When We Carry Something We Can Unnerve Our Cat

Perhaps I should say that we can make our cat slightly anxious and concerned if we approach him carrying a large object. Has this happened to you? Have you noticed that your cat can demonstrate anxiety and move away from you just to make sure that you are safe, before once again approaching you, when you’re approaching him carrying a large object such as the laundry or a very large box?

Anxious looking cat
Photo Credit: Flickr User niklas
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My initial thought is that this is to do with the way that carrying a large object changes our shape and therefore our appearance.  However, it does provide an insight into the way our cat sees us.  It also provides an insight into the way our cat relates to us.  I have mentioned it before but we are much larger than the domestic cat and there is an inherent, underlying potential anxiety in the domestic cat caused by this large differential in size. Therefore, it doesn’t take much to change the cat from being calm and relaxed in your presence to being anxious.

Perhaps, too, whether or not a cat reacts with slight anxiety under these circumstances or not almost certainly depends upon the cat’s character.  In addition, I suspect, the general environment and the circumstances play a part as to whether a domestic cat finds this alteration in our body profile concerning.

Cats set up associations between what each feature of his environment looks like and that probably includes us. Moving the furniture means that your cat has to inspect it carefully before he can settle down. Changing our outline appearance seems to have a similar effect.

Recently, I was outside carrying large box to my car in order to throw it away and at that time my cat was outside with me.  Normally, he would come towards me and we would greet each other, exchange a few words and then we’d carry on doing what we were doing, but on this occasion he ran away from me clearly concerned by the large object.  My assessment is that he was concerned because he was unsure sure that it was me rather than being concerned by the object that I was carrying. For some reason, the large object changed me from someone he knew to being a stranger.

If my supposition is true then not only is the size differential between us and our cat something that should be considered by people but it also indicates that our cat initially sees and recognises us a general profile rather than specifically looking at our facial features etc..The cat does not see us in detail. This may be related to the domestic cat’s eyesight which provides images less sharp than ours with desaturated colours and slightly distorted color (relative to ours).

Cats also recognise us as part of certain environments. Take us out of an environment and a cat is less sure.

4 thoughts on “When We Carry Something We Can Unnerve Our Cat”

  1. This is a very interesting topic and one I’d never given any thought to before.

    I can’t say I’ve noticed this behaviour in my cats, but that might be because I encourage them to move out of the way when I’m carrying something large enough to obscure my vision of the ground in front of me. (Don’t want to tread or trip on the cats by accident.)

    Perhaps it is our changed silhouette which scares some cats. Could it also be simple fear that the box etc., might fall on them or be used to harm them? A nervous cat might perceive an unknown, large object overhead as a potential threat to their safety.

    If only cats could talk. We have so much more to learn about them.

  2. Samirah had a thing about brooms. The first time she saw me with one she ran and hid. She came back five minutes later. I didn’t make a big deal about her reaction, so she sat down and watched me sweep. Now she doesn’t move when she sees me with a broom in my hand. I do think someone hit at her with a broom in her old house.

    Opening up a trash bag also makes her nervous. Still does, after all this time. I have the feeling someone used to snap at her with one.

  3. The only time my cat has run away from me is when I get the vacuum out. I’ve seen people who vacuum their cats to get excess fur, but they must have started that very early on. The same with hair dryers.

    • Cats associate vacuums with a noise that sounds dangerous, I guess. Gabriel doesn’t so much run away from me but sometimes backs off if I walk towards him carrying something large and particularly if he is in a more alert mode when outside. I have found similar reactions to my other cat companions.


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