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People are often blissfully unaware of the impact their actions have on their animals, for better or for worse. I’m certain that most cat owners aren’t intentionally trying to make their cats feel anxious or stressed. But regardless of intent, your actions affect your cat and can alter her behavior and her relationship with you.
Based on my work with cats, I’ve identified five common ways you may unknowingly be stressing out your cat. If you catch yourself, or anyone in your home or family, doing any of these things, do your feline a favor and nix these practices immediately!
And as always, with any behavioral problem or change in your pet’s behavior, it’s important to check for and treat any underlying medical conditions that could potentially be causing or worsening the problem. If you have concerns about your cat’s behavior, talk with your vet right away.
You rely on punishment to change her behavior. There are ways to put a stop to unwanted behavior, but punishment isn’t the solution. Punishment temporarily inhibits the problem behavior without resolving the underlying issue; your cat doesn’t understand that what she’s doing is wrong, and she doesn’t know what to do instead. Because your cat does not understand that certain behaviors are undesirable, punishment may feel inconsistent and random to her, which can cause her to become anxious and wary. She may also begin to associate unrelated components of the situation, such as people or other pets, with the cause of the punishment.
You bring out the crate only when it’s time to visit the vet. A majority of cats are crated only in specific — and usually stressful — situations, like visits to the vet or groomer. This can teach them to dislike the crate, and many will hide or put up a fight to avoid going inside. Teaching your cat to go willingly into her carrier when asked and making it a fun place for her to hang out every day can make taking her places like the vet — or anywhere that requires her to ride in her carrier — a lot less stressful for everyone involved.
You think scaring her is harmless — and hilarious. You’ve seen the videos of cats terrified by cucumbers, right? Hilarious, yes? Not for the cat. I’m certain that people don’t scare their cats with the intention of causing harm — but they also don’t realize the issues that can result from this “funny” behavior. A cat who is repeatedly startled can become neurotic and wary, and may become afraid to venture into places she previously found safe. Scaring a cat in areas where she eats or drinks is especially dangerous, as the cat may avoid these areas. This may mean she’s not getting enough food or water, which can put her at risk for various health issues. And that isn’t funny at all.
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