National Geographic Daily News
Photo of a cat in a garden reacting to a head scratch.

Could petting your cat stress the feline out? An anthrozoologist says not so much.

Photograph by Stephen St. John, National Geographic Stock

Katia Andreassi

National Geographic

Published October 20, 2013

Could petting your cat really stress the animal out? Headlines started appearing last week about a study that supposedly showed just that. But much to the relief of cat owners who thought they would have to keep their paws off their precious felines, one of the study authors quickly issued a release climbing down from such a conclusion.

Stating that the study had been misinterpreted, Rupert Palme of the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, Austria, assured cat owners that they "can carry on stroking their four-legged friends without worry."

We spoke to John Bradshaw, the foundational director of the Anthrozoology Institute at the U.K.'s University of Bristol and author of the new book Cat Sense, about the real stress worries for pet cats and the other hot-button cat issues of the day.

Let's start with the stress study. Do we stress out our cats by petting them?

The study has been very widely misreported, which is a shame really since it is a very interesting study. But the wrong aspects of it have been picked up on. First of all, I talked to Daniel Mills [of the U.K.'s University of Lincoln], who was the senior researcher on this. I don't think what they have found can in anyway be interpreted as stroking cats, any type of cats, makes them stressed. I think it could be true in some cats, but that's not to say this study showed that.

I think what they have shown is that there are some kinds of cats that are very anxious about something, and you pick that up from the stress hormones they are excreting as well as the fact that they are very nervous when they are being stroked. They aren't stressed because they are being stroked; they are stressed because something in their lives is making them very twitchy and very apt to overreact to things. But [the researchers] weren't able to pinpoint what that was.

What sort of things should cat owners keep an eye out for when it comes to stressed-out cats?

Stress in the animal comes through in poor health. There are two things that particularly show up. One is skin problems, so the cat is either losing some fur or grooming too much in one particular place so that they have a bare patch on their skin or even an ulcer. The second one is cystitis [a urinary tract infection], which is actually quite common in cats.

The general signs of stress in cats are not actually that easy to identify because they are just not very demonstrative animals. They tend to hide their feelings when they are feeling unhappy. Having said that, a cat that spends a lot of time hiding, under the furniture or up very high in the room, on top of closets and that sort of thing—that is often a sign of stress. The cat is having to get itself in a good, defensive position all the time before it can feel comfortable.

Can cats live happily in a house with other cats?

Yes, they can, but it's not as easy to achieve a happy coexistence between cats as it is with dogs. Most dogs will like to meet other dogs, and they will quite quickly work out a relationship between them. They've got the body language, the signals to do that. The problem with cats is that they don't have the same sophisticated signaling system that dogs do.

But there are some things you can do to make sure two cats do get along. The first thing is it's a good idea to pick cats that have already lived together, and the best solution is often two cats from the same litter. Cats who have not lived together since they were young, you need to do a kind of careful introduction. The best way to do that is to mimic how the two cats would probably find out about each other, which is by their smells.

Can cats be content living indoors?

Cats, in my view anyways, do not need an awful lot of physical space to live in. What they need is a basic, secure place to live in that is interesting. The owner of an indoor cat needs to pay more attention to the cat, take more trouble to make the cat's life interesting.

With an ordinary alley cat, most people in the U.K. do still let them outdoors, but we're not a nation of apartment dwellers—we like our houses. I've got colleagues who have done studies on indoor cats in places like Switzerland and France where apartment dwelling is much more common, and there don't seem to be major problems associated with it. You don't suddenly see a certain kind of psychological disorder in cats that are kept indoors—particularly if that's all they've known.

There's also pressure from conservationists to keep cats indoors. (See "Hello Kitty! Please Don't Kill Me!")

If you look at these reports [about wildlife killed by cats] carefully, the conclusion tends to be that the damage is done by feral cats, where there is damage. That's not to say that cats don't kill birds and mammalsthey do—but the real question from a conservation standpoint ought to be if this is having any lasting effect.

Going back to your average cat owner who is feeling guilty about a few birds that come in, I think that's been slightly overdone. Rather than feel guilty about having a cat, if you are in a typical suburban area and there isn't any particularly rare wildlife around, do something for the birds. Get some bird feeders [and] put them up in areas where the cats can't get them. That way you are kind of balancing out any kind of effect your cat might have.

Why have cats maintained so much of their wild behavior?

The idea that they have been domesticated for so long is really a little bit overstated.

Your average cat, you know who the mother was because you went to get the kitten from somewhere. But you probably won't know who the father is because female cats go out and select their own mates. Essentially, that is the mating behavior of a wild animal, not a domesticated animal at all, because they are selecting who they mate with. Cats are not really domesticated in the sense that most dogs are. Most dogs have some sort of pedigree in their background, whereas most cats don't.

Declawing has become a controversial practice in America. What's your take on it? Should it be banned, or should it be an option for cats with behavior problems? (See "New Documentary Condemns Declawing of Cats.")

Now when you say "behavior problems," what people mean is that they don't like their soft furnishings scratched or their drapes, and that to me is not a behavior problem. That's the owner's problem. It is indeed an emotive issue. And in the European Union, including the U.K., it's illegal. It's cast as a mutilation, that you are essentially mutilating the animal's body for human benefit, not for the animal's.

I think that clawing behavior is a natural part of cat behavior. They need to have an outlet for it. Again, training can help a great deal, but the idea that you can have a cat without claws, I would honestly say to someone like that, are you sure you really want a cat? Or do you just want something fluffy you can stroke? In which case, go get yourself a soft toy or two.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Follow Katia Andreassi on Twitter.

52 comments
roya ardehali
roya ardehali

this is a pretty cool story because I like cats and im that crazy cat person in my class lol so Im doing my boring project on this kinda cool story!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!11 lol

lee o.
lee o.

I am a cat lover and all my cat have been declawed and stay inside and have been healthy sweet pets

Lydia Ivanova
Lydia Ivanova

An interesting article. And I was glad to read the author was totally against declawing. It's sad that people consider clawing a behavioral problem when it is not. Every cat is different but I've observed 3 cats (mine included) and noticed that all I had to do was pick the material they liked most to claw and make a scratching post of it - a huge one at that to offer them some climbing options.

For all those who think declawing is the only option, I say, it is not! Vet clinics now offer nail caps - for more aggressive cats, but trimming also works for the calmer ones. And for those who think that their cats didn't mind the declawing - Yes, they do mind it! Declawing is amputation of the first knuckle, and cats walk on their toes. How would you like walking on amputated toes? For the sake of the argument, let's say the phantom pain goes away, their toes would probably always feel tender, they would always feel insecure because, unlike us, humans, their animal instinct tells them they have lost their first line of defense - the claws. They are not defenseless, of course - sharp teeth can draw blood too, but their self-confidence is probably gone. I'd rather have a "naughty" cat than a mutilated one. One thing my cat taught me is that if we play by her rules, we won't have any problems. That doesn't mean that she is the Mistress of the House but we did make her a full member of our family and we never forget that she's an animal and has her animal needs - happy cat means happy owner.

And finally, for all people who think of getting a cat, here's a piece of advice - always have in mind that you will be getting a CAT not a dog. Cats are not dogs and the two species should not be compared. They have different personalities, different needs, and speak a different "language". If you research their behavior and language, you will learn to communicate with your pet and actually get to enjoy having it.

Dror Nagar
Dror Nagar

every cat have a different carcture like human, and act and response differently as well.

i have two cats, one is female 19 years old, and  very mutch like to craddle on me untill she decide she had enough and dont dare to move while she's on you. my other cat a very big male 10 years old, come to have a pat and to be spoiled and doesn't leave you, unless he decide to do so.

Donna Herrick-Cronk
Donna Herrick-Cronk

I have 2 cats 65 days apart in age (got from same breeder).  They are in door cats, they DONOT like to go outside!!! will watch all from windows , bur put them out side with yourself and they run to the door and start picking to get in!!  Our cats are de clawed and don't seem to mind  (they can really hit items with their paws.

pat bost
pat bost

I have had many indoor/outdoor cats that lived to a ripe old age and never harmed the wild life. The trick is to have them grow up in a location and slowly get to know it as they get older. Moving a cat out of its original territory can confuse it and open it to unknown hazards. They have to gradually relearn what is safe. And of course if you live on a busy street it would be better not to let them out.

My neutered male who lived to 22 years even stood at the curb to listen for cars on our quiet side street before crossing and I made sure he had a reflective collar. He had a few minor fights with some other cats, but that is normal cat behavior. They work things out and come to an agreement and avoid each other by roaming at different times of day to avoid each other. First hot night of Spring he would go renegotiate his neighborhood and would not come home until morning.  As he grew older he stayed closer to home and in his last days he just went out for a few minutes because he hated the litter box.  

I found that if you give your cat high quality food and a variety of treats while you play with them to recreate pray behaviors they get it out of their system and leave wildlife alone. Mine are fascinated by watching wildlife  but never "hunt" them because they hunt at home daily. They may sleep a lot but when they are awake cats need your time and attention.

Cats have individual personalities. My 22 year old was a snuggle bug, but on his own terms. They will let you know how much interaction they want. Let them approach you or even invite them by calling them, but if they do not come, no means no. 

My 16 year old loves to be pet and scratched and even loves to sleep right up against me but do not smother her in your arms. She checks in with me every few hours for some attention and then goes her way. Some cats, like some people just like their alone time.  Others will not leave you alone.  So choose your cat wisely especially if you get an adult who is already set in their ways. But even if you get a kitten it is no sure thing they will grow up to act the way you wish them to act. And never take a kitten away from it mom too young because mom teaches her kittens cat edict for the first 8 weeks.

 If you adopt a cat or kitten from a shelter, they may have a history that create a behavior problem, but just like adopting a child you deal with the problem and love them anyway. Make sure you are willing to take that on. A good shelter will tell you the cat's history and will give their personality profile.  They also have a return policy if you take a pet home and it does not fit your home or circumstances, so going to a no kill shelter will ease you mind if you need to get a different cat.

Also remember, cats get old, just like people they change and get sick in their old age. Are you willing to care for them and spend the money on the vet bills when they have old age problems? They need teeth cleaning and sometime extractions.  They can even get diabetes and need special diets and shots daily. Like people they get arthritis and need medication. Many even get cancer. My 22 year old cats immune system was not all that good at the end and he got infections easily. Are you willing to commit to this critter when they are old and gray and repay them for the life of joy they have given you? Make sure when you see that cute little kitty that you are willing.

Hannah Foster
Hannah Foster

I think this sort of highlights a very interesting point. In my experience, a lot of unhappy cat owners sort of have a dog mindset. Just because cats seem to always be scaled against dogs in the pet world, does not mean that they are in any way comparable to dogs. That would be like trying to compare a horse to a bear. So if you're angry because your cat isn't getting along with another animal in your home or neighborhood, or if your cat isn't "doing what it's told", or responding positively to "training", you might need to take another look at yourself. Are you holding this cat up to dog expectations? In that case, you either need to learn how to live and love your cat for what it is, or get yourself a dog.

Adriana Linden
Adriana Linden

Cats are not toys and need to be allowed their space.  Be sensitive to their moods and don't try to force petting & cuddles when they have had enough or are not interested, and you will avoid a lot of scratches.

Indoor versus outdoor?  My cats have always been indoor, and they seem to be happy.  Before, I lived in an urban setting, and going out would have been out of the question.  Now I am in a suburban setting, and keeping my cat in ensures he will not get into fights with other cats over territory, or get attacked by the foxes or skunks or racoons in the area, or eat poison (accidental or intentional from scumbag humans), or get attacked by a rabid animal (a case of rabies happened a couple of km from here a few weeks ago).  As well, he does not attack birds or poop in someone else's yard... a pregnant gardener should NOT have to worry about cat feces in her flower beds!!!).  Posters of "lost" cats are a constant in the area... and almost none of them are ever found.   I love my cat, pay for regular vet appointments, top-quality food and provide him with company and play with him.  Each week we are together, we understand each other better... I hope he will live a long and healthy life under my protection.  

TC South
TC South

So glad you are so frank and honest about declawing cats. I think it is done without thought by so many in America. Yes, I have had a few couches with scratch marks. But now I found a great scratching post that has seemed to curtail that urge. It is cruel and unnecessary. How many damaging things does a dog do and people put up with their tearing up their slippers and eating various objects.

Heather Vanderdeen
Heather Vanderdeen

I need to say that I have a cat and he had a behaviour problem that I tried absolutely everything to train him to stop scratching, but nothing worked. I did extensive research of many books and online and tried absolutely everything. I went to several vet clinics and tried absolutely every single suggestion they had. He was scratching me and everything else. I couldn't care less about the furniture being torn to bits. that is replacable. but I was constantly bleeding. I need to say that I have trained multiple feral cats growing up so I do know what I am doing. I have been against declawing. But with my current cat, I could not stop him. So I made a very difficult and very painful decision to declaw. My only other choice would have been to put him down which is a nice way of saying that you are killing an animal. is killing the answer? is that really better than declawing? I can not tell you how much research I did and what I have done along with declawing to help him and me coexist. I am still against declawing unless it is the absolute last option available. for my cat it was. I am annoyed with the comments that it is only to protect the furniture. that makes me so mad. yes it isn't the best option but he has been the most amazing cat. he still has his moments but I do not have gashes all over my legs now every time he gets upset. for some reason, now that he has been declawed, he is a much calmer cat. he is a unique animal. anyone who says though that a cat is defenseless with out claws has never met my cat. he can still very much draw blood if he really wants to. but he doesn't. go ahead and hate me but do you really think that killing him would have been fair? after years of training along with declawing, he is a little social butterfly almost and loves everyone that comes to the door. he sleeps with me almost all the time. he lays on my stomach when I cry. I can't imagine living life without him. he still takes swipes at me sometimes but at least I am not getting scratched. no I am not a bad owner that would cause him to be mad at me. but I just want to say that it isn't always done simply because someone likes their furniture more than the cat.

Nicole L.
Nicole L.

If you look at these reports [about wildlife killed by cats] carefully, the conclusion tends to be that the damage is done by feral cats, where there is damage.

Actually, no.  Many studies have shown that domestic cats kill huge numbers of birds, as well as small mammals, lizards, etc.  The latest - and clearest - is a new study out of Canada showing that feral cats kill 116 million birds per year, and domestic cats an additional 80 million birds per year.  That is, domestic cats kill nearly as many birds as ferals: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/Cats+Canada+biggest+bird+killers+says+Environment+Canada+study/8981176/story.html


Also, too, outdoor cats are exposed to more diseases (FIV, FeLV), parasites (ticks, roundworms), and mortality risks (cars, coyotes) than indoor cats.  So since you yourself say that " there don't seem to be major problems associated with"  keeping cats indoors, why do you still encourage people to let their cats out to roam?  Moreover, there is a third alternative: let your cat out only while supervised and on a leash.  That way the cat gets time outdoors without the risks to either the cat or its potential prey.

Gayl A.
Gayl A.

Thanks to Ms. Andreassi for providing the informative Bradshaw interview. From others posts, its clear responders have their specific interpretations of this interview. Having spent decades in the company of many animals, domestic and otherwise; I feel Bradshaw's statements are accurate and helpful. I was fortunate to enjoy the companionship of a remarkable, mixed-breed male cat for 20 years. We were both young when our lives converged. Not all my caretaker actions were optimal, such as allowing him an indoor/outdoor lifestyle. An experienced veterinarian admonished that allowing him outdoors would likely shorten his life, exposing him to animal & environmental threats (i.e., feline retroviruses, parasites...), as well as possibility of death via roadways, toxins, etc. Years of observing felines offered substantial insight to cat behavior and yes, they're generally hyper-aware entities sometimes manifested in nervous actions. Just like people, animals vary widely in "personality" traits - some are mostly mellow, some exhibit what we interpret as anxious behavior, and so on. And like people, behaviors may originate in early life experiences, illnesses and/or genetics, etc. My otherwise stoic adult cat once began licking his belly fur until skin was exposed - a result of anxiety over my bathing him every few days in a veterinarian-prescribed anti-ringworm solution. As soon as the bathing stopped, he ceased licking and happily recovered. Treat them (and all living things) with the consideration you reasonably afford individuals.

Brittany H.
Brittany H.

What I really don't like about this article is how people try to figure out how cats behave because they act like they know what they are talking about but they just don't sometimes because nature is VERY unpredictable and sometimes you just can't understand nature through some tests or things like that. Nature is natural and nobody can be an expert of that. Try as we might, there might still be some secrets buried in there somewhere, but we just can't find it yet.

It u don't agree with me, that's fine because I'm usually very judgy so please don't be a hater :)

Brittany H.
Brittany H.

I think declawing should be banned because it's animal abuse! I mean, if u were a cat, would YOU like to have your fingernails pulled out or something? First of all, cats need their claws to survive, like to hunt animals if they are wild. Second of all, cats should enjoy being cats! They need to scratch and claw things because it's in their nature,just like the article states. But, hey, everyone has their own opinion.

m s
m s

Humans have a hard time figuring out just what cats need I've noticed. I've read books on the subject on cat behavior and on their needs as a feline and really there's three things they need to make them comfortable. High places, the ability to see outside, and play time. If you do these three things you are good because it calms even the craziest of cats down.

I've also noticed that people try to do the same things with their children as they do with cats, like overfeed them. 

But when it comes to attention and I suspect that the writers of this study are a victim of this, some people overstimulate their cats which can lead to stressful behavior. Petting their heads and around the underside of their chins are the best way to calm them, but if you pet along their spine or on the top of their butt it causes them to be hyperstimulated and that's when you get attacked or growled at because they're getting too much stimulation.

Declawing is actually terrible it shouldn't be practiced anymore it doesn't help the cat defend itself if it gets out, it doesn't keep the cat healthy in the longer term. There are other methods of making a cat that you're training safe for handling and one of those things are claw plugs. Your vet can put those on the cat so their claws can't harm you while you are training them.

Jeremy Briggs
Jeremy Briggs

It's difficult to trust anything John Bradshaw has to say after reading his opinion about outdoor cats:

"There's also pressure from conservationists to keep cats indoors. (See"Hello Kitty! Please Don't Kill Me!")

If you look at these reports [about wildlife killed by cats] carefully, the conclusion tends to be that the damage is done by feral cats, where there is damage."

Everything I have read and observed disagrees with this. I assume he is talking about cats in Great Britain, but I don't think he's right about that either. There are plenty of studies that have shown domestic, well-fed, indoor/outdoor cats that have been fed well kill shocking amounts of birds and non-pestilent mammals. Feral cats are a bigger problem, but not at all exclusively. They are simply outdoors in greater numbers.

"That's not to say that cats don't kill birds and mammalsthey do—but the real question from a conservation standpoint ought to be if this is having any lasting effect." 

Songbirds, just for example, are in decline in North America and many parts of the world. Songbirds are killed by domestically owned cats in great numbers. It is having a lasting effect.

"Going back to your average cat owner who is feeling guilty about a few birds that come in, I think that's been slightly overdone. Rather than feel guilty about having a cat, if you are in a typical suburban area and there isn't any particularly rare wildlife around, do something for the birds. Get some bird feeders [and] put them up in areas where the cats can't get them. That way you are kind of balancing out any kind of effect your cat might have."

Don't forget the GMO free birdseed that hasn't been treated with pesticides and other poisons. Good luck with that. Also, there are extensive problems with cats putting their toxic, parasite-infested poop in gardens and on lawns where babies and children can be infected with toxiplasmosis.

Given the large number of humans infected by the cat-borne parasite (80% has been estimated in some human populations), and recent revelations on its effects on the human brain, should we not suspect some of us have been a bit brainwashed to rush to the defense of cats? That's what the parasite does to mice after all. 

The problem is that Mr. Bradshaw is cited in such a way as to speak as a scientific authority, but there is nothing scientific at all about the conclusions he draws. 


Hope Meredith
Hope Meredith

My four cats get along relatively well, though I got two at a time, four years apart. One of the older two is very social and is very interested in any other living thing. The two older ones are also very sweet and seem to lack the killer instinct. One of them is actually the mediator whenever there is a feline dispute.

The two younger were tiny feral kittens found under my porch. They consider my house their house and are very territorial. One of them is still wild in this respect. However, both simply consider the older cats as accessories that came with the house, like the furniture. (They also make good pillows.) 

Needless to say,I would not be able to take in any other animals for the time being, because the younger two would, undoubtedly, go to war. Now that would be stressful! Therefore, I am not at all tempted to take in any more. And that's less stressful for me; I can effortlessly control that impulse.

bob wright
bob wright

Cystitis is an inflammation of the urinary bladder, not specifically infection, and not of 'the urinary tract' entire. Infection is only relatively common in aged cats. It is exceedingly uncommon in cats with normally concentrated urine. [This is the editor's fault, not the interviewee - the bracketed explanation of 'cystitis' is simply incorrect.]

As to cats overgrooming to the point of ulceration from 'stress', that's pretty much nonsense. The reverse - that the cat is stressed *because of* chronic pruritus is far more likely. 

Trying to make an ethical bright line between "mutilating an animal's body for human benefit"  and  "for the animal's own benefit" is pretty much a parlour game for the self-righteous. We like the idea of spay-neutering, but let's not pretend we're doing it for the animals. We are doing it so that they fit into our world. 

Fitting into our world is a pretty sweet deal overall - you get a soft warm home, love, food, full medical and dental care, no fleas, no ear mites, no worms. If you have to give up your uterus or your claws to qualify, meh, there's a tradeoff to most things in life. I am not a fan of declawing, but I'm not a moral snob about it either. People who don't want their stuff scratched up can't be fairly or meaningfully characterised and dismissed as "just wanting something fluffy they can stroke". That's asinine. If you think it's better to die in a shelter than to live a life without claws, you may need to re-examine your value system. 

It's ok to say  "I have decided, based on pretty much nothing, that it's fine to keep cats indoors, that hunting is really not that big a deal, that spaying them and feeding them unnatural diets is fine, and that declawing is mutilation". There's nothing wrong with these opinions, but that's all they are. They have no coherent ethical structure to them and no evidence to support them. They are someone's feelings. And if you're a scientist offering purportedly expert advice and you just expound on your feelings ... you might as well just go get yourself a soft toy or two, and give us your feelings about them instead. 

Stacey Copenhaver
Stacey Copenhaver

Interesting article.  However, what can you do to help a cat who is stressed?  My  2 year old cat has been grooming and pulling out his hair in patches on his underside (hind legs and tummy) and now he has started pulling clumps or hair out from his back.  I'd say this is stress - how do I help him?  Thanks!

pat bost
pat bost

@Lydia Ivanova I love your post. I have lots of play toys for my cats to claw and they play outside too, so they can claw other stuff and not me. I spend a lot of time playing "prey" with toys also. Both cats I had love the side of an old shed and a tree to scratch. I also keep the front claws clipped because they mostly protect them self with the back ones, which I never cut since they go outside. I find as they get older they scratch a lot less.

Lynne MacIntosh
Lynne MacIntosh

@Lydia Ivanova Just like to say that my cat immediately chewed off most of the nail caps in a short period of time. She's skittish and I've adjusted to it, but she has scratched my grandchildren, once right above an eye, which scared me to death. I now have to banish her to a separate room when my grandkids visit. For the record I've owned many cats over many years. She's the only definitely dangerous around kids cat I've ever had. I hate that the kids are terrified of her. But the only other likely choice would be to put her down. So for now its separation when necessary.

pat bost
pat bost

@Donna Herrick-Cronk I think  it all depends on how they are raised. Mine liked to go outside and play with the kids and one I had loved the dogs he grew up with, but no other ones.

Wiesia Haber
Wiesia Haber

@Donna Herrick-Cronk 

I have four cats and one is de clawed by his first owner.  And then returned to an animal shelter.  :(

I think they should de clawed the cat together with the owner, that would be justice.  Let's see how many owners would do this

TC South
TC South

@Heather Vanderdeen  I am sure it was a very hard and emotional decision for you. It seems like to me that trimming the claws regularly would have helped with the scratching. I don't know because I wasn't in your situation but to scratch I would think their nails would have to be sharp. It seems like with his temperament it would help to watch 'My Cat from Hell' with Jackson Galaxy. We owned one very aggressive cat one time and I wish I had known some of the suggestions he advises people on his show. Some cats are just a Type A personality and have to be dealt with in different ways even now so he won't attack you at all. Good luck. Don't feel guilty if you had to do what you had to do.

Sarah Dykeman
Sarah Dykeman

@Brittany H. The sad thing is it's not like pulling out our fingernails. Rather it's like cutting off the first joint of each finger, bone included. 

Henriëtte Jetten
Henriëtte Jetten

@Jeremy Briggs Since 16 years I have been living with cats. If people take care of their cats they don't have parasites so there are no health risks. I think you are speaking about people who don't take care of their animals, that is not the cat's fault. When I see how animals are treated in the US my skin crawls..... Every cat kills now and then, my cats, there are 6 of then, bring mice home every now and then, but at the most 20 tot 30 times a year. That is no shocking number giving the amount of cats.... Maybe you should try and live with a cat before you judge.....

Stuart M.
Stuart M.

@Jeremy Briggs Actually, GMO bird seed has probably been treated with less pesticides and other poisons than non-GMO bird seed. There is nothing scientific about anti-GMO hysteria.

bob gee
bob gee

@bob wright getting animals fixed is not at all like declawing.  Every year dogs and cats (even unweaned puppies and kittens) are killed because of overcrowding at shelters, not to mention that fixed male cats live longer, and female cats can go into heat when they're still to young to survive giving birth, sadly I found a stray where this happened and a female kitten I somehow wound up with went into heat sooner then the vet expected, also because she did have one heat cycle she is at greater risk of breast cancer, or so I was told. 

I'm not a cat person, I prefer dogs (but somehow wound up with not 1, but 3 cats!!), but declawing should be outlawed, if you're not willing to either train or protect your furniture (double sided tape and water bottles usually do the trick) then get a different animal. 

If you like animals, I highly suggest finding a local organization that provides free neutering and spaying services and supporting them, my local group has dramatically brought down the number of animals being put down at the shelter (no unweaned puppies were put down last year, but sadly some kittens didn't survive) and the cats that live in feral cat colonies will live happier healthier lives after they're released following their surgeries.  

Outlaw declawing, and support aggressive spay and neutering programs. 

Bob Smith
Bob Smith

@Stacey Copenhaver Definitely take it to the vet.  You can also try a synthetic cat hormone called Feliway that has a calming effect on most cats.  You plug it into an electrical outlet and it diffuses into the room.

Heather T.
Heather T.

I had the same problem and I also thought it was stress due to a new dog and baby.  He was always happy around the baby but never got accustom to my peekapoo.  Smokey recently died and I have a feeling that it was more than stress (more like disease) that killed him.  I would go with Sara's advice and take your cat to the vet to make sure that it is not something else.

Sara Kennedy
Sara Kennedy

@Stacey Copenhaver Have you taken your cat to see a vet? There are many reasons that your cat could be doing this, it could be stress or it could be a symptom of disease.

Maria Guzman
Maria Guzman

@Lynne MacIntosh @Lydia Ivanova My black long tailed puss was doing his business in one area of my carpet even though we had 3 cat potties which are clean, so we had to put Kyoto in a three story cage when we would go on any outings. He did not complain, it was actually a vacation for the guy because my little girl black Manx would bully him. He no longer needs the cage but it is his own domain should he need a retreat. And he does his business in the appropriate place now. I did not have to declaw nor put him down they are forever compadres!

Lydia Ivanova
Lydia Ivanova

@Lynne MacIntosh I understand your concerns but I would say "separation when necessary" is definitely more humane than declawing. There is probably a reason why your cat attacks kids or other people. Personally, I have found "My Cat from Hell" with Jackson Galaxy very informative. There were even a few cases with attacks on children that were resolved happily. I learn a lot about my cat from that show. Granted, she's not aggressive cat but I did use some of his tips quite successfully. I hope you find a solution for that problem.

Lynne MacIntosh
Lynne MacIntosh

@Henriëtte Jetten @Jeremy Briggs Toxoplasmosis is a real danger, especially to people with weaker immune systems and the unborn child of a pregnant women. It is not something that bothers most people and a majority of people carry it, too, without ever having  any symptoms.

Cats are not routinely treated for this parasite any more than most people are, because they aren't generally sick or showing any symptoms. So the best of cat owners would have no clue whether or not their cat has toxoplasmosis and isn't treating for it.

However, because of the very dire consequences possible to a fetus, including death, it is simply recommended that pregnant women wear gloves or have someone else clean the cat box.

http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/toxoplasmosis/index.html


bob wright
bob wright

@bob gee @bob wright I'm not sure that you understood my argument. Neutering has some benefits, but these have to do mainly with fitting into the human world. If there are too many of them, we don't like that, and we kill them. It's only their problem because it's our problem. Unless you're suggesting that being made reproductively incapable is simply morally better, and we should go out and fix nature, rendering the entirety of the animal kingdom into a genetically doomed pet for its own good. 

Tom cats do not simply die, of testosterone. They die from patrolling and defending territory. An indoor un-neutered male cat would be at no more risk of mortal affliction than a neutered one. But he would not "make a good pet". Right? Smells horrible, has ants in his pants, pees on stuff to show he owns it. That's why he's neutered. So that he will make a good pet. 

If you're never going to have sex, reproductive viability is just a nuisance, and so we surgically do away with it in our companion species. We also like the behavioral effects of dropping sex out of the mix, and note in passing several health benefits. We decide that sex is bad for you, and you just won't be having any. Even though we make a GREAT BIG DEAL about sex in our own lives. 

It's completely impossible to in any way construe this as natural. There's nothing wrong with it - hundreds of millions of very wonderful cats and dogs have shared their lives with loving humans because of it. But it's not at all natural. 

Stray dogs and cats are an urban nuisance and a shame, not because of what they are, but because of what we are. We created the populations, we created the niches they struggle along in. And so we neuter them to solve our problem. It's a humane means of population control, but ending the reproductive life of an animal is a practical solution, not a higher calling.

Owned/indoor dogs and cats do not need to be spayed or neutered at all. We could manage their lives as easily as breeders do. We spay and neuter them - let's say it again, so it's absolutely clear - so that they will be good pets. 

I'm all for good pets. I don't think there's something "better" for cats about living out in the woods, on mice. Dogs don't even have a 'natural state' - we have transformed their entire species to make it a good pet. So by all means, let us make them good pets, but let's not give ourselves airs about it, or pretend that our motives in eliminating tomcat odor are higher and better than our motives in eliminating clawing. 

Heather Vanderdeen
Heather Vanderdeen

@bob gee I have to say I am very upset by your comments. I have a cat who was not only scratching the furniture but me as well. I was always bleeding. I tried absolutely every single possible way out there to train my cat to not scratch me. I need to mention right here that I love cats and have trained multiple feral cats so it isn't that I don't know what I am doing. it was clearly a behaviour problem for him and even all the vet clinics I visited could not come up with a single suggestion that I had not already tried so that my cat and I could live peacefully together. my only choices left were putting him down which is a nice way of saying that I would be murdering him or getting him declawed. I have always been very against declawing until my cat I have currently.I am still very much against it unless there isn't any alternative. I was not going to murder a cat because he has major issues. declawing him has been the very best thing for him. and to say a cat is defenseless without claws-you have never met my cat. it had absolutely nothing to do with the furniture or the walls-I could have cared less for those. those are replaceable. I can't explain in detail everything that I have done and all the literature I have read to train him specifically but I have done extensive research for him and me. if you think that murdering cats is better than declawing or letting him be wild and suffer that way-be my guest but I wouldn't change my decision for him. hate me if you want but judging is wrong and there are instances that it is warranted. I never thought I would say this but I am. I can't imagine my life without him.

bob gee
bob gee

@bob wright @bob gee I can't tell if you're being deliberately obtuse or if you can't see how flawed that analogy is.  Haven't heard of many people launching a war because a neighbor accidentally crossed a property line and hey I'm not going to judge if you spend a majority of your time going to the bathroom at your property line to warn off other people. 

Again, cats are not people, they're not herd animals, trying to equate them to us isn't logical. 

Population control is a good thing for the population, scarce resources can be spread thinly, which doesn't result in a healthy life for the animal. 

Most declawing surgeries are amputations of the last joint on the cat's paw, imagine someone chopping off the last joint on your toes and what that would mean for your mobility and comfort for the rest of your life.

Edit:

Jeeze, it must be time for me to sign off if I'm mixing up your and you're, write away my friend, if I remember I'll check the site tomorrow, but I tend to argue politics, not....whatever this is :)

bob wright
bob wright

@bob gee @bob wright "It really doesn't do them any harm" is beside the point. We do it to make them better pets. Not to make them live longer and healthier lives just cause that's the right thing to do. If that were the case we'd be out there neutering and spaying skunks and deer. We do it for cats and dogs to make them fit into the human world. There's nothing wrong with that, but if you can't bear to face the simple fact of it, you're not ever going to have an honest thought about this passionate theme in your life. 

bob wright
bob wright

@bob gee @bob wright There is this terrible human habit called warfare. I'm so glad you have never heard of it. It's just upsetting. 

bob gee
bob gee

@bob wright @bob gee also once healed there are no long term problems with spaying and neutering, but as you can see from my post the same can't be said for declawing. 

Finally if people are that worried about their furniture but still want a cat, there are products that you can apply to the nail so that they can't scratch.

bob gee
bob gee

@bob wright @bob gee again, can't equate a human to a cat when it comes sex, last I checked human men don't roam a territory fighting to maintain it's boundary, even against women, unless she's in heat.  

bob wright
bob wright

@bob gee @bob wright Hm. Well, you don't seem to be able to understand what I'm saying, so there's not much point in saying it again.  

As for the argument that neutering reduces the incidence of testicular cancer, this is statistically more true for you, than it is for cats. I expect you can see, in light of that, that the argument from statistical inprovement in selected health outcomes is not a very strong one. 

bob gee
bob gee

@bob wright Your argument is a red herring at best.  A fixed male cat will likely live longer, it will help their lives, as you pointed out they won't be patrolling and fighting, not to mention the chance of testicular cancer is about zero, a fixed female cat reduces her chances of breast cancer.  Yes, we've changed the world, but I've spent plenty of time in countries where they don't have the resources to care for their people let alone for animals, so I know what an unchecked populations look like, and it makes their life harder and shorter.

There are plenty of pros for sterilization and the only pro for declawing is that someone's furniture might be saved from a clawing. 

Also are you fully aware of ramifications of declawing, cat's nails are not like ours, per the Human Society page:

Medical drawbacks to declawing include pain, infection, tissue necrosis (tissue death), lameness, and back pain. Removing claws changes the way a cat's foot meets the ground and can cause pain similar to wearing an uncomfortable pair of shoes. There can also be a regrowth of improperly removed claws, nerve damage, and bone spurs.


How to Feed Our Growing Planet

  • Feed the World

    Feed the World

    National Geographic explores how we can feed the growing population without overwhelming the planet in our food series.

See blogs, stories, photos, and news »

The Innovators Project

  • Teen Wonder: Taylor Wilson

    Teen Wonder: Taylor Wilson

    After achieving nuclear fusion at age 14, Taylor, now 19, is working with subatomic particles for solutions to nuclear terrorism and cancer.

See more innovators »

Phenomena

See more posts »

Latest News Video

  • How a T. Rex Packs for a Road Trip

    How a T. Rex Packs for a Road Trip

    The nation's most complete Tyrannosaurus rex specimen is taking a 2,000-mile road trip from Montana to its new home in Washington, D.C.

See more videos »

See Us on Google Glass

Shop Our Space Collection

  • Be the First to Own <i>Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey</i>

    Be the First to Own Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey

    The updated companion book to Carl Sagan's Cosmos, featuring a new forward by Neil deGrasse Tyson is now available. Proceeds support our mission programs, which protect species, habitats, and cultures.

Shop Now »