In the UK there is a population of 11.1 million pet cats! The average household often has more than one cat. As vets we often see behavioural problems in cats, the signs of which can be extreme i.e. marking throughout the house to very subtle changes.
A the cat has been domesticated, sociability or at least tolerance, towards other cats has developed. Historically, perhaps cats which would tolerate being close to others may have improved their survival, either sharing food sources or perhaps mating. Unlike packs of dogs, cats are solitary animals, which don’t form dominance hierarchies. They often have very strong territorial areas.
Let’s face it cats are often choosey in who they socialise with, both in terms of humans and other cats, they don’t need the company of other cats. This can often extend from kitten-hood and their experience during the social window, which is typically between 2-7 weeks old, long before they are settled in their new homes. Cats can then go on to become more independent between the ages of 18 months and 4 years.
One of the biggest stressors of many pet cats is the close, often forced, proximity to other cats.
Reading your feline friend:
Visual signalling – the tail position is one method of visual communication, if the tail is up then this often signal friendly intent, along with pricked ears and relaxed whiskers. When the tail is between the back legs this often signals nervousness or submission.
Often cats will groom each other or rub their faces on each other, which is a form of social bonding. There are studies which suggest that grooming each other can be associated with trying to redirect potential aggression in situations (like changing the subject) in a way to avoid conflict, as you can see cats are complicated!
Cats have the widest range of vocal communications amongst all carnivore species, which consist of murmuring sounds, including purring. Vowel sounds can have many meanings, whereas the aggressive yowls, hisses are never misinterpreted by vets as being an unhappy cat.
There can be obvious behavioural problems i.e. urine spraying, soiling indoors, scratching furnishings or aggression to humans. To more subtle signs your cat is suffering from behavioural problems i.e. over grooming or hiding. Signs of conflict can easily be missed in a household such as blocking access to an essential resource by the other cat e.g. a litter tray. The interplay between stress and health related conditions is well documented e.g. cystitis in cats.
If you are worried about your cats behaviour or there has been changes recently please don’t hesitate to have a chat to Swaynes’ vet.