Understanding how cats think and learn
The first unit investigates the origins and evolutionary lineage of Felis catus, comparative behaviours with other cat species and between breeds of Felis catus. Comparing and contrasting domestic cat behaviour with that of other cat species aims to show that the majority of behaviours are normal, standard behaviours for any cat. Module one concludes with how the physiology of the cat is linked to behaviour.
How to deal with some of the most common behaviour problems
Unit 2 looks at how the domestic cat learns, communicates and vocalises to provide a way to interpret their behaviour and “read” what a cat is thinking. This module goes on to investigate how to avert “problem” behaviour and concludes with developing the understanding that such behaviours are simply ones that are undesirable to the human lifestyle.
Cat Behaviour Problems
Understanding what is “normal” behaviour for a domestic cat including visual and audible behaviours, is crucial to preventing so-called ‘problem’ behaviours. Being able to “read” what a cat is saying by their body posture, ear position and vocal sounds is a step toward that understanding.
Unwanted behaviour will have a root cause and the cat cannot be expected to deal with the cause in a rational manner. The human environment is something the cat is expected to accept that environment according to human perceptions of what is “right” and what is “wrong” behaviour.
This course explores examples of problem behaviour, together with suggestions as to resolving the issues. This cat behaviour course also deals with how cats think and learn.
The domestic cat, Felis catus, has lived with humans for thousands of years becoming domesticated and equipped to flourish in the human environment. Originally, the domestic cat worked with people to reduce the rodent population that thrived on grain and other human food sources but nowadays, most domestic cats (in the Western World) have become companion animals rather than working animals.
Because of this change in their status, their behaviour sometimes causes a problem to their human companions. The “problems” result in cats being abandoned, relinquished to rescue centres or euthanised. However, with an understanding of why cats behave the way they do, it should be possible to avert relinquishment and prevent the other unacceptable actions due to unwanted behaviour.
A cat begins to learn soon after birth when the eyes have opened and hearing is established. This happens about two weeks after birth and the very first learning should come from the mother cat who begins to teach her kittens what it is to be a cat. If left without human contact of any sort, kittens will develop as feral cats, totally wild-living and unsociable in human terms.
Human contact and experiences need to be present from two weeks after birth when the primary senses become active and from then on, in any way possible so that a kitten can become habituated to the presence of humans. Although wary at first, frequent pleasant experiences with humans will allow the kitten to learn that people are acceptable within their world.
The learning does though, need to be supported by the reaction of the Mother cat who will provide the primary stimulus to how the kitten will react. If the Mother cat spits and growls every time a human approaches, the kitten will learn that that reaction is how to behave when a human appears on the scene. Such a reaction would be unsociable in terms of a human-cat relationship.