Pebbles

Cat Tips

Try to determine your cat's breed (or breeds), as certain health conditions have genetic links. For example, Persians and Abyssinians tend to be at risk for kidney problems, which are manageable if diagnosed early.

read more

Smooth Cat Moves Explained

By Kim Ribbink

Smooth Cat Moves Explained

Most feline owners have experienced that moment when their cat dashes across a surface that holds breakable objects. Often, faster than you can say, "hey, no, stop. . ." the moment usually passes and -- miraculously -- nothing has been broken, or even dislodged. Virtually all felines, from jungle cats to domesticated kitties, possess these smooth moves. You may, however, be surprised to know that your feline friend draws on a lot more than "instinct" to navigate.

A recent study found that when cats step over an object with their front legs, their back legs automatically go with the flow. That means your cat, in a split second, remembers what happened with the first step. It serves as proof for what good memories felines possess when it comes to their physical world. But how long can these memories last?

Keir G. Pearson, PhD, a professor of physiology at the University of Alberta, Canada, and her colleague David A. McVea, found that after a cat steps over an object with its front legs, then is distracted for 10 minutes, it remembers just how big a step it needs to take with its back legs to clear the object. If the cats in the experiment were paused before they reached the obstacle, however, they completely forgot about it, meaning cats need to take that first step before memory takes care of the rest. "Basically, we have discovered that cats have a very good memory of objects relative to their bodies after they have interacted with the objects," Dr. Pearson says.

Know Your Cat
Nancy Peterson, RVT, feral cat program manager for The Humane Society of the United States, points out, however, that cats don't always maneuver accurately. They sometimes misjudge a jump and then may start to groom themselves to recover their poise. When in a playful or energetic mood, they may also sometimes deliberately knock over knick-knacks in their way.

"While the report mentions that they have this spatial memory and so they can avoid knocking things over, they also delight in knocking things over," she says. Therefore, if you want to protect precious family heirlooms, put them away and remember your cat can leap very high, so even putting the item on an elevated shelf may not protect it.

Though many factors come into play with regard to how cats navigate -- their highly sensitive whiskers, their ability to see in the dark and the stability that their tails offer -- knowledge about a cat's spatial memory may be especially helpful to some cat owners, for example, those with blind cats. "Whether it's spatial memory or not, blind cats have some kind of a map that they see in their mind," Peterson says. "They've memorized their environment, so as long as you don't change it, they can get around fine."

Putting Movement Memory to the Test
Finding out just how long a cat can remember to follow through from forelegs to hind legs is tricky, since you can't, of course, ask your pet to answer the question. But the experts speculate the duration could be more than the 10 minutes Dr. Pearson and Dr. McVea were able to record. "We don't know how much longer the memory can last, but it could be much, much longer," Dr. Pearson says.

There are many ways you can observe your cat's spatial memory in action. For example, if your kitchen or dining room chairs have bars at the base, watch as your cat steps over the first bar, then clears it with its back legs, then steps over the next and so on. This knowledge about spatial memory also poses an interesting question: is it innate or is it a learning process?

"I wonder at what age it would begin?" Peterson asks. "I would think kittens may be less adept, but that would be something interesting to observe." If you bring a new kitten into your household, you can even do a bit of experimenting yourself, just by observation. By watching your kitten, try to see if it's as coordinated as an adult cat and whether this adroitness improves with age.

Learning from Cats
Dr. Pearson says he and his colleagues don't believe that spatial memory is unique to cats, since they've observed similar behavior in dogs and horses. In fact, greater knowledge about the skillful way cats move teaches us more about all creatures, whether they walk on all fours or on two legs. Dr. Pearson says cats are very good animals for offering insight into human movement.

"Almost all the main concepts we have for describing the neurobiology of human locomotion have come initially from studies on cats," he says. For cat owners, the research also offers new insight into our most elusive pets. "The more we understand how cats think, the better we can be at assigning motives to them that are true," Peterson says. She notes that we tend to ascribe human motions and motives to cats, but this can backfire in our relationship with them.

"If we can think like a cat thinks, this will help us to understand them and to improve their quality of life and to hopefully resolve any challenges that crop up in our relationship with them," she says.

is a freelance writer and editor based in Perth, Australia, who writes about a broad range of topics and has a trio of pets in her family, including a cat that acts like a dog.


Rate This Article
* * * * *

Click a star to rate this article

Posted on October 9, 2009

jamie says: i think that kittens ar so qute.

Posted on January 17, 2008

Lydia M says: I recently moved into a new apartment and i have two adult cats. The female cat is urinating on the bed frequently even when i forbidded her not to. She never does this but i think it is because we moved into a new enviornment. What should i do?

Posted on January 8, 2008

Nancy says: My cat is kncoking things over all the time. He even knocked the lamp off my end table while I was at work! It damaged the table but the lamp was, okay this time. I think he does this to get my attention but I don't know how to handle this. I've been putting him outside every time I catch him doing it but so far that hasn't worked. It was suggested that I put all table top items away but I can't do that with my lamps and other necessary itesms. He is a very affectionate cat and loves to cuddle with me when I sit on the sofa. He jumps up in my lap and snuggles and is so sweet otherwise. I got him from my son who had to move and couldn't take him with him. They had three cats and could keep two so I took Shi-Chi because he and I seemed to bond whenever I visited. He never did this in their home. I really like him and would love to keep him but he is ruining my "things" and it's driving me crazy. Any other suggestions?

Posted on February 21, 2008

Sevi says: They may not understand the word, but if it's accompanied by some kind of gentle correction, your cat might learn what it means. One of mine learned a few phrases unintentionally: I say NO when I open the front door to keep her running out. This was learned after blocking her way enough times that she now responds to the verbal cue alone. No idea how or how long it took! She also knows "let's go!" and leaves a pantry or bathroom so I can shut the door, I guess after being repeatedly shooed out, she now doesn't wait for me to actually have to shoo her. It just takes a lot of repetition I think before they really associate what you say and what will happen if they don't give the right behavior.

Posted on December 13, 2007

Victoria Duncan says: Cats don't know what we say, and kittens are like small children. Try clapping your hands loudly when saying NO,sternly,or get a small spray bottle and give her a small squirt when saying NO. They don't like the water and it won't hurt her. Make sure you play with her with kitty toys and not your hands. Are the other cats playing with her? She'll probably calm down a little as she matures,and get her spayed before she gets much older. I have a cat who had her first Heat when she was only 4 months old. Good luck and enjoy your baby!

Posted on January 5, 2008

pokemama says: I was astonished to learn from my vet that this indicates impacted anal glands, which make the animal uncomfortable. Your pet is trying to relieve this problem. Your vet can "express" the anal glands, and will *always* offer to show you how to do it at home to avoid future office visits.

Posted on December 8, 2007

Michele Wood says: I haven't had a female cat ever always males & always altered. She is only 10 weeks old, I've had her since she was 6 weeks. She is a really sweet thing, but very very courious. She is only an indoor cat never goes outside & never will. At what age should I start telling her NO so that she gets what I'm telling her. I understand to a kitten everything is fun & games and sweetness comes very often but some times I just want her to behave. I can't quite get it through to her I mean business. I've spoke sternly to her shook my finger at her, she ignors me and attacks my finger or wraps herself around my leg. If I continue to repeat the word NO will she eventually get the message? I train puppies so much easier then kittens. I try to be very patient with her but some times she is something else! I do love her very much though. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thank you!

Posted on December 7, 2007

Laura Hibbard says: I have a brother and sister duo, they are twins and never been seperated. However Baxter has an obsession with eating plastic, from bags to hard plastic ta nything of plastic material. I have taken him to the vet and he obviosly told me plastic is very harmful, well i know that. i hide it anywhere he can't get, but its like a drug he finds it. How can i help him. I am very scared one day it is going to really hurt my baby. Is there anything i can do to get this plastic fetish gone. Thank-you -Laura

Posted on December 7, 2007

Veronica says: My cat has always been aggressive towards me, like I'll be sitting on a chair and for no apparent reason, she'll grab my arm with both paws and bite me, hard. Now I've never seen a cat do this only dogs. But she's starting to scoot, (slide), her butt on my rugs. Also she loves to lick plastic. No matter what type she licks it.What do you think on why her behavior is like this. Thank You, Veronica

Posted on December 6, 2007

charles zelenko says: Sydney lies around til 6a.m.and then comes into the bedroom and slams the hanging pictures agaainst the wall.It's breakfast time!Dinner? He digs his claws into my ankles.(he found out I'm on blood thinner.)When it's time to cut his nails-I've been evicted from three veterinarians.Do you think I'm being too strict with him? C.Z.

Posted on December 4, 2007

Barbara Fetterman says: My daughters cat has started to howl at night between 1:00am and 6:00am every morning. She just has a litter of 4 kittens and 3 of them are in new homes. My daughter is keeping one of them. The mom cat started howling and sitting on her boyfriends chest and kneeding his shoulders (between 1:00am & 6:00am)we thought that the mom is have separation anxiety, but she only directs this behavior to my daughters boyfriend. The mom cat always favored him. He cannot get any sleep and is considering giving her away. HELP

Posted on December 6, 2007

kathie swanson says: Recently my cat has been behaving oddly....preferring to sleep under a tablecloth covered table rather than on my bed or the couch as he usually does. His routine is not normal either, no more waking me at night to get up and show him where his food is... This morning I tried to coax him out of his hiding spot and he got spooked ran outside and has been under a bush all day and I haven't been able to get him to come out and indoors (I'm worried about tonight's rain)...any advice? Thanks, Kathie

Posted on November 30, 2007

DyanMarie says: First I'd like to say, I love your site: great job! Recently my cat started meowing when he's drinking from his water dish, he's never done this, its something new he started afew months ago. Is there a reason for it ??? It's no biggy, just wondering if you might know why. Thanks and I hope your husband is doing fine. Take care to both of you!

Posted on November 30, 2007

Laurie says: Its been two days and 1 visit to the vet. Nothing is wrong with her, but she isn't her self, she has been hiding out underneath my bed. She usually love to sit in the wiondow looking outside. I don't know what to do, or what is wrong with her? Please give me some helpful advice.

Posted on December 3, 2007

gene mallard says: We have a 3 year old female orange tabby.She has a desire to eat or chew up anything of cardboard. We have 4/5 cardboard scratchers which she uses regularily,but she attempt to chew them up. Not sure if she is eating the cardboard, but its all over the area around her scratchers. Is she missing something in her diet? What advise can you offer...

Posted on December 3, 2007

Amber says: My kitten is about 5 months. I got him when he was 6 weeks old. My only problem with my baby is he likes to bite me and other people that he knows when they come in the house. What can I do to get him to stop being too playful. His bites draw blood everytime, and I now have very ugly scares on my arms. I NEED HELP!!!!

Posted on November 18, 2007

keli says: my cat runs into the hose water when all the others scatter. he loves to bite and knaw metal. i caught him furiously fishing a butcher knife from the kitchen sink. anything he comes in contact with that s metal-in the mouth it goes. hard. in total cat attack mode he will suddenly abort mission to drool over a blade of grass. i almost learned the hard way. he is very curious about moving cars, motorcycles and trucks. to my ultimate horror, before i could reach him, i saw him get run over by one car one way and another car the next. unscathed. I ALMOST had a heartattack. he wants to be IN THE road. he loves the roaring lawn mower. sees invisible energy/things he must clearly defend against. hissing and whacking at. he has a sister cat but prefers to hang with his sister-my other child-a dog. they are always togather. sleep, eat, play.

Follow Us

    Black and blue logo for content marketing agency, Studio One, with greater-than sign used as a title.

    Copyright © 2014 Studio One Networks. All rights reserved