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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Pat K says
I agree with all the hints. We had a gentleman black cat who
came to live with us one day by coming over the back fence.
He was about a yr old. His previous owners, unknown to us, came
looking, found him, took him home 2 0r 3 times but he wanted us.
When he wanted to be petted he would climb up on a small stool and
look at me waiting. (Those people let us have him when we found out and called them.)
I have been very fortunate because most of my cats were/are total lovers and wanted all the attention and cuddles they could get. My two Somalis passed recently from lymphoma and they would approach complete strangers for cuddles…even leaping on their shoulders. I will always love and miss my little “flying squirrels”. My two Oriental Shorthairs can’t get enough attention or playtime…they just soak it up. Even as kittens, they stayed happily in my arms when I was holding them and I went into fits of coughing from a breathing problem (the doctors say my lungs are clear but I sound like I am going to gack-out a lung any minute). Guess I have just been really lucky to find very loving cats who are tolerant of my quirks and problems.
Catherine Lingg says
I have two interesting things to share. Rosie is the most affectionate cat I’ve ever known. She greets me, follows me around and cries for attention. We have love sessions. I’m the one that stops. She’d keep going forever. I have trouble sleeping as she’s all over me at night. I gently move her when she’s in my face. Secondly, the stressing out when they’re in danger happened just last night. Princess was in the open screened window and saw a moth. She went bonkers, jumping and clawing at the screen. When she was much younger she actually went out a second story screen. I assume going after a bug or something. Thankfully she was unhurt but nearly gave me a heart attack. She was 3. Now she’s a much bigger 12abd a half. It was dark and don’t think it would have ended well. Yes, I did raise my voice saying no Princess. She knows what no means. Probably the smartest cat I’ve ever had. So there’s my exceptions
Those are good tips, Summer! We always let our cats show us what THEY like, and go from there.
Cathy Keisha says
Yes, yes! Pop is guilty of #5 but TW always has time to stop by and give me a few scritches on the ruff or the chin. I show my appreciation by turning so my chin is up when I know she’s gonna come by.
Ernie the Island Cat says
Those are all things I don’t want done to me. ~Ernie
Brian Frum says
Those all sure make sense sweet Summer, rules to live by!
Melissa & Mudpie says
I love this, Summer. I’m guilty at times of #5 too, but I try to give her kisses, pets, and “Mudpie talk” often through the day, even when I’m busy.
Memories of Eric and Flynn says
I have never admitted this to anyone before and shouldn’t be putting it in black and white now, but the time comes when you have to share something.When I was told I had secondary cancer in 2017 and that there was no cure Flynn was coming to the end of his life. Also I was getting bad side effects from the chemo pills. I had a nervous breakdown and was a nightmare to live with but Ivor stood by me. My screaming and tantrums were never directed at Flynn but it must have frightened him. That has and always will be my greatest regret. Never shout when those you love are near.
I wrote this several minutes ago trying to decide whether to publish. Here goes, and I know I am going to regret it the minute I do it.
Memories of Eric and Flynn says
I am regretting it. Please can you delete my comment.
Marcia Pope says
Please don’t regret letting go of these painful memories. You’re in a very safe space. Having been a mom, I embraced knowing I’d done the best I could with what strength I had at the time.
BellaDharma an BellaSita Mum says
No no do not feel badly for sharing or for what you did. You were VERY ill & scared & going thru H*LL-O Kitty….
Even tho’ Flynn might have been scared; he would have known something was not right with you…
Purrince Siddhartha Henry knew. And he never stopped loving me.
BellaDharma IS scared of my Seizures (me too!) & I have yelled at her…..I do not remember most of the incidents…
All I can do is tell her I love her & give her treats & sit with her & play toys b4 bed…II always tell BellaDharma I am sorry….
Sometimes I think I should surrender BellaDharma. Despite my health issues/Seizures she is so attached to me….and I to her…it would feel like betrayal to surrender her!
Sorry Summer & Janis did not mean to co-opt your post!!!!!
(((hugs)))to youJackie & Janis & a virtual one to Summer 😉
BellaDahrma an BellaSita Mum says
If I have offended you Janiss then take my comment down. I do not want to have any ill feelings here.
Ellen Pilch says
I am sure some of my cats find me dressing them up as annoying behavior. Great tips. XO
CRAIG S. C. OKAJIMA says
When I bury my nose in Sydney’s fur, she sometimes slaps me. Sometimes she’s fine with it, but the slap means she’s had enough, for then.
Katie Isabella says
I agree with every single one. I have preached and preached about # 1 there till my tongue got tired flapping!!! CATS ARE NOT DOGS!!!!
Eastside Cats Blog says
Mary Roach has a fascinating eye for weird stuff!
Reading is definitely my #2 hobby, after cats.
Eastside Cats Blog says
Lots of folks use a water spray bottle, which I think is cruel!
Leann E. Walters says
Thanks for the tips Summer…I am guilty of yelling at my little kitty when she does something naughty…But I have been getting better at distracting her when she does something bad.
Mickeys Musings says
Those are all very good tips Summer.
I like #5. While we cats are fine on our own, it is very good
to have stimulation. When mum is reading, I nap next to her.
Every so often she gives me a pat. I like sitting with mum.
Nothing intentional. But, the only thing that I have done to my cat would probably fall under threatening behavior. Before losing weight, I had sleep apnea. It scared her when I woke up gasping for air. And twice I’ve fallen down the stairs which also scared her.