Family & Pets

3 mistakes cat owners are making

3 mistakes cat owners are making

Cat behaviourist and author of The Cat Whisperer, Mieshelle Nagelschneider reveals seven of the most common mistakes cat owners make – and how to fix them.

1. Treating cats as if they're dogs

It’s hard to imagine a cat playing fetch, or a dog spending its waking hours preening, so why would we expect the same behaviours from our fur babies when it comes to housetraining?

According to cat behaviourist and author of The Cat Whisperer, Mieshelle Nagelschneider, a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to raising four-legged friends can have disastrous consequences.

"We can end up creating cat issues – and making a lot of existing issues worse – by treating them like dogs," she says.

"Cats are a little bit more wild—they’re not fully domesticated, and still have many of their wild cat instincts."

These instincts help explain some of the more curious behaviours exhibited by housecats, including perching high (a means of keeping an eye on potential predators) and fussily refusing to drink day-old water (they’re hard-wired to be wary of bacteria).

2. Not scooping cat litter enough

Even if your feline friends have never experienced the great outdoors themselves, they still possess the survival instincts of their wildcat ancestors.

One of the strongest of those instincts is the need to bury their own waste; a habit that effectively throws predators off their scent.

Once indoors – and restricted to the use of a litter box – a housecat’s attempt at burying only does so much to mask the scent; hence the importance of regular scooping.

"Once a week simply isn’t enough,’ says Nagelschneider. "Even with a good clumping litter, you should be scooping daily, and replacing the litter completely every 30 days."

According to Nagelschneider, fresh, clean litter is the best way to prevent messes outside the litter box, and that has consequences on a large scale.

"A third of all cats surrendered to shelters are there for litter box issues," she says.

3. Creating a "cat room"

Fight the urge to cluster all of your cat’s accessories – from scratching posts to perches to beds – in one designated ‘cat room.’

According to Nagelschneider, scattering pet paraphernalia around the house more accurately reflects conditions in the wild, and creates what she calls a ‘land of plenty’ – an atmosphere that reduces competition between cats.

She even recommends separating the food bowl from the water dish, as cats instinctively avoid water near dead prey, which in the wild would likely be contaminated with bacteria.

Written by Brett Walther. This article first appeared in Reader’s Digest. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, here’s our best subscription offer.