17 Things You Do That Your Cat Actually Hates, Experts Say

These seemingly harmless—even affectionate—acts definitely rub your cat the wrong way.

Cats are among the most popular pets in the United States—and among the most fickle, too. For every moment they spend purring in your lap, there's a precious family heirloom that gets knocked off the display shelf. And while it may not always be easy to figure out why they act out or exactly what those "loving" nuzzles or "playful" nips really mean—cats are notoriously difficult to read, after all—there are certain things that are sure to irk your cat and result in you getting a strong dose of that classic feline attitude. So, with insights from veterinarians and other animal experts, here are some of the things you do that cats hate.

Rub their belly

tabby cat lying on its back on a wooden table

Sure, your cat's soft belly looks like it's begging to be rubbed, but it's best to resist the urge or you might find yourself in trouble.

"When cats fight, they kick each other in the belly," says Jim D. Carlson, a holistic veterinarian at Riverside Animal Clinic in McHenry, Illinois and host of the Awesome WooWoo Holistic Vet podcast. That being the case, if you try to pet them in that area, they may see it as an act of aggression and respond as such, he says.

Cradle them like a baby

white woman cradling orange cat

You may consider your cat your baby, but do yourself a favor and avoid cradling them like you would a human child.

"Cats hate to be held this way," says Sara Ochoa, a small animal veterinarian in Texas and consultant for DogLab.com. "They would rather be held sitting up so they can attack if needed."

Take them on car rides

orange cat looking out window in car

Think your cat will make a good companion on your next road trip adventure? Think again.

"While your dog may love to ride in the car, most cats hate [it]," Ochoa says. In fact, cats that are taken on long car trips often end up at the vet, she says, because the stress can cause them to experience everything from panic attacks to vomiting to incontinence.

Give them a bath

cat getting bathed

You probably already knew this one, but it bears repeating—cats are not fans of the aquatic.

"Cats hate the water and would rather never have to have [a bath]," says Ochoa, who recommends using waterless shampoo to bathe your furry friends instead. They are also skilled self-cleaners as you have witnessed countless times if you are a cat owner.

Cover their litter box

tabby cat next to yellow litter box
Shutterstock/Ysbrand Cosijn

That covered litter box may look neater than an open one to you, but if your cat had its way, that box would be a convertible instead of a hardtop. "Cats prefer to have large litter boxes that offer air flow," says Brian Ogle, assistant professor of anthrozoology at Beacon College in Leesburg, Florida. "Closed boxes prevent proper airflow, which discourages use."

Spray air freshener in the house

silver tabby sniffing air freshener
Shutterstock/Mikhail Romanov

Those air fresheners may smell great to you, but they're not nearly as pleasing to your cat's olfactory system.

"Cats use scent as one of their primary ways to track prey," Ogle says. "As such, they are very aware of the scents in the home." Heavily scented candles, air fresheners, and perfumes can be irritating to your average house cat, he says.

Ignore them

Maine Coon cat on white background, close-up view

Your cat isn't actually as solitary an animal as you might think—even though it sure seems like they can't be bothered a lot of the time.

"Cats do enjoy interacting with their humans and need routine socialization," Ogle says. And that's what may be driving them to act out or misbehave, he says. They may just want your attention and affection.

Train them like a dog

woman scolding gray cat who knocked over vase

A spray bottle and a stern utterance of the word "no" may have been effective methods for training your dog, but cats are not dogs—they are, well, cats.

"They don't respond to punishment," says pet expert and groomer HollyAnne Dustin of Life and Cats. "You have to work with cats and offer them alternatives."

Wake them from a nap

sleeping cat signs of affection

Do you like being unceremoniously roused from your sleep? Yeah, well, neither does your cat. "Being grabbed or forced to do something they don't want to do makes cats feel trapped and fearful," Dustin says. That's especially true when done as a means to wake them up from a peaceful slumber.

Fail to clean their litter box regularly

black and white cat in open litter box
Shutterstock/Tiplyashina Evgeniya

You know what they say, "Clean litter box, happy cat." Okay, we don't know if "they" actually say that, or who "they" even are, but the statement rings true nonetheless.

"Their senses are much more sensitive than ours, so not only do they hate a dirty litter box, they hate a litter box filled with scented litter," Dustin says. Scooping each box in your house at least twice a day is ideal, she says.

Make loud noises

gray and white cat afraid of vacuum

Cats' ultra-sensitive ears make it easy for them to detect danger, but the acuteness of their hearing also means loud sounds can send them into panic mode. If you're playing loud music, using power tools, or vacuuming, "respect the cat and give them a way to get away from the racket," Dustin says.

Touch their paws

white hand touching cat paw

Your dog might gladly extend his or her paw your way for a friendly shake, but your cat? Not so much.

A cat's paws are among their most "sensitive parts and they usually don't like exposing them to people," says Boriana Slabakova, co-founder of PetPedia.

Close them in or out of a room

gray cat outside glass door

Surprisingly enough, something as seemingly innocuous as a closed door can make an otherwise happy cat go off the rails—hence the frantic meowing that occurs when you restrict access to a particular room.

"Cats love being able to go wherever they want and they may easily get 
anxious if their movement is restricted," Slabakova says.

Peel an orange

woman peeling orange

If while you're prepping an orange so you can enjoy a little citrus snack, you happen to notice your cat acting strangely, those two details might not be entirely unrelated.

"Cats are hypersensitive to odors [and] one of the odors they absolutely despise is citrus," says Dawn LaFontaine, founder of Cat in the Box. According to the ASPCA, oranges can actually be poisonous to cats, so use caution when using orange oil in cleaners or fragrances around the house, too.

Touch their tails

white hand pulling black and white cat tail

Unless you're eager to get on your cat's bad side, you're better off keeping your paws off its tail. "Most [cats] dislike full-body petting, especially petting that extends to their tails," LaFontaine says.

Meow at them

young asian woman with her pet persian cat bumping head together with love

It may feel natural, and even sweet, to mimic the sound your pet makes—almost like you are attempting to communicate in their own language. This behavior, however, is one that your cat has little use for.

Cats generally reserve their meows for humans to indicate that they are in need of something, and, LaFontaine says, "the thing they want is not a meow back." Instead of playfully mimicking your cat's vocalizations, she recommends that pet owners learn their cat's distinct meows for indicating hunger, fear, or a desire for affection.

Buy microfiber furniture

orange cat looking at gray couch
Shutterstock/Ser Borakovskyy

That smooth microfiber sofa may feel nice to you, but your cat is far less psyched about your interior decorating decisions.

"They love nubby surfaces they can dig their claws into [and] dislike smooth surfaces including microfiber fabric," LaFontaine says.

Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more
Filed Under