Cartoonist Jim Davis, creator of âGarfield,â once said, âWay down deep, weâre all motivated by the same urges. Cats have the courage to live by them.â
Throughout my life, we always had a cat. Although typically very different than dogs, cats can be wonderful, endearing companions with unique personality traits. As with all pets, there can be some problem behaviors. In my column today, I will touch on some common and undesirable cat behaviors as well as tips on how to deal with them. Cat behavior issues and problems can be changed with diligent care.
Normal cat behavior
Since each cat is a unique individual, there is no definitive list of ânormalâ cat behavior. While there are many common feline behaviors, keep in mind that each cat is special and may act in ways that are slightly different due to their personality, environment or mood. For example, the most common cat behaviors include purring, grooming, kneading and climbing. But each cat will engage in these activities differently. Pay attention to your catâs behavior and determine what is ânormalâ for your cat so you can be aware of unusual behavior that may require a trip to the vet.
Cats are known to push their front paws in and out in a motion that resembles a baker kneading dough. In this case, however, the âdoughâ is a pillow, carpet, furniture or a personâs chest or head. Experts are not certain why cats behave this way. Some believe it is residual behavior from nursing as a kitten, or simply a way to show contentment. Other experts point out that cats have glands in the pads of their paws, so perhaps this behavior is a way to mark their territory. If kneading is causing damage, make sure to keep your catâs nails trimmed. If your cat is kneading you and causing pain, simply distract the cat by petting, playing with the paws or giving a treat. Avoid scolding or punishing the cat for kneading because the behavior is instinctual.
Climbing on everything
Cats generally like high places and are excellent climbers. This behavior is genetic, since cats are natural predators. A higher vantage point gives them a better view of their surroundings. Another practical reason for seeking a comfy ledge is to hide, which can allow them to take advantage of the warmer air or settle down for a nice catnap without being disturbed.
There are many types of cat perches that you can buy or make on your own, but make sure that the perch is safe and can hold the weight of your cat. If your cat enjoys climbing on high shelves or above the refrigerator and cabinets, make sure the area is clear of items that could hurt or trap your cat. And beware of falling objects.
Other cat behavior includes burying and scratching, which is another instinct in all cats. Some cats will paw at the area around their food dish to mimic burying, as well as covering their tracks after using the litter box. Cats will naturally scratch to keep nails clean and to mark territory. Or course, cats may want to scratch furniture or walls, so make sure to provide more acceptable options like a scratching post. Cats prefer to scratch textures that are appealing, so you can discourage a cat from scratching certain areas by applying double-sided tape or aluminum foil. With a bit of patience, you can direct your cat to scratch acceptable objects and minimize unwanted scratches in the household.
No rest for the wicked
Historically, wild big cats are nocturnal, which can result in domestic cats displaying tremendous energy at night. It is not surprising to be awakened in the middle of the night by your cat running madly around the house including your sleeping, lazy body. While this may be amusing at first, it is behavior that you can easily modify by playing with the cat before bedtime. You can also get another cat but that could result in two cats running around the house madly. With some patience, however, you should be able to modify your catâs schedule to allow you a good nightâs sleep.
Using the litter box
There are times when this becomes a problem. My gorgeous kitty, Mink, is an Exotic (Persian/domestic shorthair cross). In order to address this problem with Mink, I put a smaller litter box inside a wire crate in the area where he had been soiling. This solution greatly helped. Although Mink will still occasionally soil outside of a box, he is typically now using the litter inside of the crate.
Cats who have been declawed, can also have issues with litter due to associated pain after their surgery. I do not recommend declawing because it is an amputation. But for rescued cats who have been declawed, there are solutions such as various types of softer litter or other substances that will resolve this issue when the cat is reintroduced. Also, some cats do not like covered litter boxes. Always rule out any medical reason for your catâs avoidance of the litter box.
It is important to be aware of signs of aggression. An aggressive cat can be dangerous in the household and cause painful scratches or bites that can lead to infection or disease. Cats will act aggressively toward humans when they are afraid or believe they are in danger. There are common behaviors that signal aggression including a stiff, straight-legged upright stance; stiffened rear legs with head lowered; direct stare as well as growling or hissing. Cats will often act aggressively when they are injured or require medical attention. If a cat is acting aggressively, you should bring the cat to a pet care professional to determine if there is a medical cause for the aggression. If there is no medical condition, then you should consider ways to further socialize your cat. While each cat will have a different personality and temperament, cat behavior specialists and cat behavior training can assist you and your cat in behavior changes.
Cats are often admired for being independent which means that some cats will prefer not to be petted, carried, or have too much interaction with people. Like people, cats can be in the mood to be playful or they might want to be alone. Recognize and respect the differences in the unique personalities of each cat and remember that cats will have different moods. Cats are wonderful pets and valuable additions to the family. Make sure you and your cat are happy by being patient and allowing your cat to behave as naturally as possible. With a little patience and some help from the tips described, you can ensure your cat is well behaved and happy in your home.
âCat Daddyâ in W-B
Jackson Galaxy, the âCat Daddy,â is coming in December to the Kirby Center!!
Resource: Petâs Best
Judy Endo writes about pets. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.