20 Things You Do That Your Cat Actually Hates
Do you really think your kitty likes being picked up by your toddler nephew? Experts explain which human behaviors irritate our cats most.
What are you doing wrong?
You try your best to keep your cat happy with lots of love, playtime, and treats. But is it working? Could some of your well-meaning attention actually be making your cat anxious, annoyed, or standoffish? We asked experts in cat behavior to explain some of the ways people inadvertently irritate their feline friends. Find out the reason behind one of your kitty’s favorite behaviors: cat naps.
You’ll love your new baby, and you’ll love your cat, but don’t necessarily expect them to love each other, at least right away. “Big life changes such as moving or welcoming a new family member can be stressful for cats,” Kristyn Vitale, a postdoctoral researcher at Oregon State University, in the Human-Animal Interaction Lab says. The ASPCA website offers tips for helping cats get used to the idea of sharing their homes with a small human, including playing baby sounds before you give birth to get your kitty accustomed to what’s coming. If dad will be taking over cat care from mom once the baby arrives, have him take on his grooming and play duties at least a month before the big day. Here’s why cats meow.
If a new baby is one of the most dramatic lifestyle changes that will stress out a cat, it’s not the only one that should be undertaken gradually when possible. Even moving a cat’s litter box should be done slowly if at all possible—the ASPCA recommends scooting it just a few inches per day toward its new location. If you have to move to a new house or apartment altogether, your worries will be bigger: Marilyn Krieger, Catster’s “Ask a Behaviorist” columnist, writes that the biggest concern is safety since anxious cats are more likely to run away or hide in inappropriate places. She recommends a detailed safety check of the new home to ensure there aren’t any loose screens. Speaking of anxious cats, have you wondered about the YouTube videos that show them jumping away from cucumbers? Read about possible explanations for this behavior.
Big changes might be stressful for cats, but they don’t actually want every day to be exactly like the last. “Having a home environment that never changes can also be boring for cats,” Vitale says. Plus, when they’re not accustomed to any day-to-day variety, they’ll be extra-freaked-out when your grandparents visit or a plumber comes to work on your kitchen sink. “Giving your cat new toys and forms of enrichment can help stimulate their mind and may also make them more comfortable with new situations when big life changes do occur.” Check out these 12 telltale signs that your cat is happy.
Fireworks, thunderstorms, and construction noises can be confusing and scary for pets. The best remedy, says Vitale, is distraction. She suggests training your cat to sit and stay in a specific location, like on a mat, and then practicing the behavior when the loud noises startup. Vitale’s instructional video shows how she teaches the behavior. “After the cat is a master of sitting and staying then have them do this when loud noises are occurring,” she says. “Give them treats for engaging in the sit/stay behavior and for ignoring the loud noises. Eventually, they will learn the loud noises are nothing to be afraid of, and they will be more interested in earning treats than hiding.” Here’s why cats hate water so much.
Because cats are so particular, you can take advantage of their sensitivities to help guide their behavior. According to the website for the MSPCA-Angell, a nonprofit animal protection organization in Boston, most cats hate walking on aluminum foil, heavy plastic, or sticky surfaces, so if you want your cat to stop hanging out on the counter, make sure the surface is unwelcoming. Vitale adds that a product called Sticky Paws can make your dining room table less inviting to your pet. “Make sure to reward times the cat is on the floor and not on those surfaces with treats and praise,” she says.
Does your cat seem to give you a wide berth when you’re wearing your favorite perfume? “They have excellent noses,” Vitale says. “Scent items with a strong odor, such as perfume or deodorizers, may be off-putting and cats may avoid locations with these scents.” She adds that there are also smells that most cats really like, including catnip, lavender, and silver vine: “You can also use scents cats enjoy to attract them to locations like their scratching post.” For more insight into your cat’s feelings, read about what its different meows, purrs, and hisses mean.
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Halloween costumes and Christmas hats can be fun for people, but lots of cats will be totally annoyed if you try to dress them up. If, for some reason, you really want Fifi to wear a special outfit for your family photo, Vitale says you should get her used to the idea slowly. “Work up to the cat wearing the clothing by first just putting treats on the item, so they associate it with something good,” she says. As a next step, Vitale suggests putting the clothing on the at for just a minute or two, while offering plenty of treats and praise. “Slowly work up to the clothing being on the cat for longer and longer,” she says. If you’re worried that your cat is still holding a grudge, take a look at these 15 signs he or she is mad at you.
Petting on the belly is generally not welcomed: “Most cats don’t like to be stroked on their tummies,” says animal behavior researcher Dennis C. Turner, who edited what’s considered the “cat bible,” The Domestic Cat: The Biology of its Behaviour. You probably never realized that cats don’t like being rubbed on their bellies—just like you never knew these 17 things about cats. How can you tell? “They will (try to) depart the scene or hit you with one of the front paws (with claws extended!),” he says, or they might bite (Turner emphasizes that cat bites need to be thoroughly disinfected). Then again, different cats have different preferences, says Kristyn Vitale, a postdoctoral researcher at Oregon State University, in the Human-Animal Interaction Lab. “Other cats love when a person pets their belly.” Just be ready to back off if the cat gets annoyed.
Interacting with strangers
Paying attention to your cat’s reactions is also important when an unfamiliar person wants to pet him—especially if that person is a child or someone who hasn’t spent much time around cats. “One way to see if the cat is amicable to being pet after just meeting them is to let the cat sniff your hand and then watch how they behave,” Vitale says. “If they want to interact they will most likely approach you and engage in social behavior after sniffing you, such as rubbing on you or trying to sit with you.” She adds that if they don’t want to interact, they’ll usually walk away or ignore you, in which case it’s best to let them have their space.