Se­cret mes­sages of sleep­ing cats

Want to know if your pet is feel­ing good? See­ing how they sleep can be very in­for­ma­tive.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Pets - Ellen Whyte https: /www.face­book.com/ewhyte

“SWOONER has def­i­nitely set­tled in,” I was telling my neigh­bour. “He’s sit­ting on the sofa, look­ing to­tally at home.”

“He is look­ing nicely fat,” she replied. “But how can we re­ally tell what an­i­mals are feel­ing?”

It’s a great ques­tion, and when I went back in­side, it got me think­ing. Cats can be rather mys­te­ri­ous crea­tures but body lan­guage can sig­nal how your pet is feel­ing. Sleep­ing po­si­tions are re­ally ex­cel­lent in­sight into the in­ner kitty be­cause this is when they are at their most vul­ner­a­ble.

The One Eye Open pose is a favourite of kitchen cats who are ex­pect­ing trou­ble from dogs and other en­e­mies. By ly­ing with the paws down, the kitty can zoom off eas­ily if star­tled. How­ever, it’s also fairly comfy.

Tar­get lies this way when Swooner is on the prowl. When our se­nior boy is pounced on, the front paws come up. If Tar­get is in a good mood, Swooner is wres­tled down and the two boys nip at each oth­ers’ ears and bunny-kick in a mock fight. Some­times, though, Swooner has his ears boxed.

The Donut is where you get a curled up cat, tuck­ing face, tail and paws to­gether. As it’s very hard to switch from this into flight, this re­laxed pose means your kitty is feel­ing safe.

In­ter­est­ingly, cold cli­mate cats also con­serve heat this way. If you have an air-con­di­tioned home, you may see more of this than some­one who uses just fans.

Our Guido lies this way of­ten, usu­ally on the cor­ner of the sofa, right un­der­neath the ceil­ing fan. I think be­ing curled up makes him feel toasty and comfy, and the way the fan rip­ples his fur, he gets to be nice and cool too.

The Face Plaff is where your kitty lies prone and buries his face in his pil­low. The paws come up too for ex­tra pro­tec­tion, cov­er­ing the eyes.

This is one of Tar­get’s favourite moves at the end of a busy day and it sig­nals, “I do not want to be dis­turbed”. If you pet him, he will raise his head, and meow in a very ir­ri­tated way. Then he’ll sigh and stomp off to go and sleep some­where else.

This pose al­ways tempts me to be evil be­cause when I hide my head un­der my pil­low on a Sun­day morn­ing, and Tar­get de­cides he needs my at­ten­tion, the naughty fuzz has no prob­lems fish­ing un­der it with his paws, pok­ing my nose un­til I wake up.

This is not one I’ve ever seen in the kitchen cats, prob­a­bly be­cause the Do Not Dis­turb mes­sage is one their en­e­mies would ig­nore.

The Full Spread where your pet lies flat on his back, all four paws in the air, vul­ner­a­ble tummy ex­posed to any who pass by, is very clearly the most re­laxed of all poses.

I never see the kitchen cats lie this way. It’s prob­a­bly far too dan­ger­ous. How­ever, I be­lieve that this is the most com­mon pose among happy pet cats in trop­i­cal cli­mates be­cause it’s very cool­ing. My fur­ries tend to lie this way in the af­ter­noons, strate­gi­cally placed un­der a ceil­ing fan.

What’s in­ter­est­ing about this pose is that it’s the one where cats and peo­ple of­ten have mis­un­der­stand­ings. The cat is com­mu­ni­cat­ing that he feels safe and happy, but the hu­man sees it as an in­vi­ta­tion to tickle the sweet, fluffy tummy.

The thing about kitty tum­mies is that they tend to be su­per-pri­vate. Any­one who takes lib­er­ties will be gripped with the paws and chas­tised. This can then of­fend the hu­man who doesn’t un­der­stand the mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

Worse, a cat who has been fast asleep may mis­take a friendly tickle for an at­tack, and re­spond with claws and teeth. If this hap­pens to you, don’t get an­gry: your pet thought it was de­fend­ing it­self from dan­ger. If you have kids, be sure to ex­plain they must never rub the belly of a sleep­ing cat, no mat­ter how cute they think the kitty looks.

If you must pet the tummy, wait till your pet is awake, and rub gen­tly. Gen­er­ally speak­ing, kit­tens will al­ways see a belly rub as an in­vi­ta­tion for play. They’ll rough­house and bunny-kick and have a lovely time do­ing so.

Older cats can be tick­lish, see it as too in­va­sive or they love it. Guido and Tar­get think it’s ab­so­lute heaven. Tar­get likes it so much that he’ll come and lie next to me, roll on to his back, and curl his paws while me­ow­ing at me.

For our se­nior cat, tummy rubs are our spe­cial time and af­ter a few min­utes he’s so happy that he gets up and head-butts me, purring and nip­ping, just as if I were a cat pal.

So, think­ing back to my neigh­bour’s ques­tion, how do we re­ally know what our pets are feel­ing, I had another look at Swooner. He wasn’t asleep but I got a clear mes­sage about what he was think­ing, any­way.

He was sit­ting on the sofa, watch­ing TV with my other half, in a pose that clearly sig­nalled he’d like a beer. What do you think?

In this pose, Swooner seems to be sig­nalling that he’d like a beer. — ELLEN WHYTE

The One Eye Open pose is a favourite of kitchen cats who are ex­pect­ing trou­ble from dogs and other en­e­mies.

The re­laxed Donut pose means this kitty is feel­ing safe. — Pho­tos: ELLEN WHYTE

The Face Plaff, with paws up for ex­tra pro­tec­tion, sig­nals ‘I do not want to be dis­turbed’.

The Spread is the most re­laxed of all poses, and means the cat is happy.

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