By Arzoo Raj
Cats, usually, spend a lot of time grooming themselves and the other cats they live with
CAT behaviour, was, is, and will always be an enigma. Cats are not indifferent, mean or unkind like people think. Itís just that cats have a different interpretation of love and they tend to receive and shower love in their own way, which is different than dogs or majority of the other domesticated animals.
For instance, stray dogs are easy to communicate with; they will wag their tails and follow you. However, the same is not true for feral cats. They tend to judge a person first before simply following them or showing love. In other words, one has to earn their love. Coming from a predatory background, they tend to be more vigilant and prefer their own space, so becoming friendly immediately is out of question. Food is one of the fastest ways of making cats believe that you are not a threat, provided you donít feel entitled to touching or petting them immediately thereafter. Establishing a relationship with a feral is a slow process.
For instance, if you want to become friends with a feral feline, you cannot just go and pet them; they might feel threatened, because you are invading their personal space and they become prone to fleeing. Instead, you have to put forward one finger and let them come to you; if they do, they will sniff your scent, if they like it, they might sit beside you. Even that does not give you the pass to touch them and/or cuddle, like one does with dogs. Instead, wait till the feline gets comfortable enough to sit close to you without getting scared. Once that happens, you can slowly touch the catís head with a finger or two, then start petting it with 2 fingers and if the cat doesnít flinch, then you can use your entire palm to pet her/him. It is important to pay attention to a catís tail, before making any sudden passes. A felineís tail tells you a lot about their mood, so one has to pay a lot of attention. For example, if the tail is completely upright and high, it depicts that the cat is content and happy with her territory and current situation. If the tail is hanging low and becomes frizzy or bushy, it refers to a signal of aggression and depicts a serious/agitated mood. If the tail is tugged between the catís hind legs, it depicts signals of fear or submission. If the tail is swishing back and forth or from side to side, it means the cat is concentrated on some particular object, mostly with the intention to catch it, or play with it. One becomes really good at reading the tail language, once you start residing with them. This helps a lot in understanding their mood and acting accordingly.
Sure it sounds like a lot of work, however, one must know that cats like their own space and if you want to get close to them, you have to respect their space and love and accept them for it. I have 5 cats, all feral felines, inclusive of 2 calico queens, all rescued. It was difficult for me too, to get used to the cat behavioural patterns. But the wait and patience was totally rewarding. I cannot even begin to explain the amount of love, respect and care we have for each other and itís nothing short of having a dog or any other animal as a pet. People say that cats are high-maintenance - this is a total myth. In fact, cats are absolutely self-sustaining and all they require is the usual amount of love, care, respect. The things I have learnt from my cats cannot be expressed via words. I am extremely grateful for these munchkins to have entered my life. I adopted the first four cats, when they were kittens, from the streets, soon after some young children touched the kittens and their mother abandoned them. Yes, just like birds, some cats also abandon their young kittens, if a human scent is rubbed off of them. Itís probably because some cats are too vulnerable at that time and might abandon their kittens due to the threat they sense. We took in the four kittens and started by feeding them milk. However, cowís milk was not working and they needed liquid or semi-solid foods, as they were too young to chew other solids. So, we started feeding them Cerelac and realised how similar it was to that of taking care of an infant. Kittens of that age sleep for almost the entire day. Litter training for kittens is actually quite simple as well, you just have to teach them for the first time by only showing them the place where they have to do their business and they will not budge thereafter. Usually, people keep kitty-litter in several corners of the house and once theyíre done making their business, you just have to scoop it out and cats will be ready to use it again.
The one thing that has to be kept in mind while dealing with cats is that all the cats are perpetually neatniks. They prefer clean litter and clean living areas; if you are raising them in dirty/untied conditions, it becomes extremely hard for them to differentiate between their litter place and random places in your house. Cats have a peculiar sense of smell and they recognise majority of the things by their scent, inclusive of human beings. So, if the surrounding smells just like their litter, they might take their business elsewhere in the house.
From my experience of living with 5 cats and feeding almost 6-7 cats every day, I am pretty much down with their grooming patterns as well. Cats usually spend a lot of time grooming themselves and the other cats they live with. They usually spend 50 percent or more of their awake time on it. They donít do this with the sole purpose of cleaning themselves; they do this to maintain their healthy skin and remove all the other unnecessary things from their fur. It sort of works like a lubricant on their fur, which helps their fur look shiny as well. Since feral cats usually arenít that furry, itís hard to see the shine and the smoothness of their fur, but their grooming behaviour is not entirely different from that of the other breeds. In fact, kittens learn to groom themselves from their mothers at a very young age, watching them groom themselves and the young kittens.
Another fact about cats is that just like human beings, cats also have different kinds of behaviour towards the human beings/other cats they live with. All my 5 cats have completely different ways of expressing their love. Let me give an example, my youngest cat is about 1.5 years old and is still getting used to the presence of the other 4 cats. He is the smallest out of all the others, as they all are around 3.5 years old and pretty big comparatively. His name is Pepper and we took him in for his treatment, as he had a broken spine when we met him, therefore, his growth is steady but gradual. He is extremely close to my family and likes to cuddle a lot. My second youngest cat, Brownie, behaves exactly like a dog; if I may, he likes to get belly rubs, he eats with me, sleeps with me, waits for me at the door till I come back from office and basically just rolls around like a dog and even meows till he gets my attention, in addition to being extremely friendly with everyone, even strangers. On the contrary, my calico queen, Cleo, prefers minimal human touch and would not even allow strangers to look at her, let alone hold her. Whereas, my eldest cats, Hazel & Zoey, love the attention, but have their fair share of moments as well.
So the point is, all cats, especially feral felines, have different kinds of behaviour towards both human beings and the other cats they reside with.
Sometimes, cats can get attached to an individual in particular, despite living with many people. Well, ignoring everyone is kind of their thing. This is usually because of the aura they sense from that one individual. Cats, especially feral cats, are not too trusting, so if they do trust, theyíll be extremely close to that individual and the level of their affection will increase tremendously as a result. Some say that cats cannot be too attached, but keeping the above-said in mind, cats can become extremely clingy as well, depending on the level of affection they have for their human.
Living with cats full time is not a task, itís a privilege, which has to be earned and if earned, is absolutely fulfilling and rewarding. Cats have the habit of imprinting on their human, to put it in simpler words - itís the cat that adopts you and not the other way around, which is pretty much awesome.