Felines can often seem like mysterious creatures—even to their owners! Cats may use facial expressions to tell you how they’re feeling, but it’s still hard to know sometimes when cats hate something you’re doing (or not doing). 

While each cat is unique and has its own likes or dislikes, there are some pet peeves all kitties have in common. Want to know what to avoid when around Mr Whiskers? Cat in a Flat looks into 6 things cats hate, and a few Dos to keeping them happy. 

1. Cats don’t like dirty litter boxes

Using a dirty toilet is never a pleasant experience, and it should come as no surprise that a kitty would feel the same way about their litter box. Although it usually isn’t necessary to bathe cats, they are still fastidiously clean animals.

Our feline friends spend an average of half their waking hours grooming themselves. So, is it any surprise that cats hate when their litter boxes aren’t clean too? To keep your furry friend happy, daily litter tray maintenance is a must.   

Don’t

  • Make assumptions about how a kitty’s owner would like the litter tray maintained while they are away.
  • Wait until the cat’s litter box is ‘full’ to clean it.

Do

  • Get clear instructions from Mr Whiskers’ owner about the type of cat litter they use, and how and when to clean it.
  • Be sure to scoop out all poo and pee clumps once a day (or more if requested).
  • Watch for messes outside the litter box. This can be a sign of stress in cats. Let the owner know about it immediately so you can take the proper steps to calm the kitty down.  

2. Cats are sensitive to strong odours

A cat’s sense of smell is 9-16 times stronger than that of a human. Is it any wonder they can pick up on odours our simple human noses cannot? But cats don’t just hate the way certain things smell, strong odours can be dangerous for our feline friends too. 

It’s important to be mindful of this when visiting a cat because they’ll actively avoid you if they smell any sort of strong odour. Some smells, such as cigarette smoke, can transfer from your hands to their fur too. When Mr Whiskers cleans himself, he runs the risk of ingesting it, which can be dangerous for his health.  

Don’t

  • Use perfume or smoke cigarettes before cat sitting visits. 
  • Light candles or bring along essential oils. While lighting a candle to help with litter box odours might seem like a good idea, these scents can make your furry friend uncomfortable. 

Do

  • Wash your hands upon arrival at a cat’s home. This helps remove odours left behind by other cats you may have interacted with that day. It also helps with food, cigarette smoke, and other strong smells. 
cats hate staring

3. Cats hate when you stare at them

If you’ve ever tried getting into a staring contest with a cat, you probably know that it doesn’t generally end well. Why do cats hate prolonged eye contact? Because in kitty-speak maintaining eye contact is seen as a show of dominance or aggression. 

Your size is also one of the reasons why a kitty might hate when you stare at them. It can feel intimidating to a cat, and as a result they may see you as an enemy instead of a friend. 

Don’t

  • Stare directly at a cat, especially if you don’t know them well. 

Do

  • Look off to one side and give the cat space to either approach or walk away. 
  • Blink slowly while avoiding direct eye contact. This says ‘I love you’ to Mr Whiskers. It’s a great way to build rapport with a cat! 

4. Cats dislike too much affection

Felines are independent by nature and can get overwhelmed or upset when they feel their boundaries are pushed. Over-aggressive petting as well as being held in positions where they feel powerless are two forms of affection cats hate.

Cats also hate to be disturbed while taking a snooze. Cats love sleeping and spend a large part of their day doing it. You should never pick up a sleeping kitty, or try waking them up, as this can upset them. 

Don’t force your furry friend to spend time with you—this will only strain your relationship. When meeting a new kitten or cat for the first time, don’t try to interact with them immediately. This might scare them off. Give them space to decide when they want to come to you.

Don’t

  • Pet a kitty aggressively.
  • Rub a cat’s belly without their permission, this makes them feel vulnerable.
  • Cradle a cat like a baby. Cats hate this because they feel trapped.
  • Wake a sleeping cat.  

Do

  • Let your feline friend approach first.
  • Gently scratch behind the cat’s ears or along its back. 
  • Stop if the kitty flattens their ears, swipes at you, or hisses. This means they don’t like what you’re doing! 

5. Cats don’t like too little attention

Yes, Mr Whiskers is a confusing creature. One minute he hates attention, the next he demands it from you! Although felines are independent animals who like to maintain boundaries, they also enjoy attention, if it’s on their terms. 

When cat sitting, it’s important to recognise and respond to a kitty’s cues. While they may seem standoffish at times, cats hate when they ask for affection and don’t get it (who wouldn’t). 

Don’t

  • Ignore your furry friend when they butt you with their head or rub against your leg—these are signs Mr Whiskers wants attention.

Do

  • Read a cat’s signals and react by petting it in the proper ways listed above. 

6. Cats don’t understand punishment

It might seem logical to use the same punishment methods with Mr Whiskers as you would Fido, but cats see punishment very differently from dogs. Dogs aim to please their humans and, with proper training methods, will learn from their mistakes. However, cats hate all types of punishment or training. 

You should never punish a kitty by raising your voice or using physical deterrents. First, a cat won’t understand why you’re angry. Even worse, they will develop a negative association towards you. 

Cats hate being told what to do and are stubborn by nature. So, the best approach is to simply ignore Mr Whiskers when he’s behaving badly. When cats see that their behaviour doesn’t get a reaction out of you, they’ll eventually stop doing it. And make a point to reinforce good behaviour (such as when a cat skips scratching the furniture and opts for their scratching post instead)! 

If they continue engaging in bad behaviour and you can’t figure out why, reach out to their owner for advice. It could be Mr Whiskers’ has misplaced his favourite toy, or he’s upset someone moved his main napping spot. The owner knows their cat, so they’re the ones best equipped to help you figure out what’s wrong. 

Don’t

  • Punish a cat by yelling at them.
  • Don’t squirt a cat with water when they misbehave.

Do

  • Check to make sure the cat has food, water, and that their litter box is clean. Sometimes a kitty might act up if they’re hungry or feel uncomfortable with their surroundings. 
  • Ignore a cat when they’re misbehaving for no reason.
  • Reinforce positive behaviour with rewards such as treats or play time. 

Now that you know what cats hate and why, you’ll have a much easier time keeping your feline friends feeling happy and balanced. Always be sure check with a cat’s owner beforehand so you know what their kitty or kitties like or don’t like. This way you can start your cat sitting relationship off on the right paw! 

If you’re interested in understanding more cat behaviours, you might enjoy reading about what your cat’s tail can tell you, why they meow, and what your kitty’s body language means.  

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