Understanding cat behaviour
He shreds the curtains. He sprays in the corner. He meows so much the neighbours have complained. Some of your cat’s actions may seem less than desirable, but take comfort in the fact that he is, at least, normal.
Many unwanted behaviours are just your cat acting as he or she would in the wild, according to the Feline Advisory Bureau, a charity dedicated to the welfare of cats. Scratching? Marking territory and keeping claws in tip-top condition. Spraying? He’s just trying to feel more secure in his surroundings. Meowing? The experts say it’s just an effective way of training you.
But while these behaviours may be completely normal, you don’t have to just put up with them. There are lots of effective ways you can train your cat to co-exist peacefully with your poor soft furnishings.
We’ve put together a list of common cat behaviour problems and how to stop them. But before you give them a try, get your vet to check that your cat does not have any underlying health conditions that could be causing the bad behaviour. You may want to consider taking out a pet insurance cover as vet bills can be expensive.
Scratching the furniture
Cats scratch for so many reasons: to keep their claws in good condition, to stretch their legs, to mark their territory – or to seek attention from their human owners, even if that just involves you chasing them with a rolled-up newspaper.
According to cat behaviour counsellor Vicky Hall from Fabcats, you should buy a scratching post and put it near your cat’s favourite sleeping place, as cats often claw when they wake up. To encourage your cat to use it, place his or her paws on it and rub them gently down. That should transfer your cat’s unique smell (made by sweat glands in between the pads of the paws) to the place you want him or her to scratch.
In the meantime, place double-sided sticky tape, or even aluminium foil, on your best furniture as a kind but effective scratch deterrent.
A problem normally associated with unneutered males, spraying is actually a cat communication tool beloved by all cats, whether they’re male or female, neutered or not. But while that’s great for the cat, the pungent aroma will be about as welcome in your home as rising damp.
If this is a new problem in a neutered cat, spraying indoors is a sure sign that your cat is feeling under stress of some kind. Spraying surrounds cats with their own scent, instantly calming them and helping them feel more secure.
To reduce problem spraying, discover the source of your cat’s anxiety and address it. Have you recently gained another new cat or other pet? Make sure they both have their own food bowls and litter trays to reduce feelings of competition. Is your cat under threat from a neighbour’s moggy? Block up your cat flap and chase the offending feline from your garden whenever you see it. Have you moved home recently? Using a gentle, stroking motion, rub a cloth over your cat’s face to pick up some of its scent. Then rub the cloth over a few areas in your new house, to speed up the settling-in process.
According to Barbara Simpson of the American College of Veterinary Behaviourists, constant meowing is the way cats train their owners to give them food. If you’re serious about stopping it, never reach for the tin opener the minute Tiddles opens his mouth, however plaintive he sounds.
Feed your cat at the same times each day and ignore any between-meals meows for food. That way, your cat will soon realise that meowing doesn’t work.
Finally, check with your vet if a normally quiet cat starts meowing, as this could indicate illness.
Issued by Sainsbury’s Bank
All information is correct at time of print. This may be subject to change. The views expressed in this editorial are those of the writer/blogger/journalist and not of Sainsbury's Bank plc or the Sainsbury's Group of Companies.
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