The words, domestic and cat is a good example of an oxymoron, a figure of speech where two contradictory words are used together. For all those people who have this vague idea about a domesticated cat, think twice. Although, your cat may trick you into thinking that you may own it (This is usually done for the benefit of food), no one on this earth “owns” a cat.
The fact that your feline friend remains an enigma and mystery even after 9500 years of “domestication” should be an indication of the total independence of cats. Cat behavior has been a mystery to one and all. Fables, myths, stories, research, and a lot more things have gone into understanding cat behavior (without success, of course). So is it impossible to discern the behavior of domestic cats? Well, not really. Although each cat has its own distinct personality, there are certain behavioral traits which are common in all cats and may serve as an effective guide to understanding the behavior of your cat.
Understanding Domestic Cat Behavior
Incessant Self Grooming: Every cat owner can relate to the fastidious grooming and cleanliness that is associated with cats. So when my orange tabby is not hunting or harassing me for food, she is most probably cleaning herself meticulously. So why do cats groom themselves? Well, grooming in cats helps lower the body temperature during the warmer months, straighten out the matted fur, and pull out the remains stuck in the hair. The flexible spine and the sharp papillae on the tongue helps the cat to effectively clean each part of its body other than the face and head. For these parts, the cat wets its paws and runs it over the head and face. While grooming is a natural sign of a healthy cat, watch out for the hairballs that result from it.
Purring: This soft vibrating rumble that accompanies a content cat asleep in your lap is one of the most calming and reassuring sounds on earth. Purring is a sign that your cat is content and happy at the moment. This is actually a response by a kitten that indicates to the mother that all is well with it. As the kitten grows up, it can purr when it is content and happy and also when it is frightened or ill, to reassure and calm itself. Pregnant queens may purr when they are delivering kittens. As opposed to this sound of contentment, cats in fear may growl, hiss, spit, or “deliver” their meow request with folded paws.
Sleeping: Why do cats sleep so much? This is probably one of the most asked questions by all cat owners. Sleep patterns in cats may vary based on the cat’s diet, its natural instincts, or even when it is bored. So a cat which has been fed a protein-rich diet will sleep for long hours as it does not need to hunt for food. Most of the domestic cats who stay at home sleep out of boredom. Cats are usually light sleepers and prefer short naps rather than long extended periods of sleep. This is a genetic trait inherited from the feral cats in the wild who had to sleep light so that they could discern the sound of an approaching predator or for that matter prey.
Cat Body Language: One of the most fascinating aspects of cat behavior is its body language. With a swish of a tail, a move of an eye, and a slight change in posture your cat would have just spoken a thousand words to you. Obviously, we humans, so insensitive to the mighty cat language, would not actually know what the signals mean and would end up giving it more food when all it wants is to go out! So a cat with its tail up high is content and comfortable with its surrounding as opposed to a thrashing or puffy tail which indicates annoyance, anger, and irritability. If the tail is quivering slightly, then it is either out of excitement of having sighted a bird or due to happiness and playfulness. Other body language indications include arching the back in fear, blinking their eyes or sprawling on their back to show how relaxed and comfortable they are with you, and shaking their paws which is indicative of their disgust.
Although knowing about their sleep patterns and body language may seem insignificant to you, discovering the meaning of your cat’s behavior is a great way of understanding your feline friends, avoiding cat behavior problems, and building a bond for life with them.