According to a new study, the majority of cat owners are not in tune with their feline friends - mistaking signs of fury for fondness.?The survey, which was put together by Cats Protection, has revealed that 45 per cent of owners with two or more cats are?confusing signs of their much-loved moggies at war for signs of feline friendship.
Baffled owners incorrectly thought that cats flattening their ears back, grooming a particular area of their bodies and taking turns to sit in certain areas of the home meant that their kitties were living in harmony - which couldn't be further from the truth.?
It's not just a case of cat owners being optimistic and refusing to believe that their furry friends are at war - the survey also revealed that two in five (41 per cent) cat owners think positive behaviours, such as walking around with an upright tail, touching noses, rubbing against each other and fighting with their claws tucked in, are actually signs of negativity.
However, despite the confusion, only nine per cent of cat owners actually admit to finding it difficult to tell if their cats get on.
"The behaviour of cats is subtle and it's easy to misread the signs because cats have descended from the African wildcat, a solitary hunter, which didn't develop the complex facial muscles to show a wide variety of expressions," says Nicky Trevorrow, Cats Protection's Behaviour Manager. "There are signs that cats like each other but also there are signs they are only tolerating each other or not getting on at all. These signs include spraying, house soiling, over grooming or becoming withdrawn."
This year, Cats Protection has seen an 18 per cent increase in the number of cats coming to its adoption centres to be rehomed because they do not get along with other cats, and the charity says this is just the tip of the iceberg as this does not include the charity's 250 volunteer-run branches who also take in unwanted cats.
Nicky says: "At any one time Cats Protection is full to bursting looking after more than 5,000 unwanted cats, so by explaining to owners how they can help their cats to get on better, we hope to improve human-cat relations and thereby reduce the number of cats that are unnecessarily given up to Cats Protection."
Cats Protection advises introducing unfamiliar cats to each other very slowly, so that they have enough time to peacefully integrate with each other. A rushed introduction can often result in cats cohabiting under stress which can lead to behavioural problems and a potentially lifelong conflict between the cats.
If there are two cats already living together that do not get on, this may be because they are from different social groups. To encourage cordiality between the cats, cat owners should provide separate food, water and litter trays for each cat in different parts of the home so that the cats are not forced to spend time together and can slowly integrate into each other's lives. Warring cats can often block access to each other's food, which can cause stress and further weaken their chances of reconciliation.
Cat's Protection has also created a handy visual animation to give tips on how to spot whether your felines are friends or foe. To view the video please visit Cats Protection's YouTube page.