Cat, You Mad?

When your cat makes eye contact while going outside the litterbox, you might think it's out of revenge. You'd be (a little) right.

A friend of mine has been having a problem recently with her normally sweet and good-natured cat. Occasionally this friend spends the night at her boyfriend’s house, and when she returns home, her kitty sits right next to – not in – the litterbox, stares my friend in the eye, and pees. Frustrated by her cat’s behavior, she posted about it on Facebook, and got a variety of suggestions about what was wrong, most of them along the lines of the cat being “mad” at my friend. Reading all these comments frankly made me a little mad because even if the kitty’s problem is behavioral, and not medical (yes, she is going to a vet for a checkup), anger has nothing to do it with.

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People like to assume that cats get mad and act out passive-aggressively, but they are reading their actions the wrong way. Cats are really pretty direct. If a cat is mad at another cat, she whaps her. When a cat feels her personal space or property is being compromised, she does the most logical thing (to a cat) – she marks it in a way that leaves no doubt as to whom the property belongs. Often that involves peeing or scratching. Any cat can smell what that means! Unfortunately, the cat does not realize that humans don’t understand the feline language of speaking in scents.

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When cats act out in the way my friend’s cat did, it’s not really anger. The cat believes her resources are somehow being reduced or taken away, and she is trying to hang onto what she considers rightfully hers in the only way she knows how. One of the reasons my friend was so puzzled was that she felt that her cat had everything she could possibly want, and more – a big house, a feline companion whose company she enjoys, a human who works at home and plays daily with her, all the food she wants and a frequently scooped litterbox. She did not see how her cat’s resources were being taken away by her occasional visits with her boyfriend. But eventually, more was revealed. For several months, my friend has been renting out part of her house several times a month through an online service. Having a different visitors coming and going unexpectedly would definitely make a cat feel insecure, and my friend’s overnights away from home have probably added to her stress.

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Insecure? Stressed out? Territorial? Possibly ill with a urinary tract infection? Any of those may certainly apply to my friend’s cat. Mad? Not so much. If she were mad, she would have just given my pal a swift whap to the ankle.

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