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Cat essentials
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Cat essentials

Understanding what’s really important to your cat will help you to create a happy home environment where your feline friend can thrive and let their true personality shine through.  Here’s the important stuff every human cat guardian should know...

#1 “Scratching stuff is really important to me”

It’s something that even the most devoted cat owner finds annoying, but scratching is an essential part of being a cat and fulfils several very important functions. Scratching keeps your cat’s claws in optimum condition, by loosening and removing the outer husk of the claw to reveal a beautifully sharp new surface underneath. Scratching also exercises the muscles of the forelimbs and spine and is the way your cat marks things to say: ‘this is mine!’.  Scent and sweat glands in between the pads of the feet produce a unique smell and when claws are scraped down a surface, your cat’s personal scent is deposited. Find out more here >>

#2 “I need to put my scent on everything – including you”

In fact, for cats, it’s all about smell. Everything and everyone in your cat’s world must be anointed by their unique scent signature. As well as scratching, this is deposited via glands in their face, body and tail, which is why they continually rub around sofas, door frames, table legs, laptop, as well as their humans. By creating and maintaining a pheromone-drenched home environment, your cat feels safe and secure. 

#3 “For me, it’s all about territory, territory, territory”

One of the strongest traits of cat behaviour is territoriality.  Every cat spends much of his or her time familiarising themselves with an area (your house, garden and immediate vicinity), patrolling, monitoring and defending it. But why is this the case? Although comfortably homed and well fed, our pet cats are almost identical to their wild ancestors and retain all the skills and instincts required to revert back to living as a hunter in the wild if they need to. Having a territory means each cat has an area where there is enough prey to provide for their needs – even if, as a doted-on pet, they don’t actually need it. It’s cat logic and we humans just have to go along with it. Find out more here >>

#4 “I need to sleep, a lot...”

Cats spend two-thirds of every day sleeping – but it’s not because they’re lazy. Cats are a complex combination of predator and, because they are small, also prey. As a predator, cats have to work for their food using ambush as a hunting technique. This requires short but intense bursts of energy. As prey, cats must always be prepared to take flight. Plenty of sleep is a cat essential to conserve energy and recharge.

#5 “I like to have places to hide and be up high”

Secret hideaways under the bed or behind the sofa are an important facility for cats who need to have private places to snooze that are undisturbed. Felines also like to be able to access high vantage points such as atop a wardrobe or bookcase. Climbing to a high location provides a them with a better vantage point to spot prey and predator alike, while staying safe. While there may be nothing to prey on or escape from in your lounge or bedroom, it’s a hardwired survival behaviour that shows no sign of diminishing in our pet cats.

#6 “I’m a sunseeker and proud of it”

The reason cats seek out the sun starts with genetics. Domestic cats evolved from a wild species, Felis sylvestris lybica (the African wildcatwhich lives in Africa, Europe, and Asia. As their origins are as desert animals, it makes sense that they like it hot. Furthermore, basking in the sun is something cats do to support the physiology that nature gave them. Part of a cat’s daily energy intake is used to maintain their body temperature – which is a couple of degrees higher than us (100.5 degrees Fahrenheit compared to a human average of 98.6 degrees). By lying in the sun, a cat needs to use less energy to maintain the correct temperature. As obligate carnivores who eat a protein-rich diet, cats don’t have much extra energy to spare to keep them warm if their environment is cooler than they were biologically designed for, which is another reason why they naturally seek out heat sources. 

#7 “I want to work for my food – please don’t hand it to me on a plate”

In the wild, cats have to work for their food, which serves to exercise their bodies and stimulate their minds. According to feline welfare charity International Cat Care, cats would naturally spend up to six hours a day foraging, stalking and catching prey, eating around 10 or more mice, probably involving about 30 attempts at capture. Food predictably dished out twice a day in a bowl in the kitchen presents no kind of challenge. Providing it in feeding balls or cat puzzles can provide a much more rewarding experience. Find out more here >>

#8 “I like to have a place for everything and for everything to be in its place”

Cats can be very fussy about where their resources are located and like them to be kept separately. In fact, the idea of ‘zoned living’ could have been invented especially for felines. Cats like their food, water, litter tray, scratching post and bed positioned in different locations around the house – and being able to access what they want, whenever they want. If there are any of their resources they’re not using, try moving things around to see if it’s the location that’s the problem until you hit the jackpot. Find out more here >>

#9 “I need to feel in control”

Cats are, by their nature, more independent than dogs – in part because their wild relatives don’t live naturally in the same sort of family groups that canines do. Groups of dogs have to communicate with each other, whereas cats – small hunters who operate alone without back-up – are hardwired to think about number one. That’s why cats have an in-built need to feel in control of their environment and can find change extremely stressful – even a new carpet or sofa can set alarm bells ringing. Help your cat to feel safe and happy by surrounding them with familiar things and keeping their home and routines predictable and consistent. 

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Research by UK cat expert Dr Lauren Finka suggests that there are five main personality types. Do any of these sound like your feline friend? 

Sources: icc.org.uk, bluecross.org.uk, cats.org.uk, petguide.com, cathabitat.com.au, wayofcats.comrspca.org.uk, vetstreet.com, catbehaviourassociates.com

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