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Tips On Improving The Relationship With Your Cat: Part Two

Tips On Improving the Relationship With Your Cat: Part Two

The key to improving the relationship with your cat is understanding their needs in the moment. A tall order as feline communication is very complex. Cats communicate with each other quite effectively. They have modified their system for us but our understanding is limited. In general, we know less about feline communication than they do about ours. Trying to understand a cat is like attempting to participate in a conversation in a foreign language while only knowing a few phrases.

Feline behaviour research, including how they communicate, is in it’s infancy. Very little was investigated in the past because financial gain wasn’t apparent. Fortunately more time, effort and funding has been directed towards this area. Speculation at this point dominates this science.

This article will be very basic to avoid confusion and  keep it practical. Gaining a foundation for judging your cat’s mood in the moment is the goal. Their mood can change very quickly. Stimulation such as loud noises or being petted one time too many are common factors. Of course there is the “who knows” variable.

Cats relay and receive messages in three ways {that we know of}.

  1. Olfactory {scent}. Used in part like tagging, post it notes and bulletin boards {if most people actually read them}. How the cat is feeling, when the cat was last there and if she is ready to mate are just some of the information obtained from another cat’s scent. Rubbing an object with their face, scratching and spraying are two ways scent can be deposited.
  2. Vocal. Helpful for immediate communication to other beings who are not at “paws length”. They have adapted this form in an attempt to get our understanding. For example, after kittens grow up they use the meow vocalization for our benefit, not for other cats’. The meow is one of their ways of training us to do their bidding.
  3. Visual. Used for beings who are close by. This is the most helpful form for humans to gage a cat’s mood. This is the form I will cover in a very basic way.

Visual communication is achieved by using head and body postures. The context of the situation is important when assessing  head and body postures. I pay a lot of attention to this while cat sitting. Understanding the basics is a great way to reduce a cat’s stress and form a wonderful friendship with them.

For simplicity sake the visual form will be divided into two groups:

1-Friendly Postures {your cat wants you to come, or remain close, and interact with her}:

  •  The Eyes.  Relaxed eyes with oval pupils signal a relaxed, calm state.

    Come on over.

    Take into consideration the light levels. The pupils tend to be larger in low light to improve their vision.  The eyes usually give the latest update on your cat’s mood. Since a cat’s mood can change rapidly, differences in the pupils are important to notice. If you are petting your cat and the pupils go from oval to a wide round shape, immediately stop petting. She may have reached her limit for petting or it could be a noise or a smell bothering her.

  • The Ears. The pinnae {the triangular outer part} will be facing forward sometimes tilted a bit. They are also early indicators of a change in mood. Remember the context of the situation while evaluating her ear position. They maybe flat and pulled back to keep them out of the way while you are petting her.
  • The Tail. If she is standing her tail will be in a vertical position. It may have a slight bend near the tip. When seated it will be fairly still and not tucked into her body.
  • The Fur. It will be flat against her especially on the spine and tail.

2- Unfriendly Postures {Your cat wants you to move away from her}:

  • The Eyes. Pupils will be dilated {enlarged} and rounder to signal fear or apprehension. The larger the pupils the higher the levels of fear or agitation. Defensive aggression is very possible. Remember, in lower light their pupils will be larger so take this into consideration. Elliptical {oval} pupils with an intense stare conveys aggression. Her back legs will be very straight giving her the appearance of a 1970’s muscle car. She probably has a plan of attack.
  • The Ears. Pinnae flatted to the side indicates fear or mild annoyance.

    Back off

    Aggression is possible. Sticking straight out to the sides like wings of an airplane may indicate agitation. Pinnae flattened towards the back signals extreme annoyance. Aggression is very possible. Pinnae in two different positions may indicate uncertainty. Cats tend to swivel their pinnae {sometimes just one} towards sounds that have caught their attention so notice what’s going on in the environment. Elliptical pupils combined with ears back indicate more annoyance and less fear: beware. The cat in the “Back  Off” photo is very annoyed and will probably attack if the threat persists. It’s very important to recognize her mood before she reaches the state in this photo.

  • The Tail. A cat whipping her tail back and forth may be tense or agitated. Mild agitation is being expressed when the tip of her tail is moving a lot. She is probably just focusing on something if the tip of her tail is only moving a little. If her tail is tightly tucked into her body she is apprehensive or fearful.
  • The Fur. Piloerection  { fur standing up} on the body, often seen down the spine, indicates anxiety, fear or displeasure. The more intense the piloerection, the greater her displeasure. The tail will look like a bottle brush.

Watch for combinations of the above signals for a more accurate understanding of your cat’s mood. If her pupils are the appropriate size for the light levels and more elliptical without an intense stare, her ears are forward and her tail is held up high, she is ready for your company.

Please continue

If you are interacting with your cat and she displays any of the “Unfriendly” signals, stop what you are doing and evaluate the situation. If a truck has just driven by it MAYBE the reason. Back away and leave her alone if the “Unfriendly” signals are severe.

A very common occurrence is your cat becoming over stimulated while you are petting her on your lap. An obvious signal {just one possibility} is when she shifts a little on to her side and gives you a sideways glance. Remove your hand and remember how long you were petting her. Next time pet her for a shorter duration. It could also mean she is just shifting her position for comfort. Yes, understanding feline communication isn’t easy. Watch for other “Unfriendly” signals in this situation.

Another common occurrence is a cat rolling on her back displaying her belly. This is not a “submissive” posture like a dog would perform. In cats it’s a defensive fighting position. When using this position as a defensive posture she is trying to convey, “if you come closer I will attack”. However, some cats do like to be petted in this area but the signals look the same. Be careful while you evaluate your cat’s intention. Knowing your cat is very helpful here.

Remember, your cat’s mood can change very quickly. Many become over stimulated when petted too long. Determine and respect her limits, your level of cat care will raise dramatically.

 

Not this again.

For more information about interacting with your cat see Part One of this article.

If you have any questions please contact me.

 

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