Cats are marvelous, beautiful creatures. Because they are independent and don’t require a lot of space, they make great pets for seniors, people living in apartments, people with busy lives, and so many more. Cats that are exclusively companion animals and live indoors typically live long and healthy lives, free from the injuries and illnesses that outdoor or feral cats face. However, all cats have a drive to scratch, play, investigate, jump, and hunt. While they can indulge in all these behaviors outside, when they are indoors, these natural acts can become frustrating for a pet owner when they involve the destruction of household items or furniture.
Other difficulties involve elimination and spraying. According to Gary M. Landsburg of the North Toronto Veterinary Behavior Specialty Clinic, these are some of the most common problems cat owners face, so you know that you are not alone if you are dealing with these issues.
And according to a special report published by the Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association, behavior problems can lead to family stress and a deterioration of the bond between the pet and their owner. No one wants this, so this article will cover several common cat behavior problems and how you can work with your cat to fix them.
Keep in mind, the best way to achieve better responses from your cat is to use positive reinforcement training combined with redirecting their behavior to something acceptable. Try to avoid fear-based exercise, like loud noises or spraying with a water bottle. These rarely work well, and frequently the cat will only learn not to do the behaviors when you are around. At worst, it can make your pet scared or aggressive around you, which is the opposite of what you want.
Scratching can be incredibly destructive, but it is also a natural behavior for cats. Cats use scratching to mark their territory and to signal their environment to other cats. Cats also have claws that need frequent sharpening, so they scrape to remove worn and frayed edges from their claws. Because scratching is a normal instinct for them, it is challenging to prevent it, and because it helps in their grooming, you may not want to. Instead, provide surfaces that are more appropriate than your furniture.
The ASPCA suggests purchasing various scratching posts with different features because different cats are attracted to various surfaces. Some cats like cardboard, others prefer carpeting; some like horizontal surfaces, others prefer something more vertical. Try different types and locations. Once you find a scratching post, your cat seems to like, buy several of them, and put them next to the surfaces you don’t want them to scratch. Train them away from what you don’t want them to scratch by making it less appealing; the ASPCA suggests putting double-sided sticky tape on those surfaces or covering them with plastic. Simultaneously, make the posts more attractive by placing toys on them and scenting them with catnip. Not all cats react to catnip, so toys and a desirable location are essential.
If your cat shows aggressive responses or biting others, the first step is to move the cat away from others, for everyone’s safety. You don’t want anyone to get hurt, and you don’t want the problem to worsen. If your cat is aggressive with visitors, for example, you may want to give them their room or space in the house with a litter box and toys where they can be when new people are in your home. In time, you may be able to introduce your cat to others slowly, but separation is critical at first.
- Towards people
If your cat is aggressive towards other people, try to monitor when it happens. Some aggression can be fear-based, as when some people try to approach too quickly. Aggression or biting can occur because they don’t want to be petted in a certain way, or while they are eating or sleeping. In these cases, it may be easier to train the humans not to approach the cat in specific ways. Let the cat choose when to come to people, and always allow them space to move away when they wish. However, if this seems like a new behavior, you should talk to your vet. Cats can become suddenly aggressive due to pain or illness.
- Towards other cats
If your cat is acting aggressively towards other cats, your first step should be to separate them and place them in areas where they can be apart. One cause of competition aggression is resource hoarding. Reduce this problem by providing multiple, identical beds, food bowls, and litter boxes in different locations around your home. Another helpful tip is to provide additional cat perches and hiding places. Giving your cats space between them may clear the air. If you have a larger cat, you will want a sturdy cat tree for them.
Litter Box Problems
Many cat owners have problems with elimination issues, which can be incredibly frustrating, as it can become a chronic problem. Once your cat decides that their favorite place to urinate is in the middle of your bed, it can be challenging to untrain that behavior. One of the best options is to try to prevent this problem, to begin with. Make sure to purchase litter boxes that are large enough for your cat. You will want one that for each cat in the home, plus one extra. You also want to make sure that your cat can quickly get to it. If you are concerned that litter boxes might be unsightly, check out reviews on the best litter furniture.
If your cat is avoiding the litter box, there are a few simple steps you can try. First, make sure that the box is cleaned thoroughly and regularly—plan on scooping at least once a day. Second, make sure the litter is only one to two inches deep. Cats do not like litter that is too deep; three or four inches is too much for most cats. Third, if you have changed anything recently like the box’s placement, or the type of litter you are using, try changing back. Cats can be very particular on where they go and the scent and feel of the liter.
If these steps don’t resolve the problem, there are a few other options to try. Make sure the litter box is not near loud noises or a lot of foot traffic. But at the same time, cats like their litter box in areas where they can see around them. They don’t like to feel cornered. Try moving the box to different locations, but do not put them near food bowls.
Your cat may decide they don’t like their litter box if something made the box seem like an uncomfortable place. This can happen if they develop a medical condition, like a UTI, that has made urination painful. Even after the problem is solved, they may hesitate to return to their box. This is why choosing high-quality cat food, and regular veterinary care is so critical.
Having a pet is a beautiful thing and good for your health. Cats are fantastic companions that add a lot to our lives. Don’t let behavior problems become a burden on the special relationship you have with your feline friend. Many of the issues people face with their cats can be solved. Don’t give up! Try the steps above and talk to your veterinarian if you are having problems. Working together and finding a solution will help you and your pet live a long, happy life.