Cat Behavior Tips

If I could give people one piece of behavioral advice with a new cat, it would be this — Ignore the cat.

There is a reason cats always choose to go to the people that ignore them. Those people are predictable! Cats (and dogs and birds) are keen observers of human behavior. Cats watch people and they approach the ones who seem the most chill and predictable.
Allow the cat to absorb you doing your normal routine. Even if they come out, don’t approach them. Wait until they approach you. They will. Cats are curious creatures.

Then, when you get a chance to touch the cat, don’t pat it or rub along the length of its body. Rest your hand on it or against it and then, when you’re ready for something more, knead their skin and muscles, like a massage. It feels great to them and normal for them. This is how cats express affection for each other.

This becomes more important when you realize how their nerves are laid out. For example, they have a bundle of nerves above the tail at the end of the back called the dorsal root ganglia, a place where a bunch of nerves join together. This place is super sensitive on some cats! That’s why they can seem to love it and then turn around and slap your hand. The nerve intensity just built up to a place where it became too much and they wanted it to stop immediately. If you watch cats, they never mess with this part of another cat.

Watching cats clean and knead each other can tell you a lot what feels good and natural to a cat. They gently lick each others eyes and ears (inside and outside). They lick the neck and the top and back of the head where a cat can’t reach to clean itself. Just as we like having the parts of our body rubbed where we can’t reach, so do cats.

Cats head bump each other and rub their head along the sides of the face and up under the chin, ear or jaw of another cat. There are two other reasons cats love pressure under the ear/jaw and scratching under the chin — rubbing under the ear/jaw stimulates their lymphatic system and feels good and scratching under the chin, gently with fingertips or fingernails, scratches an itch many cats get from cat acne. That’s why they scratch here a lot.

In my experience, those are the places cats enjoy touch most but to learn more about what your cat likes. watch what they will tolerate from others. Be as keen an observer of their behavior as they are of yours.

One last thing, be aware of the sounds you make to your cat. Cats have very good hearing, way better than ours (try to quietly open a can of tuna far away from your cat to confirm this for yourself.) Loud talking, yelling or music are disturbing to them. They will often leave the room. High squealing bothers us but it bothers cats even more.
Cats will often try to soothe crying babies not just because they are part of their family and they love them but to stop that high pitched squealing sound. (Other cats just leave the room.)

Avoid high squeaky voices! Speak to your cat in your normal voice. Again, they are keen observers of human behavior. They know your normal voice. They know it’s the voice you use with others you take seriously. Plus it’s literally more pleasing to their ears. If you have a special voice you use with your cat during cuddles or playtime, that’s fine, just try not to make it squealy. You want it to be a pleasant voice that your cat finds comforting and comfortable.

That said, don’t speak to your cat every time you see it. Allow it to have a quiet independence in your home and presence, to go about its day without feeling called out just for moving from here to there, or like they need to come to you or check in with you every time you are in the same place. Sometimes all beings want to just be.

So…ignore your cat. Cats are independent animals. Allow and encourage them to be independent by just being chill in shared spaces. Let them do their thing. Not everything is about us. All animals need their space.

From local cat aficionado Carolyn Louise Mabry

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