Streams

Please Explain: Cats

Friday, January 31, 2014

John Bradshaw, director of the University of Bristol’s Anthrozoology Institute, and author of Cat Sense: How the New Feline Science Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet, tells us all about cats—from how they were first domesticated to how they hunt to how they show affection. He offers new insights about the domestic cat that challenge many of our most basic assumptions about our feline companions.

A Few Cat Facts

“We can’t reason with cats," said John Bradshaw. "We have to accept them as they are.”

Signs of affection: Rubbing against you, coming toward you with an upright tail, grooming you. Purring is associated with contentment, but science suggests it’s just a signal that it needs attention. Some cats purr when they want to be fed,  some cats have been known to purr when they’re in pain.

Playing with your cat, especially if it’s an indoor cat, is important. It mimics hunting, a cat’s natural instinct, and keeps it engaged and active. John Bradshaw recommends a puzzle feeder to keep a cat busy. You can make on yourself: Poke a few holes (slightly larger than a piece of dry food) in a plastic bottle. Put a small amount of dry cat food in it the bottle. Put on the lid. Give it to your cat to play with.

Cats have the basics in their minds of how to kill prey. If a kitten doesn’t encounter live prey until its grown up, it might not be the most effective hunter. When cats seem to play with a mouse or other prey instead of killing it, it’s a sign they’re not especially skilled hunters. It’s not purposely torturing the animal.

Whether or not a kitten is handled by people when it’s very young—as early as three weeks old—determines whether it’ll be social and comfortable around people. If feral kittens don’t come in contact with humans until they’re eight or ten weeks old, it can be too late for them to be comfortable and social with humans.

A cat’s instinct is to run away from people and things it doesn’t like. If you ply the cat with food to get it to come out of its hiding place, it’ll come to realize that people aren’t a threat and it will eventually be more social.

Cats don’t need a great deal of physical space, so they’re fine inside. They’re very adaptable, which is why they make good pets.

Guests:

John Bradshaw

Comments [45]

Jeannie

Dogs have owners, Cats have staff... My Tani & Eddy are my bestest buddies!

Feb. 08 2014 08:20 PM

"If feral kittens don’t come in contact with humans until they’re eight or ten weeks old, it can be too late for them to be comfortable and social with humans."

Not necessarily. I've rescued several families of feral kittens that were older, and frequent handling plus training with food tamed them...even with having to give them medication twice a day! These were feral offspring of a feral mother, but constant working with them got them to like people and stop being afraid.

Several are contented house cats now.

Feb. 06 2014 02:30 PM
Dusty from Brooklyn

Cats have been behaving badly for hundreds of years– leaving inky paw prints, and even urinating on manuscripts:

"Here is nothing missing, but a cat urinated on this during a certain night. Cursed be the pesty cat that urinated over this book during the night in Deventer and because of it many others [other cats] too. And beware well not to leave open books at night where cats can come."

http://www.openculture.com/2014/01/medieval-cats-behaving-badly.html

Feb. 06 2014 04:53 AM

To those who asked about particular issues with their cats I would highly recommend you check into the Tellington TTouch Method. I began rescuing ferals when I ended up moving back to the family home when my father developed AD ( in support of my dad who had always rescued stray cats and dogs). I have 4 cats and have rescued and placed about a dozen others. I have found this method extremely helpful with cats--stray and feral. It offers a way to develop a quality relationship and deal with behavior problems.

Feb. 05 2014 03:15 AM
E lizabeth from New York

Cats remind us humans of the significance of respect in relationships, and of the intensity of awareness. The cats with whom I have shared pats of my life taught me much about non-verbal communication as well. They participated in all aspects of my world, from examining what I wrote to what I ate and the music played. 'Tis sad that so many betes humains react with insecurity and often fear to the vital, intuitive nature of felines!!!!

Feb. 05 2014 12:35 AM
Marshall - Cat Purrer from The Cats' House

You will experience a somewhat bumpy ride in life until you realize that you do not own a cat, but rather THE CAT OWNS YOU! They are NOT little dogs with triangle ears and whiskers, that seek to please and honor you, but rather the most demanding boss for whom you will ever have worked. The cunning little self-serving creatures let you THINK that you have invited them into what really is their house, only because it is beneath them to obtain and read "Can Opening for Dummies."

Feb. 05 2014 12:20 AM

This Cat Guide from Animal Planet might be useful for some people asking questions about cats: http://www.animalplanet.com/pets/cats.htm

Also check out these videos from animal behaviorist Jackson Galaxy on how to pet and play with your cat, how read a cat's body language, how to bond with your cat and more:
http://www.animalplanet.com/tv-shows/my-cat-from-hell/videos/my-cat-from-hell-jackson-galaxy-videos.htm

I am not affiliated with Animal Planet in any way, I just think his advice can be very useful for cat owners and he has helped a lot of people who didn't know how to deal with their cat.

Feb. 04 2014 10:27 PM

This Cat Guide from Animal Planet might be useful for some people asking questions about cats: http://www.animalplanet.com/pets/cats.htm

Also check out these videos from animal behaviorist Jackson Galaxy on how to pet and play with your cat, how read a cat's body language, how to bond with your cat and more:
http://www.animalplanet.com/tv-shows/my-cat-from-hell/videos/my-cat-from-hell-jackson-galaxy-videos.htm

I am not affiliated with Animal Planet in any way, I just think his advice can be very useful for cat owners and he has helped a lot of people who didn't know how to deal with their cat.

Feb. 04 2014 10:27 PM
Kristen from Long Island

Dear Bob from White Plains, you made a commitment to those cats and should find another woman.... Not throw away your furry friends like they are garbage. So sad.

Feb. 04 2014 10:08 PM
Andrea

To William Finke, my black lab mix is much happier since we got our cat. They both get more excercise than if alone. Our two previous cats had passed away. I needed time before getting another but the dog was lonely. It takes time to introduce the two animals. I kept them separated for quite some time and introduced them under supervision. The dog is large but very sweet. You have to be careful though.

Feb. 04 2014 10:07 PM
Patchouli Woman from PA

I am sorry to Jeri Ann from Upper West Side, but you need a Psyc consult.

Feb. 04 2014 09:16 PM
Brenda

My cats are hunting machines and I sense they want to go out to the other apartments to meet other cats and do mischievous things from dusk to dawn. I wish I could let them out, so I could sleep in peace.

Feb. 04 2014 08:42 PM
Magee from NYC

"Even if they live with ya, cats are WILD. If ya die alone in yerrr house, yerr cat will EAT you!!!"

~ Craig Ferguson

Feb. 04 2014 08:27 PM
Bob from White Plains, NY

My wife and I had a total of 12 cats before she passed away. Each one of the had a different personality. Some more afictionate, other more playful and other more intelligent. Each one in its own right as different as people. I now enter a new phase in my life with a women who is not a cat person and I have to find a home for two great cats. One male and one female. The picture at the top of this email is identical to the male, Simon. He is super smart, he listens when called. He likes to play and he is totally affectionate. People make the cat. If after reading this and you would like to help me out my email address is there for you to contact me.

Feb. 04 2014 08:25 PM
c a t from lancaster, pa.

well, I have something to say. I have been a wonderful pet. I have a really nice routine every single day in a warm house. A nice person gives me food and treats. I watch birds from the window and cackle at them. They are so delicious looking. I sleep all the time. Sometimes I play with a super ball for an hour. I also sit behind someone who seems sick, and I keep her company. I nuzzle her head and curl up next to her when she has a hard time. Anyway, life is good...and dogs are ok, too. Could do without the barking.
thanks, and purrs.

Feb. 04 2014 08:01 PM
Jane

Cats are more mysterious than dogs because they (as a species ... not individual cats) have a wider range of personalities and responses to things, making them less predictable. One can make far fewer generalizations about cat behavior than about dog behavior, a fact that seems to make some people nervous about cats and others appreciate them.

Feb. 04 2014 07:50 PM

Deborah from NYC:

I understand humans don't make nice pets for the rest of animals on this planet. They eat cows, pigs amongst other animals. They also destroy animals habitat and pollute their environment, yet those very humans are worried when cats eat birds. Imagine that! If you are worried about the decline of species, take a look at the animals most responsible for it: human beings.

Cats do little in comparison. They don't spill oil in the water polluting and killing animals who live in it. Cats don't pave roads destroying the habitat of animals, and running them over with their cars. Cats don't create factory farms. Cats don't create acid rain. One could go on and on.

Feb. 04 2014 07:09 PM

"If cats required the same amount of care as a dog, don't you think far fewer people would have them as pets? I think the only reason for their popularity is that they require so much less work and space. Dogs love you back, they know you, cats just recognize you as the human who feeds them and pets them. I just don't understand why people like them."

This shows you know nothing about cats. Cat's recognize people and show affection. My cat sits on my lap and kneads me while purring. Purring is one of the most soothing sounds. He also likes to sleep in my bed. People like cats because they are cats and have their own unique qualities, not because they require less work.

Feb. 04 2014 07:03 PM

John from Manhattan, check out animal behaviorist Jackson Galaxy. He has a lot of good information: http://jacksongalaxy.com/

Feb. 04 2014 06:58 PM
oscar from ny

..cats will Barge your territory if left warm or indisposed...witches have cats on the broom, it represents the love of aquarious "the warlock or tomb raider, or witch"..for their own pets and represent good luck charms :)

Feb. 01 2014 09:41 PM
Deborah from NYC

I understand that cats make nice pets for humans, however I have witnessed cats eating birds alive, and I believe it happens far more than cat-lovers acknowledge. If you view cat-lover blogs you see lots of comments about what a great hunter their cat is. Yet when we see the results of long term research that confirms that cats are indeed destructive predators, these same people DENY that their little fluffy has anything to do with the declines of frog, lizards, turtles, birds and many more species.

I wish people would imagine that the house cats they see out the window were actually lions. Then they might begin to understand the predatory disaster roaming cats really are.

Jan. 31 2014 02:01 PM
john from Manhattan

I have 2 cats, brother and sister we adopted from a shelter. They are 3 years old, spayed and neutered, and they generally get along well but the boy cat will attack the girl every night and bite her neck leaving scars. Is this caused by early kitty hood trauma? How do we get him to stop?

Jan. 31 2014 02:01 PM
Amy from Manhattan

The 2 cats I adopted as kittens before the age when they would supposedly have been taught to hunt by their mother turned out to be very good at hunting mice. So maybe instinct is more involved than Mr. Bradshaw stated, or at least maybe there's more variation in this characteristic.

Jan. 31 2014 01:55 PM
Ingrid johnson from Manhattan

I met a woman in C. Park. It was the size of a slightly bigger cat and the woman had the cat on a leash. The woman said the "fur" was not like a cat and it was she said, like a pelt. Very long tail. Could it have been mixed from a bobcat and a cat. Does anyone seen that and is it common?

Jan. 31 2014 01:55 PM
Spinner from NY

help, my cat urinating on things and smearing feces on the floor. I was fixed later - after 1 year old.

Jan. 31 2014 01:53 PM
Jerrie Ann from upper west side

I absolutely don't understand how anyone would allow an animal to poo in a box inside and it sits around your house open ... bacteria..hygiene and just plain GROSS! It is unbelievable to me that cat pet owners allow this!

Jan. 31 2014 01:51 PM
Kari from New York

It seems to me dogs come in so many different sizes because they do things for which their size matters. Terriers must chase small animals down small holes, while Rottweilers are bred to protect people, a job for which large size is a benefit. Cats are small enough already to serve the same job as a lap dog, and their rodent-killing skills are well-known. Has anyone tried to breed cats large enough to act as a protector?

Jan. 31 2014 01:49 PM
Micheal C from Mnhattan

I had a cat that taught himself to go to the bathroom on the toilet REALLY!

Jan. 31 2014 01:48 PM
JFreely from NYC

The speaker just said cats don't need much room (true if you keep them busy w/play) unlike sheepdogs or greyhounds but actually most greyhound owners call the breed the "40 mile per hour couch potato"--large but only a couple walks a day and an easy pet to have, many available in greyhound rescue. They sleep and lounge a lot indoors.

Jan. 31 2014 01:47 PM
Kate from Brooklyn

My cat is 1.5 years old and last summer I moved to a tiny, tiny studio. I tend to work a lot, and in the first apartment she knew, my cat had more space to run around and another cat to interact with. Now it's just me. She's often anxious to play and run around when I get home or when I'm going to bed. I do my best to engage her, but some people have told me it's best to get a second cat to keep her company. However, the apartment is so small, I'm not sure it's a good idea. Any thoughts?

Thanks!

Jan. 31 2014 01:44 PM
John A

I had two kitties, male and female of equal size. Since they were of both sexes, I got them spay-neutered as soon as possible, at 5 months. Now the female is half the size of the male. Would a later operation have allowed her to mature more?

Jan. 31 2014 01:38 PM
oscar from ny

So back on pharaoh's time moses had some stories about the feline or cats..it was an entertainment of the lord to tell his story about a feline becoming a king..that's why they made a body of a cat with the head of a man, it symbolizes this particular animal trying to understand and become like a man or think like a human..there is so many majestic things that cats do..but at the end like the alex in the lion king he can only be made to entertain like in the circus..he jumps through fiery hoops and sometimes be kept jailed ...the cat loves fish, chicken and freedom..

Jan. 31 2014 01:38 PM
JFreely from NYC


I adopted a mature cat, he loves to play & is very friendly but doesn't especially like to be petted, dips his head when he sees my hand. Is this because his previous owner abused him?

Also he gets upset sometimes and starts attacking my ankles--any suggestions?

Jan. 31 2014 01:37 PM
Brant from Brooklyn

If cats required the same amount of care as a dog, don't you think far fewer people would have them as pets? I think the only reason for their popularity is that they require so much less work and space. Dogs love you back, they know you, cats just recognize you as the human who feeds them and pets them. I just don't understand why people like them.

Jan. 31 2014 01:33 PM
Rosalie from Garden City

Our cats who used to be friends up until four months ago, hate each other now and fight like cats and dogs. It started when they were both at the front glass door and I believe an outside cat (the enemy) passed through our front yard. I think my cats' wires must have gotten crossed and they thought each other was the outside cat and started attacking each other. To this day, they hiss, growl and beat each other up. We kept them separated in different rooms for several weeks. Then they were separated in different houses for four weeks. We brought them together in the same house again, but still they're fighting. Will this ever end?

Jan. 31 2014 01:32 PM
andrea

if possible, would love advice on how to determine which foods are of good quality and ethically produced.

Jan. 31 2014 01:30 PM
Amy from Manhattan

How closely related are domestic cats to other small cat species, like wildcats & bobcats? How long ago did they branch off from each other relative to the big cats?

Jan. 31 2014 01:30 PM
kiki from NJ

Why does my cat hate me..or should I say, why is she repulsed by my useless existence? Eh..she can take or leave me.

Jan. 31 2014 01:30 PM
Brook from Bronx, NY

Can you talk about the difficulties of adopting a feral cat? Do you find that they have trouble accepting anybody but their owner?

Jan. 31 2014 01:29 PM
Cassie from New York

Aside from the obvious physical differences between male and female cats, what aspects of a cat's personalities are linked to its gender?

Jan. 31 2014 01:25 PM
Colleen from Brooklyn

When a cat appears to 'present' its prey to its owner, is it actually intending this or is this human projection on the cat? Perhaps it is an old trait created by domestication (a cat is rewarded for killing rodents by humans, and learns over time that bringing the rodent to a human is a way to obtain food)?

Jan. 31 2014 01:25 PM
Nancy from Brooklyn

I recently adopted a cat who often drools when he purrs. I initially assumed kitty had dental health issues, but I subsequently came across information online indicating that drooling can be a sign of contentment, something I'd never heard of. Is this common (or true, for that matter)?

Jan. 31 2014 12:54 PM
Michael from Passaic, NJ

Can you answer any questions about different behaviors and "personalities" in specific cat breeds: for example, Siamese cats, which are known to be more vocal, playful--and who may form stronger attachments to specific owners?

Thank you for this segment.

Jan. 31 2014 12:52 PM
antonio from baySide

Do cats and dogs have any common ancestors?

Jan. 31 2014 12:04 PM
William Finke from Port Chester, NY

Our eight year old dachshund often spends hours alone at home. He gets a rare visit from a labradoodle who he annoys with his intrusive sniffing. What do you think about the idea of taking on a cat with Charlie's well being in mind?

Jan. 31 2014 08:04 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

The Morning Brief

Enter your email address and we’ll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.