Will my cat use their new bed?

Many owners buy things for their cat and then their cat doesn’t use them! Cat beds are one such example. How do you know if your cat will decide to use it? Cats often prefer to sleep in elevated places, so position of the cat bed can make a difference. Not all cats sleep in their bed when it is on the floor, but you will increase the chances of your cat using it if you place it on top of a dresser, for example. They also enjoy igloo style beds as this increases their sense of security.

Another thing many cats absolutely love is sheepskin! A small sheepskin rug is a very nice, warm and comfortable bed. And it is flexible too, in the sense that you can put it where you like. You can leave it on the floor or sofa during the day and next to your bed, on your bed or the dresser at night. This means you won’t need many cat beds, just the one rug that you leave in one place or move around the home depending on where you want your cats to spend the night.

If I fits I sits

We all know our cats love to squeeze themselves into impossibly small boxes. The smaller the better it seems!

Now research by Smith et al (2021) has found that cats don’t just enjoy sitting in boxes but in “imaginary” boxes as well. Of course we do not know whether these cats actually imagined they were sitting inside a box, but the cats showed a preference for sitting inside a square, even if it was just an illusion.

How did they test this?

Cat owners were asked to test their cats at home, meaning the cats were not subjected to a test environment. This is a huge bonus because cats often do not perform well (or at all) in test environments due to stress or being unfamiliar with the environment and/or the researchers.

These cats did not know they were being tested, but their owners did. However, in order to avoid owners influencing their cat’s behaviour they were asked not to interact with their cats during the short tests. The owners were also instructed to wear sunglasses so they could not inadvertently guide their cat’s actions. Owners were also asked to record videos of their cats during these tests.

Roughly 500 owners signed up to participate, but only 30 cats completed the whole study. Whether the cats or owners gave up is unknown 😉

The participants received all the material and instructions from the researchers and were given “six randomized, counterbalanced daily stimuli to print out, prepare, and place on the floor in pairs”. There were three possible stimuli: an outline of a square, a Kanizsa illusion of a square using Pac-Man shapes or a control that had the Pac-Man shapes facing outward.

The control outline (left) and the cat sitting inside the Kanizsa illusion

The study found that cats chose to sit in the Kanizsa illusion of a square just as often as inside the actual outline of a square and sat in the control outline less frequently.

What does this mean?

As one of the researchers says, “[t]he major takeaways are that cats are susceptible to the Kanizsa illusion in a human-like way, and are most likely attracted to 2-D shapes for their contours (sides), rather than solely novelty on the floor”.

Why do cats like to sit where they fit?

Although more research is needed, I agree with Nicholas Dodman who wrote that “cats like to squeeze into small spaces where they feel much safer and more secure. Instead of being exposed to the clamor and possible danger of wide open spaces, cats prefer to huddle in smaller, more clearly delineated areas.”

Cat agility (or training your cat)

I was at the London Cat Show in 2019 and they had a cat agility section, much like dogs do at Crufts. Obviously, I was intrigued and curious to see how (or actually whether) the cats would perform. They did much as I expected: not so well. I have no doubt that all cats in the agility section are actually really good at doing the agility course, but cats do not perform well in front of an audience, under pressure, or with an unfamiliar trainer.

You can train cats to do tricks on command: Dirk has mastered giving paw. And not just that: if I know once it means right paw, two quick knocks means left paw. In return, because there has to be something in it for him, he gets a treat, but only if he gives my the correct paw and does not use his nails…

It is actually a lot of fun to train your cat. You build a way of communicating and interacting with them that is rewarding for both of you. Cats learn best when they trust their trainer and feel happy in themselves and their environment. And if you want to show off to friends and family it’s best to film their performance rather than rely on a live performance on the day.

http://www.heikkisiltala.com

Catnip: its other effect

Research has found that there is more to catnip than just its crazy effect!

We all know our cats can go crazy for catnip: drooling, rubbing, licking, etc. Research by Uenoyama et al (2021) has found that this is not its only effect though. Both catnip and silver vine also function as mosquito repellants. How does that work?

The main component of both catnip and silver vine that elicits rubbing behaviour is called nepolactol. When cats rub against or roll over catnip or silver vine nepetalactol is transferred from the plant to the cat’s face. The researchers found that mosquitoes avoided the faces/heads of those cats that had rubbed their faces against catnip or silver vine. It thus works as a natural mosquito repellant. This research therefore suggests there may be a biological reason for this behaviour and that it is not solely related to feelings of euphoria.

To read the study yourtself, click here,