Cat Behavior Problems?

Behavior problems in cats are one of the most common concerns for owners. Ongoing behavior problems are one of the leading reasons why cats are given away, taken to a shelter, or left outside. Here are a few common problems and a few suggestions to help:

Not using the litter box

House soiling is the number one feline behavior problem. Urinating in odd places usually means either a medical problem or a sign of a stress related behavior problem. Sometimes the difference is not clear at first. Cats often urinate in unusual places to get their owner’s attention when they are feeling unwell. Other symptoms to watch for are straining to urinate, vocalizing when urinating, or blood in the urine. An examination and laboratory testing including a urinalysis and bloodwork are needed to determine if a cat has a medical problem. Common problems include infection, urinary stones or crystals, and feline lower urinary tract disease. Male cats can get urinary blockages in which they are unable to urinate which requires emergency treatment. Once all medical problems have been ruled out, cats will sometimes soil outside of the litter box due to stress. Even subtle changes to their environment can cause stress. New additions to the family (people or animals), a different schedule, and even furniture changes, can cause stress. Cats may also not like the particular litter box design you have, not like the litter, or not like to location of the litter box. They may also not like it if another cat uses the same litter box. Another reason that cats will urinate or spray in odd locations is if they feel territorial. Even neutered and spayed cats can sometimes feel territorial against other cats in the house and even sometimes a cat they see outside the window.

What helps with stress related house soiling:

-Have one more litter box than you have cats (1 cat = 2 litter boxes, 2 cats = 3 litter boxes)
-Create a “safe space” which is an area they can get away from the dogs and have comfortable accommodations.
-Keep the litter boxes very clean and in different quiet safe locations throughout the house.
-Feliway can also help. it is a cat pheromone diffuser that has been shown to help relieve stress in cats.

Other behavior problems

Other behavior problems include biting and scratching people, and scratching furniture. Providing your cat with several scratching posts help prevent furniture scratching. Cats often will bite when they are playing too rough. Never use your hands or feet to play with your cat. Teach them to play with toys so that they don’t associate your hands as toys. Enriching your cat’s environment is very important with behavior problems in general. Providing for your cat’s mental well-being is just as important as providing for their physical well-being. Cats have natural behaviors and they must have opportunities to express those natural behaviors in appropriate ways. Examples of ways to provide enrichment to your cat include interactive toys, self play toys, food puzzles, and catios. Catios are outdoor enclosures to allow your cat to safely enjoy the outside world. Always use caution with cat toys. If your cat tries to swallow any part of a toy it should be taken away.
Cats are complicated animals and therefore cat behavior is also complicated. Theres a reason they say cats have staff not owners!

Megan Hughes, DVM