As with many forms of feline behaviour, it is not entirely
clear why a cat treads, although many animal behaviourists believe it is a sign of contentment and pleasure.
Treading is a common behaviour
seen in cats of all ages, although its origins are believed to lie in kittenhood. Cats are most likely to start treading with
their front paws either just before settling down on a chair to go to sleep, or when sitting down on your lap. As this is
often accompanied with unsheathing of the claws, it can be painful. This is not a sign of aggressive behaviour; it indicates
contentment, usually being accompanied by purring. When a cat displays treading behaviour it always appears to be very relaxed.
This type of behaviour is also known as paddling, because of the up and down movement of the cat's paws. The reasons for this
behaviour, however, are by no means clear cut. Many cats, especially those that have lived in a single household since weaning,
will form a strong bond with their owners, although this may not be as strong as in the case of a dog.
Being primarily dependent on their owners for food means
that such cats are especially likely to live in a regressive state of mind. They retain behavioural patterns seen in kittens
and view their owners as surrogate mothers. It is thought that treading mimics the way a kitten uses its paws to stimulate
the flow of milk from its mother's teat. Treading is common in breeds such as siamese, which tend to be the most demonstrative
in any event. It is also not unknown for them to dribble at the same time, which suggests anticipation at the prospect of
The outstretched paw of this
new-born kitten seems to be pummelling its mother's teat in the same way that older cats like to tread or paddle on your lap.
TREADING AND MARKING
There may be another possible explanation for this behaviour
however, and this relates to scent marking. Cats deposit scent from sweat glands between their toes when they are pummwlling
in this way. Treading may therefore be another subtle way in which they are laying claim both to you and their territory in
the home whether it is a favourite armchair or a new visitor!
DID YOU KNOW
?Although treading is thought to be
a sign of a cat's affection, cats will also knead complete strangers in this way, who can turn out not to be cat lovers. Nobody
knows why cats sometimes gravitate towards and show affection to people who do not like them.
?Avoid trying to lift your cat off a
chair when it is treading as it is likely to pull out threads caught in its claws. Check the claws are free first, gently
prising them out if necessary, before picking up your cat in order to protect your upholstery. Also avoid wearing fabrics
that snag easily (knitted or loosely woven fabrics) and always choose firmly woven fabrics for your upholstery.
Q My cat insists on jumping on to my lap and treading whenever
i sit down. I really find this uncomfortable and want to stop it. How should i go about it ?
A If you think your cat is treading because he lacks confidence
or is too dependent on you, try to sort out these problems with your vet. Otherwise, if you simply stand up every time the
cat jumps on your lap, he should eventually get the message.
Q Will my cat get upset if i constantly push him off my
A It should not harm the bond between you, but cats do need
affection, so try to provide this in other ways. Encourage your cat to sit beside you, for example, rather than on your lap.
Older cats will tend to do this anyway, because it may be more comfortable, but they will still often tread before settling
CLIMBING AND BALANCING
The sure-footed cat is demonstrating its agility and extraordinary
sence of balance as it strides confidently along a high, narrow fence. A combination of power and flexibility also helps to
keep it out of danger.
To watch a cat climb and balance,
often in precarious situations, can be an anxiety-inducing experience. Cats, however, are designed for climbing: they have
excellent sense of balance, they have sharp claws which allow them to cling on securely, and they have a highly developed
eye-body coordination which helps them to avoid serious injuries. Cats are also agile athletes, although they do need practice
to refine their skills. When a cat decides to climb, it uses its sharp claws and powerful hindquarters to clamber up a tree
or fence. The claws act as crampons. They enable the cat to reach out and then anchor itself in place. It uses its strong
hind legs to puch itself up the trunk. Once it has reached a stout horizontal branch, the cat steps on it.
A cat uses its tail to help provide balance, similar to
the way a tightrope walker uses a pole, except that the cat extends its tail out horizontally behind its body. Coming down
is less dignified, since the cat has to make its descent backwards, gripping on with its claws. Just before the cat reaches
the ground it will swivel round and leap the final distance. The cat's sense of balance lies in the inner ear. If this detects
that the cat is falling it sends a warning signal almost instantly to the brain which responds by adjusting the cat's position
so that it can land as safely as possible.
Cats are natural climbers as
this kitten shows. This skill enables them to escape from situations that may threaten their survival.
The head rotates round so that it becomes parallel with
the ground, followed by the front part of the body, with the front legs extended. Next, the cat's hindquarters swivel round
as well. Just before landing, the cat instinctively relaxes its body in order to absorb the force of the impact without jarring
itself badly. The full impact of landing is taken on the cats front feet, and is absorbed by the coller bones. The hind limbs
touch down a moment later and provide additional support and stability as the cat lands.
DID YOU KNOW ?
? The braking ability of cats is amazing.
they can survive falls from heights of 18m (60ft) or more, when they will be hurtling towards the ground as speed equivalent
to 65k/h (40mph)
? If a cat is unable to stop its fall
in time it might break its jaw but the front legs usually prevent the chin from hitting the ground.
?Trying to rescue a cat that appears
to be stuck up a tree can be dangerous for its rescuer. A fearful cat may panic and attempt to bite or scratch its rescuer
as it is lifted down from its branch.
Q If cats are such good climbers, how do they get stuck
in trees ?
A It can happen with young
cats. In most cases the cat will take to the tree because it has been badly frightened. It may stay in the tree, even for
as long as a day or two, until it decides that it is safe to come down.
Q Does the tailless manx suffer from its lack of a tail
when climbing ?
A This does not appear to be a problem for the manx, possibly
because it has never had a tail and it has adapted from kittenhood. Climbing is often harder, however, for an older, tailed
cat that has lost part of its tail through injury.
Q Are some cats more likely to climb than others ?
A The lighter breeds such as siamese, are the most enthusiastic
Even a mature cat such as this silver tabby will play like
a kitten with a catnip mouse toy honing its very keen sense of touch and smell. It holds the mouse in its front paws and kicks
with its back paws.
The sense of touch is as just
as important to your cat as its other four senses. Like them it provides important information about the cat's environment-information
that is necessary for its survival. The whiskers and the foot pads contain some of the cat's most important touch receptors.
They convey the sensations of pressure, temperature and pain sensations that affect the cat's ability to function normally
and warn it of danger. The cat's whiskers (vibrissae) extend the whole width of its body and are used to investigate close
objects and obstacles and to sense changes in the eniviroment. For example, the cat uses its whiskers to determine the width
of a gap and whether it can get through. In extremely dim light, a cat may feel its way by using its whiskers, even angling
them down towards the ground. Whiskers therefore enable the cat to move about with confidence.
Those handsome whiskers serve
vital functions enabling your cat to judge width and 'see' in the dark.
Whiskers are located on the upper lip 12 on each side of
the face and over the eyes, with a few on the cheeks. They are also found on the elbow of the forelegs. These are know as
carpal hairs and are characteristic of mammals that use their legs to hold prey. The whiskers are relatively stiff and are
moved by special muscles called deflector muscles. The smallest movement of the whiskers stimulates the nerve ending and quickly
sends a message to the brain about the cat's surroundings.
The pads on the foot are as sensitive as whiskers and are used to
determine the nature of an object its size, texture, shape and temperature. Although the foot pads are highly sensitive, they
are protected with an epidermis that is some 75 times as thick as that on other parts of the cat's body. Fatty layers beneath
the skin also protect the pads and cushion the feet. Large senc receptors in the dermis and the fatty layers pacinian pacinian
corpuscles respond to pressure, helping the cat maintain its posture.
Grooming the ultra-sensitive
foot pads is an essential part of your cat's toilet routine.
DID YOU KNOW ?
?Because cats are extrasensitive to
vibrations, it is thought that they can anticipate an event such as an earthquake before the tremors become evident to humans.
?When kittens are born they are blind
and almost deaf, but their whiskers are immediately ready to be used.
?The fineness and sensitivity of a cat's
whiskers were recognised by the inventors of early crystal wireless sets, who named the fine wire that made contact with the
crystal the cat's whiskers.
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