Updated: Dec 16, 2021
By some people, cats might be considered "less" domesticated than dogs. While they have general personality traits that vary from dogs, cats were domesticated more recently than dogs - cats about 4,000 years ago and dogs around 12,000 years ago. Why does this matter? Your relationship with your cat can be deeper if you understand a little more about their behavior!
Cats are sprint hunters (while dogs are endurance scavengers/hunters). They also thrive in environments where they can access many different vertical levels in their living space. Cats generally prefer to be solitary, but with domestication, they have developed the ability and preference to be around other animals (including humans).
We can do a few things to keep our cats happy and healthy for their whole life;
1. Create a space where they can be comfortable and engaged. Offer multiple levels for your cat to climb and hide on in their space. Commercial cat trees are wonderful, you can also put up some basic shelving (add some texture to make it non-slip), window beds, and hammocks. Most cats will develop and express their confidence by using their levels to survey their "kingdom" so to speak. A lot of cats prefer to have a space to hide or sleep in a dark, enclosed space. Some cat trees have boxes or caves, you can also buy cat beds with covers or slide a pad under a bed or cabinet (especially if there is a heater floor vent under there!).
2. Daily play and engagement! Most "bad" habits that cat owners experience can be prevented (or fixed) with daily play. As mentioned before, cats are sprinters, they can burn off excess energy quickly, while also engaging their natural hunting instincts. If they do not have an outlet for their energy and their frustration builds up, they can start to develop habits like scratching furniture (or people), excessive meowing, picking fights, or other negative behaviors. Use a variety of cat toys for chase games - there are mouse style, feather (bird) style, snake versions and many others. Find the one(s) that your cats prefer and switch it up! Use your cats natural behavior cycle to engage them! They sprint/chase their prey (or toy) then eat and sleep. Repeat!
Kricket learning to use a cat exercise wheel
3. Learn about energy flows and body language. Our pets are sensitive to the energy that you have - your tone of voice, body language and even facial expressions can feed into their mood. Cats are particularly sensitive to touch. Cats are just as easy to read as dogs are, if you take the time to learn about their ear positions, body position, even whiskers. Petting them in a calm, gentle way can keep them from getting too spun up.
4. Watch them carefully for indications of pain or illness. Cats can be especially difficult to read when they are in pain or sick because they are stoic. Track your cats normal daily behavior patterns (they know time just like dogs do), and if they start to act unusually lethargic, are hiding far more than usual, not eating or show other symptoms of illness, they should be seen by a vet. Cats who express discomfort in or near their litter box, by crying out, urinating or defecating outside the box, or other similar symptoms, need to be seen immediately! They could have a dangerous infection or other problem with their urinary or digestive system. Similarly, cats who don't jump up on furniture like they normally would, won't scratch on their post anymore, or suddenly start to avoid a part of, or whole room may have a joint problem or other pain.
5. Cats can be trained to do a variety of tricks. The basic methods used in dog training can be applied to cats, just add a lot more patience! Use a motivator (99% of the time this will be food) and have clear communication with what you are asking your cat to do. Reward and praise early to build their confidence. Always end a training session on a positive note - generally shorter, more frequent training sessions are better than a long one once a week.
Check back for videos of cat training in action!
We hope this is a little introduction to your cats behavior! Learning to understand them better will lead to a closer relationship and a more enjoyable life for your kitty.
For more cat training topics, check out Jackson Galaxy here: https://www.jacksongalaxy.com