Editor’s note: In this tongue-in-cheek letter from your favorite feline, Cat Mastery author Dr. Tony Buffington envisions some of the ways we can help make our feline companions feel truly at home and loved for the enigmatic, affectionate and fascinating creatures that they are.

Cat on scratching furniture

Dear Owner,

Thank you for rescuing me and taking me in — I love our home together. Now that we have been around each other for a while and I have grown up, it’s time for us to agree on what we like and need for a strong and healthy relationship. Even though we are different in many ways, we both like to be shown love and expect to be appreciated and understood for whom we are.

As you know, I come from a long line of solitary hunters of small prey, who were themselves prey for larger carnivores (dogs) and primates (humans), so I need to be able to trust you to be comfortable with you (I’m sure you understand). I can show you how I feel with my body language (watch this quick clip if you need help with translation). For example, please let me come to you when I want attention. Like you, I feel afraid when affection is forced upon me or when unwanted “friends” (feline or otherwise) are moved into our house.

We both like to choose what we like to eat, drink and use in the bathroom (litter for me, TP for you). When we are offered choices, we can express our preferences and be happy to have them respected. And speaking of bathrooms, we both like them private and clean. Imagine having to depend on someone else to flush and clean your toilet when they feel like it! If you have questions about this, our veterinarian friends have recently put out some great information for you to read.

We also need to keep our nails in shape, and in addition to keeping them beautiful, I need mine to eat with and to protect myself. You can get yours done; I need to do my own, so I need a good place to scratch to keep them healthy and a little help from you when they need a trim. You can help me find the best places to do this in our house by putting a reminder (foil, sticky tape, etc.) on things you don’t want me to scratch and by giving me a great place that is OK to scratch close by and praising me for using it so I’ll know what you want (and don’t we both love praise, too?).

Speaking of praise, neither of us likes to be yelled at or hit. It is scary and makes us feel bad. It also isn’t helpful just to tell us what not to do; we need to understand what we want each other to do instead. So please show me what you want by using the “scratching post strategy”: Put things on stuff you don’t want me to scratch (climb on, sleep on, etc.) to remind me what not to use, but then give me places that are OK to use — and praise me lavishly for using them.

We also both like our things left alone. You have drawers to keep your things out of sight, and I like my things — food and water bowls, litterbox, resting area — in quiet, private places. And you know how we really don’t love going to the doctor but know we need to? If one of my resting places also is a nice cat carrier, taking me to the veterinarian for my annual checkup will be a lot less stressful for both of us! You could even put a scratching post next to it so I can stretch after I get up from a nap like you do.

And we both like hunting for food. For you, it’s finding that great new restaurant before anyone else does; for me it’s prowling our house in search of prey. Just like you, I have my favorites, and I can show you what they are if you’ll give me the chance. There also are toys that dispense food that I might like to play with while you are away (just do an Internet image search for ‘cat food puzzle’ to see all the possibilities to make or purchase for me).

I hope this helps you understand how much we have in common and how easy it is for you to show me you love me as I love you. Just follow the Golden Rule!


Your Faithful and Devoted Cat

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