Behavioral Problems


DCL

Be realistic in your expectations. Certain behaviors are deeply rooted in the feline psyche and can't be altered. Nighttime romps and furniture climbing, for example, are carryovers from nocturnal hunting and territory surveillance in the wild. Out of respect for the feline nature, you will need to make some accommodations yourself. If your cat makes you up at night, try having a good play session with him before bedtime. Sleep with earplugs until the cat realizes you won't be roused in the middle of the night for an extra feeding. Don't simply scold the cat for scaling curtains and other household items. Satisfy the feline instincts to exercise and to survey the surroundings by investing in a cat tree.

Behavior problems aren't as likely to arise if you understand the working of the feline mind. Understanding what underlies certain behavior will help you determine whether you should try conditioning your cat or whether you'll have to settle for changing your home environment or your own conduct. Modifying your cat's behavior will take consistent encouragement or discouragement, most likely a combination of both. Take a gradual approach and be patient, bearing in mind the feline's natural resistance to change.

Chewing

Some cats, especially kittens, develop the bad habit of chewing household objects. This may be an instinctive reflex transferred from the wild, where felines must work through skin, fur, or feathers and tear meat off bones, but around the house this behavior can be deadly — especially if your cat gnaws through electrical wires. Hide chewing targets or make things such as cords taste, smell, or feel unpleasant. Wires, for example, can be wrapped in double-sided sticky tape or coated with a commercially available cat-repellent spray.

Litter Box Problems

Many cats occasionally eliminate outside the litter box. Any change in your cat's toilet habits is cause for concern and may signal a health problem. Pain when voiding, for instance, may give your cat an aversion to the litter box. Visit the vet as soon as possible to determine if an underlying illness is to blame.

Assuming the vet gives your cat a clean bill of health, start looking for other causes of his behavior. Is the litter box dirty? Cats have a much stronger sense of smell than humans and will tend to avoid an area where they can smell buried waste, be it their own or another cat's. Remove the waste at least once or twice a day and empty and wash the box frequently — litter-pan liners can make this job easier. Have you changed the type of litter? Your cat may be averse to the consistency or fragrance of a new brand. Many cats dislike scented litter or litters composed of hard pellets. It's usually best to stick with unscented litter of the type your cat is used to; if you must switch, do it gradually. Where is the litter box situated? If the box is located in a noisy or busy area or if your cat was frightened by something while using it, move it to a safe cat-friendly site. Leave a bowl of dry food at sites where you want your cat to stop eliminating; as a rule, cats don't eliminate at spots where they eat. You may need to move the litter box to its final location gradually or enclose your cat in the room where it is kept until he begins to use it again. For more litter box tips,click here.

Another possibility is that your cat is spraying urine outside the box. Your cat will stand, tail raised high and quivering, and back paws often stepping rhythmically. Such behavior is usually sex-related, so if your cat, male or female, isn't already sterilized, have it done at once. If you catch your cat in the act, a scolding, "No!" may stop it that one time, but won't solve the problem. In fact, it may compound things by stressing the cat.

Scratching

The feline scratching reflex is simply too deeply ingrained to be eliminated. Declawing your cat won't do it and should be avoided if at all possible. In addition to making furniture and other items less attractive to the cat by using physical barriers and other commercially available products, encourage him to use other alternatives, such as a sturdy scratching post. To be effective, the post must be tall enough to allow the cat to stretch to full height without tipping it over and covered with rough, easily shredded material such as sisal rope, cardboard, or tree bark. Some cats love carpet-covered scratching posts, although their claws often get stuck; the more tattered the carpet, the better. Others like the feel of the carpet's underside. While most cats prefer vertical posts, some take to horizontal surfaces, so plan to experiment with different types and materials. Place a scratching post in an open area of your home where the cat's claw marks will be readily be seen. Since most cats enjoy a good scratch when they wake up, situate a second post near your cat's favorite sleeping spot. Rubbing your cat's paws up and down the post may attract him to it once his scent is deposited on it, but many cats will balk at having their paws held. Make the post more alluring by placing a favorite toy on top to climb to or by rubbing or spraying it with catnip. Reward your cat for scratching the post, either with affection and approval or a food treat; if he claws the furniture, apply repellent or double-sided tape to his target and move the post closer to the favored piece of furniture.

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