The internet loves cats. It’s guestimated that a staggering 15 percent of all traffic on the web is cat-related, with about 310 million cat videos and about 6.5 billion feline photos in cyberspace — a number that’s grow- ing while you’re reading. But, social media sites are also “giant confessionals” with cat owners admitting to some really big mistakes and doing some very stupid things.
So I trolled the digital landscape to highlight some of these pretty dim-witted comments and actions in an attempt to show that what may seem hilarious could be harmful and why cats react the way they do.
Topping the cat’s food bowl off with dry food every day
“I feed my cat dry food because it’s so easy. I just keep topping it up when it’s empty. But now he’s taken to pawing it out of the bowl and really making a mess. Every day it’s like ‘Cleanup on aisle five!’”
There are lots of things at play here in this food-bowl scenario. A cat’s food bowl should be washed out daily to avoid an unhealthy bacteria buildup in the bowl, which ultimately will contaminate the food in the bowl and be ingested by your cat. Depending on the surface of the bowl, it may also be beginning to smell; a cat’s nose is far more sensitive than human smell receptors, and this could be the reason he’s pawing it out.
Also, feline instinct comes into play here, as cats are solitary eaters, and the cat may be trying to take his food away from other pets or people in the household in an attempt to stop any potential interference. Food bowls should never be placed in a high-traffic zone in the house. In fact, in multiple-cat households, place food bowls in different locations so the cats don’t feel threatened that another pet may intrude.
It’s OK to free feed because many cats are nibblers and like to munch on their own schedule. On the other hand, you must monitor how much food is put out daily.
Letting the cats roam the neighborhood freely
“We let our cats roam the neighborhood because they deserve to be free, but now one hasn’t come back, and we’re desperately worried.”
Cats who are allowed to roam can actually create a large territory for themselves that stretches well out of sight of their home. Allowing them such freedom can potentially put them in harm’s way. Cats are not savvy about traffic, as the noise can jolt their reflexes. Other animals in the neighborhood can attack them and, depending where you live, they could fall prey to large birds of prey and coyotes. They are also exposed to tainted food and the possibility of being poisoned. An indoor-only lifestyle is much safer.
However, if you want a cat to enjoy the great outdoors, it’s a good idea to create an outdoor “catio” where he can be safe and simultaneously give you the peace of mind of knowing where he is at all times. And there are lots of fabulous cat furniture and toys to compensate for being inside that will keep cats both mentally and physically stimulated.
Letting a child grab the cat
“My cat attacks my kid every time he runs up to him and tries to grab him to play.”
The key word here is “grab!” Chances are the toddler is hurting the cat in his attempts to play, and the cat is instinctively defending himself. It’s wonderful if kids and cats can grow up together. However, all interactions between the two should be under adult supervision, especially if the kid is still a toddler.
The best way to teach young children to respect a cat is to teach by example and simultaneously tell them (“Don’t pull the cat by the tail, but stroke her like this”), and demonstrate how to gently pet a cat. And, immediately offer praise and let the child know the cat is pleased to be gently touched and is showing pleasure by purring.
Not scooping the cat’s litter box regularly
“There is absolutely no reason to scoop my litter box daily because my cat refuses to use it! Any ideas on how to get her back into her box, though? My house is beginning to smell like one giant litter box, as she’s peeing and pooping everywhere!”
Cats are very clean and hygienic animals. While there can be a medical issue (which should be investigated) as to why a cat is going outside the litter box, chances are she is not using it because it hasn’t been scooped and it’s filthy! No wonder the house stinks, too.
Boxes should be scooped at least daily and every cat in the household should have a litter box. They should be placed in different locations. Placing them all together, from a feline perspective, makes it look like one giant litter box. So if she’s not using one, she won’t use any of them if they are lined up in a row.
Scaring or stressing out your cat for the sake of an Instagram
“I bought this really giant English cucumber at the store today and couldn’t resist putting it down while my cat was eating and waited with my camera phone. It was hilarious! Talk about jumping out of her fur!”
Renowned UK animal behaviorist Dr. Roger Mugford explains that cats are by nature suspicious of the unknown. It’s their survival instinct at work.
“The cucumber could represent the danger of a snake or another predator,” he says. “I suspect that there would be the same reaction to a model spider, a plastic fish or a human face mask.”
Doing something like this or any other silly prank designed to catch a cat off guard is very stressful to any cat, and what humans perceive to be hilarious and great material for the internet is, in fact, harmful and should be avoided.
What mistakes have you made as a cat parent? What mistakes have you seen other cat owners make? Tell us in the comments!
Thumbnail: Photography by Hasloo/Thinkstock.
Read more about cat parenting on Catster.com:
- How to Pick Furniture That Cats Won’t Scratch
- Train Your Kitty to Walk with a Cat Harness and Leash
- Kittens in Your Future? Make Your Home Safe for Them First
Ziggy and Tory “work” as feline muses for Sandy Robins, an award-winning multimedia pet lifestyle expert, author and pet industry personality. They like to disrupt the workflow by playing fetch with wand toys and directing food operations in the kitchen. Learn more about Sandy at sandyrobinsonline.com.