Cat Eye Blink-Kitty Eye Kisses
The eye blink is a way that non-aggressive cats signal that their intentions are not hostile. Cats blink at each other, as well as the humans they love, with a slow eye blink "cat kiss." Kitties that use this non-threat signal are able to smooth relationships between other cats, and maintain good social interactions. Try it yourself. The next time you're sitting quietly and notice the kitty across the room gazing at you, look back-and then with great exaggeration, slowly shut and then open your eyes. Chances are, your cat will return the cat-kiss eye blink.
Scientists have discovered that cats have developed an elaborate communication system with hundreds of vocalizations to tell humans what they want or need.
- Short meow: Standard greeting
- Multiple meows: Excited greetings
- Mid-pitch meow: Plea for something like food, or water
- Drawn-out mrrroooow: A demand for something
- Low pitch MRRRooooowww: A complaint, or displeasure
- Lower than mid pitch MEEOOOOOOwww: Begging, for something such as food
- High-pitch RRRROWW!: Anger, pain, or being fearful
- Chatter (rapid teeth-chattering): Excitement, frustration
- Chirrup (a cross between a meow and a purr with rising inflection): Friendly greeting sound, often used by a mother cat to call to her kittens
- Purr: Invites close contact or attention
- Hiss: A serious sign of aggression.
Tail straight up with a curl at the end: Happy
- Tail twitching: Excited or anxious
- Fur on tail sticking up: Very excited
- Tail vibrating: Very excited and happy to see you
- Tail fur sticks straight up while the tail curls in the shape of an N: Extreme aggression
- Tail fur sticks straight up but the tail is held low: Aggressive or frightened
- Tail held low and tucked under the rear: Frightened
- Dilated pupils: Very playful or excited; it can also mean aggression
- Slowly blinking eyes: Affection, indicating the cat is comfortable with whoever might be around him or her
- Lifting the nose and tilting the head back slightly: "I acknowledge you." Cats sitting in windows may greet you in this manner as you walk by
- Rubbing against you means he or she is marking you as his or her own
- Wet nose "kiss": An affectionate gesture when the cat taps his or her wet nose to you
- Ears back: Fear, anxiety, or in a very playful mood; also used when sniffing something they want to know more about
- Tongue flicks out slightly and licks lower lip: Worried, apprehensive
- Rubbing head, flank and tail against a person or animal: Greeting ritual
- Head-butting: Friendliness, affection
- Face sniffing: Confirming identity
- Clawing: A cat will drive his or her claws in and out of you as a sign of happiness or playfulness; either way your cat knows and loves you
- Licks you: The ultimate sign of trust. Your cat may consider you to be a part of her family, like a mother cleaning her kittens. It might just be that you have something tasty in your hand though.
- Use a slightly raised tone of voice to indicate friendliness and a lowered tone of voice to indicate displeasure or aggression.
- Repeat the same word, sleep or bed, each time you go to bed. Eventually, your cat will begin to associate the repetitive word sound with your actions and may even get to the bedroom before you. Use the word shower consistently each time you are ready to take one, and eventually your cat may beat you to the bathroom and even curl up in the sink to wait for you.
- If you blink slowly when making eye contact with your cat, she will usually respond by coming over to be stroked. This is seen as a very non-threatening gesture.
- Be consistent. A common blunder many pet owners make is to say "no" and pet the cat at the same time. This is very confusing to the cat. So for example, if you want your cat to go away, a firm "later" and gentle push, without showing affection, will let the cat know that her presence is not desired at this time. Most cats will try two to three times to invade a person's space, often from different directions. When saying "Later", be patient.
- Develop a "command tone" to use with your cat when he or she is doing something that you consider to be wrong. Use a voice that comes naturally to you and can be replicated easily, but that is also distinct from your everyday talking voice. If you use this voice sparingly but seriously, your cat will learn to associate the voice with the idea that he or she is displeasing you.
- Make a quick and sharp hiss or spit sound as a "no" command. This is similar to the sound made by his or her own kind when they say "no."
What Is a Feral Cat? A cat born and raised in the wild, or who has been abandoned or lost and turned to wild ways in order to survive, is considered a free—roaming or feral cat. While some feral cats tolerate a bit of human contact, most are too fearful and wild to be handled. Ferals often live in groups, called colonies, and take refuge wherever they can find food—rodents and other small animals and garbage. They will also try to seek out abandoned buildings or deserted cars—or even dig holes in the ground—to keep warm in winter months and cool during the summer heat.
What's Life Like for a Feral Cat? Simply put, it's not easy. Feral cats must endure weather extremes such as cold and snow, heat and rain. They also face starvation, infection and attacks by other animals. Unfortunately, almost half of the kittens born outdoors die from disease, exposure or parasites before their first year. Feral cats also face eradication by humans—poison, trapping, gassing and steel leg-hold traps are all ways humans, including some animal control and government agencies, try to kill off feral cat populations.
That said, feral cats who live in a managed colony—a colony with a dedicated caretaker who provides spay/neuter services, regular feedings and proper shelter—can live a quite content life.
What Is the Average Lifespan of a Feral Cat?
If a feral cat survives kitten hood, his average lifespan is less than two years if living on his own. If a cat is lucky enough to be in a colony that has a caretaker, he may reach 10 years.
Is There a Difference Between a Stray Cat and a Feral Cat? Yes. A feral cat is primarily wild-raised or has adapted to feral life, while we define a stray cat as someone's pet who has become lost or has been abandoned. Stray cats are usually tame and comfortable around people. They will frequently rub against legs and exhibit behaviors such as purring and meowing. In contrast, feral cats are notably quiet and keep their distance. Stray cats will also often try to make a home near humans—in car garages, front porches or backyards. Most are completely reliant on humans as a food source and are not yet able to cope with life on the streets.
What Is Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR)? TNR is the method of humanely trapping feral cats, having them spayed or neutered and vaccinated against rabies, and then returning them to their colony to live out their lives. TNR also involves a colony caretaker who provides food and adequate shelter and monitors the cats' health. TNR has been shown to be the least costly, as well as the most efficient and humane way of stabilizing feral cat populations.
How Does TNR Help Feral Cats? Through TNR, feral cats can live out their lives without adding to the homeless cat population. “It is very important to have all feral cats spayed/neutered because it is the only 100-percent effective way to prevent unwanted kittens,” says Aimee Christian, ASPCA Vice President of Spay/Neuter Operations. “Feral cats are prolific reproducers.”
Furthermore, by stabilizing the population, cats will naturally have more space, shelter and food, and fewer risks of disease. After being spayed or neutered, cats living in colonies tend to gain weight and live healthier lives. Spayed cats are less likely to develop breast cancer and will not be at risk for ovarian or uterine cancer, while neutered males will not get testicular cancer. By neutering male cats, you also reduce the risk of injury and infection, since intact males have a natural instinct to fight with other cats. Spaying also means female cats do not go into heat. That means they attract fewer tom cats to the area, reducing fighting. If cats are sterilized and live in a colony that has a caretaker, they may live more than 10 years.
How Does TNR Benefit the Community? TNR helps the community by stabilizing the population of the feral colony and, over time, reducing it. At the same time, nuisance behaviors such as spraying, excessive noise-making and fighting are largely eliminated, and no more kittens are born. Yet, the benefit of natural rodent control is continued. Jesse Oldham, ASPCA Senior Administrative Director of Community Outreach and the founder of Slope Street Cats, an organization dedicated to feral cat welfare, notes, “TNR also helps the community's animal welfare resources by reducing the number of kittens that would end up in their shelters—TNR creates more space for the cats and kittens who come to them from other avenues.”
What Is a Colony Caretaker? A colony caretaker is an individual (or group of individuals) who manages one or more feral colonies in a community. The caretaker keeps an eye on the cats, providing food, water, shelter, spaying/neutering and emergency medical care. In most cases, organizations and vets know these people because of the community service they provide. Some shelters and rescue groups even give out free or low-cost spay/neuter coupons to colony caretakers.
How Can I Become a Colony Caretaker?
- Offer your help to established colony caretakers. Ongoing needs include feeding, trapping, transportation to and from the veterinarian, temporary housing for cats after surgery, and fostering and socializing kittens for the purpose of finding them good homes.
- Contact local shelters or welfare groups to see if a TNR workshop is available in your area.
- Start with the cats in your own backyard—educate yourself about TNR and learn to trap cats and have them spayed or neutered.
Does Eradication Work? Eradication, the deliberate and systematic destruction of a feral cat colony, by whatever method, almost always leads to the “vacuum effect”—either new cats flock to the vacated area to exploit whatever food source attracted the original inhabitants, or survivors breed and their descendants are more cautious around threats. Simply put, eradication is only a temporary fix that sacrifices animals' lives unnecessarily, yet yields no positive or beneficial return.
What Is Relocation and Why Doesn't It Work? Many communities have rounded up colonies of feral cats either for euthanasia or to relocate them to another area. This never works. Feral cats are very connected with their territory. They are familiar with its food sources, places that offer—shelter, resident wildlife, other cats in the area and potential threats to their safety—all things that help them survive. “Relocation of feral cat colonies is difficult to orchestrate and not 100-percent successful even if done correctly. It is also usually impossible to catch all of the cats, and it only takes one male and one female to begin reproducing the colony,” Oldham states. “Even when rounding up is diligently performed and all ferals are removed, new cats will soon move in and set up camp.”
Is Relocation Ever an Option? Relocation is something to consider only if keeping the cats where they are becomes a threat to their lives and all other options have been explored and have failed. Moving cats to another area is a great risk to their safety unless they are being moved to a protected area and procedures laid out by groups such as Alley Cat Allies are followed. “Relocation is an extremely difficult process. People should choose relocation only if the cats' territory is going to be demolished, there is no adjacent space to shift them to, and if the cats' lives would be at extreme risk should they remain where they are,” says Oldham.
How Do I Tame Feral Kittens? The Urban Cat League is a great resource for information on socializing feral kittens, if you have the time and energy to dedicate to the task. Here are some tips to help you along:
- Whenever possible, kittens should continue to nurse until four weeks old—this can be done in captivity.
- Do not let feral kittens run loose—they can hide in tiny spaces and are exceptionally difficult to find and catch.
- Confine the kittens in a dog crate, cat condo or cage with a small litter box, food, water and something snugly to cuddle in.
- Food is the key to socializing. Give the kittens a small amount of wet food by hand at least twice a day—eventually the kittens will associate your presence with food. For those who are more feral, start by offering baby food or wet food on a spoon through the cage.
- Younger and less feral kittens can be picked up right away. Make a kitty burrito by wrapping a kitten in a towel, allowing her head to stick out.
- Once the kittens no longer run away from you but instead come toward you seeking to be fed, held and petted, you can confine them to a small room.
- Be sure to expose the kitten to a variety of people.
- Do not forget about the mom—spaying her is essential as well.
Follow this link to download: The Neighborhood Cats TNR Handbook. A Guide to Trap-Neuter-Return for the Feral Cat Caretaker