Studying Cat Behaviour

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  1. What We Understand about Cats and What They Understand about Us
  2. Curious Companions... The Facts About Cats
  3. BBC News Navigation
  4. Studying the Bond Between a Cat and Its Human | Science | Smithsonian

Other research has also shown that cats are sensitive to human moods, being less likely to approach people who were feeling sad and more likely to approach people who described themselves as feeling extroverted or agitated. To test this, the researchers played cats recordings of either their owner calling them or other people calling their name.

The cats were the most responsive to their owner calling. This response was mostly seen in terms of the cat moving its ears or head, rather than walking towards the voice as a dog might. Kittens have around 9 different types of vocalisation, while adults have around 16 different types. When asking for food, a high-frequency miaow is usually also embedded within the lower-pitch purr. In , Edwards et al. In this test, the cat was essentially placed in a room and experienced being alone, being with their human owner and being with an unknown human.

The researchers found that cats spent more time allogrooming head-butting their owners than the stranger. They also only ever followed and played with their owner and never with the stranger. The cats were generally more exploratory and moved around more when their owner was in the room compared to the stranger. Both when alone and with the stranger, the cat generally spent more time being alert and sitting by the door. They vocalised the most when alone compared to when with either human.

Thus it seems that cats do have attachment to their owners that is stronger than with a random human, which is perhaps somewhat comforting to know. Cats also seem to experience separation anxiety, which also indicates that they feel attachment to their owners. When separated from their human owners, cats are more likely to display stress behaviours such as urinating and defecating in inappropriate locations, excessive vocalisation, destructiveness and excessive grooming. Shreve, K. A review of cat Felis silvestris catus cognition research past, present and future. Animal cognition, 18, Edwards, C.

Experimental evaluation of attachment behaviors in owned cats. Current Biology 19 , R—R A comparative study of the use of visual communicative signals in interactions between dogs Canis familiaris and humans and cats Felis catus and humans. Journal of Comparative Psychology, , Saito, A. Vocal recognition of owners by domestic cats Felis catus.

Animal cognition , 16, Girl with cat: Niels Kliim. Pointing: a2gemma. Fluffy white cat: allen watkin. However, substantial variations in landscape type, cat density, the vulnerability of different species and populations, and cat management measures result in uncertainty in determining the occurrence, type, and severity of impacts. The majority of research to date has focused on the behaviour and impacts of unowned i.

While management decisions about unowned cats can be made by public authorities, the management of owned cats is primarily the responsibility of private individuals—cat owners. Efforts to avoid or mitigate any impacts of owned cats on wildlife will require cat owners to a identify cat hunting behaviour as a problematic activity, b take or accept responsibility for managing that behaviour, and c be equipped with the appropriate incentives, knowledge, and capacity to do so effectively.

Qualitative research of this kind is not able or intended to be representative of the population nor to show the prevalence or distribution of certain views among cat owners. Through our subsequent analysis, we have identified a series of key issues and challenges that should be taken into account in continuing discussions about cat ownership, husbandry, and management. Fully confined cats whose food provision, breeding, and movement are closely controlled by humans are at the other end.

The majority of cats fall somewhere between these extremes. Humans, therefore, exert some control over the provision of food, and potentially reproduction through neutering programmes.

What We Understand about Cats and What They Understand about Us

These differing levels of control are associated with varying degrees of attributed or assumed responsibility by owners. Legislative and regulatory responsibilities vary internationally and regionally see Section 1. The focus of existing research on people's perceptions of cat ownership and management varies by region.

US samples were also included in Hall et al. In Australasia, there is heightened interest in cats as predators of native wildlife, and in Australia, the owned cat population is reportedly declining Hall et al. Although support for registration and night confinement of cats is relatively high, there is nevertheless resistance to permanent confinement and bans on cat ownership Grayson et al. This research found that although some people regularly feed cats they do not own, they are unlikely to take responsibility for neutering those animals for a number of reasons, including the assumption that other people own and are therefore responsible for them.

These studies have almost invariably employed quantitative surveys, at different scales, to ascertain differences in public perceptions and attitudes between demographic or stakeholder groups e. This has helped identify patterns and trends in attitudes and behaviours within and between populations. However, such surveys are limited in their ability to extend our understanding as to the reasoning and affective factors informing these perceptions.

Here, we have taken a different, qualitative approach to exploring issues surrounding cat roaming behaviour, predation, and management in the United Kingdom. Given cultural variations in the sociolegal context of domestic cat management, it is worth outlining current circumstances in the United Kingdom. The care and management of cats fall under multiple legislative acts and regulations. The Animal Welfare Act requires cat owners to be responsible for protecting their pets from unnecessary suffering, pain, injury, or disease.

Owned cats are legally considered property rather than persons , and thereby offences would be committed if they were stolen, injured, or intentionally killed. Unowned cats, however, are not protected mammals, and so can legally be humanely killed. Thomas et al. The majority of participating owners were able to predict whether or not their cats would return prey, but not how much.

As in Thomas et al. McDonald et al. These early findings suggest that, in the United Kingdom, cat impacts on wildlife have low cultural salience compared with Australia, New Zealand, and the USA, and that public support for any form of cat management is relatively low. This is supported by Hall et al. Current advice and guidance on cat husbandry in the United Kingdom reflects this, with unconfined cats accepted as the norm, including among conservation organisations, many of which do not officially report cat hunting behaviour as a significant threat to wildlife e.

A key aim of this exploratory study was to identify the perspectives of a diverse group of cat owners implementing a variety of husbandry practices. To achieve this diversity, 48 participants from 37 households were recruited through several different channels. This enabled us to target cat owners from urban, suburban, and rural areas while not restricting our sample to, for example, the members of cat interest groups or owners whose pets are registered with a vet.

To include owners practicing less common management methods e. Table 1 provides summary details about participants and their cats; additional details are provided as Supporting Information Table S1. This is consistent with other studies investigating similar issues e. Participants were primarily interviewed at their homes three were interviewed at agreed alternative locations. Participants read an information sheet explaining the topic of study and signed consent forms prior to their interview.

Participants were informed that they had the right to withdraw at any time. Transcripts were analysed with the assistance of NVivo for Mac v These groups were then further coded into thematic responses and interpreted in relation to the existing literature and wider discussion with owners. We identified six different perspectives on cat hunting behaviour Figure 2 , which are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

Curious Companions... The Facts About Cats

Few owners expressed the opinion that cat hunting behaviour was desirable or a positive aspect of cat ownership. It's nature. The most prominent viewpoint appears somewhat paradoxical. Many owners were conflicted, though, by what they perceived as natural behaviour but also a potential problem: Interviewer: When you think about your cats as hunters or predators, how does that make you feel? Like, it's acceptance that that's in their nature to do it, but, you know I still feel a bit cross with them.

It is just play. And I know it's their instincts and nature, but I just don't like death. Here, the concern for wildlife was focused on welfare of the individual prey animal, rather than consideration of a threat to wild populations. Most participants who identified hunting behaviour as problematic due to its potential impacts on wildlife differentiated between types of prey, with participants primarily concerned about their cats catching birds.

However, some participants were equally concerned about birds and small mammals, especially in terms of welfare and defencelessness see Section 3.

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Interviewer: Why is that? They're not a wild thing… I just think, well if you're going to let your cat out, it will kill animals. And that is…the one thing that I struggle a bit with. Again, however, concerns about this were often qualified with recognition that having prey brought in was a constituent part of cat ownership.

Consequently, some of the responses in this section additionally refer to owner responsibility for other issues associated with cats roaming outdoors, particularly nuisance behaviours e. Participants who did not consider cat hunting behaviour a problem, or who desired hunting behaviour, were correspondingly unlikely to believe themselves—or anyone else—responsible for managing it. Indeed, independence and autonomy were regularly given as key reasons for choosing and preferring cats over other, more closely controlled, pets.

Still, many participants did not suggest—or believe—that they could fully curtail this behaviour, as it was generally assumed that this would involve permanently confining cats, an unpopular management option. This position was associated with a perception that, in urban—suburban areas, individual cats were unlikely to substantially effect wildlife populations, but that high densities of cats could place undue pressure on vulnerable wildlife.

I guess it is an issue. Of those owners who used, or had previously used, mitigation measures, the following strategies were reported. Participants who kept their cats in at night sometimes did so to reduce their cat's hunting, although this often served a dual function of minimizing risks from road traffic. One household only kept their cat in at night during spring when they had found hunting of fledglings to be a particular problem. Another three households had fenced their gardens, which enabled their pets to go outside without roaming and reportedly limited their hunting.

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Confinement is also not a realistic option for those people who keep cats for pest control purposes, and who are indeed unlikely to contemplate any measures to mitigate hunting, as this is the primary purpose of their keeping cats. Temporary confinement e. Several participants had used collars with bells and believed these to be effective. There was also concern about the welfare implications of both collars and devices; several owners had experienced, or knew of, incidences of cats being injured by their collar.

Studying the Bond Between a Cat and Its Human | Science | Smithsonian

A few were concerned that the persistent noise made by bells would be stressful for cats. Some participants also believed that their cats had learned to stalk without the bell sounding, reducing the device's effectiveness. When prey was returned to the home still alive, owners regularly reported attempting to intervene and stop the cat from killing it. Participants frequently acknowledged, however, that removing prey did not necessarily guarantee its survival.

Providing supplementary food for wild birds is a common practice in the United Kingdom. One regularly reported, indirect mitigation strategy involved owners avoiding attracting birds into their garden by removing, or intentionally not installing, bird feeders or nest boxes. One owner reported researching cat breeds that were less likely to roam and hunt before getting a cat. We identified a spectrum of views among our participants, from those who saw hunting as desirable to those who found it deeply concerning. If prospective cat owners were strongly concerned about wildlife impacts, therefore, they may be less likely to obtain a cat; conversely, acceptance of hunting behaviour may be more common among cat owners.

Some of our participants, having been alerted to the potential threat to wildlife by word of mouth or media reports, had subsequently researched the issue but had found little evidence to convince them that their cat posed a risk worthy of intervention. Concern for the welfare of individual wild animals may, in some cases, be a stronger driver of intervention than concern for wildlife populations at larger scales.

Even if owners do not see their cats as having a particular effect on populations, they are often forced to observe cats causing prey to suffer and may empathise. Very few participants raised or when prompted had considered the potential effects of cat density or conceptualised domestic cats as particularly distinct from native wildlife. Most participants therefore considered hunting behaviour an acceptable, if not necessarily desirable, aspect of cat behaviour. Predation on wildlife is dependent on access to the outdoors, and it is therefore difficult to disentangle the perceived benefits of roaming from the apparent risks of hunting.

In the United Kingdom, any impacts of domestic cats on wildlife will likely be related to cat density and overall numbers. Consequently, unless they are particularly successful or enthusiastic hunters or are roaming in sensitive habitats e. Minimising cat impacts might therefore be considered a shared, rather than simply an individual, responsibility.

However, as with other environmental issues that arise from detrimental cumulative actions e.