Ever wish you had a secret guide to deciphering your cat’s language and behavior? Here are a few things your cat would like you to understand.
Please don’t interrupt my nap on your keyboard
You humans talk a lot about the work you do on your computers, but you don’t hesitate to wake us up and chase us away when we’re sleeping on them. Yet, we know exactly what you’re going to do once you’re in front of your screen: you’re going to watch cat videos. Weird, isn’t it? What does it take for you to understand that we cats need to sleep between 12 and 16 hours a day? Without it, we’re like mops! Besides, our delicate bodies need the warmth of your computer: the temperature we cats like is about ten degrees higher than yours.
Stop taking pictures of me (I don’t belong to the Kardashian clan)
You humans can’t seem to keep your phones off our faces, but you resort to sneaky techniques like waving a toy in front of us to get our attention and then dropping it when we turn our heads. This is cruel. If we cats are willing to let you take our picture, you could at least play with us a little in return. There is one thing you don’t have to worry about when you photograph us, though: the flash doesn’t damage our eyes. But it will often produce an ugly glare in the photo because of our tapetum lucidum (Latin for shiny carpet), a layer of ultra-reflective cells in the back of a feline’s eye that helps them see at night.
Get your dirty hands off my belly, will you?
You think we’re just being nice by showing you your belly? In some cases, it’s true that it’s a sign of camaraderie. But at other times, it means the opposite. In the language of cats it means: “You want to fight? Come on, come on!”. Showing the belly is a defensive movement indicating that all our limbs and claws are in attack mode. If we show our belly, we may also just be trying to stretch ourselves.
I’m a cat… let me do my claws
Just like you, who have to trim and file your nails so they don’t end up in the Guinness Book of World Records, we also have to maintain our claws. But we cats have other reasons to take care of them. First of all, scratching helps us to remove our dead nail cells. But we also do it to mark our territory (we have secretory glands in our claws) and to stretch (how do you think we stay so graceful?). Alas, when we mess up your sofa or your favorite carpet, some of you decide to have us declawed. Please don’t – it’s like having your fingertips cut off. Instead, get us a scraper (you may have to try more than one before you find one that works for us). Rub it with a little catnip and give us a treat when we use it.
I am perfectly capable of cleaning myself, thank you!
Some scientists believe that modern cats don’t like to swim or get wet because their human companions have kept them out of the rain and water since they were domesticated 5,000 to 10,000 years ago. Plus, it’s true that cat hair “doesn’t dry very quickly, and it’s very unpleasant for them to stay wet,” observes Kelley Bollen, an animal behaviorist at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. I also believe that cats are control freaks and prefer to keep all four feet on the cow floor, plus they hate the feeling of floating.” Besides, who needs a shower, right? We cats are born with a built-in toiletry kit: claws, a hard, raspy tongue and plenty of saliva. But as much as we hate being in water, you should always make sure we have something to drink, especially if you’re feeding us dry food (canned food is 78% water). No matter what our diet is, we must have our water bowl, and you must change it every day.
Don’t panic when I “offer” you a dead animal or insect
Animal behaviorists have some ideas about why we do this. Maybe we’re imitating what mama cat used to do for us. Or maybe you fill our bowl every day and, since we’re not ungrateful, we return the favor. Or maybe we’ve caught more crickets than we can eat and we figured you wouldn’t spit on the leftovers. And finally, maybe we offer you our catch so you can save it for us later. Anyway, like “scratching”, offering bugs is in our genes, so if you don’t like our gifts, maybe you should attach a bell to our neck so we can’t catch anything.
I’m meowing to tell you something, but when you meow back, it’s clear you don’t speak cat!
Science has discovered that cats can produce more than a dozen different meows, each with its own meaning. Kittens usually meow to communicate with their mothers, but adult cats only meow to communicate with humans (we prefer hissing, growling and squealing to communicate with each other). The most receptive cat owners can tell the difference between a “I’m hungry” meow and a “I’m bored! Or an “I’m in pain” from an “I’m scared”. When you meow something to us, we recognize your voice, but for us it’s like speaking the language of some sports commentators: we don’t understand anything you say!
We cats have no problem with nudity
Humans are driven by a terrible desire to inflict hats, ties, dresses and other clothes on us. But what are we to you, huh? Dogs? We hate feeling confined or confining, and if you catch us rubbing one of your sweaters sometimes, it’s just that we like the feel of the fabric under our claws; it doesn’t mean we dream of wearing it. We don’t need clothes to feel covered: our fur contains over 21,000 hairs per square centimeter (did you know that the surface area of a cat, including hair, is roughly the same as a ping-pong table?)
Stop blaming my hair for your allergies
Why are so many humans allergic to us? (Allergies to cats are said to outnumber allergies to dogs two to one.) Do you know any cats that are allergic to humans? And humans are really quick to blame our hair. But what causes your sneezing and coughing is actually an extremely tenacious and adherent protein on our skin called “Fel d 1”. And sorry to disappoint all those people who went to the trouble of buying a so-called “hypoallergenic” species, but there is no such cat! Some breeds produce less Fel d 1 than others, but all cats do.
We’d really like you to find another animal to demonize
Black cats are said to bring bad luck; in some parts of France, crossing paths with a cat on the first of January condemns you to 365 days of calamity; cats are said to be the favorite companions of witches and villains. It took us cats centuries to get rid of this bad (and completely false) publicity. Stop spreading these lies. And instead, you humans should continue to do what your species does best: badmouth your fellow man.
Would you stop ridiculing people who love us cats?
While dog lovers are seen as outgoing, friendly and active, cat lovers are called names. It hurts our feelings.
When we stop, fall and roll over, it’s not an accident.
Watch the time and place of our antics carefully to understand, because it’s often a strategy of “peek-a-boo, look at me.” Does this happen when you’re on the phone? On the computer? When you’re putting on your shoes to leave the house? Remember, you see a lot of people in a day, whereas we cats have a pretty limited audience – the people we live with – so be a good audience.
When we meow non-stop, it may be a cry for help
Some cat breeds, like the Oriental Shorthair or Siamese, are more talkative than others. But if your usually quiet cat suddenly becomes very “talkative,” she may be sick and should be taken to the vet. But he may also be meowing for another, less worrisome reason: the need for attention. You humans generalize that cats are loners, reserved creatures. Wrong! Of course we need quiet time, but we also like company, especially if you’re gone all day.
When we relieve ourselves out of our litter box, it’s not just to annoy you
If we have a urinary tract infection, sometimes we don’t make it to the cat’s room. To find out what’s going on and if there are other problems, take us to the vet. We cats like our litter box to be like Kate Middleton’s hair: clean and lush. Please change it every day, and ideally give us an open box; we prefer them to closed ones.