DEAR DR. FOX: My 2 1/2-year-old cat has spent most of her life indoors. She makes the usual chattering noise when she sees a bird, is very interested in watching the squirrels, goes from window to window to watch a bunny hopping by, doesn't care much about dogs sniffing around and she rarely mews, but chirps.
My son and I were astounded when, while looking out the window, she spotted a cat and started howling and hissing. So, here's the question: How did she know it was a cat and that howling was the way to go? -- J.S., Moorhead, Minnesota
DEAR J.S.: You seem to be asking how your cat knows that it was a cat outside and not some other creature. Animals have self-awareness, and one cat seeing another outside most often perceives the other cat as a threatening invader of territory, but not a rabbit or dog.
Your cat, like most, has a significant repertoire of vocal sounds for different situations to express her emotional states and cognition. When you live with more than one cat, you may find that one does most of the "talking" and that some varieties, such as Siamese, are very vocal indeed.
You may also see how cats do recognize and respond to each other's different vocal sounds. One of my cats would generally ignore the other, who was twittering and chirping at birds and squirrels on the other side of the window, but would come running to see when a low growl-yowl was given at a free-roaming cat or a less intense vocalization at a raccoon or groundhog.
Your cat could have heard the other cat giving threatening calls and smelled the cat's spray, which free-roaming cats often do around the homes of other cats. This can be very distressing for in-home cats and in many instances can make them start to spray indoors, become house-soilers and even attack each other.
MILLENIALS TOP PET OWNERSHIP
Pet ownership is up, according to the American Pet Products Association’s 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey. It reports 68 percent of American households now own a pet, accounting for 84.6 million pet-owning households, up from 79.7 million pet-owning households in 2015. Millennial pet ownership surpassed that of baby boomers by 3 percentage points, and the younger segment includes more than 50 percent of reptile, small-animal and saltwater-fish owners.
I would urge people of all ages not to purchase reptiles or other exotic warm-blooded animals that cannot be provided a proper habitat in unstimulating environments that are facsimiles of their true natures, analogous to zombies. Like many wild bird species, these exotic reptiles are part of a lucrative worldwide industry that causes many to die before they get into the pet stores for uninformed consumers to buy on impulse.
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