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Thinking like a cat - what does your cat really need to be happy?
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Thinking like a cat - what does your cat really need to be happy?

Cats
General
Pet Psychology

Cats are right at the top of the list of the most popular pets kept within the UK, even outranking dogs in recent years. There are many good reasons why cats make great pets for a wide variety of different owners of all ages and from all walks of life; the cat really does have something to offer to everyone. As well as forming strong bonds with their owners (despite what dog owners might think)! cats are, by their very nature, self-reliant, independent, and live their lives very much on their own terms. Most of us are aware of at least one cat that was loved, well cared for and lived in a happy home with an owner that adored them, and yet took it upon themselves to move in with someone else or find an alternative source of food and entertainment!

Part of the appeal of cats is the aura of mystery that surrounds them, and the fact that we can never really know what is going on in our cat’s minds. In order to keep cats happy, feeling secure and united with their owners, it is important to think like a cat, and view their world through feline eyes in order to account for their needs.

So, what does your cat really need to be happy? Five core elements answer this question.

Routine

Cats may come and go by their own schedule, but they can be very finicky if the external factors of their lives that are provided by you are not consistent and stable. Cats like to know when and where their food is coming from, and being fed at a similar time each day or having food available and regularly replenished at all times is important to them. Cats dislike anything that upsets their routine and the way that they understand their world; events such as moving home, going to the cattery or being cared for by a stranger when you go on holiday, or a change in the people that live with you can cause massive upheaval in your cat’s world, leading to stress and unhappiness.

Try not to interfere with the fixtures and fittings of your home too often; keep your cat’s food bowls, toys and favourite chair constant. If you need to replace something within the home, your cat will need time to get used to this; you can make the transition easier by using old and new together alongside of each other until your cat has come to accept the new addition.

Territory

Cats are territorial animals, and may range and roam over quite some distances when left to their own devices. Your cat, once established in any given area will quickly delineate the borders of their territory, and tend to stick within these borders consistently. How far they roam depends upon a range of factors, including other cats that live in the area, access to outdoors and green space, and any natural borders that arise, such as gardens that contain dogs, or busy roads. Your cat’s territory also of course encompasses your home and garden itself, and while you may not be able to avoid changes happening outside of this area (such as other cats moving into the neighbourhood) you should do what you can to protect the integrity of the hub of your cat’s territory, your own home. Do not allow dogs to visit unless you know that your cat is ok with them, avoid encouraging other cats into the garden, and if you have visitors over, ensure that they are mindful of your cat’s personal space.

Respect

Each and every cat has its own unique personality, and the owners of cats can usually sum this up without too much thought. Shy and retiring or outgoing and friendly, grumpy with strangers or keen to meet new people, it is important to account for your cat’s feelings and personality.

If your cat is nervous around people, do not try to parade her in front of a string of visitors or pass her around for attention. Make sure that your cat can interact (or not)! with visitors on her own terms, and get away if she wants to. Similarly, if you know something bothers or annoys your cat, don’t do it! If your cat tends to lash out if stroked in a certain way, avoid doing that, and don’t hassle your cat when she needs some quiet time and personal space, even if you want to play.

Most cats are highly affectionate (on their own terms)! and bond strongly with their owners, needing attention and cuddles on a regular basis. Make sure that you fulfil all of your cat’s needs in this respect, and that she is made to feel loved and wanted.

Entertainment

Cats are natural hunters, and may spend a lot of time (in between naps) terrorising the local rodent community! Although cats are generally adept at finding their own entertainment, it is important to provide some additional stimulus to your cat so that they can find things to play with inside of the home as well as going outside. Scratching posts and activity centres, a range of interactive toys, and anything that caters to the natural hunting instinct of cats such as chasing games with a feather or a piece of string can help to keep your cat active in mind and body.

Thinking like a cat

Finally, it is important to remember that your cat is feline, not human; she thinks like a cat, and will interpret your actions and the things that happen around her through a cat’s eyes. For instance, you might find fireworks pretty and exciting, but your cat may well be terrified by the flashing lights and loud bangs that accompany them. It is important to view every aspect of your interaction with your cat and what goes on around them through your cat’s eyes, particularly if something changes.

This will help you to gain a deeper understanding of your cat’s personality, what she likes and doesn’t like, and what works for her, and can help to ensure that your cat really is happy and contented, and feels secure.

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