Feline behaviour specialist, Dr Sarah Ellis talks us through her top tips on how to show your cat how much they’re loved!
As Valentine’s Day approaches, many people will be thinking about what they can do to show their loved ones just how much they care. Many will also be looking to treat their furry friends - the most recent stats from Gocompare show that Brits spend an average of £54 million Valentine’s Day treats for their cats. However, just like the old saying goes ‘pets aren’t just for Christmas, they are for life’, in the spirit of our ‘I Heart My Pet’ campaign, cat owners should be looking to show their cats how much they are loved all year round, not just for one day.
Our own research tells us that 90% of Brits say that owning a pet makes them happier and 11% of women would rather share a bed with their pet than their partner!
We interviewed Dr Sarah Ellis, feline behaviour specialist at charity ‘International Cat Care’ to get her thoughts on how owners can strengthen their bond with their cat and show them how much they are loved. Here’s what she told us:
Describe the perfect environment for any cat?
“Cats thrive on having safe places from which they can rest and observe their surroundings. Access to hidey boxes, shelving and cat trees can really help cats feel safe and secure in their home. Furthermore, they do not like to eat or drink close to where they toilet so ensuring all their resources (beds, food bowls, water bowls, litter trays) are distributed throughout the home rather than dedicating one place to all the cats belongings will help your cat feel content with his home. Cats still retain much of their ancestral predatory behaviour so the ideal environment needs to have opportunity to exert such behaviours – this can be achieved by providing plenty of play opportunities.”
You can tell a lot from body language, what can cat owners learn from the way their own cats act?
“Most owners can tell when their cat is happy – purring, chirruping, rubbing their faces and bodies against our hands and legs and jumping on our knees are just some of the signs of a happy, friendly interactive cat. However, owners often find it more difficult to recognise the subtle signs that their cat is feeling some conflict or anxiety. Signs include rippling and twitching of the skin, head shaking, short and intense grooming at the base of the tail or on one shoulder, and swishing of the tail. Some cats also swish their tail when they are relaxed so it is important for owners to recognise their cats tail movements when relaxed to have a baseline to compare too.”
How can owners look to improve their relationship with their cats?
“Scientific study has shown us that cats thrive on human interaction that is positive, consistent and predictable – cats are often creatures of routine. They therefore do not like when we pick them up with no warning nor do they like when we change on a daily basis how much we interact with them. Many do not like being touched at the base of the tail and there is general consensus that the preferred place to be touched is under the chin, and on the cheeks and head. Owners will also get the most out of their cats if they allow their cat to choose when to start and finish any interactions such as stroking.”
What would be the best way for owners to let their cats know they love them?
“As people, we tend to show our affections for one another through prolonged close contact such as hugging. Cats differ in the way they show their affection, often choosing contact to be of short duration. One of the best ways we can show we love our cats is to respect their needs and treat them like cats.”
How can they ensure that they are happy and healthy?
“Veterinary care is paramount to ensuring a cat is and remains healthy. A visit to the vets is often an event that does not necessarily create happiness in a cat and therefore I thoroughly recommend owners checking to see if their current veterinary practice is part of the Cat Friendly Clinic scheme, and if not, encouraging them to do so. The Cat Friendly Clinic scheme, run by the International Society for Feline Medicine, the veterinary branch of International Cat Care, ensures visits to the vets are as stress-free as possible for cats thus helping to promote healthy and happy cats.”
If you could give cat owners one piece of advice, what would it be?
“Think cat! Swatting up on understanding what a cat is and what behaviour is natural for the species will greatly help owners make the right decisions when it comes to the care of the cat. One common misconception is that all cats can live happily alongside other cats. Actually, cats evolved from a solitary ancestor and while domestication has introduced social flexibility within the species, many cats remain highly solitary and struggle to live contently sharing their home with another cat.
For more information about the ISFM Cat Friendly Clinic Scheme, see here.
For a wealth of cat advice ranging from health to behaviour, click here.
We’d love to know how you show your cat that they’re loved Tweet us @iheartmypetUK or visit our Facebook page: IHeartMyPetUK and let us know!