Five Answers to Questions often asked by Cat Owners

Five Answers to Questions often asked by Cat Owners


If you are a less than experienced cat owner, there are numerous questions you may want to ask about cats and cat ownership. Here are some common FAQs...

Why do cats rub against us?

A cat rubs against you for two reasons. He does it to show affection, but also to mark you as his property by transferring his scent to you. Sebaceous glands at the base of your cat's hair follicles produce sebum, which is used to coat the fur for protection, and also to deposit scent on objects in the cat's environment. These glands are particularly numerous around the cat's head and face, so if he rubs you with his head, he is claiming you as his very own!

Can you teach a cat tricks?

It is not as easy to teach a cat tricks as it is to do this with dogs. The main problem is that, unlike dogs, cats are not anxious to please their owners. So to teach them tricks, there has to be something in it for the cat. That usually means food, preferably really tasty treats or titbits. So it is possible to teach a cat to sit, for example, by holding a favourite treat over her head and saying 'sit' as you move the treat backwards. To watch it, the cat must sit down, and when she does she will get the treat. She will quickly get the idea and sit on long as you keep on rewarding her with treats.

This same principle is used for clicker training, in which the treat is associated with a device that makes a small clicking noise. Once you get the hang of it, using a clicker to teach tricks is very effective, and entertaining for both you and your cat. Maybe you should try it and see!

Are collars dangerous for cats?

Yes, they are. People used to use them so that they could put an ID tag on the collar in case their cat got lost. But this really isn't necessary in these days of microchipping cats and dogs, and a microchip is far more effective as it can't get lost. The problem with collars is that they can get snagged on things and the cat cannot escape, and cats have even been seriously injured in this way. Quick release collars or those with a plastic insert are better, but even these are not foolproof and sometimes the release mechanism does not work. Collars also rub the fur on your cat's neck, sometimes quite badly. One of my cats wore a collar for many years in the days before microchipping, and even years after the collar was removed, his fur did not grow back! So please remove your cat's collar. But firstly, make sure he is microchipped, so that if he gets lost, he will be brought home again.

My cat seems to enjoy looking at her reflection in the mirror. Does she know she's looking at herself?

Like most predators, cats are very quick to notice movement. This is why they react to their own image in a mirror. It is highly unlikely that they recognise the image as themselves; how would they, as cats have never been taught that such a thing as a mirror exists! But they may briefly react as though they have seen another cat, as it is most likely that they think that is what the reflection is. But since that 'other cat' doesn't have any smell, they will eventually decide there is nothing to it.

Cats react similarly to images on the TV, particularly if thy show birds or wildlife. These go one better than the mirror, as they also have sound, and cats react to their world as much by sound as they do by smell. So some television programmes will really hold a cat's interest. One of my Maine Coons, having round out that he can't touch the bird on the TV screen, has even taken to going behind the TV to look for it. Now how clever is that!

When one of my cats comes home from the vet, the other hisses and spits at him. Why?

Cats react very much to how something smell, smell being much more important to them than vision. And when you bring your cat home from the vet, particularly if she has been there for some time or overnight, she simply doesn't smell right to your other cat. Indeed, she probably smells worse than just not right – she smells of other cats, dogs, and disinfectants. Is it any wonder that your other cat doesn't like this and starts hissing and spitting. This of course is not very nice for the cat who just came back from the vet. She is probably delighted to finally be home, and then her former friend doesn't recognise her and starts swearing at her. Poor cat! So what can you do to prevent this?

Firstly, let the cat who has just come home settle down in a room by herself for an hour or two. Then take a clean towel, rub it over one cat, and then over the other a couple of times. This will distribute their scents, and mix them up so that the cat who was left home doesn't think the other cat smells so bad after all. And they'll probably both start grooming themselves to get rid of any unfamiliar smells, and be so preoccupied that they forget what they are so upset about.

This is highly likely to work. But in extreme cases, you may have to do a full-scale reintroduction, isolating the cat who went to the vet for a few days, and gradually reintroducing her to the other cat as though she was a new arrival. I have heard of this being necessary, but I have never had to do this, so here's hoping that you won't either.

You have more questions? More of these answers will follow soon...



Pets for studWanted pets

Accessories & services

Knowledge hub


Support & safety portal
Pets for saleAll Pets for sale