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Why Your Cat Thinks You're a Huge, Unpredictable Ape

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Could it be... BECAUSE YOU ARE?!?!?

Yes! I am a huge unpredictable ape!

Buffington says one of our biggest misconceptions is that cats need to be around other cats.

In the wild, cats hunt alone, and they don’t share. Other cats aren’t friends; they’re competition.

Feline feng shui: They like quiet, calm places.

In those few hours each day where he isn’t sleeping, your cat is a little bundle of energy that wants to move through your home as harmoniously as possible. But you’ve disrupted his flow by placing the food dish next to the refrigerator, the litter box by the dryer, and his favorite cardboard box alongside the sliding glass door leading to the yard.

You might be deaf to the fridge fan or the spin cycle. But Buffington says it sounds like a monster growling at them while they eat or poop. Put the dish and the litter box in quiet, calm places where kitty has an escape route if he feels threatened (i.e., not in a closet).

Sights also can be stressful. Cats are curious about other animals, but if there is no visual barrier between the dogs, cats, goats, horses, or alpacas outside, the cat will feel threatened. “Cats don’t understand glass, but they do understand height,” Buffington says. Give your cat access to high places, like a cat tree or bookshelf, where she can observe in peace.

The way to train cats is through their environment.

You hear the unmistakable sound of claws on couch. You snap, shout, squirt water, and maybe even throw a pillow. It’s all futile, because eventually he’s at it again. Your cat isn’t ignoring you, Buffington says. He just doesn’t know how to connect your negative reinforcement with his behavior. This is because cats evolved as solitary hunters with little need for reading social cues, especially those for behavior modification.

“How the hell is your cat supposed to know that you’re yelling at him because you want him to stop scratching the couch?” Buffington says. Without the cognitive ability to connect your outburst to their scratching, cats see only chaotic aggression. “To the cat, you’re this crazy primate who is attacking him for no reason,” he says.

Instead of discouraging the act, you become an object of fear. What’s more, your cat becomes frustrated, and eventually stressed, because you constantly interrupt natural feline activities like raking his claws or jumping on something high. “Cats get sick when they want to express their natural behaviors and they can’t,” he said, and will continue to do the thing when you aren’t around.

“The way to train a cat is through their environment,” Buffington said. For example, put two-sided tape on the corner of your couch, or tinfoil on the kitchen counter. Then, put the now-more-attractive alternative nearby: A scratching post covered with catnip, or the awesome cat tree you built from scavenged driftwood. When your cat does the thing you want her do to, reward her with a treat, or affection. “You let the house provide the negative reinforcement, while you provide the positive reinforcement,” Buffington said.

Make good quality time for the cat.

Your cat is not as indifferent about you as she may seem. She wants to bond, and the best way to do so are with petting, food, and play.

If your cat doesn’t like to play, you might be doing it wrong. If you’re using a laser pointer, don’t wave it like you’re at a rave. Move it at natural speeds and let the cat catch it occasionally. The same rule applies with the feather-on-a-string toy.

Shingles used to cry incessantly whenever I left for the day, and I worried that leaving him home alone was making him neurotic. Buffington suggests I create little rituals for coming and going. “Before you leave, you can call to the cat, give him some affection and let him know you are saying good bye,” Buffington says. And he says to have a similar ritual for coming home. “Some married couples survive on less than an hour a day of contact. Your relationship with your cat can survive on 10 minutes a day, as long as it’s really quality,” Buffington says.

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