Cat Manners & the Postmodern Cat Lady
On a scale of 1 to "cat lady," I'm a 752. The sponsored posts on my Instagram feed are for things like sweatshirts with a pouch for your cat. For basically my whole life, cats have been my jam. They're hilarious, independent, soft, and they have cuddle motors ... but they can also be total d*cks.
I hate that the picture most people have in their heads of a cat lady is some sad sack spinster with a filthy, stinky, hairy house and no social life. Most of the cat people I know have cats because they are low maintenance and great for people with super active social lives. I'd like to introduce the idea of the "postmodern cat lady" ("lady" being about trope, not gender): someone who loves cats, and people, and isn't covered in cat hair ... most of the time.
Here are some sweet tips I've learned along the way to help your cats not be jerks and to avoid being the stereotype we all know you're not:
DON'T TALK TO YOUR CATS. Seriously, don't. I know this sounds counterintuitive, but adult cats don't meow at each other to communicate. Your cats are meowing at you because they think you're meowing at them. The more you talk to them, the more they will talk to you. If you love loud cats, go for it, but they will only get louder as they get older so I wouldn't recommend it. There are plenty of other ways to show your affection for your cats.
PLAY WITH THEM. If you're wondering why your cats make regular trips to crazy town, it might be in your best interest to play with them. Most cats love playtime (aside from my cat, Lefty). If you're a super lazy human, get a laser pointer, and while you're watching your favorite shows, just point it around the room and watch your cats go nuts. Always have toys for them to play with when you're not home. Bust out the catnip for cats who are less playful. They all need exercise and stimulation.
THEY'RE EASIER TO TRAIN THAN YOU THINK. Because I'm a cat lady, a few years back, I went to a cat circus and became a little obsessed with the idea of training Chewie, my smart one (don't tell Lefty I said that). Within two weeks at a maximum of five minutes per day, with a clicker and some treats, I trained Chewie to sit, flop, give me five, and say hi. She mainly just flops for food these days because I didn't keep up with the training, but the point is that cats are easier to train than you think they are and capable of better manners too.
YOUR HOUSE SHOULDN'T SMELL LIKE A LITTER BOX. Generally, unless there's something wrong with your cat, or they just used the litter box before a guest arrives, your house shouldn't smell gross. If your cat is peeing or pooping everywhere, there's very likely something wrong. I had an issue with Lefty pooping next to the litter box and found that he didn't like the top-loading litter box because he didn't fit very well. I put an open litter box next to the old one and he hasn't pooped anywhere else since. Unless you have only one cat, the number of litter boxes you have should be the number of cats plus one. That's right folks if you have two cats, you should have three litter boxes and you should keep them all clean. This isn't just for you, it's also for the cats. If you don't clean the litter box, you're basically asking them to use the cat version of the bathroom from "Trainspotting" every time they go.
TRY TO KEEP A CAP ON THE TUMBLEWEEDS. I'm lucky because I love vacuuming, but if you don't, maybe you shouldn't have cats. I vacuum all the time and still find kitty hair tumbleweeds in my house. I use a brush on my upholstery regularly and try do do extra cleaning if I'm going to have folks over. My favorite compliment is "OMG kitty! I didn't realize you had cats!" Brushing your cats regularly (if they like it) is also a good way to get rid of excess hair.
KEEP PLANTS OUT OF REACH. Chewie could care less, but Lefty loves to eat plants and I love having lots of plants. I use various methods to keep plants away from Lefty: terrariums, hanging plants, plant stands, high shelves, stinky plants like rosemary or basil, cactuses etc. Even if you think plants are out of reach, always check whether they're poisonous to your pets. Also, providing plants that are edible for cats like cat grass, will help them stay away from other plants.
TRY CALMING AIDS FOR CATS WHO ARE D*CKS. For a long time, right after I would fall asleep, Lefty would start meowing, no, yelling like a banshee throughout the night to the point that I was becoming sleep deprived. I was desperate. I tried behavioral techniques, calming spray, calming treats and seriously nothing worked until I got him a calming collar and ho-ly crap it worked from the day I put it on him. I couldn't believe it. It's not perfect but it's cut down this behavior by like 90 percent, which is AMAZING. Also, meowing at night could be a sign of health issues so make sure you're making regular vet visits.
KEEP THEM OFF THE COUNTERS. Chewie thinks she's the alpha of the house. She wants to be above everyone. She's slowly learning that I'm the alpha (after 10 years), but until recently, she would do things like try to eat food off the butcher block while I was cooking, which in my book is flipping unacceptable. I started employing the tin-can-full-of-marbles technique. It's very effective. I suspect that some folks would say it's a little loud or mean, but I feel like one shake of the tin can has corrected a behavior that otherwise would require frequent and indefinite pushing and reprimanding. It took about a week and a half of shaking the marble can once whenever she was on the counter, and now she mostly sits on the counter stools, which is fine with me. I'm sure I'll have to occasionally shake it, but it's way more effective than telling her to get down and watching her jump from surface to surface in my kitchen before she complies.
AVOID SCRATCHED UP FURNITURE. The saddest thing in my book about having cats is not being able to have knobby, woolen, woven, mid-century upholstery. But them's the breaks. I have exclusively microfiber (mid-century inspired) furniture. The cats don't touch it for the most part. I don't know if that's the case with all cats, but mine don't really mess with it. Occasionally I'll find them trying to scratch it but it's rare. Also, regardless of what texture your upholstery is, you should most definitely have a scratching post. Cats like the feeling of sinking their nails into something and pulling on it. This scratching post has worked really well for me.
GIVE THEM A BED TO SLEEP IN. If your cats sleep in a cat bed, they won't get as much hair all over your furniture. It never works that way though, you get a cat bed, and your cat will sniff it and then walk away. I've found that putting something I've worn or something they've slept on in the bed will help it smell familiar and they'll sleep in it. Both of my cats go through periods of sleeping in each cat bed and neither do all the time but they do a lot of the time which means they're not sleeping on my head.
I hope this is helpful for the cat fanatics and all the cats they love.
UPDATE: I have upgraded my mason jar with marbles to a tin can of marbles. Depending on the amount of marbles in the jar and how hard you shake it, the glass container could chip or crack. The tin can makes as good of a noise but has no risk of cracking.
ALSO: The calming collar that Lefty is wearing does not seem to cut down the 'I want in!' and 'I want out!' sounds during the summer when I have my A/C on and need to keep my bedroom door closed. I will update if I find something that helps with that issue.