I am so excited to announce we are launching CatSci Podcast this summer! The podcast will cover the current science behind cat behavior and cognition and discuss cat training and enrichment ideas. This is a collaboration between myself and Tori Peterson of Space Cat Academy.
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Playtime from Morty’s point of view.
Cat Behavior Ethogram
Definitions of some of the social behaviors displayed between domestic cats. Affiliative behaviors are those used during interactions with preferred associates- including other cats and humans! They often indicate a social bond between the individuals exists. Aggressive behaviors are displayed during conflicts. Sometimes aggressive behaviors are modified for use during play- like cuffing and chasing. Always watch the full interaction to better understand the behavior’s function.
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 Media Mention: Susan C. Kahler, JAVMA news April 15, 2016
Link to full news bulletin
Kristyn Vitale Shreve, a doctoral student and National Science Foundation graduate fellow in the Human-Animal Interaction Laboratory at Oregon State University, said that behavioral issues or cat-owner incompatibility account for at least 27 percent of the cats surrendered to shelters by owners.
Once in a shelter, dogs and cats spend more time in close proximity to an inattentive human than pets do, Vitale Shreve noted. She conducted a sociability test of 23 cats in a shelter, comprising an inattentive phase and an attentive phase of human interaction. The cats were aware of the attention or lack of attention. Meowing vocalization sometimes served as a cue that a cat was seeking human attention.
“Cats are facultatively social and display various levels of social behavior, depending on their environment and upbringing,” she said.
She said that human interaction through touch and vocalization can increase a cat’s affiliative behaviors and activity levels, cause it to seek close proximity with humans, and potentially decrease stereotypic behaviors, cortisol levels, and stress behavior.
“Cats in shelters that were given up were more stressed than strays,” she said. “You might want to focus (your efforts) first in the shelter on them.”
Vitale Shreve suggested implementing a shelter interaction protocol and enrichment activities such as providing food balls filled with treats to increase adoption rates, reduce return rates, and reduce stress-related behaviors.