Many Cats Have a Rigid Upper Limit and Will Push Back Against This

Story at-a-glance -

  • Cats are not small dogs and should be appreciated for their uniqueness
  • Not only are cats different from dogs — they’re also different from each other. Each kitty has individual likes and dislikes
  • To give your cat all he needs and deserves in life, provide a stress-free, feline-friendly indoor environment, learn his language and feed him the diet his body was designed to eat
  • It’s also important to engage in interactive play with your cat and give him opportunities to safely enjoy the outdoors in good weather
  • In addition, learn how your cat likes to be handled, and help her gain confidence if she’s on the shy side

By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

Cats are not small dogs and should be appreciated for their uniqueness. Not only are cats different from dogs — they're also different from each other. Each kitty has individual likes and dislikes.

To give your cat all he needs and deserves in life, provide a stress-free, feline-friendly indoor environment, learn his language and feed him the diet his body was designed to eat. It's also important to engage in interactive play with your cat and give him opportunities to safely enjoy the outdoors in good weather. In addition, learn how your cat likes to be handled, and help her gain confidence if she's on the shy side

10 Ways to Show Your Cat You Care

1. Provide a stress-free, feline friendly indoor environment

The term "environmental enrichment" means to improve or enhance the living situation of pets to optimize their health and quality of life. The more comfortable your cat feels in your home, the lower his stress level. Enriching your cat's surroundings means creating minimally stressful living quarters, and reducing or eliminating changes in his daily life that cause anxiety.

Enrichment may also mean adding or changing things in your cat's environment that encourage him to enjoy natural feline activities like climbing to a high spot or hunting prey in the form of a cat toy. It's also important to pay special attention to these five indoor environment zones.

2. Provide appropriate climbing and scratching surfaces

Climbing and scratching are natural feline behaviors. Cats scratch to mark their territory with scent in their footpads as well as visually. They also scratch as a way to relieve stress, to stretch and to shed the older layers of their nails. Scratching feels good, too, which is why it's important to give kitty access to a variety of scratching surfaces. Offer burlap, cardboard and carpeted scratching surfaces, placed vertically and horizontally.

3. Learn how your cat communicates

Whether your feline friend is a chatty cat or the strong silent type, learning about his body language, behavior and the sounds he makes can deepen the bond you share with him, and improve communication between you.

The good news is it's not really that difficult to learn to read many of your kitty's communication signals, including what that look in his eyes means, or the tone of his meow, or the position of his ears, or the way he's holding or moving his tail. Here's a good place to start: interpreting your cat's vocalizations, facial expressions and body language.

4. Feed your cat like a true carnivore

Felines are obligate carnivores, also called hypercarnivores, with very specific dietary requirements. I recommend feeding either a homemade or commercially available nutritionally balanced fresh food diet (preferably raw). If you go the homemade route, you must be absolutely sure the diet is nutritionally balanced.

5. Use playtime to inspire your cat's hunting instincts

Daily interactive playtime is just as important for cats as it is for dogs. To help your little tiger get the most from play sessions, think like a cat and buy or create toys that stimulate his hunting instincts. A piece of string wrapped around the end of a stick that you drag on the ground will bring out the stalker in almost any cat. So will ping-pong balls or small balls of paper flicked across the floor.

You can make your own inexpensive kitty toys, but also invest in a few interactive toys that will appeal to your cat's natural drive to stalk and bring down prey. For example, if you have a toy like Da Bird, make it land and take off like the real thing. To keep kitty's interest, every so often have the bird land on a tasty treat and let him discover it when he pounces on his prey. You can also enhance your cat's eating and indoor hunting experience by using food dispensing "mice."

6. Give your cat opportunities to spend time in the great outdoors

Even though your kitty lives indoors, it's important for her mental health to provide her the opportunity to experience the outdoors safely. It also gives her a chance to all four paws in contact with the earth.

One option is to walk your cat using a harness and leash. Most cats, especially kittens, can be trained to walk on a leash, but not every kitty learns to enjoy the experience, so don't force the issue if yours seems anxious or uncomfortable. Another alternative is to create a safe outdoor enclosure or cat patio ("catio") that allows her secure access to the outdoors. The enclosure should be open air, but shielded enough to prevent escape or a predator from gaining access.

7. Learn how your cat likes to be touched

Some kitties just don't like to be touched and find the whole petting and stroking thing quite stressful. If your cat initially allows some petting and then suddenly lashes out, it probably means he's tolerating it for a short time, but it's stressing him out. Your cat may be touch-averse, or it could be you're touching him all wrong.

The right way to pet most kitties is with an open hand and a soft gentle stroke, only touching the back, shoulders, neck and the top of the head — never the paws, tail or tummy. Spend some time learning exactly how and where your cat likes to be petted.

8. Also learn how to pick up and hold your cat

The right way to pick up an agreeable cat is with one hand under her chest and the other hand supporting her back legs. Hold her gently against your upper body so that she feels secure. If she pushes away, looks toward the floor, flattens her ears or twitches her tail, that's your cue to put her down quickly and gently.

Some cats love to be held and cuddled, but many do not, and some can only tolerate it for brief periods. If kitty's tail is flailing about and her ears are flattened, she's had enough — let her go.

9. Help your shy cat come out of her shell

It used to be that very timid kitties who spent most of their time under the bed or in another hiding spot, rarely if ever hanging out with the rest of the family, were left mostly to themselves. They had all their physical needs met by their humans, but it just didn't occur to anyone to try to help kitty come out of her shell.

Fortunately, things are changing. Cat experts and advocates are helping cat caretakers understand that shy kitties are often capable of learning to be more confident, approachable and sociable. You can find some very helpful suggestions here: 10 Tips for Socializing a Shy Cat.

10. Appreciate feline affection in all its weird and wonderful forms

Cats have many ways to show affection for their humans — some are quite subtle, while others are downright strange. There's head butting (aka "head bunting"), kneading ("making biscuits"), grooming (often the top of your head) and the always-popular presentation of "gifts" from outdoors (e.g., dead or nearly dead mice or birds). To fully appreciate all the ways your cat says, "I love you," it's important to learn how the feline species shows affection.

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