Are your cats in the same social group?
Are your cats in the same group? In Challenge #9 we talked about the different relationships that cats can have with other cats and a couple and a clique, which are cats in the same social group.
What is a social group?
Cats in the same social group share a unique group scent. They need this group smell to recognise each other. After all, a cat can’t see very sharp at a short distance of anything less than 1 meter (3ft), so they use their sense of smell here. This group odour is formed by cats rubbing against each other and creating a combo of their own pheromones with the pheromones of the other cat(s).
Pheromones, or rather a combination of pheromones, also called semio-chemicals, are scent cells that animals within one species use to communicate with the others and themselves through time and space. By rubbing against each other and resting and sleeping together, also called tactile communication, they transfer scents to each other and this results in that unique group scent.
In science they have not yet determined whether this unique group smell is the result of tactile communication or whether tactile communication takes place because of the formation of such a group smell. The chicken or the egg?
How do I recognise a social group?
Cats in the same social group spend a lot of time in each other’s neighbourhood, licking each other (= allogrooming), playing together, sleeping less than 25 cm (ft) from each other with their faces turned towards each other and barely blowing or growling at each other ever.
How do I get my cats to be in the same social group?
The main way to support your cats who are either already in a social group, or who you want them to be in one group is to work on abundance (step 1 of the Cat Matrix), choices (step 2 of the Cat Matrix) and choices (step 3 of the Cat Matrix) in your home. You also don’t want to put two new cats together just like that, because this immediately creates a negative association.
Cats often find a way to ‘live together’ afterwards, but it almost never becomes a social group, you only get that if you do a slow introduction as discussed in the Guide for Happy Cat.
Why is it important to identify social groups?
This is important for several reasons. Understanding your cats’ relationships helps you to support them and better understand their behaviour. For example, if you have 5 cats in your house in 1 or 2 social groups, then providing cat resources in your house will look a lot different than if you have 5 social groups within those 5 cats. Cats within a group are more tolerant of each other, make more use of the same areas or in other words, try to avoid each other less and are less concerned when another cat nearby uses an essential resource.
When, by doing the exercise, you realise that your cats are not really in the same group, you can start to support them extra in the house or at least you can just be aware of it and take measures in a lot of situations. Beware, you should not take advantage of your social groups and think you can get away with placing fewer resources ‘because they will share’. Social groups should also have all options to avoid each other, to make sure they just stay together! I’ve seen enough pairs of cats ‘break up’ over the years as a cat behaviourist because the environment and all resources in it were scarce.
Can social groups change?
Absolutely. Cats can evolve into the same group, when the environment allows it, so you’ll benefit from setting up your environment optimally, even if you think there is no problem.
Social groups can also fall apart over time if the environment does not allow it or suddenly if there is an incident such as misplaced aggression in which one of the cats feels fright, fear or frustration at seeing an outdoor cat, and this affects the nearest object: the other cat. That is why it is and remains so important to tape windows down to the ground.
Love, Anneleen ♡
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