Cat owners are guilty of causing their cats undue stress by expecting them to behave like a less demanding dog, according to a leading animal behaviorist.
Dr. John Bradshaw believes that if you lavish your cat with affection and expect it to be thoroughly domesticated then, you don’t really understand the wild creature in your living room. He believes that petting cats and affording them no personal space or opportunity to roam makes for a disgruntled pussy.
Dr Bradshaw, director of the Anthrozoology Institute at Bristol University, told The Telegraph that cat owners need to understand their pets better and not be so demanding in their expectations because it manifests itself negatively in the physical and mental health of the cat.
“Unlike dogs, the cat is still halfway between a domestic and a wild animal, and it’s not enjoying 21st century living,” said Dr. Bradshaw.
“People assume cats are going to be like a less demanding dog. They are equally interesting, in my opinion, and equally companionable, but they have their own way of doing things.
“Dogs were sociable before they were domesticated, and we domesticated them so that they would understand what we wanted from them. With cats, all we wanted was for them to keep our houses and farms and food stores free of rats and mice, and they got on with that.
“It’s only in the last few decades that we have wanted them to be something else.”
You’ve only got to take a casual trawl through the billions of cat pictures on Facebook to realize the world’s obsession with cats. At times, the blind adoration and modern worship of all things feline-related can be sort of scary and irrational in its intensity. So just imagine what it’s like from the poor cats’ point of view.
Yet, according to Dr Bradshaw, it’s not us humans that cause cats the greatest stress. No! If you really want to wind a cat up and cut them loose like a firework, make sure they’re never too far away from other cats. Apparently it drives them wild. In the same way that psychopaths can not really relate to fellow humans, Bradshaw believes cats do not really like other cats
“The chief cause of stress is the proximity to other cats, There are two aspects: people get more than one cat and expect them to get on with each other, and they are letting cats outdoors in a neighborhood with lots of other cats.
“But cats are not very good at getting on with other cats. You might get on with your next door neighbor but cats are not like humans. When people move house they have lots to think about, and perhaps they don’t make quite enough allowance for the cat.
“And people want to have two or three cats rather than one, but just because two cats are owned by the same person doesn’t mean they are going to get on.”
For a new BBC television series, Dr. Bradshaw and his team installed infrared cameras to observe how cats interact with one another when mom and dad aren’t around. Dr. Bradshaw revealed that the results were very interesting.
“Owners who believed their cats got on with each other learned the reality was different. Fighting for who sleeps on the owners’ bed is a typical thing. The cameras caught the fight that goes on for the warmest spot on the duvet.
“Cats who don’t get on don’t have to be hissing at each other. They can simply carve the house up, and live in the same building but not in the same space.”
The two common cat ailments of dermatitis and cystitis have a strong psychological component that Dr. Bradshaw believes is induced by living in a stressful environment. He also adds that the biggest mistake cat owners make is expecting the same sort of love and loyalty from their cat that they receive from their dog.
“We make the mistake of thinking they should be affectionate towards us whenever we feel like it. There are cats that will do that, but the majority do not.
“Research shows that if you wait for your cat to come to you and say hello, it will spend longer with you than if you approach the cat first.
“Cats have other things on their mind. They are busy thinking about the neighbors cat, or looking out of the window to see what birds are out there. People get disappointed and think, ‘Oh, the cat doesn’t love me,’ but the truth is that cats in general do love their owners but they have their own lives.”