Why won't my cat spend time with me?

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Do you ever get the feeling your cat doesn't want to spend time with you? Behaviourist Jon Bowen explains...

(Q) As soon as I come home, my cats wait at the door to be let out (despite having a cat flap). Why don't they want to spend time with me? Are they punishing me for leaving them alone?

(A) Behaviourist Jon Bowen says: I would be more concerned about your cats if they were excessively keen to greet you when you got home, because this could be an indication that they need something. For example, an indoor cat that is given two meals a day and has long periods with an empty bowl will feel desperately hungry at times and will therefore be hugely enthusiastic that someone is home to provide more food.

Humans tend to see themselves at the centre of everything, so when an animal reacts in a particular way we assume that it is a comment on us. For example, when dog owners come home to find that the dog has urinated on the carpet, they will often say that the dog 'did it to punish them for being away'. Much more likely is that the dog is not properly house trained, was anxious when left alone or simply got desperate and needed a pee!

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The behaviour of cats can be so odd and idiosyncratic that it opens up the possibility for a lot of misinterpretation and over-interpretation. But we have to remember that the concept of doors is not one that cats evolved to deal with, so their behaviour around them can be a bit strange. I don't think you should be at all concerned about your cats' behaviour; they sound perfectly normal to me.