Are You Making These Common Mistakes in Caring for Your Cat?

By Lorie Huston, DVM on Mar. 20, 2014

I’ve written before about mistakes that are common among cat owners. I’d like to add a few more mistakes to that list. 

  1. Litter box mistakes. “My cat’s not using the litter box!” is one of the most common complaints I hear from cat owners. Too often, this behavior ends with the owner surrendering the cat to their local shelter. But many times, cats stop using the litter box because of their owners' mistakes. These mistakes may include not cleaning the box often enough, not providing a box big enough for the cat, choosing a litter the cat doesn’t like, not providing enough litter boxes (in a multicat household), not placing the litter box in the right location, and allowing the cat to be startled or harassed while in the litter box.  For more information about litter box mistakes and how to properly care for your cat’s litter box, see Five Common Litter Box Mistakes.

  2. Getting mad at your cat for scratching. If your cat is scratching your furniture or other belongings, it’s likely because you haven’t provided your cat with a proper place where he is allowed to scratch. Scratching is a normal behavior for a cat. Your cat is only doing what comes naturally to him when he scratches. He’s not doing it because he’s mad at you and trying to “get even,” nor is he doing it because he doesn’t like your taste in furniture. Provide your cat with an acceptable scratching surface and take steps to encourage him to use it. Your cat’s scratching post should have both vertical and horizontal scratching surfaces. Encourage your cat to use the surface by placing catnip or a small amount of food on it. A favorite toy can also be used to tempt your cat to explore the scratching post. Place the post in a desirable location, such as near your cat’s favorite sleeping area or near a window.

  3. Letting your cat go outdoors untended. Letting your cat go outdoors untended puts your cat at risk for trauma, illnesses, and more. It also endangers the local wildlife. Cats are efficient predators. You also run the risk of annoying your neighbors if your cat decides to use their garden as a litter box or destroys their flower beds. If your cat enjoys being outdoors, consider supervised walks on a leash using a harness or collar. Alternatively, you can purchase or build a catio for your cat. This way, your cat can still enjoy the outdoors without being in danger.

  4. Handling your cat inappropriately. Many cats will roll over, exposing their belly as though they wish to have a belly rub. Very few cats actually do want that though. Most cats do not enjoy having their belly handled or rubbed. Similarly, some cats can become overstimulated with too much petting/stroking and may strike out suddenly. Learn to read your cat’s body language and cease the petting before your cat gets to the stage where he is ready to strike. Another mistake often made by cat owners involves using your hands to play with your cat. You should never encourage your cat to bite or scratch you, even in play. Substitute a suitable toy instead.

  5. Going to the Internet when you should be going to your veterinarian. The Internet is a good place to go to research a specific condition or illness, assuming you choose the correct sources to trust. However, if your cat is in distress or is injured, don’t waste precious time on the Internet. Get your cat to the veterinarian instead.

What mistakes would you add to the list? Are you making any of the mistakes listed above?

Dr. Lorie Huston

Image: Thinkstock


Lorie Huston, DVM


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