Cat behaviour – what is your cat really thinking.
Cat in a Flat had a little chat with Anita Kelsey, cat behaviour specialist to get a snapshot into just what is going on in our cat’s minds… Are they in fact plotting world domination? What are the not so obvious signs they could be in distress?
All will be revealed in our Q&A, we hope you find it as informative as we did…
How long have you been a cat behavioural specialist?
What made you want to go into this line of work?
I guess a passion for cats and wanting a change in direction from my previous career.
What’s the best part of your job?
Helping cat owners understand their cats and build a harmonious relationship with them.
What’s the worst part of your job?
Sometimes having to re-home a cat to improve a situation. It’s always a tough decision for the owner which is upsetting to see but down the line it has always been the best outcome for the cat in question.
What is the first thing you notice when you meet a new cat?
I always notice body language, whether it is nervous and showing tensions or affectionate. This guides me on how the cat should initially be approached.
How can you tell that your cat isn’t feeling right?
Usually the cat’s typical daily pattern/activities will change. An example is lying about too much when initially the cat was active. Less interest in food or human interaction is another sign something isn’t right. Toileting outside of the litter tray is another sign.
Have you seen quite extreme behaviours in cats?
Behaviours like over-grooming to the point of self-harm are typical of cats suffering from anxiety or boredom as a behaviour issue rather than medical. Some cases can be extreme with the cat ending up bald or the skin broken in areas of the body. It is upsetting to see but can usually be worked with once diagnosed correctly.
What advice would you give an owner struggling to bond with their cat?
To lower expectations and understand the cat as an animal first. Not all cats like petting or being held. Working with a cat’s individual personality and seeing life from their point of view is any cat owner’s first port of call.
What advice would you give an owner who has a new relationship and their cat isn’t a fan?
Food! Get the new partner to start feeding the cat and playing with it using good quality hunting style toys. I’m sure it won’t be long before the cat and new partner are best friends.
What should every cat owner or cat sitter be aware of when taking care of a cat, do you have three top tips?
1. Respecting a cat’s space, don’t always assume a cat wants to be stroked and picked up.
2. Understanding a cat’s body language improves relations between humans and cats. Recognise when a cat may feel nervous of a stranger entering its home for the first time (as an example). As a cat sitter allow the cat to approach you in their own time, get down to the cat’s level to allow it to sniff your hand as a first good introduction.
3. Always look at the home as a cat would and try to stimulate the environment as much as possible considering a cat’s natural behaviours.
What is the best piece of cat related advice you’ve been given?
To understand a cat by looking at life as they see it and not as we see it.
Why do you think cats are so great?
I think we all love cats because of their large eyes which appear big in comparison to their heads, because they are a curious independent species that make us laugh by the nature of that curiosity and they have learned to live near with us to get exactly what they want when they want it. We find this cute. Whether we work professionally with them or not we have all fallen under their spell.
Anita Kelsey holds a first-class honours degree in Feline Behaviour & Psychology and runs a vet referral practice in Notting Hill dedicated strictly to the diagnosis and treatment of behaviour problems in cats. Anita is a full member of The Canine and Feline Behaviour Association. To contact email please email firstname.lastname@example.org.