Kittens are altricial, which means they are extremely immature and helpless for the first few weeks of life, unlike a horse who is precocial, which means they are born in an advanced state and can walk soon after birth. Altrical species are completely reliant on their mother and unable to protect themselves from danger. This vulnerability means a safe nest is essential for the safety of the kittens.
Can cats have armpits if they don’t technically have arms?
The answer is yes; cats do have armpits. The cat’s armpits are located where the foreleg meets the body, beneath the junction of the arm and shoulder.
Domestication of cats
Witches and cats have had a long-held association and most of us can’t picture a witch without a black cat by her side. But why are cats associated with witches?
Domestication of cats occurred 8,000 years ago when people settled in the Fertile Crescent, the arch-shaped region that includes the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea and land around the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Along with the grains which the farmers grew came rodents. A symbiotic relationship was formed between cat and man; cats protected precious grain stores by keeping rodent populations down. In return, cats gained protection from larger predators such as wolves.
Newborn kittens are altricial, which means they are born completely helpless and unable to move around on their own and do not start to walk until the third week of life. This is a sharp contrast to precocial animals such as horses, deer, sheep, gazelles, who are born in an advanced state and able to stand and run (from danger) within an hour of birth.
Before you bring your new kitten home, you will need to stock up on a few kitten essentials. Doing so ahead of time means that everything is ready and in place for the kitten’s arrival.
At a glance
Food and water bowls
Look for stainless steel or ceramic bowls. Avoid plastic if possible as it can cause feline acne in some cats. Bowls should be sturdy and wide enough for the cat to eat comfortably.
When you bring a new kitten or cat home, where possible, feed the same food they were eating at their previous home. If you want to switch to another type of food, do so gradually, over a few days by adding more of the new food and less of the old.
If you are bringing home a kitten, a small tray is easiest for little legs to climb in and out of. As the cat grows, you can switch to a larger tray which can have high sides (I use storage crates as litter trays), open trays, covered trays of self-cleaning trays.
A cat carrier is a must to safely transport your cat to the veterinarian. Look for a durable one which has both side and top openings and is easy to wash.
Cats need to scratch to remove the loose outer layer of the claws and stretch the shoulders and limbs. Scratching posts are available in different materials which include cardboard, sisal rope and carpet. I am not a fan of the cardboard posts just because they do tend to leave cardboard debris on the floor.
A cat tree is essentially a larger scratching post which may have shelves, cubby holes and resting areas. By nature, cats like to be up high, and a cat tree provides the cat with the opportunity to survey his environment from a safe distance, watch the world go outside or just retreat to his own quiet area for a snooze.
Cat toys come in a vast range of types from toy mice to wands, laser pointers, interactive toys, all of which offer the opportunity to stalk, chase and capture pretend prey. This provides the cat with physical and mental stimulation. Look for toys which can withstand a certain amount of chewing and throwing around, and be careful with toys that have parts which can be easily chewed off and swallowed. Never give cats long strands to play with such as tinsel or knitting wool which if swallowed, can cause a linear foreign body obstruction.
Tip: Don’t keep all toys out at the same time, but rotate, so the cat doesn’t become bored.
A soft, comfortable cat bed which should be easy to clean. Decide early on where you want the cat to sleep, on your bed or not and stick with it. The bed should be in a draft-free part of the room, especially in the cooler months.
Cats, especially those who are indoors will need to have their nails trimmed very few weeks. If this starts in kittenhood, it should be easy to do. Pet shops and veterinarians sell pet nail trimmers, but human clippers are adequate too. Just make sure they are sharp so that they don’t crush the claw and you don’t cut into the living tissue inside the claw.
All cats benefit from a regular brush to remove loose hairs; this is particularly important for longhaired cats whose coat is prone to matting. Brush shorthaired cats once a week and longhaired cats once a day. It only takes a few minutes to keep the cat’s coat tangle-free.
Cat toothbrush and toothpaste
Dental care should start in kittenhood to help prevent the development of gum disease, which not only impacts the teeth but also affect several other body systems. Only use toothpaste which is made for cats.
Speak to your veterinarian about the most suitable anti-parasitic treatments in your area. Common parasites include intestinal worms (roundworm, hookworm and tapeworm), fleas, ticks and heartworm. We recommend veterinary preparations over supermarket products.
How To Tell If Cats Like Each Other-At a Glance
Cats aren’t always the easiest animals to read and can’t tell us what they are thinking, but they do provide us with many clues as to how they feel in general, about us and towards other cats in the house.
Nothing is sweeter than two cats who get along and are company for one another when their humans are out of the house. It is common for cats to bond who were brought together as kittens, or when a kitten is introduced to an adult, but even two adult cats can form close relationships with each other.
What are the signs that two cats like each other?
Rubbing against each other
Cats who are on friendly terms will often rub their heads and bodies together. Cats have scent glands on their cheeks, lips, forehead, flanks and tail. When cats rub against each other, they transfer their scent onto the other cat.
Cats experience grooming from another cat the moment they are born when the kitten’s mother licks the newborn. The mother will continue to groom the kitten until he or she is old enough to groom himself.
The scientific word for mutual grooming is allogrooming and cats will participate in mutual grooming as adults. Mutual grooming is most common among related cats, but can also occur between unrelated cats too. Allogrooming occurs most often on the head, and the neck and can be a form of social bonding or a way to transfer scents between cats.
Cats who get along well will sleep together, often intertwined.
Friendly cats play together, which can include play fighting, chasing a pingpong ball or toy and playing zoomies (chasing each other around the house).
Play fighting can be differentiated from a serious fight if the cat’s claws remain sheathed, the ears remain in a normal position, there is no hissing or growling, and the bite is inhibited, so that it doesn’t hurt the other cat.
Some cats can form such close attachments that if one goes away (outside, to the vet or passes away); the other cat will look for and cry for the missing cat. This can be quite distressing for both the cat as well as the cat’s carers.
What if cat housemates don’t do these things?
All of the above signs are a good indicator that your cats are getting along; however, not all friendly cats will participate in the above; each relationship is different. Some may engage in one or two behaviours or none at all.
My cats who get along are fighting after being separated?
Sometimes when cats are separated, usually because one has been to the veterinarian, the returning cat will be hissed at and in some cases attacked by his or her companion. This phenomenon is known as non-recognition aggression. The cat who has been away returns home smelling or looking different which the resident cat doesn’t recognise. This kind and level of aggression can take on many forms including hissing, growling and swiping to a full-blown attack on the returning cat.
It can help to bring along a piece of bedding (such as a blanket used to line a cat bed, which has the scent of the resident cat and/the house) when picking up the cat. Place this in the cat carrier for the cat to sit on. It will help to transfer familiar household scents on to the returning cat.
Harmony is usually restored within a day or so.
At a glance
Cats have a reputation for being independent and self-sufficient, while there is some truth to that, as living, breathing, feeling animals, cats still need care, attention and love. If their needs are not met, they may display several signs that they are not receiving enough attention as they would like.
All of these behaviours can occur in a happy and healthy cat; the difference is in the severity. For example, most cats meow, but it’s generally not to excess. Any change in behaviour should be investigated by a veterinarian to rule out an underlying medical cause.
Some cats are more vocal than others, Siamese, Orientals and Bengals are all talkative breeds of cat wh like to give a running commentary. Sometimes a cat will start to meow incessantly for no apparent reason; it can occur during the day or on a night when the cat is alone. Common causes of excessive meowing include an entire female cat in heat, cognitive dysfunction syndrome in a senior cat, pain, separation anxiety, boredom and attention-seeking.
Knocking things over
Cats knock things over for several reasons, curiosity, playing, accidents and attention-seeking. In the latter case, the cat will often look at you while he knocks the object to the floor, which attracts your attention.
Following you around
Most cats follow their human around, especially at meal times. My Oriental is relentless on a morning, and will not stop following me until he is fed. This is completely normal but can become a problem if a cat starts to feel ignored and is craving attention.
Winding themselves around your legs
This is normal, especially around feeding time, but it can become too much when it is constant and is also a tripping hazard.
Sitting on your laptop, book, in front of the TV
When you sit down, the cat thinks it’s an opportune time to sit on your lap, but your attention is on a book, the TV, a laptop. So what does the cat do? Blocks your view, so that you will focus on him instead.
Pawing at or climbing onto you
Similar to the above scenario, as soon as you sit down, the cat comes along and climbs on your lap. This can become even more intense when you are talking on the phone or watching the TV because he is feeling ignored.
Scratching is a normal behaviour which helps the cat shed the outer layer of the claw and stretch the shoulders and legs, and transfer the cat’s scent onto the object. When the target is a sofa or the carpet, humans react by shouting at the cat, which gives the cat attention.
We cannot and should not attempt to eliminate scratching because it is a natural and necessary behaviour. A sturdy cat tree is a must for all homes with cats.
Why do cats do these things?
In most cases the person will react to the cat, which gives attention, even if it is negative. This reinforces the behaviour in the cat because he knows if he acts out the behaviour, you will focus your attention on him.
What can you do?
First of all, speak to your veterinarian if your cat is displaying any changes to his behaviour because there may be an underlying medical condition.
The short answer is to ignore bad behaviour, reward good behaviour and enrich the cat’s environment.
- Where practical, move objects to a safe location that the cat may knock over.
- Keep routines the same; cats are creatures of habit and don’t like changes.
- Schedule 10-15 minutes a day (twice a day is even better) to play with the cat. This provides the cat with mental stimulation, physical exercise and time with you.
- Provide the cat with a sturdy scratching post and if the cat is caught scratching an inappropriate object, pick the cat up, and move it to the scratching post with as little interaction as possible. When choosing a scratching post, look at how the cat has been scratching, was it on a horizontal or vertical surface? Better still, buy one of each. Each cat has his or her preferences.
- If you are out of the house for long periods, consider a second cat for companionship.
- Provide other outlets for the cat with food puzzles and interactive cat toys to keep him occupied. Place perches and cat trees near windows so that the cat can see outside.
Ten signs a cat is happy at a glance
Not everybody wants to have a cat visit their garden or home. Feline visitors can fight with or disrupt cats who live on the property, kill native animals and go to the toilet in the garden, which can potentially transmit parasites such as toxoplasmosis, roundworm and hookworm. All cats are territorial, and a visiting cat can cause the resident cat stress, which can manifest as spraying in an attempt to define boundaries.
Mutual grooming (allogrooming) is a common behaviour among many species of animal in which one animal grooms the other. Allogrooming starts immediately after birth when the mother cat (queen) chews the umbilical cord, licks her kittens to stimulate breathing and dry them, then eats the placenta.
The mother continues to groom her kittens for several weeks. This ensures the kittens remain clean, licking the genital region also stimulates the kitten to go to the toilet. Kittens learn how to groom themselves by observing the behaviour of their mother and other cats in the household.
Several studies have been carried out to investigate allogrooming in cats. What has been found is that cats in the wild will remain in a solitary state if food sources are scarce and unlikely to support a group, however, when food is plentiful, cats will form social groups. Social behaviours have been studied in cats within groups which include grooming, rubbing, greeting and sleeping with each other.
Allogrooming occurs most often on the head, and the neck. From a practical perspective makes sense as these are the hardest parts of the body for the cat to groom.
Cats are not the only animals who participate in allogrooming. Horses, vampire bats, primates, birds, fish, large cats and even bees all engage in this behaviour.
Why do adult cats groom each other?
We know it is necessary for the mother to groom her kittens, but adult cats can groom themselves. Several studies have looked into this behaviour and its possible causes.
To deflect aggression
One study, titled The Function of Allogrooming in Domestic Cats noted that higher-ranking animals groomed lower-ranking animals more often. It was also noted that groomers adopted a higher position than the cats being groomed. The hypothesis is that allogrooming is a way to redirect aggression when aggression is too costly to both cats and establish short and long-term bonds. Other studies have shown that the higher the density of cats, the less aggression and more allogrooming occurs, which backs up the theory that allogrooming can redirect potential aggression.
This is now always a successful way to deflect tension. It is not uncommon for the cat who initiated the grooming to attack the cat being groomed immediately afterwards.
To pass on a group scent
Scent plays a huge role in a cat’s life, and scent is a way to identify familiar cats within a colony and distinguish them from outsiders. Cats accept other cats within colonies but exhibit aggression towards unfamiliar cats who are not members of the colony.
This explains non-recognition aggression, which can occur between cats if one has been to the veterinarian and returns home with an unfamiliary scent. Resident cats don’t recognise the strange-smelling cat and will often hiss or attack the returning cat. Things generally return to normal within a day or so when the smell wears off.
One study by T. M. Curtis found that related cats had a significantly higher rate of allogrooming compared to unrelated cats, but close friendships can form among non-related cats.
What about cats who share a home and don’t groom each other?
Not all cats who sare a home groom each other, every cat is different. Cats can live in relative harmony and not be bonded. Some will show affection in other ways, such as sleeping together or touching noses.