Tag Archives: Relations

How to prepare your cat for the arrival of a baby in the family ?

Claire’s adorable sport coach will soon become a dad, that’s what motivated us to write this post.

From a purely feline point of view, a baby resembles an alien from the planet Mars. If it’s not well prepared, his arrival can cause excessive stress or anxiety in your cat, which could result in inappropriate elimination, escape behaviour where the cat will hide, or manifestations of aggression. Indeed, your cat was there before your baby, and it’s important to do everything possible to ensure that everything goes well and that your cat doesn’t consider the baby as a threat, but as a member of his family.

In order to allow your cat to consider your baby as a possibly frequentable human, a few preliminary steps are necessary.

Several weeks before the baby arrives

Let your cat walk around the nursery, and let him be present when decorating and assembling furniture. The change has to happen gradually; let your cat freely explore this new environment as you go.

The door of the baby’s room will be closed at times: get your cat used to the fact that this room will not always be accessible by closing the door at times when it will be closed once the baby is there.

Talc and various lotions have a very special smell. The cat universe is a world of smells, and much of his communication with his congeners goes through this channel. Apply baby products on your skin to get him used to these new smells.

Finally, a baby chirps, babbles, gargoyles, cries, yells, gesticulates awkwardly, briefly said, makes all kinds of noises and gestures: if your cat has never been in contact with very young children, you can make him listen to recordings of baby crying, first at a very low volume. If your cat stays calm, reward him with a treat. Gradually increase the volume and duration, rewarding your cat at every step. If the noise stresses him, play a while with him before playing the recording so that he creates a pleasant game-noise association.

On D-Day

Baby is here, congratulations ! As soon as possible, ask a person who can do it to take a blanket or suit impregnated with the baby’s smell, bring it home, and rub the places where your cat usually rubs to deposit the smell of the newborn baby before leaving the blanket or clothing in a common area (living room for example): this will allow your cat to become familiar with the smell of the baby, and help him to identify the newcomer as a member of the family.

Back home

You will probably be overwhelmed and focused on your baby, but don’t forget your cat: he needs as much attention as before. Keep a certain routine, do not move his litterbox, his bowls or his favorite blanket. Play with him regularly, give him a few treats in the same room while you give the bottle to your baby, congratulate him every time he calmly joins you when you’re in the presence of the baby so that he associates his presence with something pleasant. Let him explore the nursery again now that it’s full of new noises and smells, and don’t force your cat to the baby : if he approaches to smell your baby, watch the maneuver calmly, but let him. Let your cat integrate all these changes at his own pace.

In any case, any interaction between your cat and your baby must be under strict supervision. Plan where your cat will have access, but not your child, right from the start, so your cat can step back when he wants, and escape the little grabbing hands. As your child grows up, teach him to respect your cat: show him how to pet him, teach him how to decode the subtle signs that show to leave the cat alone, and be ready to intervene. Even a very nice cat can scare or unintentionally hurt a child if he’s disturbed or caught off guard.

All these precautions should allow the birth of a long and beautiful friendship, in mutual respect of each other.

Photo by blmurch on Foter.com / CC BY

Is my cat smart ?

What is intelligence ? Or rather, what are the different characteristics of a kind of intelligence ?

Intelligence is a very complex concept that is still poorly defined : for the moment there is no scientific consensus for a precise definition. In fact, genetics, substances ingested by the mother during pregnancy, nutrition, or even the environment have an influence on the development of intelligence, which leaves thousands of possibilities for a kitten to become a feline genius… or not.

For us, intelligence is the ability to understand, learn and adapt to new situations, and to modify our environment to adapt to our needs.

Is my cat smart - Zorro on the heater

It took a long time for the notion of animal intelligence to be accepted and measured under correct conditions : animals were first subjected to tests similar to those carried out on children. This is of course biased because it completely ignores the specific needs of different species and the environment in which they operate. Is an elephant’s intelligence measured by his ability to climb trees, or a human’s intelligence measured by his ability to hunt mice in a field ?

Is my cat smart - Pixie on her trunk

How do I know if my cat is smart or not ?

That’s the question ! So we have prepared a brief overview of several characteristics of feline intelligence :

  • Is your cat creative ? Has he found a way to open the cupboard you thought was inviolable ?
  • Does your cat have the ability to focus ? Can he stay for hours to watch for the lizard that got under the cabinet, or stalk from the bushes ?
  • Does your cat have a good memory ? If it’s an outdoor cat, does he know how to find the way home ?
  • Does your cat have the ability to form concepts ? For example, wings + black + bzzz = fly = yummy, wings + striped black and yellow + bzzz = wasp = ouch, DANGEROUS
  • Is your cat able to learn new behaviors ?
    – by direct experience : not react by hearing the vacuum cleaner, go to the kitchen when the fridge door opens at the end of the day, meow hard enough and long enough for a human to give me a treat, play with me or open the door to me, discover the hidden treats in a game board, …
    – by transmission : kill a prey by observing how a more experienced cat makes, open a door by pressing the handle, …
  • Does your cat know how to use his body with precision ? Is he skilled ? Can he use his claws or teeth to open a bag of treats ?
  • Does your cat show emotional intelligence ? Does he recognize your emotions and act differently based on them ?

If you answered YES to most of these questions, no doubt, your cat is smart ! A specific training can even help him develop amazing abilities.

Cats and their humans are, however, equal in the face of aging in the sense that this phenomenon can impair their cognitive abilities.

Is my cat smart - Pixie wondering

To learn more about it…

To learn more about animal intelligence, we recommend « Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are ? », Frans De Waal, 2016.
For more information on cat learning, we recommend « The Trainable Cat : How to Make Life Happier for You and Your Cat », John Bradshaw, 2016.
These are two books that we found very comprehensive, interesting, and easy to read.

What manifestations of intelligence did you observe in your cat ? Tell us in your comments !

Feline communication for beginners

Over time, your domesticated became more or less expert in communication with you : you mutually learnt to decode your verbal and nonverbal language, and to interpret several signals given simultaneously.
feline communication
We address the not domesticated humans, as well as the future domesticated ones. Imagine that you meet a cat on the street, or at somebody’s. This cat looks at you, or not. He emits sounds, or not. He’s standing in some way.

How to understand a cat (beginner level) ?

Listen : if the cat growls or hisses, it’s better not to approach him !

Look : look at the eyes, at the position of the ears, and at the tail of the cat : an expert in feline communication will have very subtle information by combining this three information, but a beginner can already understand roughly the basic message.

angry cat

By Hannibal Poenaru from near Paris, France (flickr.com) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Eyes

  • half-closed eyelids : comfort
  • wide opened eyelids and dilated pupils : aggressiveness or fear
  • fixed look : warning !

Ears

  • raised forwards: interest
  • folded back : threat or been afraid (drop ears)
  • folded aside, like a plane : anger

Tail

  • non hérissée, verticale, rectiligne (extrémité recourbée ou non) : accueil amical, contentement
  • not bristly, vertical, rectilinear (hooked extremity or not) : friendly welcome, satisfaction
  • not bristly, horizontal : interest, curiosity, neutral
  • bristly, vertical, rectilinear : aggressiveness
  • bristly, low, rectilinear : fear
  • pulled down against paws or under the belly : concern, fear
  • movement of the extremity : small annoyance
  • fast movement : excitement
  • jerky movement : big annoyance

Of course, feline communication is much more elaborated : our posture, our mimes, our moving, all these other elements also give information to humans who can understand them. We repeat it, what we presented to you here represents the BASICS of feline communication for novice human. We voluntarily left aside several visual and acoustic signals which the majority of the domesticated know how to recognize.
feline communication
Between us, between cats, we communicate also a lot by chemical messages : deposits of urine or poop, secretions of our glands put down in the environment, or still secretions and smells which spread directly from us. However, this form of language remains inaccessible to humans : they don’t have the sense of smell developped enough, and their vomero-nasal organ is vestigial for a very long time. In other words, they are underequipped !