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This Month's October Newsletter in Pet Wellness:
Cat Behavior Problems
What is called good behavior in a cat varies greatly from household to household.
If you allow your cat to sleep on your neck, wake you up at 4:00 a.m.
for breakfast and walk on the countertops,
that's pretty much your business. It won't affect your neighbor.
However, it could take its toll on your and your home. Most cat behavior problems
Veterinarians see involve inappropriate urination and defecation (for example,
spraying or not using the litter box). Others involve aggression, usually toward
but sometimes even to the owner, excessive fearfulness or
fussiness and scratching furniture.
Being by bearing in mind how life looks from your cat's point of view.
Like humans and dogs, most cats enjoy affection and attention,
but their primary focus in life really revolves around have a comfortable,
safe environment with food and a sunny place to sleep.
Cats want to secure these things for themselves and since you're the source
that means, you, too.
In nature most cats are loners and must fend for themselves in adult life.
They must keep constant tabs on their world and make sure other cats don't intrude
on their hunting range, which can only provide limited support of carnivores.
They spend much of their lives watching and waiting, dozing,
but keeping an eye out for passing prey (or predators). Cats need to know their
and all that's going on there. They like predictability. And they like cleanliness
(smells are dead giveaways to prey).
Some of the most troublesome cat problems can be resolved if you take on a feline
For example, when cats urinate and defecate outside the little box,
they are usually unhappy about something in the environment.
It is a cat's way of expressing agitation, not a personal message to you.
Inappropriate elimination often means the litter box is not clean enough
or the particular litter that's used is not to their liking. Some longhaired
cats get upset
because the dirt little gets in the it's fur.
Sometimes the cat is just reacting to a change of littler box location,
which is best done in a gradual manner.
Certain cats just seem to want a more vertical surface,
a problem that may be solved by propping a second litter box on its side,
inside the main horizontal one.
If you cat is spraying (the way cats mark territory),
it can mean that he is disturbed by recent adjustments in his life and surrounds-
a new person in the household, a more anxious attitude from you because of stress,
or a move to a new home. A very common cause of agitation can be the presence
of a new cat, even it it's just in the neighborhood.
Inappropriate elimination may also signal chronic health problems such as allergies.
Many other problems are a matter of proper training, and you can apply
similar principles to those discussed for dogs. If you don't want your cat to
on your counter, scratch your couch, get on your lap when you're at a table
or a desk,
bat at you when she's hungry or wake you early in the morning,
you can usually head off these problems if you nip them in the bud.
It's best to decide on your limits from the beginning, and then enforce them
Say "No" and gently but firmly push her way, shove her off or put
her out for awhile.
Never yell at, scold or strike; it will frighten her and she will avoid you
or your touch.
If a situation seems to require serious discouragement, try a spray bottle.
Draping plastic over a couch or chair leg for a time will reduce its appeal,
especially if you place a scratching post nearby.
Act when she first starts the behavior, and, if you're consistent, the behavior
will not build.
If you let things slide, it can be very difficult to retrain a cat out of a
Unlike dogs, cats don't get as involved with you and your enthusiasm and praise,
which makes cats much less interested in the training game.
It also helps to remember that both cats and dogs are gamblers.
Research shows that if they are positively rewarded for a behavior
as few as one time in 20 tries, they may continue the behavior.
They are willing to gamble on the reward despite the long odds.
This is what you are up against in trying to a cat to change its behavior.
If you don't want kitty on the counter, but every once in a while
when she gets up there she finds foods, that jackpot will motivate her to try
at least another 15 or 20 times. On the other hand, negative consequences
(being pushed away, told "No", squirted, finding an uncomfortable
piece of plastic)
often have to be much more consistent to condition an animal.
Because of this, your training efforts are even better spent in making
sure your animal is never "rewarded" for undesirable behaviors.
Keep food off the countertop. Don't pick your cat up to remove her from the
admonishing her sweetly and scratching her affectionately in the process.
Avoid the temptation to say "Yes" now and then when you really should
Another effective technique is to channel your animal's behavior into a rewarding
Give her a treat whenever she earns it. Or consistently greet her with affection
when she jumps on your lap in appropriate times and places,
like when you're stretched out in your easy chair in the evening.
Provide her with an appealing scratching post and some toys for pouncing.
Most cats behave much better if you create suitable outlets for their energy.
Sometimes a cat trains itself into a bad habit and the untraining job falls
on to you.
Be ready to call on any tool available to you - psychology and physiology
included to get the job done. One common problem that can take months
to untrain is the cat that wakes her owner early in the morning to be fed.
If you respond, the cat is likely to waken you earlier and earlier.
The next thing you know, it's happening in the middle of the night.
You can thwart this problem early on if you start a new habit of feeding
your cat later in the morning and you stick to it.
However, her body clock in still used to the early habit, and
even if you stop feeding your cat until later, she will be restless and anxious
To reverse the trend, you will have to move the feeding time, gradually later
over a period of weeks or even months until you reach the time that works best
A common training problem with cats is teaching them
not to scratch your carpets, drapes and furniture.
The best solution is to "reward" your cat for appropriate behavior
by providing a scratching post that beats anything else.
As always your Veterinarian is the best source
of information and
treatment for questions or problems that may exist.
If you have any suggestions or comments or
would like to add to
our "Monthly Newsletter",
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