Every cat is unique, each with their own distinct personality. But they do generally share prized preferences and (ahem) pet peeves. We take the guess work out and reveal nine things you can do to make your cat happy.
1. Routine, Ritual, Rhythm
Cat behaviourist, Jackson Galaxy, is an advocate of the three Rs: Routine, Ritual, Rhythm. He says getting our cats into a routine is integral to developing their circadian rhythm. The routine becomes ritual, and the ritual becomes the rhythm. Galaxy says, “Cats need to hunt, catch, kill, eat, groom, sleep.”
A good indication of a lack of routine for your cat is the zoomies – the result when cats don’t have a “predictable outlet for that raw cat energy.” There’s nothing wrong with the zoomies; in fact, it’s one of the perks of being a cat guardian. But we don’t want zoomies in the middle of the night.
The best way to establish predictable routines for your kitty cat is to play with them before meals. Put an end to all-day grazing and provide their meals at the same time every day. This exercises their instinct to hunt and allows them to burn up some energy before they eat. Then they groom, and sleep.
2. Fresh Food
Cats are notoriously fussy with their food, opting to fast completely rather than eat a food they dislike. One thing they don’t want is stale food. The benefit of establishing regular mealtimes is that you will know your cat is eating fresh food, and whether you are over-serving. Regular mealtimes are also beneficial if your tabby is on the tubby side, with controlled portions. Read more about How Much Food Your Cat Needs.
Cats have a powerful sense of smell, so old food won’t appeal. Ideally, wash your cat’s bowl after each meal, or once each day at least. According to the USPCA, cat bowls breed salmonella and e.coli, which even cats can’t smell. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea and lethargy, and necessitate a veterinarian consultation. It is also worth remembering that bacteria infection can spread to humans; another reason for vigilance.
3. Peace and Quiet
As well as their strong sense of smell, cats also possess powerful hearing. Their ears are at work even as they dose, turning towards sound like an independent pair of satellite dishes, amplifying noise from great distances. As well as this incredible ability, they own the same survival instinct as any other living creature. Put two and two together, and you get a creature that dislikes loud sounds. They will either hide to protect themselves, or opt for a quieter place. Avoid upsetting your feline friend; allow them to relocate when noisy friends pop by for a noisy chat. When loud noises frighten them into a dark corner, reassure them with soothing words and with your presence nearby to help them settle.
4. Gentle Pats
Ensure you use a light touch when you pat your cat. And take the hint if they edge away from you – don’t wait for a scratch or bite. Cats can be very sensitive about certain areas on their bodies. One thing that is common among cats is the importance of scent and spreading it about on all their possessions – including you. There are more scent glands on their lower backs and tails; their rubbing against you while you make a cup of tea is them telling you they love you, and you belong to them. Aw. This strong motivation to ‘label’ all their stuff dominates their preferences when is comes to contact with you.
Many of a cats’ scent glands are on their head, particularly the face; above the eyes, around the ears, the cheeks and chin. Focus on gently stroking these areas to please your cat, and enjoy watching as they lean into these soft scratches. Read more in Head Bunting — What Does it Mean?
5. No Car Rides
For 99.99% of cat guardians, we know that car rides are not what a cat wants. But it deserves a mention, in case you are that 0.01%, wondering if your feline will ever come around to enjoying the trip. Take it from the rest of us – they won’t.
6. Fresh, Clean Litter
Because scent is such a driving force in cats, a smelly litter box isn’t going to cut it. Their sense of smell is 14 times greater than ours, and we flush the toilet after every use. Poop scoop and remove wee-clumps daily to help them. Change their litter regularly, and avoid switching litter too abruptly. Some cats are okay with a new variety of litter, others are not. Gradually change to the new type by mixing a little in with the old kind, increasing slightly with each change. Consider that your cat may search for better places to go, such as a basket of freshly laundered clothes.
7. No Swimming
It’s not an old wives’ tale; cats do hate water. A few select breeds are known for enjoying a swim, such as the Maine Coon or Bengal, though it would be risky to assume that all cats of these breeds love a dip. Because they self groom, cats are not natural water goers.
If you intend to adopt a cat that you will wash, begin this habit from the start when they are a kitten, make it regular and do not waver from it. And also, good luck.
8. Their Own Territory
Cats are territorial, and we know that they mark their possessions. Their keen sense of smell can detect if another cat has been kneading their spot, as there are yet more scent glands between a cat’s little toes. Although our felines like to intermingle their scent with ours, they may not be so keen with that of another cat. Multi-cat households must include a seperate space for each cat. This can be as simple as their own bed on a shelf, or their own scratch post perch. They may still be happy to cuddle up together, but give them their own little space.
It is a common idea that cats enjoy solitude, although this is far from the truth. Cats enjoy playing and cuddling with their guardians, and with other cats in their home. Spending time with your cat every day is important to maintain the bond between you and your feline. Studies show that spending time with cats and dogs can reduce stress and anxiety, so it’s a win-win. Stuck for ideas? Try grooming them with a cat brush, which is helpful towards the end of winter through to summer. And we now know the benefits of playing before mealtimes for cats, too.
Try these nine ways to make your kitty cat feel happy and content for many years to come. At the end of the day, it’s what we all want.