by @Anne Fawcett
Are your cats socially compatible? Its not just about an absence of hissing and biffing, according to behaviour specialist Dr Sarah Heath.
How much do you really understand the social and psychological needs of your cats? I thought I knew a fair bit, until I attended a mind-blowing lecture by veterinary behaviour specialist Dr Sarah Heath. Now I am looking at Michael and Hero, and my feline patients, in a new light.
In the wild, cats are “solitary survivors”. They aren't an obligate social species like humans. Displaying weakness is “not an option” - for one thing, there isn't a social system surrounding you to give support, and you don't want enemies or predators to know you are weak. As a result, it can be really hard to identify cats suffering from negative emotional states. Those that are chronically stressed are even harder to pick. With acute stress there are often contextual clues (e.g. a toddler visiting the house, the neighbour's dog running into the back yard) that we pick up on, which are absent in chronic stress.
She talked about fundamental behavioural requirements of cats:
- Free and immediate access to resources at all times;
- the ability to avoid or escape potential sources of stress (including other feline household members).