Tip: allow your cat 15 mins when coming indoors to lose their ‘wild mode’ to avoid scratches

In the inimitable words of Dr. Desmond Morris in his excellent book on cat behaviour CATWATCHING the cat caregiver should be aware of the fact that their cat leads a double life.

“The cat leads a double life. In the home it is an overgrown kitten gazing up at its human owners. Out on the tiles it is fully adult, its own boss, a free-living wild creature, alert and self-sufficient, it’s human protectors for the moment completely out of mind. This switch from tame pet to wild animal and then back again is fascinating to watch”.

It is the switch from tame to wild and then back to tame which is the subject matter of this article. It concerns those caregivers who allow their cats to go outside through a cat flap.

Domestic cat wild mode is still running when they enter the home through the cat flap
Domestic cat wild mode is still running when they enter the home through the cat flap. Image: MikeB
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Indeed, domestic cats do very much change their character when they’re on their own outdoors. They become their wild cat ancestor. It might take them a few minutes to achieve this mode. And in my opinion, it takes about 15 minutes to revert back to their domestic cat mode when they come in through the cat flap.

And if a caregiver ignores that 15-minute transformation and wafts and wave their hands around their cat’s head during that interlude, for whatever reason, they are liable to receive a swipe from their cat’s sharp claws because their cat will see their hands as a bird flapping away from their grasp.

When they adjust to domestication and become tame again, they see their owner’s hand as a hand waiting to pet them on their head.

It isn’t just hands that are in danger. You might lean forward to kiss your cat. Normally they will accept it even though the human head looms large and in their face. This can be slightly unnerving. Or you might kiss them on their flank or rump. All totally normal but when a cat is in their wild mode it might be perceived as a little hostile, the attentions of a predator perhaps.

Not all cats will be in a wild mode when they come in from the outside but a lot will and I think this is a useful tip which I have learned through first-hand experience. It does depend upon the cat. Mine is a former feral cat and therefore has a propensity to switch into that wildcat character but it is there in all domestic cats.

It is said that their domestication is a veneer over their wildcat character which is just below the surface.

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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

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Useful links
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