The Omlet Blog

Date Archives: June 2020

Cat Tail Facts

A cat’s signature move is the slinky walk with an upright tail. Intriguingly, no other cat species walks like this, and it is not known exactly when pet cats first adopted the posture.

The domestic cat’s ancestor, the African wildcat, hooked up with humans more than 10,000 years ago. They probably adopted us, rather than the other way round, attracted by the surplus of rodents nibbling away at our grain stores. It seems pretty certain that the feline freeloaders soon adapted their body language – tails included – just to please us, quickly securing their place on the sofa.

The following cat-of-nine-tails facts tell you everything you need to know about your pet cat’s swishing tail.

1 – Balancing Act 

Cats have fantastic balance. Their tails play a major role in this skill, acting as a counterweight when puss is ‘tightrope walking’ on narrow walls or ledges. The tail also helps cats run and change direction with great agility – and without stumbling. Next time you get the chance, watch a cat run and turn – if a human took some of those feline twists and turns at a similar pace, they would simply fall over.

2 – Tails Tell Tales

 Cats communicate with their tails, sending out subtle signals. The most familiar signal is the upright tail, a sign of a happy cat. In moments of great pleasure, the upright tail will quiver at the tip. This is not to be confused with the twitching tail of a resting cat, which means she’s irritated. Once the cat is on her feet and the tail is swinging from side to side, she’s switched from annoyance to anger, so watch out!

3 – Let us Prey

When they’re stalking prey, cats tend to keep their tails low and still, but they may still flick and twitch in excitement as the moment of pouncing draws near. If the hunt is unsuccessful, the tail will twitch restlessly in irritation.

4 – No Tail to Tell 

Some breeds, including the Manx, are born without tails, due to a dominant gene. Two tailless Manx cats should never be allowed to breed, however, as a combination of the two dominant genes brings severe health problems to the kittens. The curly tail of the Bobtail breeds doesn’t come with the same potential health problems as the Manx cat gene. Both the Manx and the Bobtails seem to have learnt to balance pretty well without a classic cat tail.

5 – When the Tail Goes Cold

A cat that has lost its tail in an accident, or has injured it in a door or traffic accident, is definitely handicapped. It will not be able to balance as well as before or send out those tail-twitching signals. It is still capable of leading happy life, though – owners just have to look for other body language details to read their pet’s mood.

6 – Inside Story 

Cat’s tails have between 19 and 23 vertebrae, depending on the breed (and not counting the tailless Manx!) This represents around 10% of the total number of bones in the cat’s body. These vertebrae give the tail its whiplash flexibility, held together with complex muscles, tendons and ligaments.

7 – Ailing Tails 

If your cat is feeling unwell, you can usually see the signs in its tail. It won’t be held upright or twitching excitedly like before. If you notice that the behaviour of your pet’s tail has changed, take it as a sign that she needs a health check. Some cats are prone to dermatitis, sometimes brought on by fleas. This can often be seen in inflamed areas in the region where the tail joins the rump. Some hormonal problems can result in inflammation in the tail too.

8 – Upstanding Felines

The ability to walk with an upright tail is actually unique to domestic cats. All other members of the cat family walk with the tail down, horizontal, or tucked safely between the legs.

9 – Tail End

Cats raise their tails to tell us they’re happy and relaxed, but when prowling amongst other cats the raised tail signal is an invite to come and investigate. Other cats will sniff a cat whose tail is in the air.

It is widely thought that purring is something cats invented just for us – and perhaps that upright happy tail is another one of the ways they won a place in our hearts and homes.

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This entry was posted in Cats on June 10th, 2020 by linnearask


What Is a Broody Hen, and How Do You Stop Her Being Broody?

Most hens lay their eggs with minimum fuss. They might make a bit of noise to announce their egg-laying achievement, but will soon return to the daily business of exploring and scratching for food. Some hens, however, are a bit more moody. Broody, to be more accurate.

A broody hen is one who sits on her egg with every intention of staying there until it has hatched – no matter whether the egg is fertilised or not. This is very useful if you want to hatch some chicks, but otherwise it can be a problem.

The cause of broodiness is linked to body heat, backed up by maternal instincts. Hens who are cooped up together in a hot henhouse may suddenly heat up to a level that makes them think “I’m going to hatch an egg!”. Certain breeds seem more susceptible to broodiness than others, with the Silkies and Cochins being particularly moody-broody.

Signs of Broodiness

A broody hen undergoes a personality change. The most obvious sign of this is her refusal to leave the nesting box. She will sit there with the air of a bird who will happily wait until Doomsday for the egg to hatch. This misplaced dedication will also make her grumpy and liable to peck or cluck angrily if you try to move her.

When you do manage to oust her from the box, she’ll simply head back there again and resume her brooding. Once she feels established in her new maternal role, she will fluff out her feathers and may begin to self-pluck her chest feathers to line the nest.

How to Stop a Hen Being Broody

Appearances can be misleading. The hen may look as though she will sit in the box for eternity, but in reality she will only stay there – usually – for three weeks. This is the length of time it takes a chicken egg to hatch.  This means, if space allows, you can simply let her brood for 21 days, and then the mood will lift and she will return to business as usual.

Having said that, you need to make sure the hen gets food and drink during this time, and this may involve forcibly removing her from the nest box and shutting it off until she has taken refreshments. Wearing sturdy gloves is a good precaution when doing this, to make sure you don’t get pecked.

Dipping the hen’s rear end in cool water is a common way of bringing broodiness to an end. Again, the condition is linked to body heat, so a sudden cooling of the rump will usually do the trick. The method is unsubtle – you take the hen and dunk her hind portions into the water for ten seconds.

A related anti-broody trick is to place a packet of frozen peas or sweetcorn kernels underneath the hen in the nestbox. Crushed ice cubes in a bag will do the trick, too. This has the dual impact of cooling the chicken down and making life in the nest box too uncomfortable for brooding.

Sometimes a simple obstacle such as a plant pot or a couple of bricks will have the desired effect. If the hen can’t access the nest box, she can’t sit there and brood.

Some owners use a so-called ‘broody enclosure’ to break the habit. This is a wire cage or crate, in which the chicken is placed along with food and water. The wire is slightly uncomfortable, and will also help cool her down. After three days, this gentle form of solitary confinement will usually break the broody habit. The signs that the brood-mood is over are obvious – the hen will stop fluffing out her feathers and will stalk around the cage, rather than sitting and brooding.

Then again, you could purchase some fertilised eggs and let the broody hen get on with it. If you want chicks, this is by far the easiest, and most natural way of producing them – under the fluffy belly of a broody hen.

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This entry was posted in Chickens on June 10th, 2020 by linnearask