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with all four feet ready for self-defense. This cat may be screaming while showing all of its weapons (nails and teeth).
Cats have extremely mobile ears. When the ears are forward, a cat is listening and is generally relaxed or alert but not emotionally aroused. Turned laterally, flat “airplane ears” indicate that the cat is more fearful or feels threatened. When ears are back and tight to the head, the cat is feeling very threatened and frightened. This cat will have a partially or fully open mouth and be hissing, spitting, yowling, or screaming. Cats will protect themselves if we fail to reduce the level of perceived threat. Ears turned back but erect indicates the most reactive and aggressive state. In this case, the mouth will be closed and the cat will be emitting a low growl with or without swallowing. This is the cat to be apprehensive of.
Figure 1: Interpreting a cat’s body posture.
Your Singapore, the Tropical Garden City
  Figure 2: Interpreting a cat’s ear position and facial expression.
Figures from Rodan I: Understanding the cat and feline- friendly handling. In Little SE, editor: The Cat: Clinical Medicine and Management, St. Louis, 2011, Elsevier, p5.
Vocalization
This form of communication requires the direct presence of the recipient. It has the benefit of being easy to adapt from moment to moment. As with other signals, cats have a well-developed repertoire of sounds to convey a need or wish to increase the distance between individuals. The sounds made for encouraging socialization are a trill/ chirrup, purr, puffing, prusten, chatter, miaow, and sexual calling. The cat that is open-mouth screaming is highly aroused but is probably less aggressive than the cat that is close-mouthed growl/wah-wah/mowling.
Cats use a combination of these different signals in any situation. We need to learn to look for all of them and interpret them together.
PART 2: RESPECTFUL HANDLING: PUTTING PURRSPECTIVE INTO YOUR PRACTICE
Making the clinic environment more “feline friendly” requires imagining how a cat perceives it. The exercise becomes one of identifying potential threats and removing or reducing their significance.
Reducing perceived threats in the hospital setting
It is important to reduce exposure to true predators (dogs, people, other cats) and to other perceived threats. Visual barriers in the seating/waiting area help to prevent cats from seeing dogs. Covering the carriers with a towel will also help so that cats don’t see each other. Using chairs or ledges, keep kennels off the floor. If possible, have a separate cat-only waiting area. Reserve at least one examination room only for cats in order to reduce the smells of predators and to be able to furnish it with
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