Pets don’t typically hate their people — but they can feel insecurity, fear, shyness, irritation and anxiety.
Those negative feelings manifest in avoiding contact, scratching, biting and hiding. And all of this can seem like hate, but it really isn’t.
So, if you feel like your cat hates you, you may be reassured to know that this likely isn’t the case. Keep reading, and I’ll explain why.
Cats Have Different Personalities
Cat behavior can be tricky to understand, and personalities vary widely from cat to cat.
Some cats enjoy a lot of closeness with humans. They’re snugglers or talkers, and they are usually found laying on a laptop or a desk when their human is trying to get some work done.
Other cats tend to be more standoffish. Some can even come across as hateful or aggressive.
Does Your Cat Really Hate You?
Let me ask you this: What it is about your cat’s behavior that is coming across as “hateful”?
Do they bite and scratch you? Wiggle to get down when held? Avoid sitting on or near you?
Cats bite, scratch and avoid contact for any number of reasons.
In order to understand these behaviors, you should determine what’s triggering your cat to respond the way they do.
Here are a few possible reasons your cat may be upset:
- New pet, child or adult in the household
- Move to new house
- Recently adopted
- Illness/medical issue
- Major routine change (for example, you used to stay at home, but now you have a full-time job)
- Closeness forced on a cat who is uncomfortable with it
- Outdoor cats restricted to indoors
- History of abuse
Let’s take a closer look at these situations and how they might affect a cat’s behavior.
Changes in Routine
When there’s a new person, new pet or new routine in the household, that causes some significant changes to the hierarchy and routine.
Cats can become stressed and irritated when new people try to pet them, or when another animal enters their territory. This can cause them to lash out and demonstrate their displeasure with the changes.
Examples of changes in the normal routine that your cat may hate:
- If you’ve recently found a new job and your hours away from home have changed, this can trigger undesirable behaviors in your cat.
- New roommates or even visitors can be a source of stress. Someone may accidentally close off a room your cat is accustomed to sitting in, or close a door to the room the litter box is in.
- Bringing home a new pet may be exciting for you, but for the existing pets new additions can be anything but. Cats can be territorial and have been known to guard that territory fiercely. This can translate to hissing, spitting, refusing to allow other cats to use a litter box and even outright fighting.
- Lastly in this category — children. Most children do not understand how to properly approach or pet an animal.
- And babies? They can be quite disruptive to a household routine, and your cat may react negatively to this as well. Just remember to give your cat as much attention as you can and allow them to hide while they learn about this new person in their home.
Moving to a New Home
Moving to a new home is stressful for everyone, including your pets. Your cat will need time to adjust to the new scents, placement of objects and routines.
To help your cat feel like they have a safe space in all the upheaval, make sure the litter box stays the same and that your cat has access to familiar toys and beds. Try to keep feeding, medication and treat times the same.
If you know you’re going to have a day or two where things are going to be crazy with people going in and out, it’s not a bad idea to have your cat stay with a friend or be boarded.
Yes, their routine may change and they may still be stressed, but you won’t have to worry about them escaping outdoors or being accidentally trod upon by the movers.
For more moving advice, see “4 Tips for Surviving Moving Day When You Have a Cat.”
Restricted From Going Outdoors
At some point, you may decide to transition your outdoor or indoor/outdoor cats to strictly indoors in an effort to keep them safer.
The transition period is often fraught with frustration for both cat and cat parent. Cats previously allowed outdoors will not understand why they suddenly must stay in and may demonstrate their displeasure in any number of ways. You can expect to hear a lot of vocalization, anxiety and perhaps destructive tendencies.
In some cats, these outbursts subside. But other cats will never transition peacefully to indoor restrictions, and you’ll have to decide whether to allow them back outdoors or tolerate their changed behavior.
Catios, outdoor enclosed areas designed for cats, may offer a compromise for pet parents who want their cats to remain indoors but are going toe-to-toe with a cat who will not accept the new limitations.
Prefers More Personal Space
Some cats simply prefer more personal space than others.
My cat, Harrison, is a perfect example. I adopted him when he was 6 months old. Now, 15 years later, he’s lived with me his whole life and gets a lot of attention — but he’s never been the type of cat that enjoys a lot of contact. He doesn’t like being held or groomed and has no desire to sit on anyone’s lap.
Harrison shows his affection by wanting to be near me — just not on me.
If I sit on the couch, he’ll sprawl by my feet. If I’m on my bed, he’ll be on the floor nearby. He’ll occasionally offer a purr as I walk by and allows me to pet him around the ears as much as I like.
You may have a cat who prefers personal space, but don’t mistake this for hate. Look for your cat’s personal indicators of affection — and don’t try to force it.
MSPCA-Angell, an animal protection society, puts it this way:
“Stroll past a few cat cages at the shelter, you’ll notice that some cats meow for special attention, while some others simply lie back and gaze at you with an air of arrogance. There are as many different personalities of cats as there are cats in the shelter. Which disposition is best for you? You have to decide.”
Before adopting a cat, spend some time with them to see if their personality is a match for yours.
For additional reading, be sure to check out “Your Cat Fits One of These 5 Personality Types — Which One?”
Forcing Closeness on the Cat
As mentioned, some cats simply don’t like to be held — like Harrison. I respect his personal boundaries and preferences, and as a result, he’s a happy cat.
Understanding a cat’s boundaries is important because forcing them to accept closeness and hands-on affection is likely to result in a few bites and scratches and foster mistrust. Not because your cat “hates” you, but because they’re trying to let you know where their comfort zone is.
As a pet sitter, I have cats who run the gamut from wanting to stand on my head to preferring me to come in, say hello from across the room, put food in the bowl and then leave.
My job is to respect their comfort zone, and whatever response from me makes them comfortable is what they get.
According to Tufts University, “Sudden alterations in your cat’s behavior can be indicative of serious medical or psychological issues requiring prompt veterinary attention.”
Behavior changes are one of the best indicators of ill health because cats usually try to conceal pain or illness.
Some behavior changes to watch for include:
- Suddenly begins toileting outside the litter box
- Shows a lack of interest in grooming or grooms excessively
- Increases in vocalizations and types of vocalizations
- Manifests physical symptoms (such as limping)
- Has a sudden increase or decrease in weight or eating habits
- Demonstrates social reclusiveness even if normally a friendly/cuddly cat
Note any of the above behaviors. And if they continue more than a day or so, contact your cat’s veterinarian.
Check out this video for 10 signs your cat is stressed:
The sad reality is that hundreds, if not thousands, of animals are in abusive situations right this minute.
Abuse teaches animals that people are not to be trusted, and it can be difficult to overcome these lessons in a cat who has been abused or neglected.
Adopting a cat? Try to get as much of a history as you can. Some adoptees are strays who were never claimed, and some are ferals who are young enough to perhaps overcome their fearfulness of people. There’s a big difference between the two.
“A stray cat is a pet who has been lost or abandoned, is used to contact with people and is tame enough to be adopted,” explains The Humane Society of the United States. “A feral cat is the offspring of stray or other feral cats and is not accustomed to human contact. Feral cats are usually too fearful to be handled or adopted.”
With some cats, all it takes is time and patience to win them over. Others will never be comfortable with closeness from their humans, and we will need to be content with seeing them thrive after a difficult past.
For more advice, see “Dealing With Traumatized Rescue Cats.”
[accordion tag=p clicktoclose=”true”]
[accordion-item title=”+ Click to see the sources for this article.”]
- “Biting/Scratching.” MSPCA–Angell. https://www.mspca.org/pet_resources/bitingscratching/.
- Landsberg, Gary, Wayne Hunthausen, DVM, and Lowell Ackerman. Behavior Problems of the Dog and Cat. Elsevier Health Sciences. 2012. https://books.google.com/books?id=eYbVBMkYvSAC&pg=PA329#v=onepage&q&f=false.
- “Feline Behavior Problems: Aggression.” Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. December 2016. https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/feline-behavior-problems-aggression.
- “Aggression in Cats.” American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/cat-care/common-cat-behavior-issues/aggression-cats.
- “The Top 7 Changes in Cat Behavior.” Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. August 2017. https://news.vet.tufts.edu/2017/08/the-top-7-changes-in-cat-behavior/.