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CONTINUING EDUCATION JULY/AUGUST 2018 23 Understanding the Cat BEHAVIOR Ilona Rodan, DVM, DABVP (Feline) Cat Care Clinic, Madison, WI Cats are unique in that they are the only domestic animal derived from solitary hunters. 1 They are also the only solitary hunter to live amicably with people while still retaining the behaviors of their wild ancestors. 1 Cats are essentially solitary survivors and need to protect themselves at all times from potential dangers. A bad veterinary experience can negatively impact a cat's welfare both short- term and long-term. 2,3 Fortunately, regardless of practice type, measures can be taken to prevent environmental and handling stressors, resulting in improved patient experiences, client acceptance of veterinary services 4 and reduced injury rates to veterinary professionals. 5,6,7 UNDERSTANDING THE CAT The domestic cat, Felis sylvestris catus, is a territorial animal with keen senses and communication methods to prevent physical fights. A cat's territory provides security, a sense of control, familiarity, predictability, and increased coping ability. 8 Feline communication includes scratching and other forms of marking with pheromones to protect their territory from physical altercations. When these signs go unrecognized by other species, cats then communicate with posturing and facial expressions. It is only when these survival methods fail that aggression occurs. These same behavioral trends occur in the veterinary practice. If we understand the cat's body language and learn gentle and respectful handling techniques based on these different communications, we can prevent cat's escalation to aggression. Some cats may do better for veterinary visits by remaining in their own territory and having the veterinarian make a house call visit. However, many cats do well with visits to a practice that takes measures to provide a safe space, respectful handling, and familiarity of team members. 9 It is crucial to understand why some cats are easy to work with while others are aggressive, perhaps even from the beginning of the appointment. How a cat responds is based BEHAVIORIAL RESPONSES Cats caged against their will or not receiving enough attention tend to become frustrated and may act out by pawing, tearing paper, or other forms of responses. CONTINUING EDUCATION

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