Famously independent, sometimes falsely assumed to be immune to feelings, cats are in truth super-sensitive to emotions, sound, and stress. Perhaps because felines lack the eager-to-please openness of their canine colleagues, humans overlook the big and small ways they can break a cat’s spirit. Are you guilty of any of these?
Not Cleaning the Litter Box
Leaving the box filled with kitty’s waste because some new litter promises freshness for multiple days. So you wait until the weekend for that dreaded chore of cleaning the litter box. Imagine leaving your own toilet unflushed all week long, and you’ll know how your cat feels. Dirty litter boxes also make it much more likely for cats to use another part of the house as their toilet. How often does a litter box need to be cleaned? Ideally, it should be done daily. The bonus is that it is not nearly as gross when done frequently.
Raised voices will terrify your cat. Feline ears are extra sensitive to loud and especially high-pitched noises. A cat who hears shouting will flatten her ears, lower her head, and look for a place to hide, away from the sound and fury.
Yelling “bad cat,” throwing things, swatting, and scolding your cat when she misses the litter box or claws the sofa does tell your cat that you are unhappy, but she’ll have no idea why. Grabbing her and shoving her face in a mess will leave her petrified, and fear will often make a cat’s behavior worse rather than better. Anger does not teach your cat to “behave,” it simply teaches her to be afraid of you.
Ignoring the Pain
Looking away when your cat repeatedly chews at a sore spot on her belly or furiously scratches at her ears. Cats are masters at hiding their discomfort, whether because an infected tooth makes eating difficult or a urinary tract infection makes litter box visits pure agony. Monitoring your cat’s wellbeing means being a pain detective so that you know something is ailing your cat, even if she can’t tell you directly. Make an appointment with your veterinarian if you ever think that your cat is in pain.
Not Providing Mental Stimulation
Left alone for long periods of times, cats will get bored and maybe a little stir crazy. When you leave, tune the radio to a classical music station (at low volume), place a comfortable perch by a window, and pack a food dispensing toy with a part of your cat’s meal. And at least a few times a week—if not every day—take time to play with your cat. Popular games are catching feathers or toys at the end of wands, and chasing laser lights.
Pulling on your cat’s tail (or letting your kids do so), blowing in her face, ruffling her fur while she’s sleeping, picking her up if she dislikes being handled, jiggling her in your arms—such antagonizing behavior confuses and agitates your cat. One of the few needs a cat has is to feel safe and secure in her home. An agitated cat who feels unsafe at home is more likely to run away at the first opportunity to look for a new home.
Skipping the Small Stuff
Never grooming your cat. Ignoring frequent hairballs, which may signal a digestive issue. Allowing her nails to grow so long that she snags them around the house. Not checking her ears for mites or infection, even when she shakes her head repeatedly. Ignoring her problems with chewing, which may signal gum or tooth trouble. These things add up and deplete your cat’s energy and wellbeing.
Hitting, kicking, or physically harming a cat in any way, from a “light tap” to a hard smack, is inhumane, morally wrong, and guaranteed to instill fear in any cat—breaking her spirit and her heart in the process. Physical pain never teaches correct behavior, only fear. And as previously mentioned, a cat who feels unsafe at home is more likely to run away at the first opportunity to look for a new home.
Not Cleaning the Water or Food Dishes
Filling a small bowl with water and forcing your cat to drink from it no matter how long it sits or how dirty it becomes is not just gross and stressful but can lead to health problems due to the “bad” bacteria that can grow in it. The same goes for the food bowl. Imagine eating from the same plate every day without cleaning it between meals.
Neglecting Your Cat
Offering your cat no attention, no conversation, no affection, no interaction, and no playtime can leave your cat depressed. Many people assume that cats are not social animals, but that is far from the truth. Cats benefit from affection and interaction from people. Some cats are naturally affectionate, while other cats are more skittish about being held and petted. If you have a skittish cat, leave yourself open to receiving affection from your cat and return it in kind. Your gentle attention and small gestures of affection will feed your cat’s soul and inspire her devotion to you.
Learn about cats' hidden "stress symptoms:" 10 Signs Your Cat Might Be Stressed
The content for this article is modified from 10 Ways to Unknowingly Crush Your Cat’s Spirit, by Kathy Blumenstock. It was originally published on Pet360.com