What Bothers A Cat The Most?


As cat owners, we want our feline friends to be happy and comfortable. However, there are many common things that can bother cats or cause them stress. Understanding what irritates your cat is important for maintaining their health and your bond.

In this article, we’ll explore the top annoyances for cats and how to avoid them. Cats can be bothered by loud noises, unfamiliar people, changes in routine, unwanted handling, dirty litter boxes, bullying from other pets, illness or injury, and lack of stimulation. By learning about these common cat bothers, you can take steps to minimize them and help your cat live their best life.

Read on to uncover what irritates cats the most, along with expert tips to keep your kitty calm and content.

Loud Noises

Cats have very sensitive hearing, so loud sounds that may not bother humans can be extremely bothersome and even painful for cats. Their hearing range is approximately 45-64 Hz to 45-64 KHz, compared to the human range of 64-23 KHz [1]. Loud noises like vacuums, blenders, loud music, or construction noises can therefore hurt their ears.

Some common signs that loud noises are bothering your cat include: hiding, flattened ears, dilated pupils, panting, shaking, and restlessness [2]. Cats may also behave aggressively or destroyed objects around the home in response to loud noises that are stressful to them. If a noise is especially traumatizing, the cat may exhibit lasting fear even when the noise has stopped.

Unfamiliar People

Cats tend to be shy and cautious around unfamiliar people[1]. The presence of strangers in a cat’s territory can cause stress and anxious behaviors like hiding. This is due to a cat’s natural inclination to be wary of unknown humans until they have gained the cat’s trust over multiple interactions.

There are some steps that cat owners can take to help minimize a cat’s anxiety when introducing them to new people. It’s best to introduce strangers gradually and let the cat warm up at their own pace. Allow the cat to observe the new person from a distance or safe spot first. Encourage the visitor to avoid prolonged direct eye contact, loud noises, and immediately reaching to pet the cat. Offer treats and toys to help facilitate positive associations. With repeated calm exposures, the cat will likely become more comfortable.[2]

While it may take some cats longer than others, slow introductions and positive reinforcement can help unfamiliar people become friends.

[1] https://www.alleycat.org/resources/cat-socialization-continuum-guide/
[2] https://www.quora.com/How-much-of-cat-behavior-is-influenced-by-the-human-companion-versus-their-own-nature

Changes to Routine

Cats thrive on predictability and routine. Changes in their environment or schedules can cause stress and uncertainty. According to experts, cats like to know what to expect in their daily lives.

Examples of routine changes that may bother cats include moving homes, schedule changes, and rearranging furniture. Even small changes like using a different litter box or food bowl could upset some cats. The unpredictability and lack of consistency associated with routine changes goes against a cat’s natural preference for stability.

To minimize stress, aim for gradual transitions when routines must change. Maintain as much consistency as possible in the cat’s schedule, environment, and care. Give the cat ample time to investigate and get comfortable with any new items or arrangements. Offer extra playtime and affection to help reassure the cat during periods of change.

Unwanted Petting/Handling

Cats often dislike being petted against the direction of their fur growth, as it can be uncomfortable or overstimulating for them (1). Being picked up and held is also bothersome for some cats, who prefer to stay grounded. Common signs that a cat dislikes petting or handling include swishing their tail, pulling their ears back, or even hissing or swatting (2). It’s important to pay close attention to a cat’s body language and respect their boundaries when they indicate they don’t want to be touched. The best approach is to let the cat initiate cuddling and petting on their own terms.

(1) https://www.insider.com/how-to-tell-if-your-cat-hates-you-2018-8

(2) https://pethelpful.com/cats/Signs-Your-Cat-Hates-You

Dirty Litter Box

Cats are very clean creatures and a dirty litter box can cause them a lot of stress. According to veterinarians, litter boxes should be scooped at least once a day, if not more, to keep them clean (Source). The general recommendation is to scoop the litter box 1-2 times per day.

Signs that a dirty litter box is bothering your cat include eliminating outside of the litter box and crying or pacing by the litter box. Cats want to keep their bathroom clean just like humans do. Allowing waste to build up in the litter box goes against their natural instincts and can cause anxiety. Maintaining a clean litter box by scooping daily and changing the litter regularly is an easy way to keep cats happy and avoid stress.

Bullying by Other Pets

Living in a multi-pet home can be challenging for cats if there is aggression and bullying from other pets. Many cats find persistent harassment and intimidation highly distressing, as cats are naturally territorial (Hill’s Pet Nutrition, 2020). Aggressive behaviors like stalking, ambushing, swatting, or vocal threats from other pets in the household cause intense anxiety in cats.

Bullying often arises when pets compete over resources like food, beds, toys, and human attention. The aggressor pet may guard these resources and prevent the other cat access. Cats that are bullied can become withdrawn, depressed, stop eating, and hide frequently to avoid their tormentor.

To reduce bullying, it’s important to provide multiple beds, litter boxes, food stations etc. around the home so there is less competition. Increase play time and interact with bullying pets more frequently to curb aggressive tendencies. Also make sure both cats have their own safe zones they can retreat to. With time, patience and proper training, bullying behaviors can be minimized so all pets can coexist harmoniously.


Cats are excellent at hiding signs of illness or injury. As prey animals, it is their instinct to mask vulnerabilities to avoid becoming targeted.

Because of this, observing changes in normal behaviors can provide key signs that something is wrong. Healthy cats are fastidious groomers, so issues with coat condition or self-care can indicate illness. Changes in food and water intake may also signal health problems.

According to VCA Animal Hospitals, some common signs of illness in cats include: lethargy, decreased appetite or thirst, weight loss, poor coat condition, hiding and anti-social behavior, limping, straining in the litter box, and vomiting or diarrhea.

When in doubt about your cat’s health, it’s always best to consult a veterinarian. Cats are prone to rapid deterioration when ill, so early detection and treatment is critical. Don’t write off changes in behavior – trust your instincts and have your cat seen if something seems off.

While frightening for owners, acting quickly at the first signs of illness gives kitty the best chance at effective treatment and a full recovery. Understanding subtle cues from your cat and not hesitating to involve the vet can alleviate suffering and may even save your pet’s life.

Lack of Stimulation

Cats are highly intelligent animals that need both mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy. A lack of activity can quickly lead to boredom, which may manifest as destructive behaviors like excessive scratching or crying. A bored cat is often meowing constantly or getting into things they shouldn’t be.

To combat boredom, be sure to provide your cat with plenty of enrichment activities and toys. Rotate different types of toys to keep things interesting. Provide puzzle feeders or hide treats around the house for your cat to hunt. Set up climbing shelves or cat trees near windows so they can survey their territory. Consider adopting a second cat for companionship and playtime. Dedicating time for interactive play sessions like chasing wand toys or light-up balls will also help prevent boredom.

With the right mix of mental and physical stimulation, your cat will stay happily occupied even when you are away. Just be sure to pay attention to the signs of boredom like meowing or destruction and adjust their enrichment as needed.


In this article, we explored some of the most common things that bother cats. Loud noises, unfamiliar people, changes in routine, unwanted handling, dirty litter boxes, bullying from other pets, illness and injury, and lack of stimulation were discussed as key sources of stress and discomfort for cats.

It’s important for cat owners to closely observe their pet’s behaviors and signals to identify when something is bothering them. Cats display body language like flattened ears, enlarged pupils, and aggressive vocalizations when upset. Understanding what bothers a cat allows owners to make changes to the home environment and care routine to reduce stressors. This leads to happier, healthier cats and strengthened bonds between pets and their people.

By paying attention to potential cat bothers, providing enrichment, sticking to schedules, introducing changes gradually, and creating a safe space, owners can minimize disruptions and annoyances. When cats feel secure and comfortable, they become the affectionate, playful pets we adore.

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