How to Handle Common Cat Behavior Issues

There are some cat behavior issues that seem to be common to most cats. Here is a list of just some of these behaviors and what you can do about correcting them.

Not Using The Litter Box

Unfortunately this ‘bad behavior’ is the most often used excuse for taking cats to shelters. I believe that it is up to the owners to train their cat to use the litter box and if there is a problem, they need to find out what is causing it. Cats will continue to use an area where they can smell their own urine. A cat breeder friend told me that the first time the kitten uses the floor to pee on, get some tissues to mop it up and take the tissues and kitten to the litter box. The kitten will then associate the smell with the litter box. Do the same thing with adult cats. However if an adult cat is continually eliminating inappropriately, you need to check for a possible underlying medical or emotional problem.

Hissing At People

Cats and kittens hiss when they are frightened or defending their territory from another cat. They will also hiss when they have had enough petting as a way of telling us to stop. If a cat has been teased or ill treated, it might hiss at strangers as it feels threatened by them. Hissing is generally a warning to ‘back away, I’m angry’ action. Even if the cat is frightened, it will try to bluff its way out of the situation by trying to appear aggressive. As responsible cat owners, be aware of your cat’s body language so you know what the hiss means. And if you have children, I’d strongly suggest you teach them how to understand what the cat is doing when it hisses at them and more importantly, what they need to do when confronted with a hissing cat.

Spraying On Walls Or Doors

If your cat is spraying on vertical surfaces, it is marking its territory. This will happen more in multi-cat households. To get rid of this horrible and smelly behavior, have your cat neutered or spayed. Cats will also spray to attract a cat of the opposite sex for mating. Removing the urge to mate will greatly reduce the need to spray urine on your kitchen door or lounge furniture when you have guests!

Scratching Your Furniture And Carpets

Cats love to stretch and sharpen their claws. Unfortunately many of them do it on our furniture, carpets or curtains. Your cat needs a scratching post and you need to train it to use it. It is easiest if you can start this training while your cat is still a kitten. However, you can still train an adult cat, it will just take a little longer. I suggest purchasing some sturdy cat tree furniture with ledges at varying heights. If possible, buy something modular that you can add to over time. Make sure the base and trunk are covered by something hard-wearing such as sisal. Each time your cat starts scratching the furniture, you need to tell it ‘no’ in a firm voice, pick it up and take it to the scratching pole and physically put its claws on the pole if necessary. Try rubbing some catnip on the trunk to entice your cat to use it. With adult cats, patience is the key for this one.

Jumping On The Counter Or Desk

This is one of those annoying cat behavior problems that I blame on my children. My cats have never been allowed on the counters in the kitchen and they have never tried to jump up there. However my daughter liked having her cat on the desk with her while she was working on the computer. And I think the cat loved it too – it was the perfect place for extra strokes and petting and it was nice and warm with the computer or laptop working. It was left to me to change this once my daughter left home for work. It is not something that will take long to change – each time the cat jumps up you say ‘no’ in a firm voice and put the cat down on the floor again. If you notice her about to jump back up, put your hand out and say ‘no’ again. It only took a few days of doing this for her to stop jumping up and once I’d vacuumed the cat hair out of the keyboard, everything worked well again.

Kittens Or Cats Chewing Electrical Cords

This seems to be a popular past-time of kittens. They are extremely curious about their new environment and as they grow, they venture further into new areas. Electrical cords seem to be just the right size for the kittens to sharpen those baby teeth on. To save your kitten from a nasty shock, and your electrical equipment from being damaged, you need to protect them by wrapping them into a bundle with some packing tape or similar. You can also try putting them behind equipment but kittens in particular are very good at squeezing into small spaces. You could put some adhesive paper sticky side up or some alfoil in front of the cords as kittens and cats don’t like walking on them or even sprinkle some pepper on the floor to deter them from venturing too close.

This is not an exhaustive list of how to handle common cat behavior issues, there are many more that will be applicable to your cat. Never punish your cat for these behaviors. All you will do is to teach your cat to fear you. By using patience and rewards, you will soon find the bad behavior issues disappearing. Then there are those other cat behavior issues that we love, the cat rubbing against our leg or curling up in a lap or on our beds at night. Those are the sort of common cat behaviors we enjoy having.

Aggression Between Cats – How To Identify and Steps To Correct

Litter mate aggression is very different from aggression between cats whether it is a neighbors’ cat or one you bring home. I love the idea of two cats to exercise and entertain themselves but cats tend to be very territorial and you must take several steps to identify aggressive behavior and perform proper steps to introduce the new cat in the house. First let’s define the types of aggressive behavior often demonstrated by cats.

Territorial aggression: This occurs when a cat feels that an intruder has invaded her territory.

  • Cats can be aggressive toward one cat yet friendly and tolerant with another.
  • Aggressive behavior problems often occur when a new cat is brought home, a young kitten reaches maturity, or a cat encounters neighborhood cats outside.
  • The most typical behavioral actions are stalking, chasing, ambushing, hissing, loud meowing, swatting, and preventing access to places such as the litter box, or another room.
  • Female cats can be just as territorial as males. This I know because I have one.

Inter-male aggression: Adult male cats may threaten and sometimes fight with other males. This aggressive behavior is common with typical of feral cats or cat that have not been neutered. They may fight over a female, for a higher place on the totem pole, or to defend territory.

Cats stalk, stare, howl, and puff up their fur to back each other down. If one does back down and walk away, the aggressor, having made his point, will usually walk away as well. If no one backs down the cats may actually fight. They may roll around biting, kicking, swatting, screaming and suddenly stop, resume posturing, fight again, or walk away.

When you see signs that a fight may occur, distract them by clapping loudly, tossing a pillow nearby, or squirting them with water. These actions can also be used to break up a fight.

Defensive aggression: Defensive aggression behavior occurs when a cat tries to protect himself from an animal or human attacker he believes he can’t escape. This behavior may be in response to the following:

  • Punishment or the threat of punishment from a person
  • An attack or attempted attack from another cat
  • Any incident that makes the animal feel threatened or afraid
  • Demonstration of aggressive defensive behavior postures include:
  • Crouching with the legs and tail pulled in under the body
  • Flattening the ears against the head
  • Rolling slightly to the side

Approaching a cat in this posture is likely to cause an attack.

Redirected aggression: Cats direct this type of aggression toward another animal, or even a person, who didn’t initially provoke the behavior.

A good example of redirected aggressive behavior is when your cat sees another cat in his territory and you happen to pet him during or shortly after and the cat attacks you. The cat doesn’t even know who you are at that moment because it is so worked up about the other cat that he attacks the first thing that crosses his path.

First steps you should take with a cat that demonstrates aggressive behavior:

1. Contact your veterinarian for a thorough health examination. Cats often hide symptoms of illness until they’re seriously ill. Your aggressive cat may be feeling sick and taking out his misery on others.

2. Should your cat get a clean bill of health your cat has an emotional problem. Please consult with your vet for further steps or get a referral to an animal behavior specialist for help. A behaviorist will advise you on what can be done. You may need to start the introduction process all over again between the two cats. Also, you may have to keep the cats in separate areas of your home, or even find one of the cats a new home if the aggression is extreme and can’t be resolved.

3. Consult with your veterinarian about a short course of anti-anxiety medication for your cats while you’re working on changing their behaviors. Never attempt to medicate your cat on your own always seek professional advice.

4. This could mean keeping the cats separated from each other while you work on the problem, or at least prevent contact between them during situations likely to trigger a fight.

The behavior of one intact animal can negatively affect all of your pets. Always have your cats spayed or neutered as a first action step to curb aggressive behavior.

Actions to avoid during the reintroduction process:

    • Don’t count on the cats to “work things out.”The more they fight, the worse the problem is likely to become. To stop a fight in progress, make a loud noise such as clapping your hands, squirt the cats with water, or throw something soft at them like clothes or a pillow.
    • Don’t attempt to touch them. Your chances of personal injury from a scratch or bite are highly likely.
    • Don’t punish the cats involved.Punishment will only cause further aggression and fearful responses that will make the problem worse. You could even become a target for redirected aggression.
  • Don’t add more cats or get litter mates in the beginning. Some cats are willing to share their house and territory with multiple non litter mate cats, but the more cats sharing the same territory; the more likely it is that the cats will not get along with each other.

In summary, the aggressive behavior found in cats is usually due to introduction of another cat you brought home or from other neighborhood cats in its territory. Litter mates tend to get along better if you are inclined to have more than one pet. Some cats are just aggressive in nature regardless of other cats and a trip to the veterinarian or a cat behavioral specialist may be needed. Remember there are several types of aggressive behaviors that can be demonstrated and you should be aware of the signs.

I have been a pet owner all of my life and for the last thirty years my wife and I have raised over a dozen cats. My website http://tipsaboutcats.com is your information source for “all about cats” their disposition and health. The blogs cover the basics of making your own cat toys and condos. The website also has many links, books and cat products in the blogs and the store. I also offer a condensed version of the blog posts in a mini e-book that can be found on the offer page at http://tipsaboutcats.com/offer/. There are two expert interviews in the blog pages that are must reads because they will answer most of your questions and concerns about cat health and diet that is best for your cat. Also please visit me at Facebook and Twitter.