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Common Cat Behavior Issues in the Home


									Common Cat Behavior Issues
              in the Home

             Kathryn Wrubel, Ph.D.
          Animal Behavior Services
          InTown Veterinary Group
Something to Keep in Mind About
Companion Animal Behavior
   Behavior issues are
    not a problem
    unless they are a
    problem for the
Something to Keep In Mind About
Cat Behavior
   Cats are creatures of habit
Something to Keep In Mind About
Cat Behavior
   Cats never seem to forget
Something to Keep In Mind About
Cat Behavior
   Forcing a cat to do something always
Something to Keep In Mind About
Cat Behavior
   The more cats a person has, the more
    behavior problems they may have
Something to Keep In Mind About
Cat Behavior
   Many cat behavior “problems” are natural
    behaviors that become an issue:
       When a cat’s basic needs are not being met
       In the confines of a household
       In multiple cat households
Something to Keep In Mind About Cat
Punishment Creates Conflict with the
Owners and Anxiety
Behavior Problems Can Develop if
Your Cats’ Basic Needs Are Not
   Health
   Diet
   Exercise
   Enrichment
   Individual Attention
Enrichment: Giving Cats a Reason
to Get Up in the Morning
   Compared to dogs cats often get the short
    end of the stick
   A mentally unstimulated cat may spend time
    focused on things that make them anxious
   Set up daily exercise/play periods (5-10 min)
    for each cat
   Exercise increases serotonin levels in the
Enrichment: Giving Cats a Reason
to Get Up in the Morning
   3-D Spaces: Climbing Frames & Shelves
   Hide n' Play: Tunnels, Boxes & Bags
   Bird Feeders & Fish Tanks
   Non-Toxic Herbs & Grasses
   Scratching Posts
   Water
Favorite Cat Toys
   Cat Dancer®
   Da Bird® wand toys
   Dr. Noy’s® catnip toys
   Cat Crazy Playrings®
   Krinkly Cosmic Mylar Balls®
   Kitty Babble Ball®: makes real animal sounds
   Genuine sheepskin mice
   Panic Mouse® line: interactive electronic toys
   Turbo Scratcher®
   Play-n-Squeak® mouse
   Bouncy ball or ice cube
   Play & Treat® balls
   Peek-A-Prize® box
Favorite Cat Toys
Clicker Training
   More effective than traditional training
    methods & more interesting for cats
   Clicking sound “marks” desired behavior at
    the moment it occurs
   Click is followed by a reward (e.g. Flint River
    Ranch Bonita Flakes®, Trim Treats®)
What People With A Lot of Time
On Their Hands Can Do with
Clicker Training
Solving Furniture
Furniture Scratching
   Scratching behavior is normal in cats
   Owner’s lack of understanding this or
    believing the cat is being vindictive or
    destructive often results in declawing
Why Do Cats Scratch
   Visual marking of territory
   Sweat glands in paw pads produce odors for
    scent marking
   Removes outer dead sheaths from the nail
   Form of “displacement behavior” (when cat is
    conflicted between two competing drives)
   Stretching
Make Old Scratching Area
   Sticky Paws®
   Boundary Spray®
   Cover area with sheet
   Plastic carpet runners or X-Mat® knobby side
What a Cat Is Looking for in a
Scratching Post
   Vertical or horizontal posts will do
   Vertical posts should be taller than cat is
    stretched out fully & sturdy with a good heavy
   Rough materials such as sisal are preferred
    over carpet
   Some cats like corrugated cardboard
TopCat® Sisal Scratching
Make New Scratching Area
   Place post near area cat scratches now
   Play with toy around the post
   Place post near eating & sleeping areas
   Sprinkle some catnip on the post
   Solving Feline
Aggression Issues
There are Many Types of Cat
   Fear Aggression
   Inter-Cat Household Aggression
   Redirected Aggression
   Play Aggression
   Territorial Aggression
   Inter-Male Aggression
   Status Aggression
   Sexual Aggression
   Predatory Aggression
   Pain-Induced Aggression
   Maternal Aggression
Inter-Cat Household
Sensitive Period for Socialization
   2-7 weeks of age
   During this time, attachments are formed
    easily and rapidly
   If kitten is not exposed to certain stimuli they
    may not develop appropriate responses
   After this period, socialization can be tedious
    & involve intensive exposure
Sensitive Period for Socialization

      Ties established during sensitive period
       for socialization are likely to endure
       throughout life if cats remain in each
       other’s                  company
Feline Social Behavior

     Cats may live solitary or in groups if
      resources are abundant
     Cats form matrilineal groups of related
      adult females & their offspring
     Communal kitten care by females is
     Outdoor female cats show more affiliate
Feline Social Behavior

     Adult males are not socially tied to a
      particular lineage but prefer the company
      of related cats
     Males leave colony after adolescence
      (6-36 months)
     Males have a larger territorial range than
Feline Social Behavior

     Colonies are typically hostile to outsiders
     Acceptance begins with life in the
      periphery & is a slow process
Cat Friends

    Cats have “preferred associates”
    Kittens significantly prefer littermates to
     half-siblings or older siblings
    Close bonds can form
    Longer cats together,                  the
     stronger the bond
Feline Social Behavior in the

     Some cats have friends
     Some cats are solitary- “living apart
     Overall, cats spend much of their time
Home Territories
   Cats establish territories within the confines
    of a home
   House cats engage in time-sharing of
    preferred areas
   The house can be divided into zones, so the
    addition or removal of a cat can be disruptive
    as cats redistribute space
Tips for Adoptees to Prevent
Inter-Cat Household Aggression
   Figure out what feline temperament or
    personality would fit best in the home prior to
   Select a kitten between 6-8 weeks of age
   Select an adult cat that has lived harmoniously
    with other cats
Where It All Goes Wrong:
Introducing a New Cat
   Cats need to be introduced slowly & on an
    individual basis
   Familiarity (scent, sight, sound) should be
    established before the cats are allowed to
    directly interact with each other
   Half of all owners put cats together
Acclimating a New Cat
   Provide a comfortable room with:
       Food and water dishes
       Comfortable resting spots
       New litter box
       Scratching post
       Toys
       Several hiding locations
   If cat has a blanket or other item that smells
    like them, put in room for comfort
Acclimating a New Cat
   Allows cat time to explore his new
    environment without the stress & interruption
    of the other cats
   When cat arrives, take directly to room in
   Rub clean socks on cats’ cheeks or find
    object that smells like them & put in areas of
    the house where they can be investigated by
    the other cats
Switching Territories
   If cats are not acting upset or unusual owner
    can begin switching territories
   This spreads smells of all cats throughout
    home & allows them to explore without
    interference of the other cat/s
   Can be done a couple of times a day
Making Positive Associations
   Feed cats simultaneously near door to the
    room your new cat resides in
   Gradually move bowls closer & start to open
    door a crack or use tall gate/screen
Making Positive Associations
   Introduce cats one at a time to new cat
    (in order of suspected difficulty)
   Introductions should be brief & end on a
    positive note every time if possible
   Gradually extend the time for exposure
Common Causes of Intercat
Household Aggression

     Typically due to territorial aggression, fear,
      or anxiety
     Cats introduced too quickly
     One cat boarded or hospitalized &
     May be fueled by defensive behavior
     Limited resources or space
     Cats intact
     Redirected aggression
     Medical issues causing irritability or pain
Breaking Up Cat Fights

     Don’t get your hands in the mix!
     Separate carefully with a broom
     Direct Stop® citronella spray
     PET-AGREE® ultrasonic device
     Heavy blanket
     Turn on vacuum cleaner
     Separate cats & leave them alone for a
      couple of hours or until they both calm down
Not Recommended
   Punishing the cats for fighting
   Letting cats “fight it out”
   Holding both cats near or next to each other
   Rewarding a cat instigating fights with food or
    treats to calm them down
Distribute the Resources!
   Prevents guarding of resources & bullying
   Resources include food & water dishes, litter
    boxes, scratching posts, toys, resting spots,
    hiding spots, climbing frames, & owner
   1-2 stations per cat is ideal
Distribute the Resources!
   Make environment 3-dimensional & provide
    hiding places
   Put best resources in rooms with multiple
   Provide electronic cat door to private room for
    nervous cats
Time Management
   Separate cats at times aggression is likely to
The Reintroduction Process
   Reintroduction- separate and reintroduce the
   Systematic Desensitization- gradually get
    cats comfortable with each other with low
    levels of exposure
   Counterconditioning- reward cats for calm
    and non-reactive behavior (incompatible
Take Kitten Steps
   Process can take months
   Work at each individual cat’s pace
   If anxiety (not eating, eating quickly, avoiding
    eye contact) or aggression (staring, stiff body
    posture, hissing) must go back a few steps
   Owner should be calm and upbeat

     Separate house into 2 parts by door or
      use a room
     Feed the cats on opposite sides of the
      door while rewarding them for calm &
      non-reactive behavior
     Give cats treats & playtime while other
      cat is on other side of door
     Move bowls closer to door over time

     Start with door closed & build up to screen
      or gate
     Switch territories- cats they like can switch
      back and forth
     Reward cats with treats while brushing with
      mutual brush
     Be careful cats don’t get in physical
      contact- a fight will set them back

     Once the cats can eat together across
      the screen they can be reintroduced
     Cats should be on harnesses with one
      person for each cat or in carriers &
      feeding process should be repeated
     Over time the distance can be decreased
      & time extended
     The goal is to eventually have them eat
      side-by-side peacefully
   Eventually cats can be left together for
    progressively longer periods of time
   Owners should praise or reward them when
    they are together & interacting nicely
Mood-Stabilizing Medication

     Prozac® (fluoxetine) helps to stabilize
      mood, decrease reactivity, & has some
      anti-aggressive properties
Medication for Scaredy Cats
   Buspirone (Buspar®) can make cats more
    confident & alter their body language
    around other household pets reducing the
    probability of attacks
When All Else Fails
   Some cats may never learn to get along
   The cats may need to live separately in the
   One cat may need to be rehomed
Useful Tip:
Make Aggressor Wear a Bell
Useful Tip: When Scaredy Cats Elicit
                        Buspirone (Buspar®)
                         can make cats more
                         confident & alter their
                         body language around
                         other household pets
Useful Tip: Solving Household Sexual

    Put a dab of Boarmate® on Female’s Back
Redirected Aggression:
Watch Out!
Redirected Aggression
   Usually triggered by loud noises or
    interactions with other cats
   Often directed towards owner or another
    household cat
   Usually evoked by fear
Preventing Redirected
   Eliminate triggers:
       Prevent or eliminate loud noises
       Close windows & doors and keep the cat away
        with deterrents (Sticky Paws®, X-Mat® knobby side
        up, Sscat® cat repellent, Snappy Trainers®)
       If due to cats outside of the home, use deterrents
        (Scarecrow® motion activated sprinkler, CatStop
        Automatic Outdoor Cat Repellent®)
Redirected Aggression: Safety
   Do not interact with cat until they calm down
   Separate cats
   Put cat in darkened quiet room
   Keep cat on harness & leash
Status Aggression a.k.a
“Alpha Cat Syndrome”
Status Aggression
   Cat uses aggression to control situations in
    which they have conflict with the owner
   Cat is pushy & willful
   Often engage in rough play & attention-
    seeking behaviors
Petting-Induced Aggression
   Cats with status aggression often bite during
    petting (if you pet them in certain ways or for
    “too long”), if they are lifted up, or if they are
    removed from somewhere
Resolving Petting-Induced
   If petting in certain areas or certain ways has
    elicited aggression in the past, don't pet in
    these ways anymore
   Ears down/back, furtive sideways glances, or
    a twitching tail mean its time to quit
   Keep petting sessions short & never try to pet
    your way out of an aggressive moment
Resolving Status Aggression
   Use a non-confrontational approach!
   Avoiding triggers for aggression
   Ignore pushy & attention-seeking behavior
   Provide enrichment & mental stimulation
Leadership Program
   Cat will need to learn one or two commands
    for the program- clicker training works best!
   Cat needs to follow command for some
    resources (meals, treats, favorite toys,
    possibly petting)
   If cat doesn’t comply, they need to wait to
    earn the resource
   Owner should initiate & terminate interactions
    with the cat
   If behavior modification alone is not resolving
    the cat’s aggression & they are very reactive,
    mood-stabilizing medication could help as an
    adjunct to treatment
Take Home Message
   Many behavior
    “problems” are
    normal cat behaviors
   Behavior issues can
    be improved or
    resolved with
    behavior modification
Thanks for Coming!

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