Knowing what the cat’s instinctive behaviour is and how it tries to reproduce it at home is essential for its health, to avoid aggressive or harassing behaviour towards us and its states of anxiety.
When you think of a cat, what adjective can you think of?
Independent? Right! Curious? Oh, yes, but also habitual, territorial, hunter, predator…
THE BEHAVIOUR OF THE DOMESTIC CAT
The cat is a magnetic animal and this fascination is probably linked to the fact that, even if it has been domesticated more than 7000 years ago, it has never changed of a comma its wild feline instinct.
This means that his life is made up of a few simple things:
- hunting (patrolling, controlling, marking the territory, keeping oneself trained in hunting, avoiding rivals)
- to eat
- clean up
- to reproduce
This would seem easy and it is obviously a simplification, but in reality the cat is interested in this and everything revolves around such instinctive behaviours.
If its vital cycle is somehow interrupted, or further simplified, the cat gets lazy, becomes slowly apathetic, tending to the obese and before or after, gets sick.
That’s why I’ll try to make you understand how each of these impulses is strongly linked to the behaviour your cat has at home, with you and with the other members of your family (bipeds and quadrupeds) and how to try to reproduce them.
In life in freedom, the cat must feed itself! It must hunt (and without a rifle…)
It must look for the prey, see it, find it, approach it without being seen or heard, crouch down to hide, assess the wind, the presence of other predators, and finally, make the leap up and …. collide against a wall because the mouse has managed to get into the hole! Grunt… and we start again.
When he succeeds, he eats a little of it until he is full (almost immediately, his stomach is not very extensible) and hides the rest.
Then, realizing that he is dirty and stinky, he begins to clean himself up to take off the smell of his prey.
At that point, tired from the commitment of previous activities, finally falls asleep, in a place strictly protected from any attacks, safe and possibly placed high, where it can sleep while keeping under control the surrounding vibrations. It is therefore essential that your cat has a place to rest undisturbed and safe at home, perhaps a kennel placed high up. You can think of starting to enrich the walls to create a real gym for your cat.
When he wakes up, he has to start patrolling his territory, because only he has to take the mouse that has escaped. Just thinking makes him vibrate the vibrisse…and his nose still hurts.
To do so, he must affirm that that place, those streets, that bush are its own.
He has three ways to signal that he is the boss of the area. Three ways to communicate with other members of the group or cats around the territory.
The cat’s language in its territory
By visually signalling: by vertically scratching the trunk of a tree, an abandoned cardboard or the leg of your favourite table… (a bit like the writers in short).
By olfactively signaling:
- spraying small (fortunately) amounts of urine in points that determine his area of “territorial competence”.
- rubbing himself with his cheeks: he has particular glands that emit pheromones useful just to signal his presence.
- scratching horizontally: on the ground, on the carpets (does this behaviour tell you something? hey! Doormats … ) making that particular movement with the front legs, releases pheromones from the plantar bearings.
This action also serves to stretch the muscles of the back and thus keep the joints of the spine always in shape.
At the same time that he is patrolling, he knows that he must always remain trained, to refine his hunting techniques, for fear of being without food for too long periods.
This is where the role of playing comes in.
A cat that has access to the outside or that lives there, will not lose the opportunity to play with any object.
He hunts it, but without killing it, he hands it down so that it can keep moving and try to escape.
He will enjoy continuing to repack him between his legs (Maradona was an amateur compared to a cat) with a behavior that may seem almost sadistic to us, but that for him is functional to the purpose: to remain always attentive and able to get food.
And then there are other cats…
Felines do not have a real hierarchy, as do dogs who recognize a pack leader by fearing and respecting him, rather they understand when they are inferior to another subject.
This attitude leads them to avoid the clash rather than to face it and before engaging in a fight they try in every way to look bigger, stronger, and threatening with the typical attitudes of probable aggression: arching the back, pulling up the hair (to look bigger), screaming etc. .
Especially if they are in a closed place, the weaker one will tend to isolate, while if it lived outside, it would be forced to leave its territory.
Finally, the cat will want to procreate and continue the species, reproducing. And it is precisely for them, the females, that the bloodiest fights take place and are engaged. The strongest is the one who has the right to reproduce, to generate subjects more and more able to survive.
Well, made these premises, how can you make sure that your cat, often mistaken for a home ornament, relegated within 4 walls, does not become a molest and huge hairy object on the couch, confusing with husband / wife, competing for the possession of the instrument of ultimate power (the remote control of Sky or Netflix)?
How to respect your cat’s instincts?
Trying to respect its life cycles, as far as possible: considering that city life, unfortunately, is not made for walks in the middle of the road with cars that would run over him.
It is necessary to try to limit the most urgent instincts (through the sterilization for the females and the castration of the male) and to develop to the maximum those that instead can be carried out in house, without too many dangers.
If the cat lives alone, without other competitors of the same species, you must give him the opportunity to mark its territory without necessarily changing the aesthetics of the furniture, with scratching posts both vertical and horizontal, placed in different places from each other.
Its territory will be identified in this way.
Giving him the opportunity to play, with toys hanging, or hiding food in distributors that force them to do something to have access to it, means keeping the brain alive.
This, if not exercised, in the long run becomes lazy and soon you will find an apathetic cat, basically inactive with other consequences: obesity, possible development of diabetes, urinary tract diseases, heart disease and arthrosis.
The kennel could be lifted off the ground, especially if it has to live with dogs, as well as, a good habit could be to put more points of access to food.
There are also kennels or bowls that can be placed high up just to give the peace of mind to the cat to eat peacefully and not undermined by the dog (which will benefit in health and less tendency to obesity, given its tendency to steal cat food).
Letting your cat live vertically is also functional for its joints which, if stressed and exercised, can remain healthy.
Let’s also remember that the cat is an very clean animal (almost in a pathological way), so putting the food near the litter box, is not a good idea.
Would you like to eat in the bathroom? No? Well, that’s not even him!
Also, as we have seen, it is habitual. Changing his environment destabilizes him, no longer recognizing what until a few hours before was his territory, is a cause of great stress, makes him very nervous.
Even worse if you decide to move the furniture! Panic, there is no longer a smell in its place, a recognized corner, a visible scratch, nothing is as before … PANIC!
Problems could arise including: inappropriate urination (he pees everywhere, except where he should), aggressiveness (and not for revenge, but for manifest stress), agitation or total isolation, exaggerated grooming etc..
Finally, why is it so important for your cat to maintain his instincts and be able to perform them?
Because alternately, he gets stressed, becomes nervous (probably more aggressive), obese, and therefore potentially more prone to disease. Therefore It is fundamental to enrich his environment and make him as comfortable as possible and make his life really happy.