17 Things Your Cat Actually Wants from You
From the right type of cuddles and the perfect snoozing spot to a whole lot more kitty litter, here's what your cat truly craves.
The happiest kitty on the block
Your unconditional love and devotion is what your cat really wants from you. Easy, right? Maybe not. While we’re sure you adore your kitty, the trick is showing your love in a way that cats want and understand. They’re called finicky felines for a reason, after all. They don’t appreciate or show affection in the same way dogs or humans do, and it can often feel like they’re giving you mixed signals. To help you decode your cat’s behaviour, we asked experts to share the truth about what cats really enjoy—and what they loathe.
A cat cave
Just like Batman needs a hideaway, so does your cat-man (or woman). “Cats are naturally solitary, so they need to have a place of their own where they can be alone,” says Stephanie Mantilla, an animal behaviour expert and trainer at Curiosity Trained and a former zookeeper who has worked with every type of kitty from house cats to cheetahs and lions. Cats can easily become overwhelmed, especially if you have kids or other pets, and having an area of your house only your cat can access will make them feel secure, she explains.
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Cats are born climbers, so if you don’t have something designed for them to climb on, they may scale your furniture, curtains, or Christmas tree instead. “Having a cat tree or cat shelving in your home is a way for your cat to get up high and out of reach where they can relax,” Mantilla explains.
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Multiple litter boxes
Unlike dogs, cats are very particular about where they poop—which means that cats generally need more than one litter box to feel comfortable. “Even if you have only one cat, they’ll need at least two litter boxes,” Mantilla says. “Cats are clean creatures and become stressed if they think their litter box isn’t suitable.” And what does a stressed cat do? They poop in places outside their litter box, which makes you upset as well, she adds.
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The right kind of litter box
While we’re discussing litter boxes, it’s important to make sure your cat’s box is one that will help them feel safe and comfortable, says Lisa Stemcosky, feline behaviour manager at the Humane Rescue Alliance. “It should be in a calm space but not hidden. A large, open-topped container is usually preferred, as your cat can dig and turn around with ease, and the open top lets your cat quickly escape if they are startled by something,” she explains. “[And] be realistic on how far you expect your cat to travel to use the bathroom. For example, travelling from the third story all the way to the basement may be tough for a senior cat or a kitten.” By the way, here’s how cats automatically know how to use a litter box.
A sunny spot to snooze
Cats love sunshine so much that it may seem like some days all they do is follow the sunny spot as it moves across the floor. “Cats love nothing more than a warm, comfy place to sleep,” says Sara Ochoa, DVM, a veterinarian and consultant for DogLab. “Favourite spots are basking in the sun or on a pile of freshly dried clothes, but really, anywhere your cat can find that it is warm, they will sleep there.” You can help your cat by making sure their bed is in a warm spot and keeping a sunny area clear for them to lounge in.
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Daily litter cleanings
Yes, you read that right: Cats need to have their litter scooped every single day, Mantilla says. Sorry to add an extra chore to your daily to-do list, but your cat really, really wants a clean space to do their business in. Any buildup can be distressing for them. So, in addition to having an additional litter box available, Mantilla recommends taking a few minutes each day to clean out their litter and to add fresh litter when needed.
Snuggles—but on their terms
Cat owners love cuddling their kitties, and cats love being cuddled…sometimes…and only on their terms. “Unlike dogs, cats aren’t pack animals and would not be in a long-term family situation in the wild,” Mantilla says. “Forced cuddling or petting makes your cat wary whenever you come around.” If you want affection from your cat, it’s best to let your cat come to you on their own. Mantilla suggests placing a soft blanket or other items your cat loves near you on the couch and then wait for the magic to happen.
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A long, slow blink
Communication with your cat can be tricky. They’re generally not as easy to read as dogs, and they don’t really understand human language. But one thing they do understand is a particular kind of eye contact, says Russell Hartstein, a certified dog and cat behaviourist in Los Angeles and the owner of Fun Paw Care. “Making eye contact with your cat and giving them a long, slow blink is a way to offer love from a distance,” he explains, adding that when cats give you that type of protracted blink, they’re showing you that they feel loved, comfortable, and safe around you.
A predictable, consistent home
Cats don’t want or need a wide variety of food, bedding, or daily activities. They thrive in a stable environment, so one of the best things you can do as their human is to provide them with consistent food, water, shelter, and enriching toys, says Dawn Kavanaugh, a cat behaviourist and the CEO of All About Animals Rescue. “Your cat needs to trust you to be the constant in their life,” she adds.
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Getting to pet your kitty is one of the best parts of being a cat owner, but if you really want your feline friend to be comfortable, you need to pay attention to the signals they’re giving you about what kind of touch they like, says Dr. Ochoa. “The truth is, most cats only like to be petted on their face and neck and do not like their feet, tail, or body touched,” she explains. “Your cat will let you know if it is OK to pet them elsewhere.” And remember: Just because their belly is showing, it’s not an invitation to touch it.
An a-“lure”-ing toy
Your fluffy house cat may not look like a lethal hunter, but don’t be deceived: All cats are predators, and nothing brings them more joy than the opportunity to hunt, says Stemcosky. “Actively engaging with your cat in interactive play provides mental and physical enrichment,” she explains. “Using a quality ‘lure’ toy can make all the difference, as they move and feel like the real thing.”
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Scratching posts that don’t match your furniture
Scratching is a basic feline instinct, so your cat needs you to provide appropriate things to scratch, Kavanaugh says. The trick is to make the scratching items different from your decor so your cat doesn’t get confused. “Don’t give them a carpeted cat tree and then not let them scratch your carpet,” she says. Instead, she recommends scratching posts or mats made from corrugated cardboard or sisal, as they are not items typically found in the home.
Knowing what their “tail talk” means
A common mistake cat owners make is assuming that a cat’s “wagging tail” means they are happy—it can actually mean the opposite, Hartstein says. (In fact, it doesn’t even always mean that with dogs!) “A cat’s body language is very subtle, but their tail is very expressive and will let you know if they are enjoying your pets or if they’ve reached the ‘I have had enough, please stop now’ stage,” he explains.
Regular visits to the vet
OK, so this might not be something your cat really wants from you, but it’s definitely something they need, Dr. Ochoa says. Regular vet visits will help ensure your pet is healthy, free from infestation or infection, has clean teeth, is properly spayed or neutered, is microchipped, and is up-to-date on vaccines. This is also a good time to ask questions about things your cat does that you may not understand.
Understanding their urine
This may sound gross, but you need to pay more attention to your kitty’s pee. A cat’s urine and urinary behaviours can tell you a lot about their physical and mental well-being, Kavanaugh says. “For example, if your cat who always uses the litter box urinates on the floor, instead of getting angry, realize they are trying to tell you something,” she says. “Perhaps the litter box was not clean, or they might have an illness or injury. Cats do not pee inappropriately for spite.” This is also one of the subtle signs your cat might be depressed.
To never be carried again
As much as humans love to tote their feline friends around, the truth is that most cats really do not enjoy being held and carried, at least not for long, Kavanaugh says. Instead, allow your cat to sit on your lap or rub against your body. This allows you to pet them while still giving them the freedom to leave when they’re done.
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Some tough love
Humans tend to want to indulge their cats’ bad behavior, often seeing it as funny or evidence of their “diva” personality. But eliminating this isn’t just about you (though you shouldn’t have to put up with it). Your cat doesn’t want to be behaving badly either. “Contrary to popular belief, cats can and do like to be trained,” Hartstein says. Teaching them rules and proper behavior gives them consistency and comfort in the long run. Not sure how to do that? He recommends looking for a trainer versed in operant and classical conditioning.
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