Amy D. Shojai is a certified animal behavior consultant and the award-winning author of 23 pet care books, including "Complete Kitten Care" and "Complete Care for Your Aging Cat."


We love our cats but still complain about their annoying behavior problems. Why do they scratch furniture and caterwaul all night when we are perfect parents?

The problem is that while we are worrying about their behavior issues, we might be better off focusing on our behavior instead. Here are eight common things owners do to "hiss off" the cat.

1. Underappreciating the Need to Claw: Cats claw to mark territory, to exercise and relieve stress. Owners annoy cats by not providing the right claw object in the right location or by replacing a favorite scratching post. A nasty-clawed-ugly-old-post with scratch graffiti is like a child's favorite binky and can't be easily replaced with a spanking-new post.

2. Surprising Him With the Cat Carrier and a Trip to the Vet: Being stuffed into an unfamiliar cat carrier and then grabbed, poked and probed by scary-smelling strangers (vet alert!) makes cats hit the panic button. Savvy kitties teach owners a lesson by disappearing each time we reach for the carrier. Acclimate your cat to its bag by first making the cat carrier part of the furniture in the room. Then add catnip toys or fuzzy bedding to make it more soothing and appealing.

3. Buying the Wrong Litter Box or Litter: Hit-or-miss potty behavior is the top complaint of cat owners but we often bring it on ourselves without realizing it.

- Changing cat litter. Do you have a favorite TP? Cats get attached to favorite litter, and switching prompts some cats to take their business elsewhere.

- Getting a too-small box. If you have a jumbo-size cat, most standard litter boxes will be too small and he will have to hang over the edge or look elsewhere.

- Choosing a covered box. Though this might appeal to you, it doesn't work for all cats. A covered box condenses smells, which can make the box a place the cat wants to avoid. These kinds of boxes also often block the view, so cats can't see if someone is sneaking up on them.

- Having too few boxes. Your cats might be acting up because they don't like sharing a littler box. Extra boxes will reduce the hiss quotient.

4. Leaving Him Behind: Your cats get used to being fed, petted, played with and snuggled at certain times, and your absence during a business trip or vacation throws a wrench in kitty expectations. It can take him a week to get accustomed to a change in schedule, so not only is his schedule upset when you leave, it is also upset when you return.

5. Oversleeping: Why would an owner want to sleep late when a kitty bowl needs to be filled? Cats just don't understand it. Which is why they raise a ruckus to point out food bowl infractions or other owner irresponsibility. Even a small change can annoy your cat.

6. Forcing Indoor Incarceration: Cats that have experienced the great outdoors can become distraught when "jailed" exclusively indoors. Sure, they're safer indoors away from dangers, but cats find closed doors and barred windows crazy-making. Keep the annoyance level down by recreating the outdoors inside with challenges like cat towers and puzzle toys.

7. Cheating With a New Pet: Bringing a new pet (especially another cat) into the house turns up the hiss-teria. How would you feel if asked to share your potty, dinner plate, toys, bed and love-of-your-life human with a stranger off the street? To the cat, the interloper looks funny, smells scary and disrupts the all-important routine. It can take weeks or months for cats to accept newcomers as family members.

8. Declawing: This doesn't just annoy your cat, surgical claw removal offends many cats on an emotional and physical level. It strips away normal kitty defenses and changes kitty stride/balance. Yes, some cats manage to suck it up and soldier on, but others demonstrate hissed-off status by avoiding the litter box (it hurts to dig with sore toes!) or biting more often in defense.

Of course, every cat is unique and your cat might have an entirely different list that causes hissy fits. Understanding what annoys our cats helps us be better owners and enhances the love we share.


Amy D. Shojai also appears on Animal Planet's "Cats-101" and "Dogs-101" and lives in North Texas with a senior citizen Siamese and a smart-aleck German shepherd. Read her blog on Red Room.