Cat Likes and Dislikes: A Cat Parent's Experience

By Kevin Flynn September 22, 2018

I’ve been a cat parent my entire life.  I’ am 52 years old, and I have learned, often in spectacular fashion, that all cats are not created equal when it comes to likes and dislikes.  Many of the stereotypes we’ve come to accept about our feline friends have turned out to be fallacies.

Here is an example. My understanding about cats and water has always been that our kitties do not like to get wet. In fact, many of them simply hate water.  Yet I once lived with a cat who liked to swim with my dog (who she wasn’t supposed to like either). Explain that.

My point is that all cats are different. There are a few likes and dislikes that seem to be universal.  But as we all know, they are the most independent creatures on earth, and they will surprise you.  My two cats Fuzz and Furbie always do.  How many times have you stopped dead in your tracks and asked, “Did my cat really just do that?”


Do cats like the outdoors?

My cat Fuzz has been with me for eleven years.  She still goes out hunting daily. We live on a dead end street in a suburban neighborhood with lots of trees between houses.  When we moved in two years ago, there were mice in the basement, chipmunks in the eaves, and a colony of rabbits across the street.  None of them seem to be around anymore.

Like most predatory domestic cats, Fuzz enjoys leaving trophies for me on the doorstep. These “gifts” are often torn up badly, but she takes great pride in showing them to me. Like a good cat parent, I tell her what a beautiful creature she is.  I let her rub up against my leg, and I watch her roll around in the driveway.  Afterwards, I clandestinely dispose the remains of her playthings.

Unlike my other cat Furbie, Fuzz loves the outdoors. Even in the winter, she waits by the door and darts outside like an escaped convict the moment it opens. One of the joys I have in life is watching her run gracefully across my front lawn, seeking feline friends to play with.

Do cats really hate dogs?

Directly across the street from me is a dog named Sadie. She’s a sweet puppy who spends most of the day chained in the driveway, barking at the neighbors and any vehicles with the audacity to drive by her domain. Fuzz loves her. I often see them playing tag in the morning. Is this true affection or is she just toying with the restrained hereditary enemy? I opt for the former.

As for the dog thing, there is a nurture versus nature argument here. When Fuzz was only a year old (cat years) we lived with my brother, who had a Chow named Namba. To those not familiar, that is a big puffy dog with a reputation for being aloof and independent.  Fuzz and Namba developed a very close friendship.  They were inseparable. When the day ended, I would call Namba inside with a whistle and Fuzz would follow loyally on her heels.  Fuzz still comes when I whistle today.

Do cats like to be petted?

If you’re meeting a new cat for the first time, be very cautious about petting. Both of my cats enjoy it, but in different spots. Other felines I’ve met have attempted to bite or scratch when a hand is reached out to them. If you’re not sure, ask the cat parents. They will let you know what’s safe and what isn’t.

A good guide I’ve read for cat petting can found at PetMD. With my cats, Fuzz, the outdoor cat, is selective about who pets her and where. I tell my grandchildren all the time, “Be careful. If she doesn’t like it, she’ll bite you.” Sometimes they listen and occasionally they get nipped (but never in a dangerous way). When she allows them to pet, her favorite spots are behind the ears and under her chin.

Furbie, my indoor cat, loves everyone and demands that you pet her the moment you sit down. She is a bit on the heavy side and seems to be drawn to my “fat guy” friends the most. We have a running joke in the house that her favorite place to curl up is on a nice round belly. Being middle-aged with friends my own age, there’s a lot of those to choose from.

And then there’s the litter box …

Outdoor cats hate litter boxes. Fuzz won’t use one. She’ll wait patiently until we let her out (like a dog) or simply leave a gift in an inconvenient place if I don’t attend to her quickly enough. Furbie, on the other hand, who was raised indoors and is afraid of the sky, spends as much time in the box as my teenage son in the shower. It’s like a child’s sandbox to her.

One of the quirks I’ve noticed with Furbie is that she does not like scoopable or any kind of clumpable cat litter. That means instead of scooping, I have to dump and clean the box regularly. Does anyone else have this issue?

As for the little brown gifts that Fuzz leaves because she won’t use the litter box, I’ve started to spray certain parts of my rugs with a solution of apple cider vinegar and water. This seems to work. I concentrate on those “hidden” places where I don’t want to find cat droppings days after they’ve been left (like under the dining room table). She hates the smell and stays away.

Do cats dislike loud noises and change?

Two and a half years ago, my family was subjected to one of the worst nightmares you can go through - a house fire. My son, recently back from the military, knocked on our bedroom door at 2:00 AM to tell us the smoke detectors were going off.  The property being a multi-unit dwelling where that happened often, I told him to go back to bed. He insisted we get up, stating loudly, “The house is on fire.”

Springing out of bed, my first words were, “Get the cats.” This is when I noticed a pronounced difference between my two feline family members. Furbie, the timid house cat, was hiding and needed to be dragged out from under the couch. Fuzz, my warrior cat, was in the window watching the firetrucks.

This is where stereotypes go out the window. Cats don’t typically like loud noises and flashing lights, but Fuzz seems to be attracted to them. When we resettled a few weeks later (thanks to a great realtor and some timely financing), Furbie hid as most cats do. Fuzz went exploring in the back yard. She was so happy that I suspected her of starting the fire. We didn’t have a yard at the old house …

Expectations and “Punishing” your Cat

My wife, who loves our cats as dearly as I do, sometimes places expectations on them that they cannot live up to. To say that a cat should “know better” when she does something you don’t like is unrealistic. Cats are highly intelligent creatures, but they’re not human. Their actions and behaviors are dictated by instinct and habit, not human rational thought processes. Punishing them for that is not okay.

One of my pet peeves in this area is the use of the spray bottle to “discipline” or “train” a cat. It doesn’t work. Cats hate it, but it won’t stop them from scratching the couch. On the contrary, they’ll do it when you’re not around and stay away from you when you’re in the room. Do you want your cat to fear you? If that’s the way you think, get a dog. That type of training works with canines.

The Personalities of My Two Cats

Furbie wasn’t raised to be a “house cat.” She chose to be that way. Indoors, she’s the happiest animal on earth. Outdoors, she’s scared of her own shadow. Fuzz is just the opposite. She relishes breezy spring days and languishes in the sun during the summer. I love them both for who they are, and I don’t try to change them. Hopefully you’re doing the same with your feline family members.

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Kevin Flynn lives in Leominster, Massachusetts with his wife Evelyn, Fuzz, and Furbie.