Cats perceive the world in different way to us humans

Roger Salmon.
Roger Salmon.

While it is generally acknowledged that humans benefit from interacting with cats (stroking them can lower heart rates, lower blood pressure and decrease stress levels in humans) do cats, in general, benefit from interaction with humans? Because cats share our homes it is easy to assume that they also experience the world as we do.

However, a cat’s perception and understanding of the world around is very different to our own. Cats sometimes appear nervous but it is important to realise that they live in a world of friendly but sometimes clumsy giants.

Cats have extreme sensory abilities having highly sensitive touch and pressure receptors on their pads and claws. Touch is used to explore objects and to supplement the cat’s poor short distance vision. Whiskers are also sensitive to air currents and provide information about the distance from objects - including prey when hunting.

Cats sense of smell is almost as good as dogs and is used for communication, recognition of safe or unsafe territory, other cats, reproduction, appetite stimulation and to a lesser extent prey detection.

In comparison to dogs the domestic cat remains very similar in behaviour to its wild ancestor. Hunting or at least play that mimics hunting is one of the normal behaviours a cat must be allowed to express. Domestic cats form social bonds with other cats and are much more likely to occur with cats that have grown up together. Social bonds are much less likely to occur if one of the cats is adult when first introduced. Having said that, my two, who were introduced as adults get on fine.

Cats do form close attachments to people and may suffer if they are separated from their human friend. Not all cats love to be stroked and cuddled and excessive attention may cause stress.

Stress is a cause of many feline behavioural and health problems such as indoor urine marking, 
over grooming and aggression. Help from your vet may be required with these conditions and we need to look at situations from the cat’s point of view.