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Glossary


Aggression

A general term which describes a range of behavioural responses involved in the emotional contexts of threat, defence and attack.

Allogrooming

The act of grooming, which is directed toward another individual. Cats use allogrooming as an affiliative behaviour, which confirms relationships between cats in the same social group. In a social context allogrooming is a symmetrical behaviour with both individuals contributing equally to the behavioural interaction.

Allorubbing

The act of rubbing, which is directed toward another individual. In a social context allorubbing is an assymetrical behaviour and there is a directional nature to the behaviour with one individual acting as the instigator and the other the recipient of the behaviour.

Anxiety

A physiological and behavioural response to the anticipation of danger, be that real or perceived.

Flehmen

The act of detecting and processing olfactory information through the vomeronasal organ.

Greeting behaviour

The majority of greetings between cats do not involve physical contact in the first instance. A typical greeting might include a short vocal trill with mouth closed, slow eye blinking and an approach with the tail held vertically. After greeting, cats may then sit near to each other for a short period before parting.

Hunting

The behavioural sequence associated with detecting, catching and killing potential prey.

Markeergedrag

Het gebruik van chemische signalen om te communiceren met andere leden van dezelfde diersoort en om het vertrouwen van het individu te verhogen.
Markeren kan worden gebruikt in de context van het identificeren van het territorium en tevens in emotioneel uitdagende situaties.

Metacommunication

Cats use special signals to alter the meaning of what they are doing. Play might be interpreted as aggression if it were not for this ‘metacommunication’. Body posture and facial expression are important, for example a cat may hold its mouth open with teeth shielded and head cocked to one side as a signal of playfulness.

Middening

The deposition of faeces onto horizontal surfaces as a marker. The cat makes no attempt to cover the faeces and will usually deposit them in prominent locations.

Overgrooming / Excessive Grooming

An exaggerated form of grooming behaviour in which the cat may remove large quantities of hair and even cause damage to the skin. The motivation for the behaviour needs to be established on a case by case basis but emotional disturbances such as anxiety or fear are often implicated.

Pheromonatherapy

The use of synthetic analogues of chemical signals [produced by animals for the purpose of intraspecific communication], for prophylaxis or management of behavioural problems.

Pheromones

Chemical signals produced by animals for the purpose of intraspecific communication

Play

Cats who have a good relationship [demonstrated by allogrooming, allorubbing and greeting behaviour] may play frequently. Play may appear quite physical and aggressive to owners, but the cats will use additional ‘metacommunication’ to signify that this is actually play.

Puddling

The deposition of urine onto horizontal surfaces as a marker. The cat usually adopts a squatting posture and deposits small quantities of urine onto the surface.

Scratching

The act of stratching with front claws on vertical or horizontal surfaces. The behaviour may be purely functional in nature and lead to a shedding of blunted outer claw sheaths and exercising of claw related apparatus. It can also be carried out as a marking behaviour and lead to the deposition of visual and olfactory signals on the scratched surface. Scratch marking is always vertical.

Stretching

Cats frequently stretch after sleeping. They may dig their claws into a horizontal or vertical surface to do this, and for this reason it can be confused with claw-marking or scratching.

Territory

A geographical area, which is of value to an individual because it houses important resources, such as food, shelter and social interaction.

Urine Spraying

The deposition of urine onto vertical surfaces as a marker. The cat usually adopts a characteristic standing posture and directs urine onto the surface so that it is deposited at nose height for other cats attempting to read the signal.

Vocalisation

The use of vocal signals in order to communicate with other cats and members of other species. In cats vocal signals can be divided into three categories depending on the way in which they are produced. For example purring and trills are produced with the mouth open, miaows are produced with the mouth gradually closing and defensive vocalisations, such as hisses and spits, are produced with the mouth held in a fixed position.

Vomeronasal organ (VNO)

Two blind ending sacs situated between the oral and nasal cavities and accessed via two small apertures between the incisor teeth.