My short bio: I’m Foundation Director of the Anthrozoology Institute at the University of Bristol in the UK, and author of CAT SENSE and DOG SENSE. My specific areas of research include: social behavior and communication between cats, cat-owner communication and relationships, interpretation of “play” behavior in cats (and dogs); cat domestication; “personality” in cats; and the effects of neutering on cat populations.

My Proof: * *

UPDATE: Thanks for all the great questions – you can keep up with where I’ll be next here:

Comments: 847 • Responses: 24  • Date: 

Dunkcity239124 karma

How can I tell if my cat loves me?

JohnBradshaw37203 karma

The same way you can tell if two cats like each other - puts its tail upright when it sees you, rubs around your legs, licks your hand (the cat version is licking behind the other cat's ears - and that's why cats enjoy being stroked and tickled here more than on any other part of their body).

PulltoOpen118 karma

What are the behaviors of cats that owners most commonly misunderstand?

JohnBradshaw37225 karma

Probably purring (also see previous post) which does not (always) indicate contentment. It's a signal from the cat to you - or another cat - to stay still and pay attention. Some cats purr when they want feeding, others when they're in distress. It's not a foolproof sign of emotion.

sweatyoctopus98 karma

Both my cats recognise me in the mirror and will react the same way when I make certain faces as if they were looking at me without the mirror. If I show a toy or treat they notice it in the mirror first and them turn straight toward the item I'm holding without looking around. They also use the mirror to catch each other out around corners and pounce. Has this type of thing ever been successfully demonstrated?

JohnBradshaw37133 karma

This sounds fascinating - I've tested loads of cats with mirrors, and generally the first time they think they've seen another cat, and run away, and the second time they ignore the mirror completely.

Starsy95 karma

Are you prepared to answer dozens of questions about individual redditors' cats strange behaviors, health issues, etc.?

JohnBradshaw3791 karma

Strange behaviour is usually a sign of stress which needs care and time to resolve, and certainly not over the internet! Likewise, I'm not a veterinarian, so I won't be answering health-related questions.

XDingoX8382 karma

I pick up my cat and she purrs yet she doesn't like being held. She won't sit on my lap but she always has to be close enough and has to be in the same room as me always. She also sits at the front door meows a lot when I leave (I recorded it once and my wife says she does it every day for like 30 minutes). I've never seen a cat act like this is something wrong with her? It seems like she has abandonment issues. Also she was a rescue.

JohnBradshaw37108 karma

Rescue cats usually make fine pets, but yours does seem to have a problem with being left alone - common in dogs, not so in cats. Don't think that because she's purring she's necessarily happy - it's a signal that cats make to persuade their owners to stay still and pay attention to them. If you want to cahnge her behaviour, best to seek advice from your veterinarian.

EighttrainNHF68 karma

What is the most interesting thing that you have learned that would shock most cat owners?

JohnBradshaw37196 karma

Most owners don't seem to know that cats have a second "nose" that they use to pick up odours left behind by other cats. It connects the roof of the mouth, just behind the little grooming teeth, with the nostrils, and to use it cats have to pull their top lips upwards, baring their top teeth, though they're not intending to look fierce.

Glinting_Eyes44 karma

Is that the vomeronasal organ?

JohnBradshaw37110 karma

Precisely, aka Jacobsen's organ. Every time I write "vomeronasal organ" in a magazine article the editor takes it out - too sciency!

Salacious-66 karma

Why does de-clawing a cat seem to have such a drastic impact on the cat's demeanor?

JohnBradshaw37374 karma

It's not "de-clawing", it's amputation of the tips of eight "fingers" (or toes). Over here in Europe it's classed as a mutilation, and veterinarians aren't allowed to do it. I suspect that declawed cats get phantom pains in their toes - just like any other amputee - hence altering their behaviour. I still get phantom pains in a fingertip that was severed in an accident nearly forty years ago. It makes me feel sympathetic!

elbrian58 karma

What is the best food (that is commercially available) for an average adult indoor cat?

JohnBradshaw3787 karma

Most branded catfoods are nutritionally adequate these days, tho' this wasn't necessarily the case 50 years ago, before nutritionists understood just how unusual the cat's needs are (that's the whole cat family, lions and all).

Frajer57 karma

Are cats really less friendly than dogs?

JohnBradshaw37235 karma

Cats can be as friendly to people as dogs are, but their priorities are way different. Dogs have evolved to make their owners the centre of their universe - research we've done indicates that an abandoned dog will form a bond with someone after less than 15 minutes. Cats evolved from a solitary territorial species, so they are strongly motivated to find a place to live that's secure and where they will get enough to eat. Once they're happy with that, they'll start looking to form friendships.

are-you-my-mummy47 karma

Where do you stand on indoor-only vs outdoor cats, focusing only on the cat and not the wider implications for e.g. wildlife and neighbours?

JohnBradshaw37121 karma

Presumably you mean human neighbours? Indoor-only cats are not bothered by neighbourhood cats - fights and stress between neighbouring cats is the #1 reason why cats are taken to the veterinarian in the UK - and are protected from traffic accidents etc. But, they can't roam where they please, and cats are very inquisitive animals and are strongly motivated to explore their surroundings. A cat that used to go out will feel frustrated if kept indoors, so ideally an indoor cat should never have been let out in its life. Also owners of indoor cats need to provide something for their cat to explore every day, even something as simple as a cardboard carton.

lateralus42042 karma

Do cats know when they are dying?

Do they have emotions like we do? (Happy, sad, mad)

JohnBradshaw3797 karma

Cats have some of the same emotions we do - the "gut-feelings", like happy, sad, frightened, mad (=angry). But not the complicated ones like guilt, pride or grief. There's no indication that any animal apart from ourselves understands death. Children don't "get" the idea until they're three or four.

Tidley_Wink61 karma

From what I understand there is strong evidence that elephants understand death and experience grief.

JohnBradshaw3782 karma

Animals - including cats - do behave differently when one of their number disappears or dies. That's not to say that they grasp the concept of death, merely that their social dynamic has been disrupted. Also, try to put yourself in the position of an animal that learns most of what happens in the world through its sense of smell. If one cat disappears, as far as other cats are concerned its individual odour will linger for days, even weeks, so it will be a long while before these reminders disappear.

figgy_puddin39 karma

I've read that a potential method for combating expansion of feral cats is the utilization of vasectomies over neutering. If I remember correctly, the former option prevents toms from abandoning their hormone-induced territoriality. Any insight to this? And additionally, do you have a particular opinion regarding how best to combat feral cat expansion in the US?

JohnBradshaw3760 karma

Vasectomy has been tried, but vasectomised toms go on fighting/spraying/roaming and there's no evidence that they defend the colonies that they come from. In any case, since one tom cat can father dozens of kittens in a lifetime, control of feral cat numbers is better achieved through neutering females.

daviddariusbijan151737 karma

Is there anything that can be done to convince a very timid cat, who is suspicious of strangers, to feel comfortable with them and show affection? I visit my mum's house once every month or so - she has a new cat that is about 9 months old, very very timid, although occasionally when she's sleepy she lets me pick her up. How can I make her not fear me, given that she doesn't have much time to get used to me?

JohnBradshaw3777 karma

Wait till she approaches you, then give her a favourite food treat. Repeat. Never force your attentions on a timid cat, it will only make them more timid.

workinfortheweekend34 karma

Thank you so much for doing this! I just got a new kitten yesterday, and have been keeping her in a "safe room" from my current cat as I have been advised to keep them separated by many. The problem is the kitten meows alot when left alone, is there anything I can do to decrease this? Also any tips for helping my existing cat see that the new kitten is our friend and not a threat?

JohnBradshaw3790 karma

The kitten is probably meowing for its mother, but hopefully it should soon calm down. To get the two introduced to one another, start by swapping scents between the kitten and the cat - exchange a piece of bedding or just use a cloth to stroke each cat and then leave it in other's room. That way it won't be a total shock when they first meet each other. When you do let them meet, keep the kitten in a carrier so that they can't fight.

Doubidou33 karma

How does one become a cat expert ?

Do you get to work with cats everyday ?

JohnBradshaw3752 karma

Qualify as a biologist or veterinarian first. Cats are fascinating, but not that unusual. And although I used to watch cats every day, mostly nowadays I have to leave that to my students.

spyguy58628 karma

My girlfriend has 2 cats (brothers). She works 45 hour weeks and has busy evenings and other evenings she stays with me. She is worried that the cats will develop some form of separation anxiety if she is not around them enough. Is this true? and if so what can you do to help prevent it other than give up scheduled activities in order to be around the cats?

JohnBradshaw3761 karma

Brothers usually make good company for each other, provided they've been fixed (otherwise they'll start fighting). A pair of cats that get on well together won't need human company the way that a single cat would. They're likely to get bored and frustrated if they're kept indoors (you don't say whether or not they're allowed out) so she needs to give them stuff to explore while she's out and plenty of games when she's in.

lolcifer66628 karma

Our backyard has become something of a local cat gathering place. We have two solely indoor cats, and thankfully they aren't territorial in regards to the outside visitors. One cat in particular, though, has taken to spending most of the day near our back door, napping beneath a bush or laying out in the sun. Is it wrong of us to treat him as an outdoor only pet, and provide food and water? Will this cause dependency on his part?

JohnBradshaw3766 karma

He's probably somebody else's cat, so try following him when he leaves! It's quite common for cats to choose to move from one home to another, and even if they're happy at home they seem to like checking out other places. If you start feeding him, you could be stealing him!

technine81627 karma

Okay, I love my cats and im kinda obsessed. I talk to my cats and personally think they can understand what im saying by their facial expressions. Is this true or am I Just crazy?

JohnBradshaw3769 karma

Cats can't understand words - and contrary to what most people think, nor can dogs, they just learn what different sounds mean. But although cats don't have such expressive faces as dogs do, it only takes a little attention for an owner to learn what his or her cat is thinking through "reading" its body language.

Professtro27 karma

are there any good books about the science/history of domestic cats? like scientific books for a pop audience? you know what i mean.

JohnBradshaw3756 karma

Not so many - that's why I wrote CAT SENSE. But maybe that's just me.

knowledgepower2224 karma

I have 3 indoor cats. And they all insist on going outside to the point where we are having to fight back at these little guys because of how hard they try to run out side. But when they do get out they do not go far, only around the house to look at things it seems. How can I stop these guys from doing this. I'm worried they will run away or get killed. Thanks.

JohnBradshaw3727 karma

Cats are strongly motivated to explore, but are often scared to go too far from home in case they meet an unfriendly cat (which in your case your cats can probably smell as soon as they go outside). Try distracting them with a "fishing" toy whenever they want to go out, and give them new things to investigate inside the house.

everythingisopposite23 karma

My friend's cat, a torty, consistently pees on her bed, I assume to show she is annoyed or mad. She also sprays the fridge to express her displeasure at not being fed when she thinks she ought to be fed. What would you suggest she do to stop this?

JohnBradshaw3752 karma

Neither annoyed nor mad, almost certainly stressed and anxious about something. There are "Synthetic pheromone" products that can help to calm a cat like this, but a proper investigation by a veterinarian may be necessary.

deusScientiarum18 karma

Are you a cat person or a dog person?

JohnBradshaw3798 karma

I've "owned" both, and they're so different I refuse to support one over the other!