Every pet owner thinks their pets love and need them. While science has proven that dogs do get lonely when their humans are away, the evidence on cat loneliness is a little less definitive. According to PetMD, cats do experience loneliness, in a way1. For cats, loneliness is not so much about missing you but instead is about the interruption of their normal routine.
Cats thrive on routine. This is why your cat will jump on you when you’re trying to sleep in on Saturday morning during their usual breakfast hour. Or, if you move your furniture around, your cat might meow at you and need to investigate the new placement thoroughly before they settle down. So, while it’s not loneliness as we feel it, cats do negatively experience your absence when it disrupts their routine.
Cats and Humans
Cats and humans have coexisted for over 5,000 years. The earliest records of humans keeping cats come from farmers in China, where felines were used for rodent control. It is believed that wildcats may have learned to domesticate themselves to remain close to humans because that was where the most prey could be easily found.
Since then, cats have been used for pest control around the world. They did not become the beloved house pets that they are today until the late 1800s. Since the end of the 19th century, cats have become one of the most popular pets kept in human homes. They provide companionship, entertainment, and affection. However, scientists question whether or not that love is one-sided or if our cats feel affection for us in return for the care we bestow upon them.
Either way, humans and cats have depended on one another for centuries. This shows no sign of changing anytime soon as cat ownership continues to grow.
What Do Cats Need?
While it is debatable whether or not you are necessary to your cat’s happiness, there are things a cat definitely needs to be happy and healthy. According to Dr. Liz Bales, VMD, there are five critical needs you should provide for your cat. These include:
1. Climbing Places
Cats love to climb and survey the area. Cat trees, cat shelves, or other perches where your cat can see what is going on from above are a must. This helps them to feel safe and secure in their surroundings.
2. Hiding Places
Like climbing places, hiding places help your cat feel safe. They need a place to retreat when it gets too loud or busy around them. Cats also like to sleep in dark, quiet places like cat caves, boxes, under furniture, or in a cat bed.
3. Hunting Activities
Studies show that cats spend a majority of their time awake hunting. Therefore, they need plenty of mental stimulation to keep themselves active and healthy when they live in a house. Balls, springs, cardboard tubes, crumpled paper, feather toys, soft mice, and other cat toys make great choices for cat activity boosters. Without opportunities to work on their hunting skills, cats can become anxious and stressed, so don’t skimp on playtime.
4. Litter Box or Boxes
You should have one litter box per cat plus one extra in your house to ensure that your cat doesn’t have problems using the litter box. So, if you have two cats, you need at least three litter boxes. Scooping the litter box daily and changing the litter at least every 2 weeks are both musts to prevent illness or infections in both you and your cat.
5. Scratching Places
Like hunting, scratching is an instinctive need for cats. It helps to keep their nails healthy and to clean their feet. It is also a way for your cat to vent frustration or keep themself busy. You should have several types of scratchers around the house for your cat. Placing the scratchers near your furniture will also help keep your cats from scratching the furniture.
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Cats and Companionship
While some cats get stressed out by feline companionship, others seem happier and healthier when they are around other cats. Early socialization is likely a key factor in how your cat will feel about other cat pals. Some breeds are also known to be more friendly and likely to enjoy fellow felines. Maine Coons, Persians, Bengals, Ragdolls, and Siamese are all breeds that tend to do well with other cats.
The same is true of human companionship. Early exposure to human handling and affection is important if your cat is going to grow up comfortable with human interaction. It is also important that you respect your cat’s space and needs for perching, hiding, scratching, hunting, and cleanliness. Your respect for these basic needs will ensure your cat is relaxed and stress-free in your home.
While your cat may not experience loneliness in the same way you perceive it, they do feel stress and anxiety when their routine is disrupted. While it may not be possible for you to be home with your cat all the time, you can ease their feelings of discomfort by providing them with interactive toys, plenty of food and water, and comfortable surroundings when you are away. You may even be rewarded with extra purrs and head butts when you get home!