All behavior is a form of communication

All behavior is a form of communcation

The phrase, “All behavior is a form of communication” usually refers to children but could equally well refer to the domestic cat.

It is my belief that segments of the medical profession are repositioning or redescribing misbehavior by children as a medical disorder (e.g. Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)) when it is simply behavior that adults don’t like and which is an expression of something that is wrong for the child and the child is communicating how he feels through his behavior.

We should be careful when we “medicalise” so called “behavior problems” because we then treat behavior “problems” with drugs which may create further behavior problems that occur throughout adulthood. It also stigmatizes the child as a disabled person when he is not. Perhaps parents should look to what they are doing and see whether it might cause their children to “misbehave”. A child’s misbehavior may be a direct reflection of the circumstances under which he is placed by his parents.

The same can so often be said by cat owners in relation to their cats. Create a stressful home and your cat will exhibit signs of stress in his behavior. If the cat owner is aware of this, he can can take steps to eliminate the cause of the stress. Often cat owners are unaware of these things and simply declare “my cat is crazy” or “my cat is aggressive” or “my cat pees all over the house”. All these so called cat behavior problems are a form of communication and all indicate signs of stress due to the environment in which the cat lives. Remember people create the cat’s environment (“habitat” in scientific terms). Boredom is another emotion born out of the lifestyle that can be imposed upon a domestic cat.

A cat can purr, communicating to us that she is:

  • happy
  • she needs to be reassured

A cat might hiss, communicating to us or another cat to: watch out, stay away. When a cat flattens her ears she is communicating to the other cat or a human that she is prepared to fight any minute because her ears are in a protective position in readiness for fighting. A cat that sleeps too much or eats too much might be saying, “I am bored”.

These are all typical forms of cat behavior. Cat body language is a very effective form of communication to other cats and we should also be aware of it and understand what the cat is communicating.

Many cat owners base their interpretation of certain forms of cat behavior on their stereotypical, and sometimes distorted, knowledge of the domestic cat. Once a person has a good knowledge of the cat, all cat behavior falls into place and stops presenting a problem to the person.

As Kattaddorra so correctly says, good cat caretaking is about education. The more the better. Kids who misbehave are sometimes given powerful drugs to dull their minds, calm them down and make them more manageable. Cats are not so lucky as they are often relinquished and put to sleep.


Photo by The Consumerist

10 thoughts on “All behavior is a form of communication”

  1. interesting article reminds me of the show “my cat from hell”which airs every saturday on the animal planet.

      • My Cat From Hell is a good show all things considered I believe. It teaches people their responsibilities and how to respect and understand a cat’s behaviour. I think Jackson G is a pretty good and highly experienced guy. I know for a fact he didn’t want the title of the series to be what it is but it was the only way Animal Planet would have it at the end of the day. It attracts viewers sadly but it’s better to attract more viewers in the end because the message of the series is a very good and omportant one. It makes cat caretakers look a bit more at themselves for a start 🙂

  2. Yes we must learn to read a cat’s behavioural signals because they can’t tell us in words what it means and some people don’t even understand that a cat’s ‘misbehaviour’ isn’t the same as the misbehaviour of a naughty child. There is always a reason for everything cats do.
    I’ve noticed nowadays how so many mothers in shops shout at their children, instead of calmly telling them to do as they are told, no wonder their minds get messed up.
    It makes me wonder how the family pets get treated, if a person doesn’t even understand and gently correct her own child’s behaviour then the family pets have no chance of theirs being understood and the children think shouting at their pets is normal.


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