LETTERS TO LUCINDA 6: Cat Behavior Solutions

black cat with glasses reading bookHello, all.  Again, Lucinda the literate cat is here to help solve another cat behavior problem.  Today I will be teaching you a bit about an issue of great importance to cats, and one you may find baffling.

Let’s start first with our question from a reader.  This one is from a Mr. Jack Lucas.  He says: Lucinda, I have a small problem.  I am a single man living with my cat, Felix.  I work as a salesman, and my sales territory is the entire state.

My cat does not like it when I leave.  In fact, when I return, he sometimes ignores me for a day or two, just to let me know he is not happy that I am gone so much.

I have tried taking him with me, but he does not travel well, and does not like motel rooms.

I am not sure what to do.  I love this cat, but I don’t want him to be unhappy all the time.  My sister says she will take him, and I am wondering if perhaps it would be best to give him to her.

What do you think, Lucinda?  Is there any way I can keep the cat and keep him happy at the same time.

     Dear Mr. Lucas:

You do, indeed, have a problem, and I sympathize, since you obviously care about Felix and want what is best for him.

I can offer two suggestions, neither of which you may choose as a solution.  But here goes:

1)  You can get a new sales job that allows you to stay in one place.  Then you will be home every night and your cat will learn to handle that.  When you leave for a long time, or when you attempt taking the cat with you, you are disturbing his established routine, and this upsets him.

You must understand that we cats are very territorial.  When we move into a place, White & orange cat rubbing face on benchwe must first mark the area with our scent.  We can do that so easily, as we have scent glands in many parts of our bodies.  The nine main ones are located on the outer ear flaps, temple, cheeks, mouth corners, under our jaw, between our toes, at the sides of the anus, and at the base and along our tail.

In more extreme cases, a male cat may spray his territory.  This practice, however, is intended more to lure in unsuspecting females and to ward off competing males.

In our base of operations, we establish a daily routine.  We select a time for morning and evening meals.  We patrol our territory to make sure all is well.  We know when our two-leggeds go off to work, and what time they come home.

We establish times to hunt, to nap, to play, and to bathe.  We hate changes of any kind in our routine.

Once this routine is established, we consult our inner clock to know where we are in the day’s schedule.  It is no accident that your cat wakes you up at the exact time he usually eats in the morning, or that he is sitting on your doorstep awaiting your return in the evening. At supper time he will be right at your heels, asking for that meal.

If you bring something home that smells strange, or that disturbs our ordinary patterncats staring at each other through door window when we try to identify it, we will be stressed.  Such an event can be unsettling.  For example, if we are introduced to a new pet, or if we are taken to the cat torturer (vet), these interruptions of the routine can be very uncomfortable.

Does Felix let you know when you return home after an absence that he is not pleased with you?  Some cats get so miffed that for a couple of days after their two-legged returns, they will have nothing to do with him.  Your cat wants to be sure you know that your behavior is unacceptable.

Thus, you see, any change in our daily expectations can cause us to be upset. Consider changing jobs as one solution.

2)  You can get married. As long as your cat likes your new partner, this solution works well.  Then, when you leave to do your sales job, your cat still has his routine and his home territory.  Granted, he will miss you, but he can spend valuable time training your new wife so she understands all his needs.

If you continue your same job and have to leave Felix for long periods of time, he will Tabby cat standing, rubbing person's letnot be happy with you.  Who feeds him while you are gone?  Does he have a warm body to curl up with at night?  Who loves him like you do? Who plays with him?

Perhaps if his routine is disturbed each time you leave, he might be happier if you moved him to your sister’s house.  You could still visit him, and he would be able to have the security of an established territory.

Our second question is from a cat named Isabel.  She says:

Why do my two-leggeds move around so much?  They find a good place to live, stay a couple months, then move again.  The two-leggeds seem to adapt to all these changes, but they are making me crazy.  I just want a peaceful life in one place with a daily routine I can control because I know what to expect.  

I am becoming anxious and short-tempered.  Why don’t they understand what all this moving about does to my peace of mind?

Dear Isabel,

Your two-leggeds obviously do not understand how important territory is to you.  They do not attach the same importance to territory and it causes adjustment problems for you each time they move.

In the wild, a cat, who is both predator and prey, must establish solid territorial Orange; tabby cat in confrontationboundaries.  These are for their own protection, and also allow them to monitor in case of interlopers.  They will defend their home turf.

The wild cat establishes an area where he sleeps and eats.  This is his home base.  He will select territory where he hunts and mates.  This is his home range.  His territory spreads out from his home base to cover an area where the hunting is good.

We who have become domesticated, meaning we who have chosen two-leggeds to own, have to adjust this territory idea to fit our present circumstances.  We establish our home base around the residence we share with our two-leggeds.

For many of us, this territory is only as large as the house, as some of us rarely go outside.  Pogo and I share a house and fenced yard as territory, but we never go beyond the fence, at least not by choice.

When Carlos lived here, he had a much larger territory.  He had a home base (house and fenced yard) and a home range (area outside the fence that was about as large as what you call a city block.)  That was because he loved  to hunt, and needed more than just the house and yard for his expeditions.

There are many stories of cats who traveled hundreds of miles to return to a place they regarded as home. In the last story I reviewed, we learned about a cat who traveled 1500 miles to get back to her home.  These cats wish to be reunited with their two-leggeds and they want to be back at their home base. The cats are so attached to their territory and family that they will attempt the near-impossible to return there.

Perhaps, if your two-leggeds move someplace a short distance away, you can try returning to the place they left.  I am not sure if they will get the message, but perhaps they will understand.  It might be worth a try.

The only other solution I can suggest is that you leave them to see if you can find a two-legged family that is more settled and not so anxious to move.  After all, in the best scenarios, we choose our two-legged family, and if the one we have is not working out, we can always look for a new home.

Be resourceful — you are a cat.  See if you can come up with a satisfactory solution to your problem.  I wish you well.

For more information about territorial behavior in cats, go to en.wikipedia.org

This concludes the column for this month.  Please comment below if you found it interesting or if you learned something.  If you have a question for Lucinda the literate cat, please write it in the comment section below this post.


12 Responses to LETTERS TO LUCINDA 6: Cat Behavior Solutions

  1. Jagi says:

    I know that my mother-in-law’s cat hates it when she leaves for the weekend. After reading your advice to the person who left their cat for two days, I imagine the solution you provided may involve him having to change his whole life around.

    Since cats are very moody as well as territorial, I wonder how the cat would view his spouse. I went to visit a friend of mine, she lived in a house where the cat had been abandoned by its owner. 

    My friend is a dog person, but the cat makes a constant appearance at her door. But when she sees my friend and not her owner, she runs away.

    • Fran Kelso says:

      Your comment is appreciated.  Yes, many cats get very miffed when they are left alone.  I think it is partly an abandonment issue, and then when the owner comes home, the cat feels the need to let him know he has erred.

      I don’t think cats are moody.  They just know what they want.  As long as the day goes smoothly, my cat is very happy.  If I don’t feed him at the expected time, I will certainly hear about it, but that is  hunger talking, not a bad mood.  

      I feel very sorry for the cat who has been abandoned.  Of course she will not respond to your friend, because she wants to find her owner.  She’s probably grieving for the owner, at some level, and she can also sense that your friend doesn’t really want her and that she likes those horrible creatures called dogs.  Cats can sense when they are not really welcome.  Wish she lived close to me — I would lure her in and love her up.

  2. Jen says:

    Thank you Lucinda. I think that you are right about the sales person. It would be good if he could do a job where he could work from home so that his cat would have company. I also think the idea of getting married is good because there would be more people around. For example maybe the cat needs water and no one’s there to get them water.
    I also like what you said about the effects of someone who moves a lot on cats. That is important to be aware of.
    I like your writing and I appreciate Your creativity. I hope you keep writing things like this. Take care.

    • Fran Kelso says:

      Jen, Lucinda here, responding. I liked your comments.

      I would love to hear from the sales person to see if he will follow my advice.  It must be very tiring to do all that traveling.  I know I would not like it.  I feel sure he would be happier if he worked closer to home.  His kitty would surely appreciate it. 

      And getting a wife?  What’s not to like?  He has his cat, but he must still get lonesome for a companion.  I see how you two-leggeds are — you really seem to want a mate.  Not me!  I had enough of that mating stuff in my younger years.  Love you and leave you, that’s what they all do.  Also, the wife needs to learn about my needs and my important schedule, so if he goes off to work and leaves me with her, I can teach her many things.  

      I do enjoy writing, even though I am a cat, and plan to continue this pastime.

      Lucinda

  3. Henderson says:

    Is it just me or is this post hillarious. First seeing the cat with the bulging glasses in his eyes and the book. Looks like typical scholar cat. Then seeing he or she is answering to topical questions from both cat and human is totally awesome. This replies are awesome though they might not answer some of my questions. Great post by the way.

    • Fran Kelso says:

      I would hope you would find this post amusing.  I think Lucinda would be happy for that as well. Thank you so much for your comment.

      You mention that some of Lucinda’s replies might not answer some of your questions.  If you have questions you would like to ask her, send them to me and I will ask her for you.

  4. crownwole says:

    Truly, this article is dazzling. You make my day with the clarification on how feline appended significance to there regions on account of modification issues and their day by day schedule. They are additionally minding to their proprietor. Moreover I think as a feline proprietor, they should be constantly accessible when their feline needs their consideration.

    • Fran Kelso says:

      Thank you for your comment.  My cats would agree with you, as they think my most important job is paying attention to their needs.  I do my best to be accessible, at least most of the time.

  5. Abayomi says:

    WOW!!! Great article and educative, I enjoyed this write-up,cats are so funny domestic animal,they are susceptible to the environment and do not like leaving them for a long time,you said in your review that there are many stories of cats who traveled hundreds of miles to return to a place they regarded as home;am very surprised about this statement,that cats can be so intelligent as that,I gained immensely from your article, rock higher in online business,thank you.

    • Fran Kelso says:

      Thank you for your comment.  Yes, cats are very amazing creatures, and they have their ideas about how the world should work.  They are very smart, and have talents that we as humans do not have.  They are well-equipped to handle their world, even though they do things differently than we would.  

      Lucinda and I are glad you gained from our article.

  6. Aly says:

    Cat behavior is fascinating. All cats are unique and what works for one will not work for another. Often it’s a matter of trial and error to figure out what will work with a cat… and they will usually let you know fairly quickly if you are doing something that they do not enjoy. I have found that they are very smart creatures and are well suited to communicate about the things they like / don’t like in their life. Usually I’ve found that cats train their 2-legged owners to work for them, not the other way around.

    • Fran Kelso says:

      Aly, thank you for your comment.  It is very true that cats train their owners.  How else can we learn their important schedule?  They do seem to be very smart.  My cats have always figured out things quite well, and are usually one step ahead of me.

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