So you’ve decided to add a new member to your family.
No, not a baby – a cat.
Whether you adopt a baby kitten, or rescue an older cat, it can be rewarding to share your home with a new pet.
Despite their aloof reputation, cats can actually show love and affection towards their owners (although maybe not as much towards strangers).
But in between the cuteness and cuddles, you may encounter behavioural issues.
Here at our Toronto veterinary animal hospital, we help cats and their humans deal with their bizarre behaviour all the time.
Here are some of the more common cat behavioural issues we face, and how to solve them.
Common Cat Behavioural Problems
From scratching your new couch, to refusal to use the litter box, cat owners should be prepared to deal with common behavioural issues which may arise with their new furry friend.
In this article we will discuss some of the most common issues cat owners may run into, and how to address them.
1. They’re Clawing Up My Furniture!
Why do cats scratch?
It’s a way to mark their territory, as a way to stretch, and to sharpen their claws.
It is a normal, instinctive behaviour and it’s probably not a good idea to attempt to get your cat to stop scratching entirely.
If you want to prevent your cat from scratching your new couch, you will need to offer alternatives.
A strategically-placed scratching post or two can be just the trick in many cases – sprinkle some catnip on it to make it more enticing.
Some cats show preferences for certain fabrics over others, so you may need to offer them different textures to find the right one.
You can also make spots which are off-limit for scratching un-appealing by using double-sided tape or aluminum foil.
2. They Just Won’t Shut Up!
It’s cute when your cat tries to “talk” to you, right?
Well, it’s cute until its 4am and you’re just trying to get some sleep – cats are nocturnal animals after all, and requesting – no, demanding – breakfast when you’re still sound asleep seems can perfectly reasonable – to them.
There are a number of reasons why your cat might be vocalizing more often:
● This can be a sign of senility in older cats
● Some breeds, such as Siamese, are naturally more vocal than others
● It could be a sign that your cat is in pain – some of these may be obvious, for instance a pinched tail or altercation with another cat, others are less obvious for instance crying while using the litter box may indicate discomfort while urinating or defecating
● Excessive meowing during the day could simply be a sign they want your attention – at night it might be a sign of boredom.
The solution to a cat that “just won’t shut up” will depend on the reason why they are vocalizing excessively.
If you have a breed which is naturally more vocal, there might not be much you can do.
If you always give in when your cat cries for more attention or treats, though, you will teach it to continue this behaviour.
Providing toys or activities for your cat to keep busy at night may help with excessive meowing at night – another option is to schedule extra play-time in the evening so they are less active.
If you suspect the meowing is due to your cat being in pain, it may be time to visit the vet, especially if you suspect a urinary tract issue.
3. They Won’t Use The Litter Box!
There are a variety of reasons your cat may not be using their litter box.
If the reason for this might be medical, you need to get to the vet immediately.
However, once this has been ruled out, the reason could be due to issues with the litter box itself, or the type and amount of litter you are using.
Common issues which are easily fixed with regard to the litter box may include:
● The litter box is dirty – cats often have very exacting standards for their litter boxes, and may refuse to use a box which is not cleaned out regularly.
● The type or amount of litter you’re using may not be acceptable to your picky kitty – if the litter is too deep in the box this could cause an issue. Alternatively your cat may prefer a different brand.
● If you have multiple cats, be sure you have more than one litter box, so they don’t have to share.
● Attempt to eliminate or minimize possible stressors – for instance if you have indoor cats, they may become anxious when seeing outdoor cats through the window, so closing the curtains when other cats are around may help.
4. They Won’t Stop Licking Themselves!
Cats are “self-cleaning”, and some amount of licking is normal, however if it becomes excessive there may be other issues in play.
If your cat is licking to the point of an area becoming hairless and raw this can be a sign of stress or pain.
Note that although this response may indicate your cat is in pain, the area they are licking may not be the same area where they are experiencing pain.
If you suspect your cat is in pain, plan a visit to your vet to discuss potential solutions.
Possible solutions may include a special diet, medications, or supplements to help ease pain, lower stress levels, and ultimately put a stop to this behaviour.
5. They’re Fighting Each Other!
If your cat is showing aggression towards other cats (or other pets in general) this is an issue you will want to get a handle on right away.
If you have recently introduced a new pet into your home, the aggression could be due to the stress of a new animal being present.
“Catfights” are more likely to occur between cats of the same sex, and this behaviour gets worse during mating season.
Changes in the cat’s social environment (such as adding a new cat), or physical environment (rearranging furniture) can also cause stress and fights.
Changes in routine may also be a cause of stress, leaving cats to fight.
As noted above, there are a number of potential reasons why your cats may be getting into fights.
Ensuring that your cats are spayed or neutered can help reduce aggression, especially during mating season.
If possible, attempt to determine what the trigger is for this behaviour, and remove it if you are able to.
If you have one cat who is more of a bully towards your other cat, avoid rewarding this behaviour, even if giving more attention seems to be a way to calm them in the short term.
Providing more toys and activities for your cats to focus their energy on may also help.
Contact Bickford Park Animal Hospital
Are you worried about your cat displaying the behaviours noted here today?
Perhaps you’ve tried everything you can to stop your cat from demanding breakfast at 4am, to no avail?
Or you are worried about how your new kitten is getting along with your older, more stubborn cat who is used to having you all to herself?
Contact Bickford Park Animal Hospital today, and let us help you determine what the best solution is for you and your cats to live together in peace.
Bickford Park Animal Hospital is a veterinary clinic in Toronto, located across from Christie Pits park, committed to the highest level of caring and treatment for cats and dogs.