Ever wonder why your kitty does those naughty things? Marci Koski is a Certified Feline Behavior Specialist from the Portland, Oregon area who works with owners of cats with behavioral issues to figure out which biological/emotional need is not being met, and then developing a plan to help meet the kitties needs, thus ending the inappropriate behavior. Koski explained the 9 most common inappropriate behaviors and cats. If your cat is doing one or more of these things, contact a local certified feline behaviorist to help you tackle the problem.
Why does my cat…
#1 – Not use the litterbox?
There are three primary reasons your kitty may be going outside of the litterbox. First, there may be a medical issue causing pain during urination, which your cat then associates with the litterbox, so be sure to get your cat examined by a veterinarian to make sure that he doesn’t have a urinary tract infection or other health issue. Second, a change in your cat’s environment may be causing stress – have you added another pet to your family, or have you moved? Even small changes can cause stress. And third, your cat may be dissatisfied with his litterbox setup. Make sure that you have enough boxes that are big enough, and that you are using an appropriate litter and cleaning the boxes every day.
#2 – Bite/scratch me when I go to pet him?
Some cats are generally fearful of people, which may be the result of not being socialized enough as a kitten. Reaching out to a cat to pet him can be misinterpreted as a threat, and the cat will defend himself by biting or scratching. Alternatively, your cat might be accustomed to you playing with him using your hands (a big no-no!), and react with rough play. Additionally, some kitties have “petting-induced” aggression, where they have a lower tolerance for petting and physical contact. Make sure you pay attention to your cat’s body language so that you can avoid being bitten or scratched when interacting with your kitty!
#3 – Beat up other cats?
Feline members in a multi-cat family don’t always get along; there are a lot of reasons for inter-cat aggression, and they’re not always clear. Cats may not have been properly introduced to each other upon being brought into the home, in which case they can view each other as threatening. Competition over shared resources (such as food, water, toys, litterboxes, etc.) can also cause aggressive behavior in cats. Fear, changes in the environment, territory issues, and even medical conditions (or coming back from a visit to the vet) can all trigger aggression in cats that normally get along.
#4 – Spray (both male and female)?
Both male and female cats spray, and this can usually be greatly reduced (or stopped altogether) when a cat is spayed or neutered. However, cats can continue to spray, usually as the result of territory issues, or in an environment where the kitty is anxious or stressed. If your cat is spraying near doors or windows, he might be responding to the presence of an outdoor kitty that he perceives as “encroaching” on his territory, or new smells that enter the home through these entrances. Alternatively, if your cat sprays on significant household items (like your bed), your cat might be stressed or insecure about her relationship with you; it is thought that spraying can be a “self-soothing” measure that calms cats by intermingling her scent with yours.
#5 – Scratch my furniture?
All cats have the need to scratch! They do this to leave visual and scent marks on various surfaces, shed the outer surface of their claws and keep them maintained, and to stretch many muscles in the body. If your cat is scratching your furniture, it means that you have not provided her with an adequate scratching surface, which must be stable, large enough to accommodate stretching, and have a suitable scratching surface. Cardboard horizontal scratchers, larger scratchers covered in sisal rope, and carpeted cat trees are favorites, but try different things to see what your kitty prefers. And please don’t declaw – it’s really not a solution, because cats who are declawed are subject to a lot of pain, and can develop other behavioral issues!
#6 – Wake me up at 3 am for breakfast?
Has your cat trained you to give him food whenever he demands it? If your kitty is waking you up at 3 am because he wants something and then you give it to him, you are reinforcing his pesky habit! Your cat might be waking you up early because he didn’t get his energetic needs met the day before (did you play with him? did he get any exercise?), or because he may be hungry (are you feeding him enough small meals throughout the day, and feeding him just before bedtime?). If you can get your kitty on a regular schedule of play and feeding, you can begin to adjust the time your cat wants you to get up and submit to his every whim!
#7 – Hide all the time?
Many cats are very shy, fearful, or have not been properly socialized. If your cat avoids interacting with your family, take a look at her environment – are there other pets who are bullying her? Is your cat scared of small children who may not know how to interact with kitties? Are there sudden noises that occur in your home, or perhaps something else that could startle or scare your kitty? If your cat is hiding because she is new to the home, try confining her to one room with everything she needs and spending time with her there. Bring her food and treats…a great way to start earning her trust!
#8 – Lick herself all the time, or overgroom?
Overgrooming can result in bald, irritated patches on your cat’s skin. If your cat seems to be licking herself all the time, take her to a veterinarian to be examined for allergies (fleas, food, or environmental allergies), or for other medical issues that could cause overgrooming. Stress and change can also cause overgrooming, which may be another “self-soothing” activity that cats perform. Has something in her environment changed? Moving, adding new family members, and other environmental changes can cause stress and result in overgrooming.
#9 – Constantly meow so loudly?
If your kitty starts yowling for long periods of time without stopping, this could be the sign of medical issues, particularly in older cats. Older cats meow in response to pain or being disoriented, so visit your veterinarian to see if either of these issues are possible reasons why your cat may be meowing excessively. Alternatively, your cat might be bored and begging for attention! Make sure you give your kitty plenty of play time and mental stimulation during the day.