Your furry pet lives in complex world

Last updated 10:00 08/02/2014

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This week the staff at Springlands Veterinary Centre bring us the final part of the series on why cats do the seemingly strange things they do.

Welcome to the final part of our exploration of cat behaviour.

Hopefully, this series of articles has helped you understand the behaviour your cat shows, and appreciate the fascinating lives our feline friends lead.

Why do cats drink from the tap? A cat's motivation to drink is not connected to hunger, so many cats find it confusing when water bowls are provided directly adjacent to their usual feeding area.

Some cats adapt to this strange set up relatively easily but others reject this water as unsuitable and seek other more acceptable sources.

Taps, glasses of water, vases and goldfish bowls are all potential thirst quenchers but the best option is to provide dedicated drinking bowls in alternative locations well away from your cat‘s food.

Some cats also prefer running water so pet drinking fountains can be used as a more practical source than a constantly dripping tap.

Why do cats nibble grass? Even though cats are obligate carnivores and don't usually eat fruit or vegetables, they do like to eat grass occasionally.

Eating grass is a normal behaviour in cats but is not yet fully understood. The general thought is that it helps to move food or hairballs through the digestive tract, either up or down, as eating grass often results in vomiting.

It may also provide them with essential trace elements in their diet. Indoor cats without access to grass may chew other potted plants they would usually ignore or avoid, and rarely these can be poisonous [lilies]. In the United States and some big cities, some people actually buy grass to feed to their cats.

Why do cats like catnip? A plant that we call catnip [its proper name is nepeta cataria] has an extraordinary effect on around 80% of cats.

An encounter with either the plant itself or with a catnip stuffed toy can make cats more excited and they may sniff and roll around on the ground or over the catnip. The active chemical in the plant is called nepetal actone and it has been linked to LSD. However, its effect is short lived and harmless.

Why do cats have rough tongues? A cat tongue is a remarkable thing. It has several important jobs. As an inbuilt comb, the tongue is covered with hook-shaped barbs that face backwards. When pulled through the fur, these part the fur and remove dead hair and debris to keep the coat in perfect condition and lying flat.

The coat is a wonderful sensory organ because the guard hairs signal when the coat is ruffled or disturbed and give the cat information about its environment.

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These tongue barbs also allow the cat to literally lick meat off bone if it needs. Of course, the tongue is also the cat's organ of taste, as well as being spoon-shaped to lap up water - a genuine multi-purpose organ.

When a cat licks you, the roughness of its tongue is very evident and also bear this in mind when considering the development of breeds with little or no hair, where the tongue is very harsh on the skin. This brings us to the end of our journey through the behaviour of cats. Hopefully this series of articles has helped you understand your cat's behaviour a little better.

- The Marlborough Express

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