Cat Behavior

Kitty Conduct and Finding Common Ground: Three Vet Approved Tips for Cat Behavior Issues

Sarah Rae Murray is a writer, former veterinary practice receptionist and an advocate for all animals. 

Cat behavior runs the gamut from endearing to exasperating. We may not always understand our feline friends, but they fascinate us to no end. Clips on YouTube depicting comical cat antics are entertaining but anyone who lives with a feline roomie knows it’s not always a laughing matter.

Veterinarian Stacy Radics gives us some insight into common feline behaviors and provides helpful advice on how to work through these issues together. Just remember not all cat behaviors are problematic: “If they’re doing one of those unwanted behaviors it tends to be a normal cat behavior that humans find tedious. It’s not necessarily an abnormal behavior at all,” says Radics.

“If they’re doing one of those unwanted behaviors it tends to be a normal cat behavior that humans find tedious. It’s not necessarily an abnormal behavior at all.” – Dr. Stacy Radics

Here are three issues you and your kitty may encounter and some productive ways to keep the peace at home:

Issue 1: Scratching

Scratching is just part of living with a cat. It’s a healthy, normal, and instinctual behaviour. This is probably bad news if you’re looking at the ragged edge of your designer sofa. Fortunately, there’s a silver lining: “If we’re scratching inappropriate objects there’s always ways to work on redirecting that behavior and turning it into something that’s not crummy at home,” says Radics. There’s something for everyone: kitschy DIY scratchers, modern design-conscious styles, and elaborate structures for cat-centric homes. 

Once you’ve put your approved scratchers in place you can start redirecting your kitty. Rather than getting angry with them for scratching in the wrong place, pick them up and take them to the new scratch spot. Lightly rub their paws in a scratching motion and praise them for scratching in the correct area. Change can take time but don’t lose heart says Radics, “If you work on it, it’ll get better.”

Issue 2: Litter box use

It’s never fun to discover that your kitty has decided to do her business outside the litter box. It can also be cause for concern. Radics says, “Inappropriate use of the litter box, or not the litter box, is always a topic of conversation that we ask about in every single exam. Because we know your cat’s trying to tell us something if their litter box behaviors change.” The underlying cause of the behavioral shift can range from stress to infection to litter box placement or cleanliness. Inappropriate urination or defecation is definitely a subject best discussed with your veterinarian. Urinary issues, especially in male cats, can be extremely dangerous.

Issue 3: Boredom

Have you ever discovered an entire roll of toilet paper shredded and strewn about the bathroom? Household items can quickly become playthings if your kitty is bored. Despite their penchant for napping, cats need mental stimulation says Radics, “Environmental enrichment is something that’s missing in a lot of cat lives. Find lots of places for them to perch and watch the world go by, do food games with them, make time to play with them. Because they’re most often indoors and they’ve got to do some fun stuff, otherwise they’ll start doing not so fun things.”

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