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Your Cat's Seven Pet Peeves

By: Cal Orey

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Even the coolest cat can suddenly become a bundle of nerves when subjected to annoyances – call them pet pet peeves – that drive them crazy.

Theresa Todd saw that happen when a neighbor began petting her new cat Kerouac. "He's so cute!" Todd's neighbor gushed, only to have Kerouac begin hissing loudly. "Kerouac!" Todd cried as her neighbor jumped back in surprise. "What's gotten into you?"

The fact is cats can get riled and complain in a variety of ways, such as fleeing, nonstop meowing or hissing at strangers, in response to negative stimuli. Here are some common pet peeves and how to avoid them:

  • Being tripped on. This is probably the number one bummer for cats. "Cats don't like it either when you step on their tails because it hurts." says certified animal behaviorist Mary Burch, author of Volunteering With Your Pet.

    What you can do: Change your walk pattern. "Teach yourself to look first, then step," says Burch. You can also teach your cat to move when your feet get near by firmly saying, "Move," as you approach. If your cat doesn't budge, gently guide her out of the way. Once your cat does move, praise her with hugs and "Good, kitty."

  • Loud noises. Cats will naturally flee from thunder, construction work and fireworks. "Loud noises usually don't signal good things to a cat," says John C. Wright, author of Is Your Cat Crazy?

    What you can do: Don't feed the fear by over-reacting and pampering your cat. Just chill out instead. "Act calm and rational," says Burch. "Provide your cat with a safe, secure place (such as crate or bedroom). The key is for you to act like everything is under control."

  • Bothersome dogs. While cats and dogs can live in peace, some dogs can get under a cat's skin, too. "Pesky canines ruin the peaceful lives of cats by barking, biting or chasing the cats," says Burch.

    What you can do: Socialize your animals early, do introductions slowly and separate young and old pets. Feed your pets at the same time – but in separate areas to avoid squabbles. Also, provide safe spots for your cat should the dog decide a game of chase might be fun, explains Burch.

  • Litter box changes. Linda Hill noticed that once she exchanged her old litter box for a new-and-improved one, her cat started eliminating in the bathtub instead of her box. That's no surprise to Betsy Cambarbri, animal behaviorist at Peninsula Humane Society in San Mateo, Calif. "Cats don't like change," she says.

    What you can do: "If you have a winning litter box situation, don't change it," says Cambarbri, who also advises changing the litter often "because cats are neatniks."

  • Being tossed out of their favorite spots. Cats also have their favorite places and get bugged by being shooed away. "It ticks them off because you're violating their Queendom," says Wright.

    What you can do: You can relocate, relocate, relocate. "If your cat prefers your stove or kitchen counter tops and you prefer that the cat not be there," says Burch, "make sure the cat has alternative places with similar features." You may want to invest in a cat tree.

  • Too much attention. "A lot of pats from new people can drive a feline up the wall," Wright says. Being picked up also can turn the sweetest cat from nice to naughty.

    What you can do: "Let guests know that if your cat wants to be petted, she'll come to them," he says.

  • Too little attention. When a cat comes to you and you don't acknowledge her presence, she may find it a nuisance. "They think it's rude," says Wright, "because the cat has invited an interaction. And that's a big deal for a cat."

    What you can do: Teresa Todd goes one step further to make her cat feel welcome. "Whenever Kerouac greets me I stop what I'm doing and say "Hi Kitty. What's up?" she says. That way both her cat and his needs are recognized. It's an instant pet peeve buster.

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