How You Hiss Off Your Cat

We love our cats but still complain about their “behavior problems.” Our blood pressure goes off the charts when Sheba and Tom scratch the furniture, baptize the bed, and caterwaul at 5:00 a.m., even though we’re purr-fect owners!

Our cats love us back. But there’s no doubt that kitty’s tail gets in a knot over a human’s “behavior problems.” In fact, I wrote a whole book about it in ComPETability: Solving Behavior Problems in Your Multicat Household. But here’s the short version–Here are 8 common things you do to hiss off your cat.

Clawing Angst: Cats claw to mark territory, to exercise and relieve stress. Owners hiss off cats by not providing the kitty-correct claw object and location. Cats don’t care if it’s color-coordinated to human taste. A nasty-clawed-ugly-old-post with scratch-graffiti is like a child’s favorite binky and can’t be replaced with a spanking-new post. Hiding it away means claw-art won’t be seen. Cats re-train humans by clawing kitty-correct objects of the proper texture and location—like the sofa.

Declawing Growls: Surgical claw removal offends many cats on an emotional and physical level. It strips away normal kitty defenses, and changes kitty stride/balance. Yes, some cats manage to suck it up and soldier on, but others demonstrate hissed-off status by avoiding the litter box (it HURTS to dig with sore toes!), or biting more often in defense.

Litter-ary Woes: Hit-or-miss potty behavior is the top complaint of cat owners—but we bring it on ourselves. Most standard commercial boxes are too small for jumbo-size cats so they hang over the edge or look elsewhere. Kitties hate being surprised in the potty, and dislike strong odors from perfumed litter or stinky deposits—a covered box condenses smells and blocks the view. Do you have a favorite TP? Cats get attached to favorite litter, too, and switching prompts some cats to take their business elsewhere. Having to “share” facilities is like you discovering somebody forgot to flush—ew! Extra boxes will reduce the hiss-quotient for kitties.

Carried Away: Cats love the status quo. Changes to routine annoy or frightens them. Being stuffed into an unfamiliar cat carrier and then grabbed, poked and probed by scary-smelling strangers (vet alert!) makes cats hit the panic button. Couldn’t the vet at least warm up the thermometer? Savvy kitties teach owners a lesson by disappearing each time we reach for the S’carrier. Make cat carriers part of the furniture and add catnip toys or fuzzy bedding to take the “scary” out of the equation.

Left Behind: Vacations hiss off many cats because it messes with feline routines. Your felines get used to being fed, petted, played with, and snuggled at certain times and the owner’s absence throws a furry wrench in kitty expectations. It can take kitty a week or longer to become used to a new schedule of you being gone. Your return disrupts the newly learned kitty schedule all over again, so the cat has a double-dose of kitty angst from owner vacations.

Sleeping Late: Why would owners want to sleep late, when a kitty bowl needs to be filled? Cats raise a ruckus to point out food bowl infractions or other owner irresponsibility. Felines become quite adept at training us simply with consistent purr-suasion, causing sleep deprivation until we give in.

Indoor Incarceration: Cats that have experienced the great outdoors can become distraught when “jailed” exclusively indoors. Never mind they’re safer indoors away from dangers—closed doors and barred windows drive these cats crazy. Bringing the outdoors inside with puzzle toys, cat towers and a kitty house-of-plenty can calm the feline freedom fighters.

Unfaithful Owners: Owners may think kitty is lonely and wants a friend, but they never ask the cat! Bringing a new pet (especially a cat) into the house turns up the hiss-teria. How would you feel if asked to share your potty, dinner plate, toys, bed—and love-of-your-life human—with a stranger off the street? To the cat, the interloper looks funny, smells scary, and disrupts that all-important familiar routine. It can take weeks or months for cats to accept newcomers as family members.

There are always feline exceptions. Your cat may not have read the kitty rule-book, and perhaps throws hissy-fits over other issues. Understanding what concerns our cats helps us be better owners, and enhances the love we share.

Go ahead–admit it! What have I missed? What are some other things you (or maybe someone you know *ahem*) do that get kitty’s tail in a twist?

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my  THRILLERS WITH BITE!


How You Hiss Off Your Cat — 11 Comments

  1. thanks for sharing this Amy! When Puck and I moved in with my flatmates this past summer, we moved into a house with 2 other cats, a dog, and ferrets. My little guy, being the Alpha that he is, decided to make it HIS place LOL with spectacular results as I’m sure you can imagine. This was very informative and hit on all the high points that bothered me with the move (and still acts out on to this day months afterwards)

  2. I was honestly sure Simba would want to get outside when I first tried bringing her in. She’d been a barn cat for her whole life – 8 years at the time – so I figured she’d end up wanting out the door. Not even close. She decided this place of pillows where the temperature stays mostly the same all year and it only rains in that funny box that mom and dad go into when they take off their fur and wash their smells away is actually pretty cool. Much better than that nasty hot and cold and wet and hawk-filled place outside.

    Just don’t bring in any unfamiliar mirrors or she’ll freak out. LOL She went frantic one day, runing around and yowling and demanding attention… took me hours to realize she was running into the room where I had stuffed the mirror I took down off the wall that same day. Had to turn it around so she’d stop freaking.

    Of course, when Anubis first moved in she also had her share of hissy. Even after she got used to him being there, he used to have this habit of standing there and STARING at her while she was on the litterbox. First time we caught him at it, we thought they were fighting, because Simba was yowling like she was being murdered or something.

    On the list of things that hiss of Anubis: Not giving him his chicken on time (on time being whenever he decides he wants it, not whenever his normal feeding time is), calling anyone “dad” other than the One True Daddy™, or calling him by the name that Those People called him (Oscar – do NOT say that name in this house, oh man… if looks could kill, every time we mention Oscar the Grouch, or Oscar Leroy from the Canadian show Corner Gas, he sets up for the attack-crouch – thogh he seems to be getting desensitized since I have the entire Corner Gas series and he’s starting to learn that the name now has nothing to do with him).

  3. Wow! I haven’t thought of these things from the cat’s point of view, but now you’ve got me thinking. We try to make our cat’s life as comfy as possible, but changing litters — never even thought that might freak her out. I’ll definitely be more conscientious of it now. Loved how you made everything ‘hiss’ related. You’re so clever, Amy!

  4. great tips! really glad you wrote about declawing. my mom had my cat declawed when i was a teenager, i left home with the cat and the cat was killed by a german shepherd. i vowed then to never declaw a cat again, then i read it is like cutting off the end of a human finger. eek! a lot of people do not realize the price the cat pays to keep their couch looking nice.

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