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We love cats; they are adorable, fluffy and have tons of attitude. They are also much lower maintenance than many other pets, like dogs and birds. If these feline friends have behavioral issues, though, they can be hard to share your home with. Like other pets, cats can have any number of quirks and traits that can pose issues.
Sadly, many pet parents will end up surrendering their cats to shelters because of behavioral problems that they think make the cat an improper fit for their lifestyle. When cats are surrendered to already overcrowded shelters, sadly, their risk of euthanasia rises.
What is especially heartbreaking about this fact is that many of the behavioral issues that cause guardians to abandon their cats can be easily adjusted. So, if you are struggling with a new cat or kitten – or know someone who is – check out these five tips to help make your life, as well as your cat’s like, much more awesome.
1. Improper Bathroom Habits
If you have an indoor cat, you know the woes of the litter box. For cat parents across the globe, the litter box is the bane of pet parenting existence. Having a cat, or multiple cats, that decide to utilize the litter box in an improper manner (or don’t use it at all) can make even the most patient of cat lovers lose their mind. The first step to alleviating a litter box issue is by determining what is causing it. There are five common reasons for a cat to go outside the litter box.
- Not being Neutered/Spayed
- Issues with other cats
- Dislike of something about the litter box (For example; placement, box size, or litter type)
If your cat regularly goes outside the litter box, even if the box is in a clean, safe, and quiet location, you may want to take them to the vet for a checkup. Going outside the litter box is a symptom of several health issues in cats, including urinary tract infections or urinary blockages. If your kitty is healthy and is still going outside the box, it may be time to try a new location. The perfect litter box spot may vary from home to home. It should be a quiet location where your feline friend can do their business undisturbed by other pets and/or children. If your location checks all these boxes, your cat may not like the type of litter you use or the size of the box. Finding the perfect litter box situation is all about trial and error, but you’ll soon find the perfect set up for your lovable cat.
If you have multiple cats, they may become territorial over litter boxes. If one of your cats is regularly going outside the litter box, try introducing a second litter box. This will give them a place of their own to use the bathroom.
The threat of a cat “ruining” the furniture is one of the many reasons people don’t adopt them. Many fear that cats will scratch and tear apart all the furniture in the house, and maybe the carpets too while they’re at it.
Cats actually scratch to not only keep their nails nice and groomed, but to burn off energy, mark their territory and play. Thankfully, this scratching is pretty easy to keep under control. By providing areas specifically designed to allow your cat to get the scratching out of their system, you will save your furniture, carpets and curtains.
Cat scratching posts you can purchase at a pet store come in many shapes and sizes. You can also make your own with cardboard or old carpeting. To make sure your cat gets the idea, sprinkle catnip on the post to entice them. Make sure you have at least one large scratching post for your cat. The Humane Society of the United States recommends one at least three feet high that is also sturdy. Sisal, a type of rope material found on many store-bought cat posts, is super exciting to our scratch-obsessed feline friends.
If your kitty continues to scratch the wrong thing, move the scratching post right next to the area they are scratching. Also remember, like dogs, bored cats are going to do more damage. Provide plenty of fun toys and playtime for your kitty friends and they will be much less likely to scratch destructively. Regularly trimming your cat’s nails will also keep scratching occurrences down.
3. Aggressive Tendencies
The stereotype of cats being jerks is supported by aggressive cats. Thankfully, like dogs, there are ways to both prevent and work on aggression in cats. Aggression in cats can be caused by illness, lack of socialization or occur during playtime.
First, make sure your cat is neutered. Unfixed male cats are typically more aggressive and can rile up the other cat family members in your home. You want to make all your interactions with your cat as positive as possible.
If you rescued your cat, you don’t know what their life and experience with people was like before. Catnip, kitty treats, and fun toys are awesome tools to help you bond with your cat. Patience, however, is key to gaining your cat’s love and respect. If your cat is acting aggressively, for example, if he bites you, it is recommended that you say “ouch” loudly and act as if the bite really hurt (even if it wasn’t too bad). Then turn and walk away.
It is important to also remember that all cats are different. Petting-related aggression may be because your cat truly does not like to be pet. For pet parents used to physical contact with an animal, this can be hard to get used to. You cannot force your cat to want to cuddle, you must respect their desires and accept their unusual and quirky personalities. In time, you and your cat will figure out what the other likes and be able to live in perfect harmony.
If your cat’s aggression continues to remain an issue, contact your vet to make sure there are no hidden health issues. You can also contact an animal behaviorist to come into your home and help you work with your cat.
Amazingly enough, overweight and obese cats outnumber cats of normal weight in the U.S., and overweight kitties are being seen more and more commonly by veterinarians. Being overweight can predispose your feline friend to diabetes, arthritis and many other painful health issues. Obesity is caused by one thing; the cat is taking in more calories than it burns, storing the excess as fat. So, there are two way to alleviate the issue. To find out if your cat is too fat, the ASPCA says you should be able to feel the backbone and palpate the ribs of a healthy-weight animal. If you cannot feel your pet’s ribs without pressing, there is probably too much fat. If you aren’t sure, a trip to the vet will let you know where your cat’s body size falls.
Before starting a weight loss regimen for your furry friend, contact your vet to check for any underlying health issues. Weight loss in a cat requires patience and commitment. First, you should try to increase the exercise your cat gets. New toys and spending time dedicated to playing with your cat will help them burn those extra calories. You should also evaluate where the extra calories are coming from. Maybe you’ll need to cut back on treats. Maybe you overfeed your kitty. Cut back the amount of food you give your cat, and try feeding it to them in three small meals a day. If you let them free-feed (leave food our for them to self-regulate), it may be time to step in and control their intake.
5. Too Much Nighttime Activity
Cats are directly descended from nocturnal wild cats. They tend to stay up all night and sleep all day. If your cat is too active at night, though, it can mess with your sleep and be incredibly annoying. By adjusting you and your cat’s schedule, though, you’ll be able to sleep soundly throughout the night.
First, make sure you feed your cat right before you go to bed. Cats tend to sleep after a big meal, so they’ll be more inclined to sleep when you are if they’ve just eaten. Second, schedule some play time with your kitty in the evenings. Try toys that really get their attention, like something that mimics the sound of mice or birds. Play for a while or until your cat seems somewhat tired. And lastly, incorporate exciting enrichment for your cat throughout the day. Toys, playtime, cat nip, boxes and other fun things will keep your cat active during the day, thus allowing them to catch some shut eye at night.
Whatever you do, do not get up and attend to your cat in the middle of the night. If they know their meowing and loud noises will force you to rise and feed them or “play” with them, they’ll be more inclined to continue the pattern. Soon, you and your cat will be on the same page, sleeping wise, and have soundless nights together.
Cats Will Be Cats
Cats are known for being stubborn and particular. While it can be hard at times, this is part of the reason we love them so much. Though these tips and tricks will help your cat adjust to life in your home, you may run into issues specific to your feline friend. If you are really having issues with your cats behavior, contact your vet for a check up and then contact a local animal behavior expert. They will be able to address your situation exactly and provide the insight you may need to help you and your furry friend live in harmony!
Image source: Joselito Tagarao/Flickr