VET’S VIEW: Cats are complex characters, but it’s fun working them out

CAT owners sometimes tell me their cat’s behaviour doesn’t make sense; usually accepting their feline friend’s quirks but never knowing what they mean.

For example, when your cat head-butts and rubs their face against you this behaviour seems like displaying affection, gets confusing when they also do it to household objects and furniture too – often indicating friendly intentions, and marking territory.

Occasionally they may even turn on you. Cats aren’t doing this to be mean, or trying to fight you — a gentle (or not-so-gentle) nip will let you know they’ve had enough for now.

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Repetitive stroking may even become uncomfortable over time – sometimes building up static electricity. If you’ve a cat who often lashes out during stroking, there are a few things you can do.

Firstly let your cat come to you for stroking. Observe for signs that your cat’s getting tense/annoyed, including ear-flattening and tail swishing; perhaps even attempt to build up your cat’s tolerance by offering treats.

Cats not prepared to tolerate being stroked on the back may prefer tickling under the chin or behind their ears instead.

Some cats show affection by ‘kneading’ you with their paws. As kittens, this motion helps release milk from the mother cat during feeding; so it’s your cat’s way of showing love and affection for their human “mum.”

It’s less fun when your cat urinates everywhere but their litter tray; call your vet ASAP as this isn’t normal possibly indicating stress or serious health issue, e.g. cystitis or obstruction of urinary tract.

Excessive urination (and drinking) is also associated with kidney, liver, even hormonal disease).

Emotional causes include new cat or baby, even moving house. Sometimes, existing urinary disease becomes worse with stress.

Like us, cats can be complex characters – but it’s lots of fun trying to work them out.