How to know if my cats are unhappy

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goldilocks3bears
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How to know if my cats are unhappy

Post by goldilocks3bears »

Hi,

Need some advice please.

I have 2 cats. I live with my mom so actually they are our cats.
Nearly every morning I think that my cats are sad and I feel sorry for, so I give them all the treats that they want esp when my one cat keeps on nudging me with her cutest paw.
When one cat sits on my bed and looks at me and I know that I need to leave for work I feel she is sad. My Persian cat i feel like she is very attached to me. So, I feel that when I am not at home she is sad. Although, my mom loves both cats and they love her.


I suffer from anxiety attacks and instead of my cats making them better I feel that they don't help as looking at them I think they are sad and feel caged. My therapist thinks that I am projecting my feelings as they have a very good loving home (we absolutely love them and would do anything for them) and they do eat and when not sleeping they kinda play.
Also, my therapist says to not give them treats each time they require as it isn't good for them and just like a mom doesn't give her kids chocolates each time they demand it or cry for it then it is the same with my cats as it is only for their own good. But, it makes me feel anxious.

What are signs of a sad cat? If they are sad I want to make them happy.
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fjm
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Re: How to know if my cats are unhappy

Post by fjm »

I think your therapist is very probably right and your cats are already leading a very contented life, but there are lots of things you can do to help you feel that you are making it even happier. I would limit treats - not good for their health, much as they love them. Instead think of ways to enrich their lives through play - fishing rod toys, a play tunnel, scrunchy bags to hide in, cardboard boxes, etc; give them high places to rest in - cats love to feel secure while watching the world go by; lots of comfortable sleeping places, of course, and a healthy diet. You could even use their love for treats to try some clicker training for tricks or cat agility, perhaps using some of their food or tiny scraps of real chicken to avoid too many extra calories. Just remember that it is a game, and meant to be fun for both of you, so there is no point in getting frustrated if your cat seems a little slow on the uptake!

Games you play together are happy times for both of you, and use up energy rather than piling on the calories. Cats naturally have bursts of activity followed by long, happy hours snoozing, so a few short sessions a day would be more than enough to make them even happier than they are now.
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Ruth B
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Re: How to know if my cats are unhappy

Post by Ruth B »

A happy cat will walk around the house confidently, tail held high. They will come to you demanding fuss and attention (and treats). They will sleep out in the open or with you if allowed, some will sleep in a sprawled position rather than neatly curled up. they will be interested in what you are doing, and just wanting to be with you. They will spend time looking out of windows watching the world.

An unhappy cat will want to hide, they will find a dark corner and withdraw to it. They will refuse social interaction, possibly not even taking a treat when offered. They will sit in a tense hunched position, barely moving. They will eat and drink less, lose weight, and their coat will lose condition, they may start to over groom and end up with bald patches. When they do move out of their hidey hole they will slink around belly down, tail down, keeping to the walls.

An anxiousness cat may do all the above, or they may pace and yell, running from room to room, searching for whatever is upsetting them.

You may notice that I haven't mentioned purring, this is because purring isn't fully understood. Most cats will purr when they are happy, but an injured cat will purr as well, and some cats just don't purr that much or do so very quietly. Purring needs to be taken in association with the cats other body language at the time, so purring and rolling around having a fuss is fine, purring when huddled up in hiding can be a way of saying 'I'm not threatening leave me alone'.

From what you describe I don't think your cats are unhappy, they are getting manipulative, but not unhappy. Instead of always giving them treats when they ask, get some toys for them, there are some great toys that include a bunch of feathers or a furry worm attached to a length of string attached to a plastic want. Depending on the age of the cat they may chase the feathers around the room, jumping all over the furniture, or they may just enjoy having it pulled fairly close by so they can pounce on it. It may be that they will start with just pouncing, and then as they get more used to it graduate to running and chasing it. Try and have a good interactive play session with them and then give them with a few treats afterwards, they have hunted and caught their 'prey' and they get something as a reward for doing so. A good play session will also help reduce the effect that having too many treats might have on their waistlines, you don't want them to get overweight.

You mention you have a Persian, if she enjoys being groomed then a quiet session just brushing her might be better than feeding her treats, even if your other cat is short haired they can benefit from grooming so you could spend time brushing them both.

Other things you can do to make them happier is to make sure they have plenty of places to watch the world from, there are plenty of cat trees you can get to put by windows, or even special beds designed to go on windowsills where a cat can sleep or rest and watch the world. A bird feeder outside the window would provide hours of entertainment for your cats as well as helping the wild bird population in your area.

If you are really anxious about them while you are away then maybe a camera in the hall or the lounge of the house would help, something that you could connect a smart phone to, you can get special cameras to monitor your home, or even just a baby monitor can do the job as long as it can be accessed remotely. It would mean you could check up on their behaviour when you weren't with them. Even if you know in your heart your Mother is telling you the truth and they are happy when you aren't there, it might help your anxiety to see it for yourself, just make sure your Mother understands why you want the cameras there.

I do think your therapist is correct and you are extending your own anxiety onto your cats and they are perfectly happy. Hopefully you can start to see that and it will help reduce your own anxiety levels as well.
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Mollycat
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Re: How to know if my cats are unhappy

Post by Mollycat »

Very much agree with fjm and Ruth here, cats are incredibly manipulative to get what they want from us and if they have found they can tap into your anxious guilt for treats then they will exploit that no matter how happy they actually feel. I'm imagining them hiding around the corner as you come downstairs in the morning giggling and whispering and daring each other to get you to do more things.

Play and affection are much more solid bonding than filling them up with treats. Treats are pretty much rubbish - my cats never had shop bought treats until the dog came along, they got a little of the meat I was preparing or eating, real meat with no additives or "various sugars" or carbs or colouring or anything. Real meat is a nutritional boost.

Also wanted to add a little story for you about stress and anxiety and the impact of it on our animals. Our dog is injured at the moment and has been waiting for an operation since the day before Christmas Eve. We tried to avoid it for 3 months with very restricted exercise but in the end it went completely. We waited anxiously through Christmas for a date, hoping it would be before new year. We were given 11th January. On the morning, I arrived at the vets only to be turned away because they and the surgeon had been hit with Covid. After a few more days we got a revised date for this Friday. I'm desperately hoping we don't get cancelled again. We know that rehabilitation will be a long process, easily a year to get back to his full fitness, and with a very high risk of having to go through it all again - plus we don't have insurance so the cost is all on us. Reason for telling you all this is to show the level of stress we humans are under. You'd understand the dog being a bit funny, as it's his injury. But the cat swings from clingy to really grumpy and is very skittish, and all because she is soaking up our anxious thoughts like a sponge.

In other words, if you are anxious about your cats, they will pick up your anxiety and act on that. The more calm and confident you can be, the more they can relax and be happy healthy well balanced cats.
goldilocks3bears
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Re: How to know if my cats are unhappy

Post by goldilocks3bears »

Thanks all for your replies. Hope your dog gets well soon !

My cats I guess are manipulating me and when I have anxiety in the mornings it works out for them really well. I decided that when I don't feel anxious later on in the day to try and give them toys or brush them instead. Sometimes it works. Have to be persistent.

I guess I am projecting what I am feeling to my cats as they do play, eat, love being around us and don't hide and usually sleep with either me or my mom. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night as one or both decided to sleep on me :D
I volunteer on the weekends at an animal sanctuary but leaving my cats alone on Saturdays (as my mom goes to her bfriend) also makes me anxious as I feel that instead of spending time with my cats i am spending time with other cats and animals and I feel that my cats like us being around them. So, now I decided to only go on Fridays when my mom is at home.

My one cat jumps high and can see the outside world from the bar (the black at the back in the picture attached) or when she jumps on to the top of the cat tower that we put on the table. However, my Persian cat doesn't jump so high and can't see and that bothers us. Any tips? We thought of trying taking them out with a harness but the Persian is 13 and the other cat is 6 years old.
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The garden is small about 19 meters and we fenced it so they couldn't run away.
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fjm
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Re: How to know if my cats are unhappy

Post by fjm »

I think if they have access to your safe garden that is ample - I wouldn't risk stressing them (or even worse, losing them) by taking them outside it with a harness, especially at 13. You could try a tower with steps or ramps to make it easier for your older cat to climb, but it sounds to me as if they are living a near perfect feline life, and you have absolutely nothing to feel anxious about, including volunteering at the weekend. I suspect they simply snooze happily while you are gone.
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Ruth B
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Re: How to know if my cats are unhappy

Post by Ruth B »

I can only echo what fjm has said, they look two very happy cats, and at 13 and 6 years, trying to harness train them would, in my mind, be an effort in futility that would just make you more anxious when it didn't go well. They have access to a save garden by the looks of it, so can get plenty of time outside when they want it, a young overly energetic cat might benefit from harness training and walks, but I think yours are happy to snooze in the sun, or in bed with you. As said maybe a new tree that has a ramp onto might help the elderly one if their mobility is starting to give them problems, or ask your vet to see if there are some supplements or pain medication that might help, like humans, a cats joints can give problems as they get older, but like humans there are some simple options that can make their life a lot better, but professional advice is best to make sure the treatment is suitable for the condition.

I have to also agree that I'm am sure they are perfectly happy to snooze when you go out at the weekend to the animal shelter, and I'm sure that all the animals there are very happy that you do volunteer there, but in the end if it is aggravating your anxiety you have to do what is best for yourself.
goldilocks3bears
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Re: How to know if my cats are unhappy

Post by goldilocks3bears »

Thanks for the replies. The garden is safe for them and they have access to either the garden or the house and my bed and whatever they want when it suits them. The ramp is a good idea. The 13 years old is very healthy and runs around and will jump onto the counter if she feels like it. However, her not jumping to the top of the tree house made me think that maybe it is hard for her. But maybe she doesn't feel like it actually?
I won't try the harness at all.

The other day we had to go help my sister so the cats were alone for a few hours. When we came back I saw that they had eaten their food so it made me think that maybe I am projecting as I am not sure sad cats will eat when they are alone.
FelisDomesticus
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Re: How to know if my cats are unhappy

Post by FelisDomesticus »

It's also worth noting that cats can often tell when YOU are unhappy.

If you've had a couple of days of being upset/anxious/grieving, there's a good chance you'll find your cat(s) just sitting on the floor or chair near you. It's like they're saying I'm here for you if you need me. Of course it can be normal for cats to settle on the floor but if they know you there's a good chance they'll be able to pick up on your change of demeanour.
goldilocks3bears
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Re: How to know if my cats are unhappy

Post by goldilocks3bears »

Don't think my cats pick up on that...all they care about is seeing if I go near the cupboard where their treats are kept. Then suddenly they are there. Even when I think they are sleeping suddenly they are near me :D .
They are soooo adorable.
Eduard
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Re: How to know if my cats are unhappy

Post by Eduard »

FelisDomesticus wrote: Mon Feb 01, 2021 7:43 pm It's also worth noting that cats can often tell when YOU are unhappy.

If you've had a couple of days of being upset/anxious/grieving, there's a good chance you'll find your cat(s) just sitting on the floor or chair near you. It's like they're saying I'm here for you if you need me. Of course it can be normal for cats to settle on the floor but if they know you there's a good chance they'll be able to pick up on your change of demeanour.
You have a clever cat.
Unfortunately all that doesn't apply to my cat. She don't care if someone at home is upset/anxious/grieving.
She probably won't even notice that :lol:
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