The house cat – whether purebred or mixed breed – has many characteristics in common with her wilder cousins such as the ocelot, lynx or leopard. You only have to watch a cat pouncing on a moving leaf to recognize the similarity between her and a tiger pouncing on her unfortunate prey in the wild.
If you keep this similarity in mind, it may help explain why your cat does certain things – because they are instinctive and don’t need to be learned. Cats are extremely curious. They will climb into almost anything to explore. This can pose certain dangers, especially if the “something” is an open trash can full of rain water, or a toilet with the lid up, or an empty paper bag which might be stepped on by mistake. Cats love to sleep in warm, dark places – so keep dresser drawers, trunks and closets closed. Check to see where your cat is before closing the door of the oven, washer or clothes dryer. Before leaving home, always conduct a “cat check” to make sure that your cat has not accidentally been locked
in a closet or an empty room. Think like a cat. Remember that she’s always looking for a new place to explore.
At one time, it was believed that the purring sound came from the throat. It’s now believed that purring results from a vibration in the wall of one of the major blood vessels in the chest. These vibrations, transmitted to your cat’s upper air passages, result in the sound. Cats start purring when they are kittens and most of them purr when they are secure, content or sleeping. Some may purr when ill or frightened.
Kneading is the motion a kitten first makes instinctively when she is nursing with her mother. It consists of pressing one front paw then the other against her mother’s tummy. Many kittens continue to do this as they grow into adulthood. It is usually a sign of contentment and affection, often accompanied by purring. In lieu of the mother cat, your kitten will knead anything soft, such as your favourite sweater, a pillow, your lap, or even your hair.
A common misconception is that cats “scratch” to sharpen their claws. Really, they are merely satisfying the instinct to stretch and “clean” their claws.
Another reason cats “scratch” is to mark their territory. They do this by leaving a visible sign and scent released from glands between their toes. Your kitten will try to satisfy this biological urge regularly, and if her scratching post is convenient, she’ll leave your furniture alone. If you’re having trouble getting your kitten to use the post, try rubbing catnip on it to make it more appealing.
When she starts to scratch something that’s off limits, clap your hands sharply and sternly say “NO”. Then, pick her up gently. Take her to the scratching post to play with a favourite toy, encouraging her to climb and scratch.
Stimulate her urge to stretch by petting her with firm strokes down the neck and back. Always reward her with gentle petting and praise when she uses her post properly. If you have a large house, you may want to have two posts – one near her bed, and one near a specific couch or chair that seems particularly appealing to her. An easy way to prevent your kitten from damaging furniture is to apply double-faced tape to the areas where she is most likely to scratch.