I know everyone who visits this blog knows a thing or two about cats. But even so, there is always room for improvement. And even people who have had cats all their lives might trip up now and then. So, as a refresher course, here are 5 things to never do to your cat. I consider this a slightly advanced list, since you are already familiar with the basics.
- Treat Your Cat Like a Dog
- Bother Your Cat With Behavior That Annoys Them
- Scare Your Cat With Threatening Behavior
- Berate Your Cat for Not Using the Litter Box
- Assume Your Cat Is Fine on Their Own
If you have lived with dogs before, or been a dog owner before being a cat owner, you may have dog behavior patterns that are still ingrained.
Keep in mind that cats and dogs speak different languages and respond differently to things like love and discipline. Cat love is much more subtle and quieter than dog love. And cats don’t respond well to discipline at all. They don’t care about disapproval while dogs hate letting you down. A cat expects you to offer a better option if you want them to stop a behavior. Totally different from how you work with dogs.
If you are used to dogs and wondering what is going wrong in your relationship with your cat, take a step back and make sure you aren’t treating them the way you might a dog.
This one trips up lots of cat lovers because, what can I say? We are irresistible. It’s hard not to touch us nonstop because we are so cute! But honestly, most cats would rather you kept the cuddling, snuggling, picking up, and booping to a minimum. If your cat loves you, they will gamely tolerate it for longer than is comfortable for them. But they would be greatly relieved if you kept all these things to a few brief seconds and stopped before they started looking for an out.
And yes, there are cats that love to cuddle and be picked up by their humans. But notice – they get to do it on their terms. They like it, and you are doing it. And if that’s the case, great! But if your cat doesn’t seem to be enjoying the kind of attention you are giving them, maybe consider giving them attention in a way they do want. This could include chin and face skritches, playtime, and treats. Love doesn’t always mean full hand contact.
We cats are sensitive creatures that are easily stressed. Although the way we sometimes enjoy misbehaving, that might be hard to believe. And when humans get frustrated with their cats, they might blow up and start yelling, or physically grabbing the cat and pulling them away from somewhere they’re not wanted. This is really scary to a cat, and can damage your relationship with them.
Before you start screaming or lunging at your cat, take a deep breath. Then approach the cat in a calmer manner. And while you are at it, think about what might work to encourage your cat to do something different. Because once again, cats need options, and it might take time to find that sweet spot that is going to solve the problem.
Is it ever appropriate to yell at your cat? Yes, in this one instance only: when the cat is about to do something that threatens their safety. For example, stepping on a hot stove or going to chew on a plant that might be toxic. But in that case, you’re not yelling out of anger, you are getting their attention away from the danger. And you probably shouldn’t even do that outside because the cat may run into the danger in confusion instead of away from it. But these instances are very rare, so they’re not part of this Don’t.
I get it. When your cat is having litter box issues, it can drive you crazy. But behaving in an angry and irrational way is only going to make things worse. Your cat is not using the litter box for one of two reasons. They are either sick or stressed out, and expressing your anger will only make things worse.
Cats want to use the litter box. They hate doing their business somewhere that is going to cause trouble. It’s really important to get to the bottom of the problem, whether it involves veterinary care, or the intervention of a behaviorist. Any emotional outbursts on your part can prolong the problem and will definitely do damage to your relationship with your cat.
Just because cats don’t jump up and down with enthusiasm every time they see you, it doesn’t mean they lack the need for company. The problem is cats are such quiet companions that it is easy to neglect them. Even my human can do this. She gets so buried in writing or editing photos and videos that hours can pass — hours where she could have taken a break to play with me or have a training session. And even though she might find me curled up and napping, it could be out of boredom and not the need for an extra hour of sleep.
Cats rarely come right up and ask you for attention, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want it. (Although see Number 2 above — they may want attention, just not that type of attention!) So offer play and treat time often. Give them a gentle pet in passing to let them know you care. Do training sessions to keep your cat mentally stimulated. Be present for your cat. They will appreciate it.
That’s what I have for you today! What mistakes have you made with your cats that you learned from? Let me know in the comments!
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