Hi stranger! Signing up for MypetMD is easy, free and puts the most relevant content at your fingertips.

Get Instant Access To

  • 24/7 alerts for pet-related recalls

  • Your own library of articles, blogs, and favorite pet names

  • Tools designed to keep your pets happy and healthy

or Connect with Facebook

By joining petMD, you agree to the Privacy Policy.

8 Things You Should NEVER Do To Your Cat

Image: Belovodchenko Anton / via Shutterstock
Image: Arthiti Kholoet / via Shutterstock
Image: elwynn / via Shutterstock
Image: Dmitrij Skorobogatov / via Shutterstock
Image: Lubava / via Shutterstock
Image: Tonhom1009 / via Shutterstock
Image: SJ Allen / via Shutterstock
Image: cynoclub / via Shutterstock
Image: www.BillionPhotos.com / via Shutterstock
Image: Olesya Kuznetsova / via Shutterstock

Don't Ever Do These Things to Your Cat

By Kathy Blumenstock


With a cat or two around the house, even the most dedicated pet parent may slack off and take Kitty’s presence for granted. Even the simplest oversight may have big consequences on your cat’s well being and quality of life. Here are 8 things you should NEVER do to your fave feline.


Editors’ Note: The slideshow “8 Things You Should Never Do to Your Cat” was not created as a definitive and complete guide to cat care, but rather as a reminder of the small daily interactions many established cat owners have with their beloved companions.


Our goal was for cat owners to enhance those often-overlooked, common instances with increased presence and concern via suggestions from our experts. While the petMD team does not recommend declawing, that practice was not included in this list, as it is considered to be an extreme measure, and not something that fit into our original concept for this piece. That said, many of our readers on social media have requested a thorough treatment on the topic, and we plan to deliver one in the coming weeks. Thank you as always for your heartfelt and passionate comments. We have the utmost respect for you and ask that you extend that respect on to one another.


 - The petMD Team

Skip Flea or Heartworm Treatment


Your cat stays indoors and rarely comes in contact with other animals. Why bother with a flea and heartworm preventive for an indoor cat? Believe it or not, fleas and the mosquitos that carry heartworms can easily enter your home and cause big problems for cats. You may walk fleas into your home after visiting a friend with a dog or cat, and mosquitos can zip through a door or window that is left open for just a few seconds. With plenty of products available, keeping your cat free of fleas and heartworms has never been easier. (Not-so-fun-fact: There is no good way to get rid of heartworms in cats, and infections can be fatal.)

Put Your Cat Outdoors Unsupervised


Think your cat longs to explore all of springtime’s splendors on her own? Hey, she knows where she lives and she’d never wander off, right? Wrong. Your indoor kitty’s reaction to the great outdoors might be curiosity, confusion, or fright. She may dart away into traffic or cower under a bush when a strange dog approaches. Keep Kitty safely harnessed, leashed, and reassured by your presence when outdoors, for her peace of mind and yours.

Leave Windows Open


Loosely screened windows can pose a hazard to curious cats. Excitement over a robin’s fly-by may cause your mellow tabby to accidentally dislodge that screen and plummet to the ground. If you’re at work when the incident happens, hours could pass before you realize your cat is hurt or missing. Ensure that your window screens are sturdy and limit window openings to an inch or two when you’re not around to keep Kitty safely indoors. 

Put Off Vet Visits


Your cat seems healthy. She eats well, looks good, and hasn’t changed her activity level. But cats, like the rest of us, can experience subtle health shifts, from poor vision to kidney dysfunction. Felines are masters at concealing their ills and compensating for problems. An annual vet exam can pinpoint the start of any health concerns and treat minor issues before they become major issues.


“At the very least, you’ll have a baseline for comparison if any problems crop up,” said Dr. Brad LeVora of Little Seneca Animal Hospital in Germantown, MD. “With the cat’s health history documented, there should be fewer surprises.”

Hold Your Cat On Your Lap While Driving


Most cats dislike traveling and resent being cooped up in their carriers, but a free-range cat in a moving vehicle can become a terrified, furry missile. An unconfined cat is distracting to the driver, and vulnerable to injury or escape. With your cat on the loose, ping-ponging around the car, your final destination is disaster. Buckle your cat’s carrier in place for a safe road trip.

Push Your Cat Off the Counter


An inquisitive tabby poking her nose into that roasted chicken cooling on the countertop may be annoying, but she does not deserve to be treated like a feline Frisbee. Pushing or throwing your cat in frustration can harm her, both physically and in spirit. Always handle your cat with gentle care, and your cat is more likely to respond to your wishes.

Forget to Brush Your Cat's Teeth


Cats are not fond of anyone touching their precious pearly whites, and your cat’s reluctance to open wide may have convinced you that dental-heath treats are enough to protect Kitty’s smile. But plaque buildup eventually turns to tartar, which can lead to pain and even tooth loss down the road. Brushing your cat’s teeth daily, or at least a few times each week, is the best way keep Kitty’s gums and teeth healthy and reduce the frequency of expensive, professional dental cleanings.

Ignore Those Hairballs


Felines are self-grooming and their constantly busy tongues capture loose fur, which is then swallowed. When your cat hacks up a hairball, you probably just sigh in annoyance—that’s how cats are, right?—and clean up the mess. But lending a hand in grooming can greatly reduce the amount of hair your cat ingests, which means there’s less to be processed or spewed up. Cats don’t enjoy hurling those hairballs any more than we enjoy removing them from the living room carpet. Frequent hairballs can also be a sign of gastrointestinal disease. Talk to your veterinarian if you have to clean up more than one or two a month.


Comments  61

Leave Comment
  • Flea Juice not needed
    12/20/2015 06:01pm

    Had cats for decades. None ever got fleas or ticks until next door neighbor got a dog.

  • 03/18/2016 08:50am

    No. It's a chance you should never take. Fleas AND heartworms can be kept at bay by using flea meds appropriately. We didn't keep up one summer and got a horrible infestation on all three of our strictly indoor cats.

    Just as responsible parents always vaccinate their kids, responsible pet parents ALWAYS give flea meds to prevent itching, anemia, and heartworms. This article is totally right on this.

  • 04/30/2016 12:30pm

    AMEN, EarlGrayHot!

  • 10/22/2016 03:57pm

    This comment has been flagged as inappropriate.

  • 10/23/2016 08:33am


    First off, this is entirely off topic and hateful. The person that first brought it up considered it responsible to vaccinate their children (as do the vast majority of people) and responsible to take care of their pets - they were comparing the 2.

    Second, you clearly do not have a clue how many "children can get hurt" (as you say) by NOT getting vaccinated. Vaccines have saved literally COUNTLESS lives and nearly eradicated painful, disfiguring maladies. The14 diseases currently vaccinated for include Polio, Measles, diphtheria, small pox, and other super-nasty diseases. Pre-vaccine ANNUAL contraction rate of these is estimated at over 2.25 million cases in the U.S. (6 million cases if you include Chicken Pox) and because of vaccines, only 41,300 cases of non-Chicken Pox cases were reported (about 490,000 including Chicken Pox)- that's a reduction of over 98% infection rate of some of the most heinous (and preventable!) diseases known to man. And while Chicken Pox does kill some of its victims, a significant number of the 2.25 million non-Chicken Pox cases (pre-vaccine estimate) would result in death or horrible permanent debilitation.

    Just this week Venezuela has seen a breakout of Diphtheria, thought to be nearly eradicated globally. So far, 20 people have been reported with this horrid disease that leads to severe respiratory distress and heart failure/neurologic ailments, and 4 children DIED from it. How much did those parents NOT vaccinating their children "hurt" those kids?

    And on another positive note in case you're worried about the vaccine load to children's immune systems: In the past ~35 years, the number of diseases for which vaccines are available has doubled BUT the amount of antigens introduced into the body has DECREASED by 97%.

    I recommend doing your own, non-hysterical research using credible, scientifically sound and peer reviewed sources before you start calling people dumba$$es for saving their children's lives.

  • Fat Bored Cats !
    12/20/2015 06:03pm

    No wonder so many cats are fat and bored !

    Sadly, there are few households where going outside is safe, especially since we allow coyotes to thrive.

  • 04/30/2016 12:34pm

    Only CERTAIN lives matter? SMH

  • 05/26/2016 11:23am

    SMH? Please explain what that means? My grandchildren have not yet taught grandma what the one stands for?

  • 05/29/2016 09:02am

    Dear Angie,

    SMH means "shaking my head".

  • 06/18/2016 02:28pm

    Thanks for the enlightenment! PURRRR

  • 08/21/2016 12:58am

    ALLOW coyotes to thrive. They were put on this Earth by God and deserve to live as much as any other living creature.

  • 08/28/2016 02:37am

    I totally agree with you, we live in an area where there are lots of coyotes. Personally I love hearing them "sing". Our cat enjoys a large safe outside area built just for her. And is never left out at night.

  • 08/28/2016 02:32am

    We have a lovely safe fenced in area for our cat. Coyotes deserve to live too, it's up to us humans to keep our kitties safe.

  • Open Windows ?
    12/20/2015 06:05pm

    Never had a cat jump, ever.

    On the other hand, my cats get to go outdoors when they want to. So they are not desperate.

  • 01/27/2016 11:49am

    I did have a cat fall out the window from the screen. I lived on the third floor and was at work at the time, it took me 1/2 a day to find her, I was never so scared in my life. She wasn't hurt, but learned her lesson, never did it again.

  • 03/18/2016 09:47am

    I had a cat barge through our very thick screen. Got eaten by coyotes, so she won't be doing that again either. Unfortunately, my neighborhood has an overpopulation of coyotes, so on any given summer night you can hear cats being eaten alive (they never go down quietly).
    I am very happy to hear that you found yours (alive)! You must live in an awesome neighborhood.

  • 05/29/2016 09:04am

    HOW UTTERLY HORRIBLE... Time to take a gun to those coyotes!!!

  • 07/25/2016 04:47pm

    That's appalling! Unfortunately, when you live near any wooded area, there are bound to be coyotes. Where my guy lives are not only coyotes, but also raccoons. One of my youngest sister's cats got taken up a tree by raccoons. We wondered what had happened to him then the pelt fell out of the tree the following summer.

  • 08/27/2016 07:23am

    Solution! KEEP YOUR PETS INDOORS!!!!

  • Push Your Cat Off Counter
    12/20/2015 06:07pm

    Some people are just thoughtless.

  • 05/26/2016 11:18am

    Amen to that!!

  • Brush Teeth !
    12/20/2015 06:08pm

    Good Idea, but my Cat does not think so !

  • Pushing & throwing a cat
    01/11/2016 10:02pm

    If you are Pushing or throwing Your Cat Off the Counter then you shouldn't own a cat. That is mean.

  • 04/28/2016 10:13pm

    I totally agree with you. though , my dad does it a LOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • 09/27/2016 04:33pm

    Your Dad should not be allowed to be around animals. That is cruetly and he can be reported1!

  • 06/17/2016 02:25pm

    I could not disagree more - to NOT push a cat off the counter is utterly disgusting. There are very few things more repulsive than a cat, whose feet have been in a litter box, being on a kitchen table or counter. Cat owners that do this are unsanitary and gross to non-cat-owners.

    I have been a cat owner all my life - none of them jumped on the counters after kittenhood because we trained them not to - with loud noises, clapping our hands, scooting/pushing them off (never THROWING - who throws a cat??), a squirt bottle... It can be done but not through asking them nicely as this article seems to advocate.

  • 07/12/2016 03:09pm

    Pushing an animal off the counter is inappropriate and dangerous for the cat. It can easily result in a cat being injured through your cruelty. It's just something no responsible cat owner should ever do. There are other ways to manage this but shoving a cat off a counter is not one of them.

  • 07/20/2016 01:45pm

    Who said anything about "shoving" a cat? Like with most things there are degrees and there is a big difference between "scooting" which most folk would think is reasonably gentle (and is what I said), and "shoving" which connotes a strong, aggressive heave.

  • 07/22/2016 10:36pm

    I think shoving and pushing are pretty much the same thing. Scooting and nudging are quite another. ;) I found a small spray bottle of water to work best. They usually learn pretty fast where you'd rather they weren't.

  • 07/20/2016 11:44am

    I agree. If Batman or Robin get on the counter they get pushed off. Not shoved. More like a guiding hand to encourage them to get down. It's just gross having a pet on the counter.

  • #9 DO not declaw your cat
    01/29/2016 12:27pm

    One important point was omitted. Never declaw your cat! The scratching instinct heeds to be accommodated with proper scratching apparatus. The procedure leaves the cat as an amputee, and with pain you may not be aware of. (Cats are stoic.)

  • 06/16/2016 08:01pm

    it does my heart well to see your emphasis of NOT declawing your cat. I've had this argument countless times with people & it frustrates me to no end, the ignorance i'm met with on this subject. thank you for adding AND emphasizing!

  • 07/29/2016 04:51am

    Thank you for adding this comment - NEVER declaw a cat. It is cruel.

    Also, I don't know if this was mentioned because for whatever reason, I can't see the whole paragraph for each of these 'things you should never do to your cat'. But, one thing that has helped me immensely is food grade diatomaceous earth. Had a stray show up with half of his face falling off from scratching. Poor guy literally had a flap about 1.5" of his face hanging down. He let me-well I had to toss it on him-put some of the food grade diatomaceous earth on it. He kept showing up every day for meals; and, after about a week or so of daily applications his face was completely healed!! Elmer is a full fledged member of our family now; sweetest cat I've ever had. Just always make sure to buy the FOOD GRADE diatomaceous earth only. I hope this is helpful to someone!

  • Declawing
    02/07/2016 09:25pm

    You literally forgot the most important one! Everything above can be fixed, but once the knuckles are cut, there's no going back!

    Also don't forget to fix your kitty

  • Open windows...
    02/25/2016 11:47am

    I had thought the screens would be enough but went back to the bedroom and saw the screen out on the lawn and my Gracie wandering around the back yard. I bought some additional screens; the kind that slide out to fit the window. There's a lip on the sides of the window frame that keep it from being pushed or pulled out. Gracie tried to push it out at first and now no longer tries.

  • Windows
    05/26/2016 12:18pm

    I live on the 7th floor of a building. I bought a baby gate that I put in the window snugly to keep my cat from pushing out the screen. He would never survive a fall from the 7th floor.

  • Hygiene and general care.
    06/15/2016 05:32am

    Had cats for decades. Never brushed their teeth. This is a new fad. Always fed them dry food-I guess this kept the teeth and gums healthy, They never had gum disease or teeth problems.
    Also, cats were always indoor-outdoor. Unsupervised.A couple got injured-one had to be put down. This is part of life for an animal. My cats always seem to pine if they are not free to come and go. always install a cat door. My oldest cat was 22 years, the youngest about 7. Some spent more time inside, others preferred outside. One regularly got beat up by our rabbit and learned to stay out of its' way!
    Finally, all were declawed in the front. Didn't seem to make any difference in their ability to climb, fight, protect themselves, or scratch. They were all fixed and declawed at about 3 months of age. Loved every one of them. Great companions.

  • 06/28/2016 01:23pm

    You should find more info on declawing on how it really is bad for cats.

  • 06/30/2016 01:47pm

    Boarded Vet dentists have proven there is no correlation with a dry kibble diet cleaning a cat's teeth. This has been known for at least 4 years. It is anecdotal evidence like yours as a pet care writer that perpetuates the myth that declawing a cat does no harm. I can show you evidence "beyond reasonable doubt" that declawing harms cats. Harming a cat and causing suffering is contrary to the vets oath.

  • 07/20/2016 11:47am

    You let a cat that had been declawed go outside? Interesting! I am not a fan of declawing, but I am not one to judge. I just thought it was so important to keep them inside if they were declawed.

  • 08/27/2016 07:21am

    Think of having your nails pulled out. Would feel great, wouldn't it? You are a VERY cruel person.

  • 09/28/2016 08:28pm

    Oh please. It's done under anesthetic. My cat had laser surgery and didn't even have bandages. She was back to normal in 2 days, doesn't hobble around like she's disabled, and still loves me.

  • 08/27/2016 07:27am

    Think of how you would feel having all your fingernails pulled out. What a HORRID thing to do. Of COURSE it affects them, you idiot! You are a cruel person if you continue to do this to your pets. Cruel and sick.

  • OK, Let's hear it!
    07/01/2016 10:03am

    OK I'll be the one to take issue with the non-declawers. I have a nice home, love cats and have six of them. If the choice is declawing or no cats which do you philosophically pure cat lovers pick? Despite all the horrors you people depict, my cats are happy, well groomed and I'd swear they'd rather live here with no claws than not have all the love and companionship we provide. They all can go on the furniture too!

  • 07/12/2016 03:13pm

    Give the cats places to scratch or put claw covers on claws rather than removing the last joint of their toe which is what declawing does. It's just all kinds of wrong. If someone really loves cats then disabling them with this unnecessary surgery and painful surgury is not a sign of it.

  • 07/22/2016 10:48pm

    Claw covers? Please! they wouldn't stay on for more than 5 seconds.

  • 08/27/2016 07:30am

    My three cats all love to claw one of those bristly outdoor rugs. They go to it every morning and claw away.

  • 07/22/2016 10:46pm

    I agree with you, goldenthroat. I am strongly opposed to allowing declawed cats outside though. It's a very dangerous world out there for a declawed kitty. Once you have a cat declawed, they become a strictly indoor cat IMO.
    We also care for a lot of feral cats by having them neutered, feeding, watering and taking general care of them. I would never think of have them declawed.

  • 09/28/2016 08:23pm

    I'm with you! My cat was angry for about two days, then resumed being a normal kitty - purring and snuggling with me as before. The declawing was done via laser and she didn't even have bandages. She doesn't limp around or show any signs of being harmed, psychologically or physically. She could've ended up in a shelter, getting put to sleep because I'm not going to have my furniture ruined by an animal. Those scratching posts have never worked for the cats I've owned, and all it takes is one scratching session on the couch and it's ruined.

    There's nothing wrong with declawing as long as it's an inside cat and you take them to an excellent veterinarian.

  • Cat Bladder Control
    08/13/2016 07:39pm

    I have Three cats and a dog. My oldest cat, Almost three years old, was an only cat for almost two years. I took in a stray mama cat, she was only about seven months when I brought her in. Three months later I took in one of her kittens, also homeless, The kitten was almost four months old. My problem is... My oldest cat Pee's in various places, every couple of days or so. The Couches, The Kitchen Sink, The Stove top Burners. I put plastic on the couches, had a piece of plywood cut to cover the stove. And scald and bleach out the kitchen sink! Will this ever stop? Any treatment or suggestions, besides getting rid of the other cats, which I wont be doing. Thank You.

  • 09/21/2016 08:10pm

    We took in 2 three month old kittens when our old cat was 13. He was always our only cat. We had some peeing issues off and on for about 6 months after we brought the girls home. We haven't had any problems since. Once your older cat accepts the other ones you should be fine. Hopefully, all will resolve and be okay. We still have all three cats and they get along just fine.

  • Connection
    08/13/2016 11:51pm

    Regarding any kind of bad cat behavior, I only have to look into her eyes and say (in a normal voice) no-no to my calico cat and she'll immediately stop what she's doing. I believe it's due to the close connection we have. She won't come when I call her, but if I think of her, she'll come to me within minutes. I believe cats and dogs communicate telepathically with us. No, I'm not a nutcase, I just believe in the sensitivity of animals. I've learned a lot from being sensitive to her needs and patient and gentle with her, as well. She knows how much I love her and I believe it makes a world of difference in her behavior. She's a "young" 12 year old independent indoor/outdoor cat that loves her freedom in a safe, dead-end street neighborhood, but loves to come back inside just as much. She's the best kitty ever! I also have two beautiful Rottweiler dogs, with the male being the sweetest animal I've ever known (I'm 50). He's a gentle giant at 125 lbs. who LOVES affection and we have a special relationship too. Millie, his sweet little sister is a goofball, a little insecure and a pouter who loves people but will kill any raccoon or squirrel she can catch. I don't have any human kids, so these babies are my kids! ❤ Anyway that's my story!

  • 08/27/2016 07:32am

    I believe you are right about telepathic communication.

  • Long lived outdoor cats
    08/29/2016 01:39am

    I can't imagine not letting a cat go outside - I have had cats all my life - they go in and out all the time and most have been amazing mousers. And they have all lived long healthy lives. I did spay them and keep up with their vaccines but a house bound cat is an unhappy cat.

  • 10/18/2016 03:07pm

    That's not true, I have 2 very happy indoor cats. I have a large field behind my house with all kinds of predatory animals, and we also live about 500 feet from very busy train tracks (both freight and passenger trains). In the winter we get insane amounts of snow (Buffalo winters), in the spring and fall we get a lot of rain and in the summer we get blistering hot temps. our cats live inside a nice dry home with heat and air conditioning. They have food, fresh water, toys to play with, plenty of company (with each other and their humans), room to run around, shelves to jump onto and watch us from, blankets to cuddle into, spaces to hide in and tons of love and affection. I truly don't think that they are at all unhappy, it is about your living situation. We can not let them outside; it would be the same as killing them.

  • toothbrush; loud noise
    09/04/2016 07:46pm

    Cats DO love getting attention to their pearly whites. Mine cannot get enough of the brush or toothbrush to their gums and teeth and open up and rub up on the brush. I would also like to add something to your list: never overstimulate them on electronic media. I just viewed a "cute" FB video of a cat viewing a horror movie. The cat looked traumatized and terrified and overstimulated by the screams, pants, agonizing vocalizations and music and chasing action on the screen. Anything but cute. My own cats become very upset if I wail or shout.

  • Modern Declaw and more...
    09/17/2016 12:36pm

    My cat Skye was declawed (front only, ) under anesthesia and via laser. which preserves the knuckle , no stitches, hardly any bleeding , little downtime. She was actively playing by afternoon. Eats, plays, expresses affection, likes interaction and her eyes have a twinkle in them . At the base of her 6 ft cat condo is a sissal post and she does "scratch" on it! She jumps and grabs onto the next level , gets to the top. She is kept indoors except for regular vet visits and in a carrier. Also, her coat is brushed every day with a sissal brush which she loves. I'm not brave enough to brush her teeth. Twice a year I use the Ferminator de-shedding tool on her twice on a year to get the undercoat our and switched from clay based litter which is known to cause respiratory problems in cats to natural litter (crushed walnuts, corn, pine etc.)

  • Don't use Harts brand
    09/21/2016 01:25pm

    I would ad to the list of things to NOT do to your pet or pets!! Do NOT treat your pets with store bought flea or tick or worming meds!! Especially the Harts brand. I bought the flea Harts product and it severely burned my cat. Not thinking it could be the Harts product I treated her again and it almost killed her! Another cat it almost killed. The worming medicine killed a whole litter of kittens. Talking to my horse vet about this she said it is a lot more common than you would think. Only buy the brands Advantage and Frontline. I never buy any generic brands and especially Harts.

  • Cats are filthy
    09/23/2016 03:08pm

    This comment has been flagged as inappropriate.

  • 09/27/2016 04:36pm

    No you are!

  • Declawing is NOT inhumane
    10/15/2016 09:44pm

    We have two cats, neither declawed, both allowed outside (with us)..we live in an area with coyotes, so when we hear them out at night, kitties stay IN ! I have had both clawed and declawed pets, and I can tell you there is nothing worse than your new leather sofa with claw marks. I believe de-clawing is a personal preference, and certainly not a cruel thing to do by no means! These days both the anesthesia and surgery are so advanced, our kitties suffer VERY little if at all, and bounce back within a day! Most continue to knead as if they still have claws. Again..it's an owners personal preference!