If you own a cat, it might feel like you’ve developed a shared language with your pet, whether it’s a certain meow or a slow blink.
But do you really know how your cat is feeling?
In a new study, researchers from the University of Córdoba set out to understand the most and least common cat habits.
From spraying on walls to sudden bouts of frantic licking, they have now revealed the seven surefire signs your cat isn’t feeling well.
Dr David Menor-Campos, the study’s lead author, said: ‘Understanding normal behaviour helps improve animal welfare, and especially so with cats, whose antics can be as mystifying as they’re cute!’
Scientists have now revealed these seven signs that show your cat isn’t doing well. A survey of over 800 cat owners revealed that these were the most uncommon behaviours
The researchers surveyed 816 cat owners who ranked behaviours on a scale of frequency from ‘never’ to ‘always’.
Using this data, Dr Menor-Campos and his team were able to uncover which behaviours are genuinely unusual.
The least common behaviour for any cat was spraying urine on surfaces outside of the litter box.
Over 90 per cent of cat owners reported that their cat seldom did this, while 87 per cent said it had never happened.
This was followed by sudden frantic licking or chewing which 83 per cent of owners said had never happened.
The other most uncommon behaviours were defecating outside the litter box, self-mutilation, chewing on objects when left alone, and growling or hissing when petted.
If you own a cat, it might feel like you’ve developed a shared language with your pet, whether it’s a certain meow or a slow blink. But do you really know how your cat is feeling? (stock image)
The study’s authors say they hope these findings will help new and current pet owners be more prepared to deal with their cat’s behaviour.
Previous studies have found that cats’ behaviour and body language can be a good guide to their emotional state.
However, the authors note that cat owners are often very reluctant to ask for help when their cat is displaying behavioural problems.
Cat owners, they say, do not always understand what behaviour is normal for a cat and their reactions can often make the behaviour worse.
For example, if your cat is spraying, it is most likely due to a sudden change in the environment.
But reacting negatively or trying to punish the cat could actually cause more stress and lead to more spraying.
Dr Menor-Campos explained: ‘When cat owners understand what’s normal and what’s abnormal for their pet, they can spot warning signs and address behavioral or health issues before they become too severe.’
The researchers found that cats who live in the countryside were less playful and more interested in hunting, while cats who live in the city are more likely to be scared of new changes (stock image)
At the other end of the scale, the researchers also uncovered the behaviours that were most common for cats.
The thing most often reported by owners was that their feline friends would react with curiosity to new sights and changes in their environment.
Over 80 per cent of owners said that their cat usually or always explored anything new in the home.
This was followed by purring when stroked or petted and asking to be let through doors, which 52 per cent of owners reported always happening.
Other common behaviours included seeking out physical contact when their owners are sitting or lying down, asking for food, and pouncing on moving objects.
In addition to helping us understand what is normal for cats, this study also helps us understand how a cat’s background and environment influence its behaviour.
In the study, published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, the authors write: ‘Female cats were reported to show higher levels of aggressiveness, whether toward strangers, owners or other cats, and higher levels of fear toward dogs and cats than male cats.
‘Male cats were reported to show higher levels of sociability towards people and other cats, and were more vocal than females.
‘They were also reported to be more trainable, more likely to display separation-related behavior problems, and to show a greater frequency of elimination problems.’
Where you live also appears to impact your cat’s behaviour, according to the study.
The researchers found that cats who lived in the countryside were less playful and more interested in hunting, while city cats living in flats were more scared of new things in the environment.
Interestingly, the researchers found that cats who lived with dogs were less likely to have behavioural issues.
The authors added: ‘Cats living in houses with dogs were reported to show more purring behaviour than those living without dog contact.’