In previous postings we talked mostly about canine behavior and language so I wanted to spend some time on our other favorite animal, the cat. First, lets take a little cat quiz. See how you do.
- Do cats have distinct personality types? Yes or No.
- Is temperament linked to coat color? Yes or No.
- Cats are color blind, True or False.
1) Yes for sure! We tend to group the personality types into the categories of Confident, Easy Going, Timid, and Nervous. It's believed that it is in part an inherited trait. It’s also about early handling and socialization as a kitten.
We can always help the adult cat through training however--and yes cats can be trained!
2) No. In fact all cats are actually tabbies! There are no non-tabby genes at the base. Only a few genes that effect the pattern and color. People however respond to coat color so perhaps cats meet our expectations?
3) False. Like dogs they have fewer cones in their eyes and thus tend to see the world in blues and greens, yellows, but not reds.
Cats actually have a very complicated means of communications. Body shape, posture, vocalizations and scent are all part of communicating.
Body Shape & Posture:
Even more so than in dogs, the tail position tells us a lot about what a cat is feeling. If the tail is vertical, it can indicate play, greeting, or frustration (if whipped). If horizontal, amicable approach. Concave, defensive behavior. Lowered, offensive aggression (especially if rigid & flicking) and if more flaccid, defensive aggression. If the tail is still or languorously moving, surveying. Finally if between the legs, submission and fear. The other area we look closely at is the ear position. The more erect the ears the more assertive, the more lowered, the more fearful.
There are three types of vocalizations. Murmur patterns (sounds made with the mouth closed) include the purr which indicates contentment but also can indicate mild conflicting anxiety and the trill/chirrup often heard during play. Vowel sounds (mouth open and gradually closing) are the meow which is usually directed towards caretakers as a means to establish contact. Finally we have strained intensity (mouth open) which are the growl and hiss.
With scent (Sebaceous) glands on the tail, forehead, lips, chin, and pads they have lots of ways of leaving a scent behind. You'll tend to see rubbing of the tail and lips on inanimate objects, perhaps as a way of marking them not as "mine" per se, but as something familiar and "safe". The behavior of head rubbing (called bunting), may be a sign of social status.
Remember that with all animals (even us), context is important in understanding what is being said. Start watching your cat carefully, sort of scanning their body with your eyes as they go about their business. You'll start seeing lots of profound things your cat is saying.
As always, please feel free to ask questions.