We have all said it. We have all watched the videos. We have all laughed. Some of us have experienced it. Some have felt frustrated by it and some actually appreciate it. What is “it”?? Cats doing things that we feel they shouldn’t be doing. Cats being “jerks.”
Why do cats do these things other than to annoy or entertain us? Well, brace yourself for the answer. They aren’t being jerks. They are communicating to us. To their person. To their human that speaks a completely different language. It is up to US to figure out what they are trying to tell us, and to figure out the best way to stop the inappropriate behavior and meet their needs, in a positive manner.
Cats are jerks! Yes, it can be funny, especially when it isn’t your cat. If it is your cat, and you don’t understand the reason for their behavior, it can be a problem. If your cat’s behavior has changed all of a sudden, please take him/her to the vet to rule out any possible medical issue. Cats are masters at hiding pain or illness.
Cat knocking over items in the home? The cat is bored and wanting attention. Maybe the item seems to be like a toy, a vase with fluffy flowers, for example. That’s hard to resist! Your cat might benefit from more one on one time and a good round of playtime.
Cat keeps jumping up on the table or counter? What’s up there? If food is left there, that can be enticing to a cat. One of my cats used to chew holes in a bag of bread if we left it out on the counter. Simple solution: put it away in a cupboard or container that is cat-proof. If the cat gets up on the counter to look out a window, provide an alternative. His own stool, tower and reward him when he uses it. To deter cats from jumping up on the counter or table, try double sided tape on placemats or tinfoil or rubber mats with the bumpy side facing upwards.
Cat waking you up at night to be fed? Timed feeders are wonderful! Some of them have the option of recording your voice to call them. Some work by microchip in case you have more than one cat and want to ensure only one gets that specific food. You can try ignoring your cat, but be sure to have plenty of patience! Giving your cat a 15minute playtime with a wand toy to really get them moving can help. Do this before your bedtime. When playtime ends, feed your cat. A cat’s natural instinct is to hunt (play), eat its prey (catch the toy, then eat), groom and then sleep. This same advice can apply to cats that are vocal at night, too.
Does your cat prevent other pets or people from walking by them, usually in a hallway or on the stairs? I have one of those cats! She is being territorial, and will smack our dog if he tries to pass. Luckily it’s a light smack. We know her routine and can usually call her to us before any type of smack down begins. If this behavior occurs and prevents another cat from having access to a litterbox or bed or food, then there needs to be more of those in the home. Litterbox access is not a problem anyone wants to deal with. There should be one litterbox per cat in the home plus one more. Preferably in easy to access, stress free areas and located on each level of the home. They should be uncovered and away from the wall, enough so that the cat can exit from that area in 2 different directions. If food is the issue, feed them in separate areas.
Cats don’t mean to be jerks. It just happens to be the best way for them to communicate their needs to us. For more detailed information, be sure to check out our Behavior Library.
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Edited by Teryn J. Written by Bonnie Still, our resident Feline Care Manager and certified Cat Behavior Specialist.