Your relationship with your cat is as complex as your relationship with many humans. More complex, in fact, since you speak two completely different languages and must figure out how best to communicate your needs within this limitation. Because of the language and species barrier, you may be damage your bond with your cat without realizing it. Here are five ways this might happen, and what to do about them.
1. Being unpredictable
Do you have a friend who would loathe a surprise birthday party? That’s basically your cat. Cats thrive on routine. They want to know what’s next. If you get upset at your cat for being on the kitchen counter one day and then throw up your hands in surrender the next, you’re sending out mixed messages. If you set up a training session once or twice and then forget about it for a month, they’ll never learn.
Figure out your routines with your cat and stick to them as much as humanly possible. Reward your cat for sitting on a chair instead of the counter, and make the chair sitting a routine. Fit training sessions with your cat into your schedule on a regular day and time. Create fun rituals that involve treats and love. These will keep your cat feeling secure and trusting.
2. Ignoring your cat
It’s a myth that cats are low maintenance pets that can be left alone for long periods of time without a thought. Cats need other beings around, and they need mental stimulation. Without these, they can become destructive, either to their surroundings or to themselves. Yes, overgrooming, chewing or fur pulling that your vet can’t diagnose can be caused by a lack of stimulation at home. Cats can become neurotic without enrichment in their lives.
So make sure your cat gets the attention and stimulation they need. Of course, many people work all day, and can’t take their cats with them. (And usually the cat wouldn’t want to go anyway. I’m the exception.) The solution isn’t that difficult. Create fun play areas, with toys, cat trees, and windows with a view. Kind of like an indoor catio without being enclosed. Set up several areas where your cat can enjoy napping and playing. Schedule your TV to show cat videos from YouTube regularly while you’re away.
An ideal solution would be to have a second cat, somebody for your cat to pal around with. (The exception being those cats who prefer human company to other cats.) But even when you do this, make sure to set up your home with cat furniture and play areas. Otherwise, you could have double trouble!
3. Teasing your cat
Be honest — most people don’t like being teased. Who likes being the butt of someone else’s joke? It’s borderline bullying and cruelty. And while a friend who has been the target of teasing may laugh it off later, your cat doesn’t understand. They only get you are being a little bit mean… and laughing about it. It’s not a good look on you, from your cat’s perspective.
The solution to this is… just don’t do it. Give your cat respect, and don’t make them the butt of your jokes. Before you do something to your cat that you think is funny, step into their paws and ask yourself how you would feel if you were them? If you don’t like the answer, neither will your cat.
Cats have very sensitive ears, and loud, sharp noises are extremely disturbing to them. And it’s even worse if that noise is coming from you. And if that noise is coming from you and directed towards them, you are causing serious damage to any bond you have with your cat.
If you are a temperamental sort, like my human, it will really help to learn coping (not suppressing) mechanisms that reduce the tendency to shout. And of course, never direct your anger at your cat. Because our work as a therapy cat team requires my human to be the voice of calm to keep me from being stressed, she’s had to work on this. But just because you and your cat aren’t visiting hospitals doesn’t make it any less crucial for you to find ways to keep your voice down and your anger in check. Believe me, your cat will really appreciate it.
5. Punishing your cat
Always remember, you are 6 times as tall as your cat and weigh 10 times as much. You are huge! So anything you do that involves aggression on your part is extremely scary to your cat. If you’re screaming at your cat, throwing them off counters, pointing spray bottles at them, and just generally acting out in rage or anger, you can’t expect your cat to love you. In fact, they will learn to fear you and you won’t have a bond with them at all.
There are ways to get a cat to behave in a way that’s acceptable to you that doesn’t involve punishing them. Depending on the situation, they range from redirecting their attention, to creating a more enticing option for them, to just giving them more playtime and activities to keep them mentally stimulated. None of this involves making your cat fear or dislike you. In fact, these options will definitely strengthen your bond with your cat.
I hope these help! If you have any other suggestions, please share them in the comments.
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