Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Cat Behaviors Part II

Mandy Cooper

Understanding fear in cats
Fear is a natural, primal emotion. In the wild, fear serves as a protection that allows an animal to avoid predators or other perceived threats. Older cats can become fearful as they age because their senses aren't as sharp as they used to be. Imagine as you get older and your hearing and eyesight isn't as good as it used to be? You might be easily startled too. When cats experience fear, they will try and reduce the feeling of fear by either fleeing, freezing, fiddling or fighting.
  1. Fleeing is usually a cat's 1st response to fear. Most cats will try to escape from whatever is scaring them.
  2. Freezing is an opportunity for the cat to try to use another response.
  3. Fiddling is when the cat engages in a displacement behavior, a type of self distraction. For example. Instead of running away, your cat my begin to groom. It's a type of self soothing when your cat feels scared.
  4. Fighting is another way of trying to escape. If a cat is unable to leave a scary situation, fighting may be their only option.
The choice to engage in these behaviors depends on the situation. If a senior cat displays or has fearful behavior, this could indicate an underlying medical condition. Contact your vet right away to rule this out. If your cat hasn't got a medical condition, to help them feel less scared would be to adjust the environment and your actions to meet your cat's changing needs.

Comfort your cat. Whatever your cat is sensitive to (causes them to run and hide or hiss) can be helped with desensitization. This is a structured process that gradually exposes a cat to the thing that frightens them but at a much less intense level. Slow desensitizing allows a cat to learn at their own pace that the scary thing isn't so scary.

Tip: Never force your cat to confront their fears. It can be traumatic and make the issue much worse.

A trigger is something your cat sees as a threat. Triggers follow a pattern. If something happens in your cat's environment, it triggers fear in your cat (they may flee or fight). It could be multiple triggers or something the cat sees or smells. To help understand your cat's behavior, you should create history for each episode (like a diary) as this will show a pattern and triggers.
What are your cat's triggers? Is it a person, place, sound, smell, object or situation? Pair the trigger with what your kitty enjoys (a favourite toy or a treat). You can create positive associations with whatever triggers your cat into a fearful response. Cats give subtle signals when they are afraid. The position of a cat's whiskers, tail and ears all give clear indications when they are anxious or afraid. Remember that cats do things on their own time. Cats are no different to us humans when it comes to fearful behaviors.

Understanding hiding in cats
Most cats like to sneak away to quiet corners for nap time however, there may be other reasons for your cat doing this.
  1. Shyness – This could play a part if your newly adopted cat is shy and not yet comfy in their new home. Kitty may have come from an abusive or neglectful situation so it will take time and patience before kitty is able to relax.
  2. Separation Anxiety – This could happen in cats who are very bonded with their owners and feel their absence.
  3. Playtime – Kitty may like to hide and jump out at you or another cat.
  4. Nap time – Hiding while napping is pat of your cats preservation instinct, making it harder to be spotted by predators. You may notice your cat napping more in quiet corners as they get older.
  5. Neglect – A bored or ignored cat may spend time hiding away. If a cat is left to their own devices without play time or cuddle time, you will soon have an aloof cat who shies away from human contact. Daily interaction is essential to your cat's emotional well being and to create a deep and loving bond between owner and cat.
  6. Stalking/hunting – In nature, cats hide to quietly sneak up on their prey as well as to hide from potential predators. You may notice this more with multiple cats and it can be a form of play between them. Cats that spend time outside may use this behavior more as their natural hunting and protection instincts are more engaged.
Should you be worried
If hiding behavior is a usual behaviour and not accompanied by other behaviors, there is no need to worry. Any change in your cat should be investigated if it's new. Some changes to watch out for are:
  1. • Loss of appetite
  2. • Changes in litter box habits
  3. • Aggressive behaviors
Changes in appetite and litter box habits could indicate a medical problem but all 3 of these behaviors could be a sign of fear or stress. Major household changes like moving or adding a new pet can bring on hiding behaviors. Some cats hide away and become scared or they become aggressive. Knowing your cat and natural tendencies, personality and history are the keys to understanding the difference between a cat that hides through fear or a cat that is just getting away for some quiet time.
How do you know if your cat is in pain
Cats are challenging to find out how they really feel because they tend to hide things very well. This comes as a survival strategy.  However, if you know your cat well, chances are, you will know when they are in pain. Signs your cat may be in pain.
  1. • Look for changes in behavior
  2. • Kitty wants to be left alone
  3. • Kitty has a strange new grooming routine (only grooming in 1 place)
  4. • Moving more or less than normal
  5. • Sleeping more and in odd positions
  6. • Appetite has decreased or stopped altogether
  7. • A constant purr for self soothing
  8. • Acting more hostile than normal
    *Always take your cat to the vet if you notice anything different*
Causes of pain in cats
• Acute pain (easy to spot like a broken bone or a bite wound)
• Chronic pain ( this comes on slowly and over time. Chronic pain includes arthritis, some cancers, pancreatitis and some types of trauma. Chronic pain is more subtle but just as real as acute pain)
Always consult your vet if you think your cat is in pain.

To end, I would like to add 5 things your cats would tell you if  they could tell you.
1. You are terrible at being a cat. You are a big clumsy cat who has no idea how to be a cat. I need to take care of you because you clearly can't do it yourself.
2. This meow is for you (meowing is a method of communication that only exists between cats and adults in the cat world. Cats do recognize us as individuals and crafty kitties quickly learn that meowing gets our attention so they use this method to let us know that they want or need something.

3. Just because I'm purring, doesn't mean I'm happy (most people think that a purring cat is a content cat but it can also be a nervous tick or a way to cope with pain or illness. There may be a message your kitty is trying to get across to you.

4. I miss you (cats are often described as independent but they don't like being left alone all the time. Some cats may start howling, soiling and self mutilating when left alone too often and for too long.

5. Our time together will be short (sadly, the average feline lifespan is only 12 – 14 years and even if you're lucky enough to get more time with your cat, it will never feel like enough in the end. Evidence shows that cats form a deep attachment to their owners and tend to be healthier, slimmer and more content when they have lots of quality time with their humans so snuggle up together and cherish each day with your cat.
Make a point of observing your cats behaviour. Often, it is not what it seems.

Again always take your cat to your vet if you suspect anything might be different or wrong. 

Since it is spring and there are going to be alot of kittens coming, our next series is going to be about kittens, if and when its right to get a kitten and what to do when you get one.
Please remember to go to your local shelter or look online at shelters near you as they are going to 
have tons of kittens now. Please adopt a kitten or maybe 2 as they do better together and keep each other company and play together ect. 
Remember Adopt dont Shop! and also be sure to spay or neuter your kitten as a female kitten can actually get pregnant as early as 4 months. 

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