paws running while they’re sleeping.
Remember when we covered the fact that cats are obligate carnivores who eat high protein diets? Well this type of diet can indeed produce very stinky gas. This is because protein contains lots of sulfur, which is a particularly smelly chemical.
However, that’s not where it ends. Most of the time, a cat’s farts will be silent. This is because they produce a very small amount of gas but that gas is dense and concentrated. When they release their gas, there’s low internal pressure and the gas comes out slow and steady.
The gestation period – i.e. how long are cats pregnant – can vary. For the most part they’ll be pregnant for anywhere from 61 to 69 days.
However, healthy pregnancies can end at just 56 days and can be as long as 72 days.
The short answer to the question “how long are cats in heat” is that most heat cycles are between a week and ten days. However, there’s a lot more to it. The heats can happen every couple of weeks and the first one they ever have – called estrus – typically happens when the kitten is about six months old.
One interesting cat fact that many people aren’t aware of is that there isn’t always bleeding during a cat’s heat. In fact, though there may be a little bleeding and discharge, it’s not common. Most changes are behavioral and can include:
It’s a good idea to have your cat spayed to prevent overpopulation. This can be done as early as eight weeks. If your cat’s already in heat then your vet may choose to wait until the cycle is complete before they move forward with the spaying.
As we mentioned, cats are obligate carnivores, which means they need meat to survive. Their wild ancestors ate small rodents and today’s cats need a diet that’s high in protein and with many nutrients including:
Many of these and the other nutrients cats need are only found in animal proteins, which means it’s not healthy to feed them a vegetarian diet.
Cats have different dietary needs in different times of their life. For example, newborn kittens need their mother’s milk for about three weeks. They’ll eat a combination of solid food and mother’s milk from six – ten weeks and then will eat only solid foods.
Pregnant cats, or those that are lactating, will need more nutrition. Your vet can recommend the right amount. Young adult cats will need a maintenance diet while older cats have unique needs and should eat food made specifically for them.
As you might know, catnip is actually a type of mint. The oil in this type of mint can have a powerful effect on about 50% of cats. The other 50% are immune to it. The effects of catnip can range from tons of energy to a total lack of it.
The difference in how they react has a lot to do with how they get the catnip. If they simply smell it they’re likely to get quite animated. This is thought to be due to a neurological response in which catnip mimics their happy pheromones.
On the other hand, the answer to the question “what does catnip do to cats?” is quite different if they eat it: generally it will cause them to be extremely mellow. Most of the time, the effects of catnip will last about ten minutes and it will take about two hours for them to be able to take a new dose.
Wondering how to bathe a cat? With some cats it’ll be a challenge and with others it’ll be a breeze. These ten tips can help increase your chances of success without hassle.
Cat urine can be a strong smell – especially the urine that comes from a cat in heat. If you’ve looked high and low for how to get rid of cat pee smell you’re in luck – we have some great tips for you.
There are products out there that will kill any fleas on your pets. They’ll generally need to be used several times to get rid of them all. They are very effective but they can be expensive. Ask your vet which one is right for your cat or try these natural alternatives:
This guide has given you the basic information you need for understanding cats. You’ll find your own cat will have its own unique personalities that simply can’t be categorized but learning about them is just part of the fun!
Wait until the kitten is 10-12 weeks old – by then its mother will have trained it like to jedi standards.
Asbolutely not. It only affects felines.
Yes – the only (slight) risk is with a parasite called toxoplasmosis. Women soon-to-be-pregnant should check that they have had prior exposure to that (most people have) – in which case there’s nothing to worry about. There would be a problem with a woman who contacted toxoplasmosis for the first time during pregnancy. In general, and they will be pleased to hear this, pregnant women shouldn’t clean litter trays, and certainly not without rubber gloves.
No. There is literally ONE case in the whole of recorded history where this MIGHT have happened. But it’s not a good idea to let cats sleep in the baby’s room.
The Maine Coon.
The first visit to your local veterinary’s clinic should be as soon after bringing her home as possible. The vet will be able to assure you that she’s in tip-top condition, advise you on the kind of food and how much she should be having, what shots she should have now, and whether or not she’s currently a home for fleas and worms.
This is a good opportunity for you to see how the vet handles the kitten, and also to ask any questions you may have about your cat’s health in general. Use your time with the veterinary wisely. Whilst the vet examines kitty, ask if there are any kitten care leaflets you could have, or any books she recommends.
Ask when the kitten can go outdoors, what’s the best way of litter tray training her, how to stop her from scratching your furniture, if she needs any vitamins added to her food, how much milk she needs – any questions, it doesn’t matter how dumb you think they may sound to a professional, you aren’t a professional and you need the answers!
Once the initial examination is complete, the essential question that you should ask the vet is when you should bring the kitten back for her next “check-up”, and write that immediately into your day planner.
Some veterinary clinics may want to check on your kitty every other month or so – or they may recommend a series of weekly shots to boost your kitty’s immune system ready for all those birds and mice she’s going to chase once she’s allowed outside! Once you get through this feline baby stage however, you’ll probably be advised to bring your cat into the clinic once a year for an annual shot and general health check-up.