Top Feline Behavioral Problems
In my best world, every animal would have a loving home, food and care, but that’s just not reality. I have always owned and loved dogs, but only because I’m allergic to cats. This doesn’t stop me from spending time with the “kitty cat.” I am a Rover, and I take care of many cats on a regular basis while their owners are away, and I am fascinated by their personalities and behavior. I can tolerate the feline for about an hour before I have to reach for the Benadryl, but I enjoy every minute with my meowing pals.
I even currently take care of a stray black cat, Inky, making sure he has food and water whenever he comes by. How any pet owner can move away and leave their pet I will never know. What perplexes me is, as much as I shower Inky with love, treats and food, he will take a swipe at me for no reason. I don’t like it. It intimidates me. Why is he being aggressive? Why would he try to scratch me? WHY? WHY? I needed to explore this type of behavior more deeply so I could understand Inky.
Cats are extremely smart animals. They can have big personalities and big mood swings, depending on what’s happening in their environments. Research shows that the more kittens are exposed to when they’re younger, can make all the difference when they’ve grown into adult cats and their ability to handle change. As an adult cat, they will have more tolerance and less anxiety if they’ve been exposed to different environments, noises, lots of people, young children, etc. Take your kitten out into the world safely and expose it to as much as you can. Cat equipment is available to make this possible, like pet joggers that keep your pet enclosed but able to see and hear what's around them. Mature felines have more trouble assimilating into new environments if they haven’t been exposed to change, and when your furry cat friend is upset or peeved, they will let you know it through aggressive and bad behavior.
Soiling or inappropriate elimination, aggression towards people, attention seeking and anxiety behaviors are the top behavioral problems pet owners face with cats. If any of these behaviors occur, especially suddenly, take your pet immediately to the veterinarian to be checked out. Your vet will be able to determine if this is a medical issue or skin disorder possibly, and if your cat is in pain and treat accordingly. Medication, supplements and/or a new diet protocol may be all your kitty needs to feel better and those negative behaviors will disappear. If your cat is healthy, please remember, your cat is not bad. Some of these behaviors, that we find irritating and displeasing, are actually normal behaviors for cats, but we cannot accept them.
Soiling or Inappropriate Elimination
Soiling or inappropriate elimination outside the litter box is one of the most common cat behavioral problems. Cats are avoiding the litter box and using your house instead. This commonly is a result of a medical issue such as a bladder or urinary infection, stone or crystal formation in the bladder, kidney or liver diseases, diabetes or colitis are just a few medical conditions that might be the cause and need to be treated immediately. Conditions that cause your cat to drink more water may cause frequent urination that is painful. The cat may associate painful elimination with the litter box. Be advised, the initial cause of soiling may have been medical, but once your cat has soiled inappropriate places, they may continue to avoid the litter box.
Once your feline is medically cleared of any health issues, you must begin by diagnosing what has caused your pet to stop using the litter box.
Litter Box Maintenance. Is the litter box clean? Do you clean it frequently enough? If you have multiple cats, the number of litter boxes and placement is very important. A good rule to follow is to have one more litter box than the number of cats you have. If you have two cats, you should have three litter boxes of appropriate sizes for your cats. You don’t like to use a dirty bathroom, and neither does your cat.
Litter. Cats generally don’t like a lot of perfume or strong smelling deodorizers in their litter. Try to pinpoint if there was a change in litter material when this problem began. You may need to change the type of litter and opt for maybe a clumping or a pellet kind or even go back to the one previously used. You may have to try several different alternatives, and see if any of these changes can relieve the negative behavior.
Placement of your litter box is key. If placement of the litter box isn’t comfortable or accessible, hard to use or painful for your cat, it will continue to avoid elimination in the box. You may need a litter box with lower sides for a cat that has joint trouble or arthritis for example. You may need additional lighting or a new location for the litter box that’s easier for your pet to access. Keep track of where the unwanted soiling is taking place, because this may be a sign that your cat prefers a different location. This can also be a signal regarding surface, is your cat constantly soiling on carpet or tile? There’s a pattern.
Remove anything unappealing from the litter box and the site. Use strong smelling deterrents on the sites where your cat has eliminated inappropriately to discourage a repeat action.
As the cat owner, you must really try and diagnose what brought about this negative behavior. Was there a change in environment, whether it be a change in the cat litter or adding another pet, or a move, etc. You will need to try different things and possibly keep the cat confined while diagnosing the problem. Don’t give up. Be diligent. Your vet can offer some guidance and alternatives, such as medication to help with the anxiety and stress if your pet needs some additional help in coping with a disruption to its environment.
Just like raising children, teaching your kitten right from wrong when they’re young is very important. Let your young kitten know that your hands, fingers, arms and legs are not toys for them to scratch and bite. You must focus their biting and scratching, which are natural behaviors, onto other objects. Toys are a great diversion. We want our kitty to scratch their cat post or chase and bite the wiggly, material snake, not try to swat and grab your legs and hands.
Moving toys are made to encourage your cat’s natural tendencies to stalk, pounce, and swat. You can use dangle or wriggle toys to interact personally with your feline. This also lets the cat know that this is playtime with you. When kittens are young, people can play and wrestle using their hands and fingers without injury, but when your kitten grows, their claws get bigger and so do their teeth. Ouch! Ouch! Try to anticipate when your feline is getting over-stimulated and watch for any signs and signals they give you that they want to be left alone, before they scratch and bite.
Cats are very good at letting you know when they’ve had enough, so stop before their behavior escalates and there are unwanted consequences. Some cats like to be petted for hours, some have had enough after fifteen minutes, and others don’t like to be petted on their bellies or near their tails. Be on the lookout for their signs and signals and respect them. If the aggressive behavior persists towards you, other people or another pet, you may need to use a water sprayer, an alarm or air horn of sorts to let the animal know that is not tolerated. Calming medication is also an option to try, these supplements can help aid in calming and make your pet feel comfortable and safe. Prevention is the best solution.
Attention Seeking, Anxiety Behaviors
Excessive meowing, loud crying and pawing are some examples of attention seeking behaviors, and they can be very persistent and annoying. As owners, we need to figure out what are possible causes and if they might just be natural behaviors. Certain cat breeds are known to be very vocal, and you could have a feline that really enjoys “chatting” with you or they paw you excessively because they do just need extra human attention.
Some feline pets love their treats, and they may constantly meow or cry for more. Remember your pet doesn’t need constant treats, it’s not good for them, and if they do get aggressive, you may have to stop treats altogether.
Anxiety, stress and boredom can also be a culprit. If you think your cat is bored and is negatively trying to get your attention, try a foraging mat. Hide treats in the mat and let your kitty hunt and work for its reward.
Scratching on your sofa instead of the scratching post for instance. Make sure that you have several scratching options for your cat if this is a problem. The market today has plenty of cat condos and scratching options that can stimulate and hold your cat's attention.
The one constant in all of these behavioral problem scenarios is that you, as the owner, need to do some investigating to figure out when the behavior started and reasons why. Get your cat to the vet for a check up and then do your homework. Was it a move to a new location? A new family member added to the household? A new pet that joined the family? A different litter or litter box? Any of these types of disruptions to your cat’s environment can cause negative behavior. You will need to try to diagnose the cause as best you can, and then use patience and love as you try to remedy the negative behavior.