If you want a happy, well-adjusted cat, here’s 10 things you should not do…
1. Shout At Your Cat
Whether you’re shouting at your cat because it did something that annoyed you or you’re shouting for another reason, you’ll terrify your cat. A cat’s ears are far more sensitive to noise than ours and loud sounds are amplified to painful levels in a cat’s ears.
2. Ignoring a Cat’s Obvious Discomfort
Cats are masters at hiding pain and discomfort. It’s a natural behavior designed not to tip off other animals that a cat is in a weakened state. But if you see obvious signs that your cat in uncomfortable, it’s time to visit the vet. If a cat is showing such signs, it indicates it’s in real discomfort. That might be persistently scratching at one spot. Or maybe your cat is having difficulty chewing food, suggesting that it has a bad tooth or abscess that needs to be sorted out.
3. Turning Off The House Lights At Night
Supposedly, when you head to bed and turn off the lights, your cat feels lonely and abandoned. I don’t buy this one at all. Cats are nocturnal creatures by nature so prowling around in the darkness is what they’re designed to do. Cats are solitary by nature as well. So you not being around is no big deal either. If you allow your cats to go out at night, they’ll have a ball hunting small animals. If you confine your cat to your house or apartment, then boredom might set in and you should have a lot of toys for them to play with.
4. Not Cleaning The Litter Box Regularly
This one should be pretty obvious. Who wants to use a dirty toilet be you human or animal? Imagine going into your own toilet only to find that the previous user hadn’t flushed after a number two. That’s how your cat feels when you don’t take the time to keep the litter box clean.
5. Teasing Your Cat
There’s a level of teasing we’ll all put up with before we snap. Your cat is no different.
Some things you do will irritate your cat more than others. If you have kids, teach them it’s not ok to pull a cat’s tail, blow in its face, hit it (even playfully), pick it up when it doesn’t like it and so on.
Your cat will let you know when it’s getting pissed off with you. It’s tail will start to twitch and then flick and flail the more irritated it gets. If you push things too far and you’re lucky, the cat will just run off to get some peace and quiet. If you’re unlucky, you’ll feel its wrath and get, justifiably, bitten and/or scratched. You’ll have deserved the admonishment.
If however, your cat goes ballistic when you’re interacting with it in a normal non-teasing fashion, then something is upsetting it and it may be a good idea to take your cat to the vet for a checkup. Cats hide pain and some injuries very well and you may not have any other indications that your cat is unwell.
6. Skipping Out On Other Cat Care Stuff
- a) Never grooming your cat: Cats are perfectly able to groom themselves. They don’t need your help except in exceptional circumstances. Apart, maybe, for long-haired cats. These are breeds specifically bred by humans, as long haired cats don’t exist in the wild. Grooming long-haired breeds is a good idea. Humans bred them; humans should take responsibility for keeping that long fur in good condition.
Another time you might need to regularly groom your cat is when it is advancing into old age. Arthritis might prevent it from being able to reach certain parts of its body, typically the rear end. At this point, you need to step in and take on the grooming task for your elderly cat.
- b) Allowing your cat to suffer from hairballs: Hairballs are a natural side-effect of a cat grooming itself. All that licked hair can settle in the cat’s stomach and at some point it may need to cough up a hairball to get rid of it. But remember, it’s a natural process.
Cats don’t need help to deal with hairballs, so they don’t need medications to dissolve hair. All you’re doing is introducing man-made chemicals into your cat. They get enough of that from living in a human environment without you helping things along.
- c) Not checking their ear for mites: This is something you should do on a regular but not overly frequent basis. If your cat is scratching its ears more than normal or shaking its head a lot, that’s your cue to have a look and see if you can spot the irritant. It generally means a visit to the vet to gets things cleared up.
- d) Trimming a cat’s claws: I am absolutely, 100% against declawing of cats. It’s cruel and inhumane even if it saves your furniture from being scratched.If you don’t want scratched furniture, don’t get a cat. It’s that simple.Some people do trim their cat’s claws to take the tips off. Again, it’s not something I agree with unless it’s on medical grounds. If your cat is allowed outdoors, it needs its claws for climbing, hunting and self-defense. Trimming its claws compromises all these abilities. If you have an indoor cat, then live with having your furniture scratched. Don’t be selfish. Or don’t have a cat.
- e) Check on your cat when it’s eating: This is the only time you’ll spot if your cat is showing discomfort when eating. If it does, then some oral issue needs to be identified and treated. It might be gum disease, a mouth ulcer or abscess, a broken or infected tooth or an injury to the jaw (possibly as a result of being hit by a car or mistreatment by other people).
7. Punishing Your Cat
Cats can’t read human emotions as well as dogs can. Dogs are social animals and are descended from wolves who live in packs and need to be able to read each other’s emotions. Cats are solitary (except for lions) so have never had to develop the ability to read emotions beyond the mother-cub, potential mate and defend your territory/kill relationships.
So if a cat does something that’s wrong in your eyes, it won’t understand why you’re angry. If you give out to a dog for crapping on the floor, the dog will know what it did wrong. If a cat craps on the floor, it’s probably because it thinks you’ve done something wrong, like not cleaning the litter tray.
If you have a good relationship with your cat, you can teach it that certain behaviors are not acceptable. In some cases you can train your cat. My two cats know that when I say “Down” and repeatedly point at the floor, that they need to immediately get off whatever counter or table that they’re on. There might be some hesitation but they do get down. When they were kittens, I would say the word and do the gesture and then lift them from the counter to the floor. They understood the idea pretty quickly.
If a cat is behaving in a way that you think deserves punishment, it’s far better to ask yourself why the cat is behaving that way in the first place. Maybe the cat is stressed for one reason or another and the behavior is its way of demonstrating that it’s upset. Yelling and shouting (see point #1) will only stress the cat further.
Identify the root cause of the errant behavior and see if there’s something you can do to alleviate it. It’s not always possible where stress is involved. If your cat goes outdoors and is bullied by another cat in the neighborhood, you could end up with either having to keep your cat indoors permanently (which might stress it in a different way) or having to rehome your cat so it’s in a non-threatening environment. It’s a tough decision, but one that needs to be made in the cat’s best interests, not yours.
8. Neglecting Your Cat
You got a cat for companionship. At least, that’s the reason you should get a cat. They’re living creatures and so require attention and interaction. Even though a cat is solitary by nature, like people they come in all flavors. Some may tolerate only a bare amount of attention while others crave it. As your cat grows, you’ll learn how to interact with it and how often.
Cats love to be stimulated, so regularly playing with your cat will keep it alert and happy. Then there’s time for stroking or having the cat sleep on your lap or beside you on the couch. Putting out food and water a couple of times per day is just not enough.
My grandmother once told me that you never own a cat; a cat chooses to live with you. Cats are hedonistic (just like people) and if they don’t get what they need where they live, they’ll move to somewhere they can get what they’re looking for. A cat’s motivations are much more like those of a human than a dog’s are.
9. Not Cleaning Or Filling The Water Bowl
Cats may not drink a lot but when they’re thirsty they don’t want to drink days-old water with hairs and dead insects floating in it. Would you? Rinse and clean the water bowl daily and put some fresh water into it. C’mon, it’s not a big chore and you’ll keep your feline buddy happy.
10. Don’t Hurt Your Cat
Anything that physically hurts your cat will be seen by it as an unprovoked attack and your cat will become very wary in your presence. Don’t be a dick by intentionally hurting an animal. You can permanently alter a cat’s opinion of people this way.
Someone in my neighborhood has had a go at my cats. I don’t know who, unfortunately. How do I know? One day I reached up to scratch the back of my head and my two cats cowered. I instantly reassured them that they had nothing to fear. On subsequent occasions when I made sudden moves or reached above my head, they’d still cower. Whoever that neighbor was, they were still threatening my cats and they were learning to fear people.
When I first adopted them as rescue kittens, they were at ease around people and would curl up in visitor’s laps. Now, at about two and half years of age, Ripley runs off when unknown people visit the house. He’s very insecure around anyone but me and it takes him about an hour to relax even around people who visit regularly. His brother, Mocha, is skittish around strangers but not nearly to the extent that Ripley is.
As fallout from this stress, Ripley suffered from Cystitis continuously, and Mocha had it on and off. Between vet visits and medications, the condition cost about €80 ($90) per month. If I knew what neighbor had been threatening my cats, I’d have sent them the bills every month.
If you hurt your cat, you’ve no one to blame but yourself for the consequences. If someone else hurts your cat, then you do have to deal with the consequences and may not be able to do anything to remedy the situation, especially if you’ve no idea who the culprit might be.
If you have a cat, or any pet for that matter, you have a responsibility to care for that animal. In fact, you have a legal responsibility.
If you don’t have the time or resources to give to a pet, then either don’t get one in the first place or go to an animal shelter or vet and ask about having the animal rehomed. Don’t dump your animal somewhere in the wild and forget about it. You’re a dick and a douche if you do.
And if you’re thinking about getting a cat, then do some basic research about what owning a cat will mean. If you don’t want your furniture scratched, then don’t get a cat, no matter how much you love them.
If you don’t have any time to devote to a pet, then don’t get a pet. It’s simple.
If you want to get a cat but you want to have it declawed so it won’t scratch around your house, then have your fingernails pulled out first and see how you like it.
But if you can give a cat a warm, loving home, you’ll reap the rewards of feline companionship. While cats may not be as good as dogs in reading your emotions, they’re not blind to them either. They’ll know when you’re happy or sad. And, when you’re down, there’s nothing better than your cat recognizing that fact and coming over to comfort you.
Cats understand us a lot better than we realize and understand us better than we understand them.
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