Did you know that January 22 is "National Answer Your Cat's Question Day"? In honor of this day, I have asked my human companion some questions about feline behavior. Read our conversation below.
Faye: I often purr and scratch at the door. I’m trying to tell you I want to go outside! Why won’t you let me play outdoors?
Human: You are an indoor cat and shouldn’t be exposed to the harsh elements. Indoor cats who play outside can get injured by sick or stray animals and could contract dangerous diseases. I’ve put a cozy bed by the window so that you can enjoy the view of the great outdoors while safe and snuggly inside.
Faye: I am very healthy, why do you insist on taking me to the vet once a year?
Human: Annual exams are important for every pet. Veterinarians physically check to make sure you are still healthy and give you very important vaccines, such as the rabies vaccine, that keep you safe from dangerous diseases and illnesses. I also pick up your heartworm, flea, and tick medicine from the vet to keep you pest-free.
Faye: Why do I always want to knead your belly while I’m curled up on your lap?
Human: Kneading is a type of motion that cats make with their paws, gently pressing right and left. Imagine a baker kneading a knot of dough. Cats knead on human laps, pillows, blankets, or other cats. Cats knead because it’s an instinctual behavior that they inherited from birth to drink milk from their mothers and to make a soft bed. Cats also have scent glands on their paws that allow cats to mark their territory.
Faye: Why do you always want me to scratch the scratching post and not the couch? Don’t you know that scratching is my feline nature!?
Human: Like kneading, scratching is an important and natural aspect of cat behavior. Cat owners shouldn’t discourage cats from scratching. Rather, since cats are animals who appreciate choice and patterns, owners should allow cats to scratch on a variety of surfaces to encourage responsible scratching behaviors. Some examples of different materials are twine, cloth, and carpet scratching posts, or disposable corrugated cardboard.
Faye: I love playing with the beautiful plants you keep in the house! Why won’t you let me nibble the greenery?
Human: Cat owners must be very careful to allow only nontoxic house plants. Cats can get very sick if they eat the wrong kind of plant. Before choosing a new house plant, cat owners should always consult a detailed list of toxic plants, like this one compiled by the ASPCA. Chomping on greens is another instinctual cat behavior. As a safe alternative, cat owners can purchase feline friendly “cat grass” from the pet store.
Faye: I love it when you brush me! Why do I always feel so much more comfortable after I’ve been groomed?
Human: Grooming is another important job for cat owners. Cats naturally keep themselves clean by licking their paws and grooming themselves. Cats normally don’t need baths. Faye, you have long hair, so I must also brush you carefully and gently, using a special brush made for cats, so that your beautiful fur remains free of tangles.
Faye: You dropped a pill bottle on the floor and I had such fun batting the bottle around between my paws. Why did you take away my new toy?
Human: Pets must never get a hold of human medicine! Owners must be very careful to keep toxic substances away from their pets at all times. If you think your furry friend has discovered a harmful substance, call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center Hotline at (888) 426-4435 or take your animal into the vet immediately. Cats are playful and can often turn inappropriate objects into toys.