Surprising Ways You Can Hurt Your Cat's Feelings, Including Wearing Perfume
Oct 30, 2023
Cats have a reputation for being uncaring and aloof, but according to an animal behavior expert, that couldn't be further from the truth.
Anna Chaney—an associate curator at Memphis Zoo who specializes in felines—told Newsweek that cats do have emotions—and just like humans, their feelings are capable of being hurt.
"We evolved emotions to help us communicate, reproduce and survive. Why should we assume animals are any different in that regard?" she told Newsweek.
"Anything a human does that evokes a negative emotion in their cat would probably 'hurt their feelings.'"
However, many owners don't realize they're upsetting their cat, and continue to undertake activities that distress their pet.
"Cats are generally more sensitive than dogs," Chaney said. "They are more easily overwhelmed and do not handle negative experiences with as much resilience."
These are the ways owners unintentionally hurt their cat's feelings—and how to make it up to them.
Although they're viewed as independent creatures, a 2019 study by Oregon State University found that cats have an "offspring-caretaker" bond with their owners, similar to that of parents and children. Accordingly, not giving them enough attention is bound to hurt their feelings.
"Ignoring them all the time, particularly when not busy, and not meeting their socialization needs, will obviously upset your cat," said Chaney.
They may look cute wearing people clothes, but few cats enjoy being dressed up in costumes or outfits.
"They don't understand clothes and they are restrictive, which also inhibits their flight response if they were to get chased," said Chaney. "The whole process is foreign to them."
Although some breeds, such as Persians and Rag Dolls, will naturally need more care, most cats are better left to groom themselves.
"They can be over-stimulated by the feeling of being brushed, but cats are also very fastidious," Chaney said.
In the wild, felines constantly clean themselves to remain undetected. So, slathering your pet in scented lotions—even animal-friendly ones—and messing with their carefully arranged fur is likely to make them unhappy.
Everybody loves a party—unless you're a cat. While some felines love a crowd, their sensitive hearing means most would rather run and hide. Cats can hear frequencies up to 65khz, more than three times that of humans. Cats also have 32 muscles in their ears that allow them to rotate in all directions, making loud noises almost inescapable.
"They can probably hear your heartbeat sitting next to you on the couch," said Chaney.
"So, a party with lots of people speaking loudly, a speaker blasting and fireworks outside might overwhelm their auditory system, even causing physical pain."
No one wants to use a dirty toilet, but a filthy litter box actually offends your cat for evolutionary reasons. Although they're better known as hunters, in the wild, small felines are also prey.
"Cats are born with the instinct to bury their excrement, to keep it from alerting potential predators that they are there," Chaney said.
"They get anxious, because this stinky box is a billboard saying 'Delicious kitty hanging around right here.'"
Along with their keen senses of smell and hearing, cats are also sensitive to touch. While petting them in the right spot will make your cat purr, touching them in the wrong place will make them anxious and irritated—as can picking up or hugging them unexpectedly.
"Some cats just don't like to be touched, while others may feel like they are being grabbed by a predator," Chaney said.
"But this is going to vary with your individual cat's personality and history."
Cats have over 200 million odor receptors in their noses, compared to the 5 million receptors found in human schnozzes. So, strong smells such as perfume and scented candles can irritate their delicate snoots.
"That plug-in freshener is 14 times stronger to your cat than you," Chaney said. "Not to mention that it is usually down close to the floor, nose level with your kitty."
The chart below, provided by Statista, shows where U.S. owners found their pets.
No matter how hard they try, every cat owner will upset their pet at one time or another. By taking the time to learn and understand their body language—and not just when you suspect they're mad at you—will strengthen the relationship between you and your pet.
"Put yourself in their paws," said Chaney. "Watch their reactions and try to stop doing the behaviors that hurt their feelings as much as possible."
Instead, do more things that make your cat feel safe and secure. This is particularly important in situations when upsetting your cat is unavoidable, such as taking them to the vet.
"Try to incorporate two things into the rest of their day that would make them feel happy," Chaney said.
"Play with them, pet them how they like, or feed them a special food as a treat."
It may take time and effort to learn your cat's likes and dislikes, but the resulting bond will worth be it.
"Cats bring such joy to their owners and ask for nothing in return except to be provided with a healthy happy life," said Chaney.
"With a little empathy and awareness, we can do a much better job of understanding them."
Do you have funny and adorable videos or pictures of your pet you want to share? We want to see the best ones! Send them in to [email protected] and they could appear on our site.Do you have funny and adorable videos or pictures of your pet you want to share? We want to see the best ones! Send them in to [email protected] and they could appear on our site.