It seems like every time I open a book or read a study about cats I learn something really cool. Cats very closely parallel their wild ancestors in so many ways, which makes studying them so much fun. Most recently I read about frustration in cats and think that there are some common behavior issues that can be solved with a better understanding of how cats experience and withstand frustration.
What is Frustration
Frustration, like in humans, comes when cats develop expectations they can’t, for some reason or another, meet. Frustration usually results in a very aroused cat. The arousal can be so intense that their behavior can be erratic and even aggressive. If you’re noticing that your cat seems out of sorts at times you should consider these common sources of frustration:
Every kitten season, thousands of kittens are found or displaced and ultimately raised from infancy by humans. Although the kitten ultimately won’t end up on the streets living an abbreviated life due to disease and hazards, they do miss out on important life lessons that mothers, or queens as their called, teach. Most people usually think of socialization problems in hand raised kittens since they are usually taken from the litter and don’t get littermate input on their behavior, but there’s more to it than that.
An important lesson that queens teach their kittens is how to deal with frustration. They do this during the weaning process by cutting the kittens off before they’re full. This is understandably frustrating for kittens but serves to prepare them for a life of hunger-based frustration. Despite being excellent predators, there will be more failures than successes in their life and knowing how to handle the stress and frustration of those failures will keep them from shutting down mentally and emotionally.
People who hand raise their kittens often don’t have the heart to cut feedings short during the weaning process. Those ears and eyes and tiny noses don’t make it easy! As mean as it seems, its an important part of kittenhood and provides them with the mental and emotional resilience they’ll need not just to last between meals but for other sources of frustration they may face.
One thing we can all agree on is that cats can be fiercely independent. It’s clear when they have something in mind that they’re heading off to go do. When people interrupt their cats too frequently, frustration can build. Think about it from your own perspective. No one likes to be kept from doing what they want to do, especially when it happens all the time. Its easy to be of the mindset, “You are my pet and I want to pet you!” But that mindset can make for a volatile cat. The best thing you can do is let your cat do all their catty things without bothering them. Let them come to you for attention and try to limit interruptions the best you can.
I just wrote an article about how to keep territorial behavior problems in check. You can check it out here. When cats have to sit and watch as their territory (as far as they can see from the windows in your house) is invaded they get very upset. Frustration can build when the invasion is regular and there’s nothing they can do about it. Check out my other article for what you can do to ease this very serious source of frustration for your cat.
Signs of Frustration
The number one type of candidate for frustration are confident cats who are used to succeeding. It can be difficult to nail down the root of what’s going on with your cat, but these are the signs you can look for if your cat is frustrated:
- Inappropriate elimination – going outside the litter box can indicate a number of problems in your cat, so make sure to combine this with other signs and if you can’t, see your vet.
- Aggression – if your cat isn’t usually aggressive or if the aggression is coming in bursts
- Pacing – a sure sign of frustration and anxiety
- Vocalizing – demanding meowing is most often a signal that your cat is unhappy