Annoy Your Cat




This resource was provided to Pet Guardian Angels of America by Jackson Cunningham of Tuft and Paw


Are You Annoying Your Cat? Here’s How to Tell

At first glance, your cat may appear calm, but a closer look at their body language may reveal they’re far from it. As cat expert Pam Johnson-Bennett explains in her book, Think Like Cat, “…body language can be broken down into two general categories: distance-increasing and distance-reducing.”

The distance-increasing variety is a sign that your cat is agitated, which they express in the following ways:

  • A swishing tail
  • Ears pointing to the side or to the back
  • Ducking their head and shrinking away from you
  • A wide-eyed, unblinking stare
  • Nipping or swatting

An irritated cat may hang around less than usual or seem to be “keeping an eye on you” from afar. Other forms of avoidance – like hiding under the couch or bed for extended periods of time – also indicates your cat might be ticked off.

A stool found outside the litter box is another (and far smellier) sign of dissent, as could be the discovery of a spraying in your basket of clean linens.

Being able to tell if your cat is annoyed is one thing, but what’s bothering your cat in the first place? If your cat is expressing irritation, it could be due to one of the following reasons:


Stimuli is important to the livelihood of your cat and deprivation of it makes them lethargic and irritable.

Just like children, cats eventually get bored of playing with the same toys all the time, so keep them engaged by giving them new things to play with every so often. Got a lazy cat? Try giving them a little catnip occasionally to promote play. (But limit catnip to once or twice a week, or your cat could lose their sensitivity to it.)

Visual stimuli is also important. Especially if you have an indoor cat, make sure they have access to a window so they can watch the birds and squirrels outside. If there’s no window ledge for them to sit on, positioning a cat perch nearby should do the trick.


Ever have your cat jump into your lap purring and seeking attention, only to turn around and bite you after a couple minutes of petting? Johnson-Bennett offers an explanation in her book, Catwise: “This behavior, known as petting-induced aggression, happens when a cat gets too stimulated from constant petting and his body language signals have gone unnoticed. He feels that the only way to get you to stop is to scratch or bite.”

If your cat does this, keep petting sessions short and stop at the first change in your cat’s body language. One tail flick might be all the warning you get!

Change in environment

Cats are creatures of habit, and some are incredibly sensitive to change. Even switching to a different brand of litter could spur a protest in the form of a soiled sofa cushion. Other triggers could include changes in food, furniture, residents, or household activity.

While some things are an easy fix like food or litter, other factors may be harder to control. Many veterinarians and experts recommend using a pheromone diffuser, which can help keep your cat calm during periods of change.

Keeping your cat content and healthy

While reading your cat’s body language and understanding what annoys them is important, an ongoing change in behaviour could indicate a more serious cause. When in doubt, always take your cat to the vet to rule out any hidden health issues.

Cat ownership can be a wonderful experience for both you and your pet if you read their cues and give them the environment they need to thrive!

Tuft and Paw makes cat furniture and wants to contribute cat care articles to help all of us with our cat companions.