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Unwanted cat behavior

Cat fascinated with the lights of the Switch Cat Scratcher

Scratching may be unwanted, but it’s only natural. Investing in a scratching post is essential for keeping the claws off the couch.

If your cat misbehaves – by clawing furniture or spray-marking indoors, for example – you need to dissuade her.

Clapping your hands – not too loudly – or, better still, hitting your hand with a rolled-up magazine, will produce a sound disagreeable to the cat, but not so harsh as to startle her. You should not shout at a cat, and you should certainly never hit her.

If a cat begins to display unwanted behavior for no obvious reason, there may be some underlying problem. Is there something new in your home that might be upsetting her? This could be anything from a new pet to a new air freshener. If you’re sure this isn’t the case, and if the behavior persists for more than two days, have a word with your vet.

Signs that a cat has some hidden pain or discomfort

  • Becoming antisocial, shy or keen on hiding
  • Sleeping even more than usual
  • Loss of appetite and reluctance to drink
  • Sudden aggression or irritability
  • Scared to jump anywhere
  • Reluctant to use the cat flap
  • Stiff-limbed
  • Hunched up or crouching with eyes half closed
  • Loss of interest in play or interaction
  • Obvious anxiety, jumpiness or outright fear
  • Aimless wandering around indoors
  • Tangled or dirty coat where she is usually clean and tidy
  • Odd vocal sounds
  • Reluctance to use the kitty litter
  • More grooming than usual; or no grooming
  • Purring in non-relaxed situations

Is the cat stressed, or just a bit bored?
Is she stressed, or just a bit bored?

Sources of Stress For Cats

  • Moving house
  • New furnishings or painting, etc
  • Food and water bowls, or litter tray, in a place she doesn’t like
  • Strangers in the house
  • A new pet
  • A new baby
  • A bully cat in the neighbourhood – or even in the same house

Stress may be present if your cat:

  • Hides, or is more nervous than usual
  • Sleeps more than usual
  • Is impatient, intolerant when handled
  • Is reluctant to do the things she usually enjoys – sitting in your lap, perching on a favorite high spot, etc.
  • Sits alone, hunched up and unapproachable
  • Loses interest in toys, play, and you
  • Loses her appetite
  • Shows an increase in appetite
  • Has a disturbed sleep pattern
  • Displays general restlessness
  • Soils the floor instead of the litter tray
  • Indulges in more grooming than normal

  • Aggressive cats fighting outside
    Aggression can be vented outdoors, but it's much more of a problem indoors

    Aggressive Pet Cats

    She may not be in the same league as a hungry lion, but your pet cat is still, deep down, a large-ish carnivore. If she’s feeling aggressive, it’s a big deal!

    The usual reason for aggression is frustration, territorial instincts, maternal instincts (protecting her kittens), or fear - inspired, for example, by a dog or someone who has mistreated her. A cat kept indoors or on a short harness will pine for the great outdoors and a larger territory, and that may result in aggression. Unneutered cats can also become aggressive in the breeding season.

    Give the cat space. If she's always indoors, she made need a change of scenery. You could rig up an outdoor "cat run", or consider using a harness, if you're afraid she might run away or come to harm on the road.

    Watch her body language. Look for symptoms of possible illness or injury. Spend more time with her. Use treats to reward good behavior. These are all ways of getting on top of the problem.

    The only way through the problem is to understand the source of your cat's aggression, and address it. If it's not obvious, ask for advice at the vet's or an animal behaviorist.

    Stopping Cats From Digging in the Garden

    Cats don’t dig in the same way as dogs, but, being clean and tidy creatures, they like to bury their poop. You can keep them away from flowerbeds and other potential toilet areas by lacing unpleasant smelling items there. These include citrus peel and chicken droppings. Some pet shops even sell lion dung pellets as cat deterrents! Avoid pepper-based concoctions, as these can irritate the cat’s eyes and nose.

    Broken egg shells and prickly plants can deter cats too. They are also quick to associate places with things they don’t like, so if you clap your hands loudly when she ventures near the forbidden zone, she should soon get the message. A standard water pistol – not the jet-powered ones that kids like to blast each with in the summer – will get the message across too. Most cats hate getting wet!

    A cat's hunting instinct is strong
    A cat's hunting instinct is strong

    Stopping a Cat From Hunting

    Hunting is a natural instinct in all cats, and sometimes the only way to stop it is to keep your cat indoors. If her hunting bothers you but you don’t want to keep her inside all the time there are ways to reduce or even stop hunting.

    Cat’s are most likely to hunt at dusk and dawn so an easy step to take is to keep your cat in for a few hours around these times.

    A hungry cat is more likely to hunt for extra portions. Overfeeding your cat is NOT the solution, but stick to a routine of regular meals. A full cat will be quite content to snooze the day away.

    Play with your cat and provide her with a stimulating environment. Cat trees - a kind of mini cat gym - are great for this as they allow natural climbing, scratching and jumping opportunities. When your cat is well exercised she is more likely to prefer a nap to a hunting trip.

    Cat Bells

    Cat collars that include a bell are a good ploy. The quiet jingle of the bell warns other animals of your cat’s presence. If you feel the bell is too quiet, add a few more to the collar. Always make sure it has a safety release clasp.

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