Problems in Behavior -

If our cats are exhibiting a behavioral problem, it is not because they are a problem but because they have a problem and it is our responsibility, and opportunity, to figure it out. Cats aren’t bad, but they can be stressed and act badly.

So many cats end up in shelters, and subsequently many are killed simply because they weren’t understood. We can’t tolerate having our furniture and walls dismantled from scratching or our carpets ruined from going outside the litter box regularly, so it’s off to the shelter with the offending, incorrigible creature. But this is so tragic and so unnecessary.

Domestic cats are not by nature malicious or offensive. They wouldn’t have survived thousands of years as our companions if they were. If a cat is behaving badly regularly he is having the problem. He is stressed and the causes of his stress need to be understood and eliminated. This is not always easy to do, but it can, and needs, to be done.

Medical Issues Can Create Behavioral Problems

Sometimes the stress is medical in nature and he needs to be seen by a vet. Cats can’t talk to us so they have what really is a wonderful method of getting our attention. They do something we don’t like, and it would seem, hope we’ll figure it out. If you think about this it makes perfect sense. If they don’t do something we don’t like they won’t get our attention, or at least not the kind of concerned attention they need. They need us to pay attention and to try to understand that there is a problem, and then, what the problem is.

If you suspect a medical cause the only course is a trip to the vet, ASAP. Most of the time though the problem is not medical but environmental and here is where we can do a great deal to ensure our cats are happy and healthy. So what do cats need in their environment?


Multiple Cat Households

If there is more than one cat in the home and one is dominant. the less dominant will feel threatened – all the time, not just when the boss is around. Imagine how you’d feel if at any moment you could be insulted, bullied, threatened, or even harmed. Think you’d be a happy camper?

The dominant cat may also feel stress. Unless it’s mating season most animals don’t like to fight. It hurts. It is stressful and can lead to spraying and marking, especially if at least one is not neutered. If this is your situation you will need to address it and there are a number of options to consider which are beyond the scope of this post. Here is advice from

“The key to keeping peace in a multi-cat household is to make sure there are enough resources and space for everyone. That doesn’t mean you have to move out of your current home and into a mansion, but it does mean that there might need to be some tweaking done to the environmental set-up. If each cat feels they have choices in terms of where to eat, sleep, eliminate and play, life will be much happier. If they must all adhere to only one option, then that increases the chances of territorial disputes and also increases the stress level”

Cats show dominance at an early age

Most of the other environmental concerns are much easier to address yet equally as important. We need to ask ourselves, ‘what do cats need’, and then ‘what do cats like’? But you might just want to start with ‘what do cats really enjoy in their lives’ because addressing this addresses all the other issues as well.


Cat Spaces

Cats are all different one from another, we all know that, but they all have a craving for spaces. Some like elevated spaces from which to survey their world, some like low spaces, all like enclosed spaces. Many enjoy all those and each cat, if there are multiple, should have access to his own safe, easy exit and comfortable high, low and enclosed space, particularly if there is any competition among them. Many homes have such spaces built-in: Closets, drawers, cabinets, nooks, the laundry hamper, under things, on top of shelves, etc. If your house doesn’t have these there are many devices for purchase which provide such spaces. Here is a post on this topic.

Liter Box Issues

A common cause of cat behavioral issues is poor litter box management. The box should be large enough, at least the length of your cat, in a secure space away from; traffic, loud appliances or unpleasant odors and sounds.

What do you require of a bathroom beyond appropriate facilities? Above all, privacy. Cats prefer that too. If more than one cat there should be as many liter boxes and they need to be kept clean. Litter box issues alone are enough to cause serious cat behavioral problems.

Food & Water & Play

There needs to be enough food, served up often enough. Cats have little stomachs so need to eat fairy often. And they need to like it. You can give your cat the most healthful food in the world but if he won’t eat it, its not helping. Inversely, you can give him food that he likes but which is not healthful for him. Both issues need to be addressed.

Cats need water. Since you’re on this site you have probably already come across the fact that cats crave moving water. Give your cats a fountain or if your cats do drink standing water be sure to have numerous water bowls around. Best though is a fountain or even multiple fountains. Here is a page that will help you understand why.

Cats need to play and perform predatory behavior. Most cats need little or no stimulus for this but it helps to have the sorts of toys around that easily elicit this behavior. And if you want to improve your relationship with your cat and make him a happier being, play with him.

Different cats need different degrees of interaction but almost all cats like to be played with. There are no end of toys, many very inexpensive with which your cat can interact without you and many designed for you to play together. Here are a couple of links for these.

Cats & People

With a reputation for being aloof it is easy to think cats don’t need much or any interaction with us but this is very not so. They need to feel a part of their environment, meaning a part of your environment and interacting with your cat is very good for you and her. Some will want more, others less interaction but all need some. Petting, playing, as mentioned and speaking to your cat are all positive ways of interacting. The more you speak to your cat the more she will speak to you. Cats have an intense inner life. No matter how placid seeming the environment, stuff is going on in them and they may well want to say something about it and have you recognize that they are vitally linked to what goes on around them. Talk to them. (We mostly all do.) They may not know the words but they’ll get the intent and appreciate the recognition and interaction as well as being recognized and valued.

Good, Bad and Necessary

Finally it is important to recognize necessary activities you may consider undesirable but are necessary, as well as seemingly desirable things we do that are not good.

Cats need to rub their scent on just about everything, including furniture. Cleaning this off, particularly with detergents and sprays is for them stress inducing. It is also important to be careful with scented products, especially the so called ‘air fresheners’. Not only are they bad for cats, they are bad for us. Here is an excerpt from a recent study:

“All air fresheners tested—even those advertised as “natural,” “green,” “organic,” or with essential oils—emitted chemicals classified as toxic or hazardous, including some with no safe exposure level. Emissions of toxic chemicals from “natural” air fresheners were not significantly different from other brands.” So using them may seem good to us but is in fact, not.

Cats need to scratch for nail and foot health. In addition, scratching gives them a good stretch for their entire body including their spine, neck, legs and feet which feels good to them and is good for them. Trying to stop this behavior is anathema to cats and cat life so investment in a scratching device is really essential. There are many designs of these in a range of prices and you can make your own from sessile rope or other materials. 

We hope you found this blog post helpful.

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