Sometimes, one of the most challenging things to understand about your cat is how they’re feeling. After all, they want to love on their own terms, and even if you are petting them and enjoying it, they may walk off with an irritated expression, leaving you to wonder what you did to make them upset or wondering if they were upset? Unlike dogs, cats don’t wear their hearts on their paws. If you are a cat owner or, in their eyes, staff, you know that they treat you like you are on their level and sometimes refuse to open up, so it’s only natural to think to find it comical if when you turn the vacuum on or another seemingly harmless task. Moreover, you may want to startle your cat to stop them from doing something destructive or get them off a surface you’ve told them a hundred times to get off from. They’re not dogs, so even if you’ve told them a dozen times the same day, they are independent creatures and will only follow directions if it suits them. It doesn’t matter if you’re frustrated with not understanding your cat, or you want to rouse her from her nap in the sun, or you need a new post for your Instagram feed; you should never scare your cat for fun or to get their attention.
The first couple of times your cat jumps when you accidentally startle them may make you laugh. Then, you decide to recreate the event several more times because you want to show other people what a spaz your cat is. Over time, it will lose its novelty, and worse, you’ll start to notice your cat is becoming more skittish. According to Indoor Cat Guide, this is because your cat is suffering from chronic stress. Even though your cat may seem like they couldn’t care less most of the time, the level of calm in their home still has a profound effect on them. If they are constantly worried something will happen, they will begin to retreat and avoid people. Furthermore, if you got them from a shelter, you don’t know if something already happened, and their fear reaction is being made worse by a similar event earlier in their lives. Isn’t it great to see your cat look you in the eye? How about when they come over and want a few minutes of you scratching their favorite itchy place? A cat shows her trust by closing her eyes to her human. Additionally, they will look at you with their beautiful cat eyes in an attempt to communicate. However, if you have continually pranked your cat, these signs of trust will no longer happen. According to Pet MD, when you reach out to pet them, they’ll shift away from you and avoid looking at you. You’ll notice their body moves differently. When extreme examples of this happen,
You may get away with scaring your cat a couple of times before they get angry and claw. If this happens, it’s not only going to hurt you, but it’s also going to hurt their feelings. Cats have innate defense mechanisms and will react to being scared by lashing out to protect themselves. If they keep expecting someone to scare them, they’ll remain on the defense and think that anytime a human is nearby, they will do something that will upset them. Think about it this way, if someone was always jumping out from corners at you, wouldn’t you live in a constant panic every time you passed one? Cat’s learn from a young age where to use the litter box, and more often than not, they will never pee or poop on the carpet. However, when a cat is frightened often, they will begin to eliminate themselves because they are frightened. According to Stalking Cat, when a cat is consistently scared, they get a knot in their stomach, similar to the one humans get when they feel uneasy about a situation. When this happens, the bowels on the cat will loosen up, and they will lose control of where they defecate. Unfortunately, this will likely turn into a vicious cycle. The original prank you thought was so funny will turn into a discipline that your cat will not understand anyway, only that you are scaring. Moreover, once a cat begins to have bladder issues and stops using the litter box like they were doing correctly, it’s hard to revert back. It’s not that they want to keep doing this but are reacting to a deep flight or flight instinct. They’ll even shiver. So, it may be fun to see your cat jump at the beginning from a bit of a joke, but eventually, the cat will begin to shiver and will jump at every touch. Finally, your cat will likely retreat and barely come out around people.
It’s easy to think that a few harmless jokes to get a reaction from your cat won’t do any damage. After all, there are hours of pranks like these on YouTube. Even though many people have made it seem socially acceptable to scare a cat, it’s not. When you brought your cat home, it was to take care of them and give them a safe house. Your cat looks to you to meet their needs, both physical and emotional. If they live in a constant state of fear that something will happen, their personalities will inevitably change, and the happy cat or kitten you brought home will barely be the same as they once were. So, next time you think it’s okay to scare your cat, pull out one of their favorite toys instead, or if you haven’t tried one, get a dangling toy so you can interact with your cat. This way, you create a stronger trust bond, and you get to see a happy cat, not one who shivers, shakes, or does other behavior that has little chance of being corrected once it begins to happen.