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Understanding Cat Behavior

As I have mentioned in other articles. Adopting or buying a pet is serious business and should never be taken lightly. There are many animals in shelters today because people didn’t do their due diligence to understand what it means to be a pet owner and the responsibilities required for regular and consistent care for their pet.

All animals are born with specific instincts and behaviors that are typical and normal for that animal. Along with these distinct behaviors, there are also some differences between male and female behaviors, just like human beings.

Cats are nocturnal (nighttime) hunters. That means they typically sleep during the day and play and hunt at night. They are also carnivores (meat eaters) and fastidious about their cleanliness and elimination If you decide to adopt a cat, you need to keep these things in mind. Just because you have given a cat a home, whether it is strictly an indoor car or an indoor/outdoor cat, doesn’t mean that the behaviors that are normal and natural for that animal are going to change.

Let’s talk a little about claws. Cats have claws for defense, grooming and hunting. It is natural and normal for cats to sharpen their claws and they do not instinctively know not to do this on your furniture, carpet, woodwork or wood furniture. There are options. For example; you can keep the claws trimmed or add the tips. You can also train your cat to only scratch on a scratching post. And of course, although it is currently against the “traditional thinking” in the cat world, you can always consider declawing.

However, let me caution you about declawing.
1. Only have it done during the kitten stage – meaning under one year old
2. Under no circumstances should you ever let the cat outside
3. Be prepared for resistance from the shelter or breeder if you make it known you intend to declaw the kitten

Along with instincts and unique behaviors, each cat (male or female) has his or her own unique personality. So, there are behaviors that are typical to all cats and there are behaviors that will be unique to an individual cat.

Total acceptance of everything that makes a cat a “cat” is extremely important. No animal is perfect so know that messes are going to be part of the deal. This can be anything from periodic hairball throw-up, to spilling food on the floor, to shedding hair on your furniture, to kicking litter out of the litter box and many other things.

It is extremely important that you educate yourself about cats not only before you adopt, but throughout the life of the cat. Younger cats behave differently than older cats. Healthy cats behave differently from cats with health problems, and multiple cat households take on a hierarchy dynamic that you won’t experience if you have only one cat.

If you are not willing to be “totally accepting” of the animal(s) you adopt, then please rethink adoption. Do your homework. Research on the internet. Talk to other cat owners. Visit a veterinary or your local shelter. All of these resources can help you clearly identify whether adopting a cat is right for you or your family.
Identify your goals for adopting a cat. Adopting a kitten just because Mary wants one is not usually a good idea in and of itself. However, having a pet for your child can be a great teaching opportunity, including love, respect, and responsibility.

I can tell you from my own experiences that having cats in my home has been and continues to be a wonderful and rewarding experience, and I look forward to many more years of the same.  Have there been times when the "mess" was annoying?  Absolutely!   Did the mess cause me to want get rid of the cat or wish I had never adopted?  Absolutely not!

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