A lot of us have super friendly cats – when they want to be. They enjoy fuss on their own terms. Some are all over us and can’t cope when we decide we want to sleep, racing around the house and peering into our snoozing faces. How can we make sure those cats are kept happy so that behaviour issues don’t develop?
The signs of a stressed out cat
A stressed cat will show it by toileting out of their tray, spraying up furniture, hiding, fighting with other cats, and sleeping a great deal (more than you even thought possible). They hide so many signs that often when I am called in to help, the problem has become so big that it takes a long time to help resolve.
Help your cats have their own space
Helping a cat with issues doesn’t always have to cost you time and energy. If cats don’t get along in the house, you can do a lot to help them. Cats like places to get up and away from each other, and often will prefer coming and going through separate exits of the home, or at different times. With a bit of planning, you can help each cat to have their own space, because location is very important to cats. And, surprise surprise, they don’t like to share very often.
Provide places where your cats can get away from each other
To help cats get away from each other, cat multiplay towers are ideal, but a simple shelf can suffice. Some of us purchase beautiful wooden ones that are a piece of furniture in themselves. After all, it will be in our home! Any climbing tower, complete with scratching posts, swings, holes to hide in and platforms to look down from, give a fantastic use of the aerial space cats often occupy when free to roam outdoors compared to our ground-level rooms.
Don’t be put off if your cat isn’t interested straightaway. Any new addition to a home is likely to be treated with suspicion, so give it time. If after about six weeks, they still aren’t keen, try it in a new place because it’s most likely the cats don’t like the exposure in that particular location.
Provide enough and separate food and litter trays
Cats can compete for food or water bowls, so purchasing one set of bowls per cat, plus one, is an excellent tactic. When placed in different rooms, these allow cats to occupy their own food station territory to resolve squabbles. Additional, large litter trays encourage a cat to choose these more readily. Some cats prefer lidded trays, so that they can perform in peace away from other cats’ prying eyes. And don’t place litter trays next to feeding stations; many cats are understandably particular about eating dinner next to the toilet!
Change can be stressful for them too
Cats, as all animals, like to know what is safe, where their next meal is coming from (sometimes twenty times a day), who they can trust and who to stay away from. They want to know where it’s warm and cosy and where they won’t feel like something is going to be risky. Sounds familiar?
Your cat is probably far better than you at observing all of the routine changes, no matter how minute they are. Cats are very good at this, highly sensitive to it in fact. It isn’t a surprise, since they can be so skittish one moment and completely unbothered, the next. If you’ve ever owned a cat that is hugely confident with absolutely everything and everyone, that is a rarity. Most cats take offense rapidly and won’t hold back from scratching, even if you are trying to pet them for a moment longer than the 1.25 seconds they decided was going to be acceptable.
My point is that your cat wants you to understand that, for them, changes can be stressful too. They don’t make a big fuss about things, because that’s not a good survival tactic, but they will show you in plenty of more subtle ways that they aren’t happy. Keeping away from certain people, leaving the room when things happen, grooming themselves frantically, even sleeping ‘propped up’ rather than splayed out. Things can change from moment to moment, so that cat that displayed his fluffy belly to you in the sunshine will suddenly grab your arm and scrabble his back feet in. Us humans have to learn our lessons, don’t we?
Cats can be demonstrative and cuddly sometimes, but not all cats are. Forcing them is not a good idea, since you can get really hurt. Cats do not live under the ‘dominance’ myth, any more than dogs do, and to anyone suggesting this – stop it, it’s harmful and untrue. So, what’s new with your cat? Well, nothing really, but your thoughts about cats could reflect what we know now. Cats are sensitive and intelligent, care about territory and resources and will battle for these. It’s a safety game. Just as our lives are currently.
Want to understand your cat better? Get my book – The Purrfect Guide to Thinking Like a Cat!