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How Do Cats Ask for Help? The Surprising Answer!

Anyone who has ever lived with a cat has probably wondered more than once what their buddy was trying to tell them. Cats meow, stare, and even poke to get our attention, but is there a way to know if they’re asking for help or searching for a treat or a few cuddles? While it’s not always possible to know precisely what cats want, you can sometimes figure out if they’re asking for help mainly through the process of elimination.

Cats show they need help in different ways depending on the situation. Many felines meow when they want help with something, like getting down from a high cabinet. Yowling often indicates that a cat is in pain and needs immediate help. Keep reading for more on the ways cats ask for help.

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How Do Cats Ask for Help?

1. Meowing

Adult cats generally only meow to communicate with humans. So when your cat is meowing at you, there’s a good chance they’re telling you something is up or asking for you to feed, help or play with them. Cats meow when they’re hungry, and some even stand by their food bowls when it’s past their meal time.

They also meow if they need your assistance getting down from high perches like cabinets and bookcases or if they get stuck somewhere, such as behind a locked door. Many look deeply at their humans and meow while standing near toys when interested in some playtime.

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2. Refusing to Use the Litter Box

Cats often refuse to use stinky litter boxes, and it’s the only way they can communicate their need for a clean place to relieve themselves. Cats have incredible noses, so it makes perfect sense for them to be particular about litter box smells.

Litter boxes should be scooped daily to keep the material fresh for your cat. Change the litter about once every 2 or 3 weeks, and remember to give the box a good wash with unscented soap and hot water to remove odors.

Some cats dislike the smell of scented litter and may go outside the box if they’re repulsed by the aroma. However, unscented products with odor-absorbing additives such as charcoal or baking powder often control smells without adding a perfumed fragrance.

Cat near litter box_New Africa_Shutterstock
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock
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3. Spraying

Cats often spray when feeling insecure or threatened. Neighborhood cats can trigger the response, as can the introduction of a baby or another cat to the home. It’s a way of marking territory, as feline urine contains pheromones cats use to communicate information about themselves and notify other animals that a particular area has already been claimed.

Both male and female cats spray, but it’s most commonly seen in intact male cats. Identifying and removing stressors often remedies the problem. Sprayed urine tends to be more pungent than regular cat pee, so consider using a good enzymatic cleaner to prevent lingering smells. You can minimize your pet’s spraying by getting it fixed.

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4. Yowling & Crying

Cats often yowl and cry when in severe pain. These deep, heart-wrenching meows are strikingly different from most vocalizations, as they often have a different tone and last longer than regular meows. But cats are notorious for hiding signs of pain, so some cats withdraw, keep to themselves, and refuse to eat or drink.

Pets with osteoarthritis and joint pain often stand, sit and lie in awkward positions. Some pets struggling with painful joints or other mobility issues have trouble getting into and out of litter boxes, sometimes leading to accidents. Aggression and sleeping pattern changes can also indicate pain in cats.

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5. Hiding

Cats often hide when stressed, particularly after new babies and animal companions arrive. They can also be overstimulated by loud, repetitive noises and massive environmental upheavals, such as during home renovations. Giving cats feline-friendly spaces where they feel safe and protected often goes a long way toward lowering stress and anxiety.

Providing a room far away from loud noises and off-limits to any adventurous dogs gives cats a place to retreat when overwhelmed and anxious. Cat trees and shelves provide vertical play and lounging room, which often helps calm cats as they naturally feel more secure at high elevations.

a cat hiding under a couch
Image Credit: Rawpixel.com, Shutterstock
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6. Not Grooming Themselves

Most adult cats are fastidious when it comes to keeping themselves clean. Kitties often spend hours grooming daily, so it’s usually a sign that something’s not right when cats stop grooming themselves effectively. Cats with joint problems such as osteoarthritis sometimes have difficulty grooming due to lowered mobility. Cats experiencing pain caused by other conditions often have problems bathing themselves as well. Pets struggling with hygiene often have matted fur, urine stains on their paws, and bits of food sometimes stay on their chests after eating.

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7. Not Eating

Cats often eat less or show a lack of interest in food when they’re physically or psychologically unwell. Disinterest in food can be a sign of illness or infection, but it’s also seen in stressed-out and anxious cats. A loss of appetite can occur for several reasons, but it’s a serious condition that requires prompt veterinary assistance. If your cat’s illness is related to stress, your vet may prescribe calming medications or refer you to a veterinary behaviorist if the problem is severe.

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Cats ask for help in many ways. They often meow when they want food or attention, but they may also scream loudly when in pain. However, some of the indications that cats need assistance are more subtle. Behavioral changes, including litter box problems, signal that your cat requires your help. Interpreting your cat’s physical and emotional cues for help is challenging, but if you’re concerned about your pet’s behavior, it’s best to visit the veterinarian for a complete examination.

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Featured Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock