How Does Your Mood And Behavior Affect Your Cat’s Behavior?

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While many people think that the majority of what I do is working with cats, I’m going to let you in on a secret: I mostly manage humans. Ultimately, you are in control of the environment you set up for your cats and your interactions with them. Most unwanted behaviors in cats are the result of human error, not some flaw with the cats.

Unsurprisingly, how you behave and your mood can have a huge impact on your cat’s behavior. Studies on cats’ ability to read emotions of humans show that cats can both tell how humans are feeling and they may alter their behavior based on our emotions. Therefore, if you are going through a challenging time, it may result in your cat behaving differently. Anecdotally, I lived through this myself when my cat was behaving aggressively toward me due to my mood being off.

Beyond your mood, your actual behavior itself can affect your cat and how they act. Let’s look at just a few ways your mood and behavior can affect your cat’s behavior.

Your Behavior Affects Their Health (Which Affects Behavior)

Stress can cause a lot of health problems in cats and your stress can affect your cat’s health. Many medical illnesses can cause behavior changes in cats so if your own mood or behavior is affecting your ability to care for your cat’s health, it may result in changes to their behavior. Let’s look at two examples.

Habits Affecting Disease

While this isn’t a medical blog, I do happen to also be a trained medical professional and am qualified to say that smoking is real bad for your health. Secondhand smoke from others smoking is also terrible for human health. It should come as no surprise, then, that smoking isn’t great for your cat’s health even if they aren’t the one lighting up a cigarette.

An AI generated tabby cat is smoking a cigarette at a bar.
Please keep cigarettes away from your cat. Photo by Willi-van-de-Winkel via Pixabay.

One of the ways smoking can affect your cat’s health shows up if your cat has asthma. While there are ways to treat asthma by administering medications via inhaler, you can reduce your cat’s asthma symptoms via environmental modification. Please check with your vet for specific recommendations about what to do, but not exposing your cat to cigarette smoke is a great way to help their asthma.

Asthma can affect cat behavior so if your cat’s asthma is being exacerbated by your smoking, you’re directly impacting their behavior. If your cat is having frequent asthma attacks, they may not be able to do all the things they want to do. It may be more challenging for them to play or be as active as they like. In other words, you smoking indirectly impacts your cat’s behavior.

Ability To Care For Your Cat

If your behavior or mood affects your ability to function on a day to day basis, you may see worse results with caring for your cat’s health which (wait for it) affects your cat’s behavior. As an example, my cat Zoloft had hyperthyroidism which required twice daily medication. Hyperthyroidism can alter behavior so if I was unable to give him his medication for some reason, he probably would have displayed behavior changes.

There are two ways your mood and behavior may affect ability to care for your cat. First, if your mood is so bad that you can’t get around to medicating them, it’s likely their health will deteriorate. Second, if your lifestyle is incompatible with your cat’s medical needs, your behavior may impact your ability to care for your cat.

Mood Affects Interactions With Your Cat

You can probably think of a few examples of how your mood affects your own behavior. If you’re sad or anxious, you may not be as energetic as you normally would be so you play with your cat less. If you’re happy, you may interact with them more. If you’re stressed, you may not be as patient with them and resort to less than ideal methods of behavior modification. That will increase your cat’s stress and may result in other behavior problems.

Similarly, if your cat picks up on your mood being poor or you being angry, they may become fearful. Fear can result in aggressive behavior in cats. This may exacerbate an underlying behavior problem.

Therefore, it’s a good idea that if you find you’re struggling with your own mood to take steps to take care of yourself. That may be working on your own stress, altering habits, or even seeking professional help if needed. Taking care of yourself is a way of taking care of your cat and will improve your cat’s behavior. If nothing else, it will give you the ability to do more work to help your cat with their behavior.

You Control The Cat’s Environment

Cats are territorial creatures and a lot of cat social structure is based off which resources are available. The environment they are in greatly affects their behavior. Of course, in a home environment cats don’t really have much choice over their environment. You ultimately are in control of almost all aspects of the environment your cat lives in. You decide how chaotic or stressful it is and you get to choose what resources are available for your cat.

For example, let’s look at litter boxes. Litter boxes are important places to cats and you control almost every aspect of the litter box. You decide what type of litter box to use, what kind of litter you put in the box, and where to put the litter box. You also are in charge of maintaining a clean litter box so if you don’t scoop the litter box, the box will end up being a mess. Your cat may not use the litter box if your don’t keep up with keeping it clean or don’t set it up correctly.

That’s a lot of power to have over your cat. Similarly, you control whether or not you have multiple cats or dogs living with your cat along with how newcomers are introduced. You have so much ability to alter your cat’s environment and control how welcoming or how stressful it is for them.

An orange tabby sitting on a concrete slab against a blue sky.
So much power. Photo by Youhana Nassif.

With all that power, you have an obligation to make sure your cat’s basic needs are met along with setting up an environment that meets their needs. After all, you were the one who decided to bring your cat into your home. That doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your own needs or preferences in many cases as you can incorporate cat resources into human resources. You can even find nice looking cat furniture that blends into your decor such as that available from the Refined Feline.

You absolutely need to make sure your cat’s natural behavior and preferences are taken into account when setting up the environment. Failure to do so will result in all sorts of unwanted behaviors. While it may not be ideal to get a large scratching post and place it in a prominent location, choosing a scratching post your cat doesn’t like or putting it somewhere inconvenient for your cat will only make your couch the more appealing spot to scratch.

Addressing Your Behavior May Help Your Cat

While it may not be the only solution to a cat behavior problem, changing your own behavior can affect how your cat behaves. If nothing else, it may make it easier for other behavioral interventions to help your cat.

Knowing how your mood can affect your cat’s behavior, I always make sure that your wellbeing is a priority when working with clients. While I may not be able to alter cats’ preferences or come up with an easy solution to a complex behavior problem like cats not getting along, self care for humans is always part of the behavior modification plan. I’d go so far to say that working with a cat behavior professional is a form of self care as it removes some of the burden of figuring out what to do from you.

If you’re finding your cat’s behavior challenging, it can be easy to focus solely on your cat. Remember to take care of yourself, too, as it really is one of the best ways you can take care of your cat.

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Joey Lusvardi

Joey Lusvardi CCBC is an IAABC Certified Cat Behavior Consultant and professional cat trainer based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. He runs a behavior consultation and cat training service, Class Act Cats, where he helps cat parents address a variety of unwanted behaviors. Joey is available for in home sessions locally or virtual sessions wherever you are located!