On June 20th, we launched a series of Facebook posts, each describing what an African Wildcat was doing at that given point in the day to encourage our community members to be like wildlife observers with their cats at home. In each instance, we then asked members of our Facebook community to answer a very simple question:
What's your cat up to?
What we learned helped us better understand cat owners, and how we can better equip them with information and tips to encourage their cat's true nature.
What is the Daily Routine of the African Wildcat?
In his natural environment, an African Wildcat will use all of his physical tools and habitat to his advantage. This can mean relying on his perfectly-suited eyes to hunt in extremely low light, long limbs to climb up into trees or slip into burrows once used by other animals to rest and stay hidden from predators, or warm himself in the sun's rays as a means to conserve energy that he'll need later for hunting or staying warm during cool nights.
It had been a damp morning in South Africa when Mandy at the Tenikwa Reserve checked in during our day of posts - they're in the midst of their rainy winter season:
"Our African Wildcats are sleeping. Arthur is tucked away quietly in a shelter, judging from the hiss I got, Merlin doesn't want to be disturbed in the grassy hole he has found for himself for his morning sleep. He's very well camouflaged and concealed in the burrow. Interesting that he chose one obscured by a termite mound."
See the posts from A Day in the Life of True Nature Cats.
View Slide Show
Whereas people's schedules generally revolve around a clock, African Wildcats routines are synchronized with the movement of the sun.
Armed with a little context around what to watch for, we asked ourselves, "What would our community see by observing their cats through the lens of the African Wildcat?"
Observing Your Cat's True Nature Instincts?
From the get-go, many members of the community commented on recognizing many wildcat-like behaviors. We heard from owners whose cats' routines maintain a strong connection to the world outside - but from the safety of their home:
Fan Katherin K. posted the following ritual: "Around 6am every morning, I have two cats that are at my bedroom window overlooking the backyard, scratching, pawing at the window and making little chirping noises."
Fan Carol S.M. shared an observation in her cat: "At 6:30pm he was stretched out on the bed basking in the sun catnapping. At 7:00 pm he is laying in the patio door enjoying fresh air, outside smells and watching for squirrels or birds."
A number of owners keyed into their cats' habits of seeking perches with great views:
Fan Peg L. noticed: "My cats are either on cat tree perches or under the blankets that I throw over chairs for them! Rarely are they on the floor unless there is a patch of sun or it is really hot and they like the bathroom floor because it is cool."
And Jill V. described what her cats were up to that afternoon:
"One kitty is resting on the window sill and another is observing activity atop a bookshelf. Now they are on the move. They have joined each other on a large dog bed placed on a table. One lounges and the other grooms. They are good friends and often seek out the company of each other."
Many commented on the ritual of feeding and the interconnectedness that comes with people's role as provider. Blogger Sandy Robins offered a look into how her schedule intertwines with her cat's activities:
"My younger cat comes over to wake me the moment he sees me start moving around. He leads me to the kitchen asking for his wet food..."
Fan Amanda T. wrote about her cat's side-chewing technique - a behavior we witnessed in the African Wildcat, whose back teeth are designed to shear meat - and post-meal behaviors:
"My cat shakes his head while he's eating, like he's trying to tear something apart, but it's just dry cat food, it's so funny to watch. After he's done eating, he goes somewhere to sleep."
And fan Steve T. observed the similarity between his cat and the African Wildcat's instinct to cover/hide food from predators:
"That's funny because my cat tries to bury everything, from his food to my dinner plate, and it doesn't matter if I need to get up really quick, he tries to bury my food too."
Adapting to Your Cat's True Nature Tendencies
By dialoguing with our Facebook community, we realized that many cat owners face challenges when matching their schedules to the routines of their cats. For example:
"My boy insists on a game of chase, then it's lap time for awhile before he hits the kitty condo for a long sleep. He will often take one last patrolling lap to the windows before condo time." - Fan Carol S. M.
"My cats and I have an understanding: I leave them plenty of food for their midnight prowls around the house and they stay quiet until I wake up. As soon as they hear me stir, they all come to me." - Fan Leslie McG. F.
These realities can create tension between owner and cat. But they also present opportunities to adjust our behaviors to increase positive interactions with our pets.
We heard common areas for this tension were due to humans' tendency to sleep for much longer periods than cats, or for those who work away from home for long stretches of time. Because cats' true nature is to have shorter bursts of activity interspersed with shorter resting periods, bouts of purposeful play can be a helpful tool to break up long periods of potential inactivity that are the result of the realities of humans' schedules. Sandy Robins provided a good example of this:
"I play games of fetch with him in the morning - I throw a wand with a fuzzy thing on the end and have taught him to retrieve it. So now he goes and brings me the toy so that we can have a game. We repeat the games in the evenings he runs around the house looking for a wand to play with in the dark and brings it to me wherever I am - usually I am sitting and watching TV."
Cash, our featured cat, often has his day broken up by similar bouts of activity and rest based on his instincts. View the slide show to see what Cash was up to throughout the day. Or watch him grow up in our video episodes.
View Slide Show
You too can put these observation skills to work. By paying closer attention to your cat's behaviors and adding more engagement into your routine, you can strengthen the bond with your cat.
Thank you to everyone who participated. Many people echoed the sentiments of Fan Jane P. when she wrote:
"This feature was fantastic! Really helped me understand my cat Smudge. He is the first cat I've ever owned because I've always lived with allergic mates, parents, sibs. I really can't always decipher him like I can a dog. Thanks Purina!"
To check out the conversation that developed around the Day in the Life of a Cat on June 20, 2012, visit the True Nature of Cats community on Facebook.