Routines can set up unhelpful domestic cat habits

I was reminded today that a cat guardian can inadvertently set up, through routines, unhelpful habits that affect their domestic cat companion. This is a short note and no more.

Cat expectation
Cat expectation can be based on routines and rhythms. Photo in public domain.
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I’ll provide a personal example. Every morning I buy the newspaper. I don’t have it delivered. I go to a petrol station in the early hours at about 6:30 in the morning to avoid people because of the pandemic. When I leave the home my cat waits on the stairs for me to return and sometimes greets me in the street on my return.

When I go inside the home he expects to be fed prawns because historically, over quite a long period of time, I have treated him to a few prawns on my return. It’s a kind of present that I’m bringing him to celebrate my return. He loves it and has got used to it.

There’s nothing wrong with that in particular but he expects to be fed prawns even though he is not hungry. Sometimes I can give him some prawns, which he has asked for by meowing at me and asking, but he doesn’t eat them. He licks them and shows some interest but walks away. He’s been programmed to expect this treat which overrides his desire to eat. This is similar to a domestic cat’s desire to hunt even though (s)he isn’t hungry. The innate desire to hunt prey overrides hunger. They are separate motivations.

My example is no big deal but you can see how little habits can be developed which might displease a cat owner. Domestic cats are very much into routines which develop expectations. The rhythms and routines of the human life very much impinges upon the life of our cats and to a large extent vice versa. It’s just useful to be cognisant of this aspect of domestic cat caretaking. To ignore it can lead to making a rod for your own back.


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