by Soojin Um
Have you ever returned home from work or from a night out only to find your home looking like it’s been hit by a natural disaster? Then you look at your cat, and she has that “who, me?” look on her face. You have just come face to face with a CATastrophe. For many, this type of scenario is part and parcel of owning a cat. We have even accepted this as “normal” cat behavior, though that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. So, what is causing some of the behaviors, and can we do anything to prevent it? Let’s find out.
Whoever first coined old saying that boredom is the devil’s playground may have gotten it wrong – it’s actually the cat’s playground. That may be a small comfort when discovering your expensive sofa all shredded up, but at least cats only pretend to be evil.
Cats may, and often do, act out when they’re bored. They wonder what might happen if they knock a figurine off the ledge. After they find out, they might wonder if it’ll happen again. They might also get curious about the toilet paper roll, or the toilet flusher itself. Whatever the activity is, however, it’s usually curiosity and boredom that drive it.
You can try to redirect their energies by providing them with plenty of toys. Cats, like children, want to play, and if they don’t have anything to play with, they’ll pick and choose from whatever they can find. If they have toys designed specifically for them, they’ll usually prefer that option. If they continue despite their toys, then you may need to take preventive action. You may need to put things away in the closet or a room, or place scratching posts near the items they are attracted to. These aren’t failsafe strategies, but if it saves one valuable object or furniture, it might be worth it.
It’s just nature
Cats have scent glands in their paws to mark their territory and possessions. Scratching is a way to spread their scent around. It can also be a way to relieve itching, particularly when their claws are ready to be sheathed.
These are natural activities and we should not try to prevent them. Once again, we can try to divert their instincts to scratch posts and cat toys. You could even leave out an old sweatshirt or get an inexpensive cushion, and encourage your cat to scratch away on those. This could just mean your cats will have extra things to scratch. Therefore, you may also need to make your furniture and other objects less inviting to your cats. Try covering sections of furniture in plastic or tape. If that is not acceptable or possible, try covering them with an old blanket or sheet. There are also cat repellant sprays that can be applied to household objects.
Give me attention
When our cats want our attention, they’ll call us by our name, “Meow” (all cat owners have the same name). However, if we’re preoccupied or just plain ignoring them, they will use other methods to get us to pay attention. When they start scratching the sofa or tearing up the paper towels, they know we’ll drop whatever it is we’re doing and deal with them. We just fell for the oldest trick in the cat’s book.
For cats, negative attention is still attention. So, by reacting to the cat’s behavior, we are just reinforcing that behavior. Unfortunately, ignoring the cat doesn’t work. You don’t want to let your cat destroy the whole house just to teach her a lesson. We may just be caught between a rock and a hard place. There’s still hope, though. One thing you could try is making sure to play with your cat before beginning an activity that will take your attention away. Spending some quality time with your cat before your favorite show comes on, or before you start your research paper, might quell your cat’s hunger for attention before it begins.
All cats want is our love. Since we can’t speak their language or read their minds, they try to let us know the best they can, in whatever ways they can. We might be irked by some of the methods, but if we can learn to be sensitive to their needs, perhaps they’ll be satisfied enough to leave things alone. If not, then we may just have to pay the price – for new furniture, and drapes, vases, pillows, clothes, houseplants…
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