Upcoming talk! Cat Behavior and Cognition- Using science to increase cat welfare and strengthen the human-cat bond

KristynHeadshotSpeaker: Kristyn Vitale 
When:
September 19, 2017
Time: 8:00 PM EDT (Midnight UTC)
Cost: $25.00
Where: Online Webinar, Register at: www.e-trainingfordogs.com

In this cat behavior and cognition webinar, Kristyn Vitale will discuss the current science behind cat behavior and ways to utilize this knowledge in applied settings to improve cat welfare and strengthen the human-cat bond. Even though domestic cats are one of the world’s most popular companion animals, coexisting with humans for thousands of years, many questions remain unanswered about cat behavior, cognition, and the human-cat bond. Although science has much more to learn about cats, several applied benefits exist from future research in this area. Currently, pet cats outnumber dogs by almost 10 million in the US alone and millions of cats live in shelters or are free-roaming outdoors. Over 3.4 million cats enter already crowded shelters each year and of those surrendered by owners, approximately 27% are surrendered due to behavioral issues or incompatibility between cat and owner.

The talk will cover a variety of topics including:

  • the importance of scent in cat behavior
  • how to run cat preference assessments
  • free-roaming cat social behavior
  • the human-cat relationship
  • cat socialization & training
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Simple Cat Training with Bo & Macy

Right now I’m working on several behaviors with Bo. None of these behaviors are new, but he knows some better than others. Macy shows up to show-off as well! For rewards, I use things each of the cats likes- such as deli turkey, petting, and praise. Below are some tips from different times of the video to give some additional detail on the behaviors! 

0:13 Bo is just learning the paw behavior and this is the second session he’s worked on it. Now that he is understanding the paw behavior I am working on adding in the vocal command, “paw”. When adding in a new cue, start by presenting the cue slightly after they do the behavior. So, I start to add the verbal cue “paw” slightly after he touches his paw to my hand. Eventually you can move the cue up, so it precedes the behavior. Then you can say “paw” and they will give you a high-5. 

0:19 Bo knows the jump behavior but he can be lazy sometimes! I know he can jump higher, so I only reward if I think the jump is worthy. This allows me to variably reward the jump behavior – meaning sometimes I give a treat, sometimes I don’t. Never knowing when the treat is going to come, Bo will try harder and give me a higher jump. 

0:46 Instead of using a closed hand for targeting like I do for Bo, I use a tap target so Macy can hear the area I want her to approach. Macy is blind so an auditory cue works best for her. 

0:50 I give Bo some treats for doing a good job and to divert his attention away from Macy’s treats!

New Publication! Chemical Signals & Cat Social Behavior

Vitale Shreve, K.R., Udell, M.A.R. (2016) Stress, security, and scent: The influence of chemical signals on the social lives of domestic cats and implications for applied settings. Applied Animal Behaviour Science. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2016.11.011 

Highlights

• Olfaction is an important perceptual sense, yet the role of chemical signals in cat behavior is not fully understood.
• Many aspects of cat social behavior are influenced by chemical signals.
• Chemical cues appear to play a role in stress and anxiety reduction, allowing cats to feel secure in their environment.
• Understanding chemical signals can help inform cat behavioral problems.
• Future research may yield new methods of addressing feline behavioral issues and strengthen the human-cat bond.

Abstract

Although millions of cats live among humans worldwide the scientific community sniffknows relatively little about cat behavior and cognition. Olfaction is an important perceptual sense for many members of Carnivora, however the role of chemical signals in cat social relationships is not fully understood. Research indicates chemical signals play an important role in many areas of cat behavior including mother-offspring and conspecific interactions and exploration of their environment. Chemical cues appear to play a role in stress and anxiety reduction, allowing cats to feel secure in their environment. A better understanding of cat chemical signals, especially as it relates to within and between species communication, may lead to an increase in cat wellbeing as humans can utilize this knowledge in applied settings. Therefore, the purpose of this review is to investigate how cats process and use chemical signals in social contexts and identify ways this information can be applied to address cat behavioral issues, such as inappropriate litter box and scratching behavior, and improve cat welfare, including species-appropriate ways of reinforcing the human-cat bond.

Contact: maueyes.catresearch [at] gmail.com