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Cat Etiquette – What You Need to Know to Be a Good Cat Owner

By: Renae Hamrick, RVT

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Slobbery kisses, a nose stuck in unwelcome places, jumping, barking...these are less than ideal habits you might expect to experience as a houseguest when you visit a family with a dog. What about cats? Do all cats naturally have appropriate etiquette toward their visitor? What is proper feline behavior when you have company?

Cats are typically perceived as independent pets who are perfectly happy sitting on a windowsill, watching a bird by themselves. You might even imagine a cat as being "stuck-up" or "too good" to say hello to company. These stereotypes are true of some kitties, but there are others who are not so laid back when it comes to houseguests.

Cats Without Boundaries

If your cat has 100% free-reign of the house (she walks on counter tops, furniture, laps, kitchen tables, etc), you might want to consider retraining her before you have company or keeping her confined during the visit. Many guests are uncomfortable seeing a kitty trot across the counter, hopping over the bowl of potato chips and sniffing the freshly cooked ham.

Cats can be retrained in a variety of ways to stay off certain surfaces. Read PetPlace's How to Keep Your Cat Off Tables and Counters for more information. If you don't mind having your cat in these places, and you do not want to retrain her, it is probably best to keep Kitty in a bedroom or another secluded location during house visits.

The Shedding Cat

If your cat leaves mini-kitty wigs wherever she goes, consider whether this will bother your guests. It is courteous to vacuum the furniture, floors, and other locations full of cat hair just before your guest arrives. It is also ideal to brush your cat to remove as much loose hair as possible and minimize shedding during the visit.

Do your best to keep the shedding cat away from the kitchen to avoid unwanted fluff in the food. It is also best to keep the her off your guests laps, or at least provide a lint brush.

If you feel that cat hair will be offensive to your guest, you may want to confine your cat while you have company.

The Begging Kitty

Like dogs, some cats insist on sampling the meal being served. The cat may sit under the table and scratch at your leg and meow, or she may sit on the table beside your plate and be more forward about her desire. Unless your guest is 100% an animal person and finds this habit acceptable, the begging kitty should not be present during meal time.

There are also cats who beg for attention and are not content until they have it. Again, if your guest is a big fan of cats, have plenty of cat toys available and allow your cat to help you entertain. If your visitor would rather have conversation about topics other than your romping kitty, keep her elsewhere.

Fearful, High-Stress Cats

If you have a "fraidy-cat" who hates social gatherings, it is absolutely in your cats best interest to have her own quiet place away from the guests. If hiding helps your cat feel comforted, be sure she has plenty of spaces in her personal room to do so. Having a fearful cat unconfined during a visit with friends may end in your nervous feline darting out a door or window to get away from the chaos.

The Anti-Cat Visitor

As the host of a gathering, it is your responsibility to make everyone comfortable in your home. When inviting your guests, inform them that you have a cat. Find out if they are allergic, fearful, or if they dislike cats in any way. If they prefer to not have cats around, cater to that and kindly keep Kitty away. If your company is allergic, do your best to clean up cat hair.

The Kitty Sanctuary

An optional solution to all of these cat / guest dilemmas is confining your cat. If this is the answer you choose, try to avoid making your cat feel as if she's been kicked out of her own home. Make her sanctuary comfortable, safe, and special. Give her plenty of room with hiding places, a clean litter box, a bed, toys, fresh water, and food... perhaps a special snack (cat nip, canned cat food, etc.). Do NOT leave any windows open, as she may escape. It may also help to provide some light music to help drown the noises of the party.

Proper Cat Etiquette

For the cat who is participating in the festivities, the definition of proper cat etiquette is to be determined by the guests. For the cat enthusiast, hanging out with a life-of-the-party-cat in the lap and a game or two of chase-the-laser-pointer is probably fun. For those who are more interested in socializing with human companions, a "wallflower" cat who quietly sits on her cat tree is probably the ideal feline party-attendee.

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