Cat Logic

Cats love making choices for themselves without having us force things upon them.  The more they feel that they've made a choice on their own, the better they'll stick with it.  Angela J. writes in with a question many cat caregivers ask:

Milo has a cat tree with a bed on it which he refuses to use, he has the use of the spare bed, which he doesn’t use, and he has a cat bed which he doesn’t use either. Why is this?

Angela, in order to understand Milo's choices, you have to start looking at his world through his eyes.  To a human, a cat must be interested in sleeping in a cat bed, but to a cat, everything's a potential bed.  So how does Milo go about choosing between all of his options?  Cat logic.

Cat logic dictates that every choice have a definite upside for the cat that the other choices offered just don't have.  In this case, that upside may be a particular smell, a particular location, or a particular feel.  

Scent is so important to cats that it alone can dictate that one thing is attractive while another is to be avoided.  Certainly, fabric that smells of chemicals (like new carpet) and lacks any familial odor will often be avoided, whereas a spot that has your smell, like your bed, will be infinitely more attractive.  The beds where human family members sleep will usually receive preference to everything else unless there's a sunny spot near a window on a cool day.  

Places like window perches or tall cat trees are attractive to some cats while others prefer the safety of being close to the ground.  It depends on the individual cat, though most will prefer a warm spot in the sun to a dark closet when they feel they're safe.  

Texture can be important too, but cats don't always like what humans expect them to like.  Think of it this way: Who buys the cat trees and cat toys?  Humans.  So, who do you think those things are actually designed to appeal to the most?  That's right - humans!  Many cats prefer the feel of a rough berber carpet over a fluffy, deep-pile rug.  The solidity of a harder surface appeals to some, and many enjoy rubbing up against fleece.  It depends on the cat.

So, Angela, the trick really is to let Milo tell you what he likes, not the other way around.  Observe his choices and try to understand his preferences.  And most of all, never try to force anything on him.  More than anything else, cats like to make their own choices.  If you'd like to ease him toward one choice, you can succeed if you do it carefully.  You have to make it seem like it's Milo's idea by leaving a treat or two in the area you'd like him to prefer, or pique his curiosity about it by making a fuss over the spot whenever you pass by.  You could also leave a dirty shirt of yours there to entice him.  Whatever you do, you have to make him think it's his idea.

With a little creative thinking, you can persuade a cat to do many things, but they always have to be things he actually wants to do.  Just remember that Milo's choices are his own and you really should respect and learn from them as long as he's safe.  We wish you and Milo all the best!