Pet Resource Library
Sometimes pet behavior problems seem overwhelming, but many can be managed with the application of a little knowledge and a little effort. We’re here to help you find answers to your pet behavior questions.
This online library contains tried-and-true methods for managing many common pet behavior problems.
- 1 Dogs and Cats
- 1.1 Cats
- 1.1.1 Bringing home a new cat
- 1.1.2 Preventing and solving litter box problems
- 1.1.3 Aggression in cats
- 1.1.4 Aggression between cats
- 1.1.5 Adding a second cat to your household
- 1.1.6 Managing scratching behavior in cats
- 1.1.7 Redirecting scratching behavior
- 1.1.8 Why does my cat meow so much?
- 1.1.9 Keeping your cat off the counter
- 1.1.10 Cat keeping you awake? How to manage night activity
- 1.1.11 Unusual eating habits
Dogs and Cats
How to introduce a dog and cat
Despite the stereotype, many dogs and cats learn to live together peacefully. Be patient and take the introduction process slowly, but know that whether or not your pets get along will also depend on their individual personalities. Follow these steps to maximize the chances of success.
- Make sure your cat has access to a dog-free zone at all times. Whether it’s a bathroom, bedroom, closet, office, mudroom or sunroom; proving your cat with a space of their own during this time will eliminate the stresses of the situation.
- Ideally, this space would include a litter box, food, water, toys, scratching post and 1 or more places to hide.
- Be prepared to manage your pets’ interactions for the next several weeks, if not longer.
- While your cat is navigating its way through your home, give it multiple high areas, like shelving or furniture so it can easily escape the dog if needed.
Keep the pets separate at first
- Confine new pets as needed in separate rooms. Give your cat access to its safe zone where it can be free from the dog. The goal is to allow the pets to get used to each other’s presence without face-to-face contact. Even if they can’t see each other, they can hear and smell each other.
- Feed them on opposite sides of a closed door
- The idea is to teach them to associate the presence of the other pet with pleasant things, such as food. With each feeding, move their food bowls a little closer to the closed door. Continue this process until each pet can eat calmly right next to the door.
- Teach basic commands
- If your new pet is a dog, start teaching him basic obedience cues, such as “sit” and “down.” Keep training sessions short, pleasant, and rewarding for the dog.
- Begin face-to-face meetings
- Once your pets can eat their food calmly right next to the door, conduct meet and greets in a common area of the house. Don’t use your dog free zone. Remember, that is your cats safe place. Keep the first few sessions short and calm. Keep the dog on a leash and let the cat come and go as it wishes. Do not restrain either pet in your arms. This could go very wrong if either animal reacts out of fear or aggression. Ask your dog to sit and reward it with small tasty treats for calm behavior. Give your cat treats as well. If either pet demonstrates aggression, calmly distract and redirect them. Toss a toy for the cat to lure it from the room, or call the dog’s name and reward its attention. Return your cat back to its dog-free zone.
- Repeat sessions daily
- Repeat these face-to-face sessions daily. Save your pets’ favorite treats for when they are together. If the cat attempts to leave the room, allow it to do so, and do not let the dog chase the cat. Try to end each session before either pet shows stress or adverse behavior.
Allow pets loose together
- Once both pets appear to be comfortable with each other, allow them loose in the room together. Keep your dog’s leash attached and dragging on the floor so that you can step on it and prevent any unwanted behavior from happening. If you observe any tension, go back to the earlier introduction steps and repeat the process. Make sure the cat has access to its dog-free zone at all times.
- Proceed with caution
- Continue to separate them when you are not home until you are sure there is complete acceptance between both pets.
Preparing your dog for the baby
- Dogs don’t know how to interact with babies, and some may not even know what a baby is. A dog that gets along with small children will not necessarily recognize a baby as a smaller child. Don’t assume your dog will know how to interact with a baby. Take these steps to prepare for your new addition.
- Start training basic obedience now. Give your dog the skills to control its behavior without causing them stress or giving them unpleasant associations with you or your baby.
- Once your dog can perform the basics (sit, down, stay, come) practice these commands while doing baby tasks. Practice a down-stay while cradling a doll and walking it back and forth. Pat the doll’s back as though burping it, sit back down, and so on. Reward your dog with treats for staying in the desired position. Practicing with a talking doll or better yet, one that cries can further simulate a real infant.
- If possible, begin to expose your dog to real babies, perhaps of friends or extended family. If your dog shows discomfort (growling, barking, etc.) don’t punish him: this won’t teach him that aggression is bad, but that babies are bad news. Calmly remove him and repeat the exercise at a later time and at greater distance from the baby.
- Prepare your dog for baby sounds. Recorded baby sounds (gurgles, babbling, crying) can be played at an extremely low volume while feeding your dog treats. With each session, increase the volume a little bit. The goal is for your dog to be relaxed even in the presence of loud crying
Introducing your dog to the baby
- If your new baby is born at the hospital, bring home the baby blankets to familiarize your dog with the new scent.
- If possible, exercise your dog. This will help to prevent unwanted behavior like hyperactivity when introducing them to the baby.
- Have one person handle the dog while another handles the baby.
- Leash your dog and enter into the same room the baby is in. Let your dog see the baby from 20 feet away and reward its calm behavior. Leave the room for a short period of time then re-enter. Repeat from 15 feet away, 10 feet away, etc.
- Use caution when allowing your dog to approach the baby. Keep your dog on leash. Watch your dog for signs of stress. Look at its body language. A dog with a stiff body, direct eye contact that is unable to be broke with treats, toys or voice, high-pitched whining, lunges are signs your dog is not ready to be trusted around your new baby. If needed you may need to bring in a professional trainer to assess your situation and help guide you through this introductory stage.
- If you can’t supervise your dog around your baby, confine your dog in a safe area. Ideally, this would be a crate in another room.
- Pay special attention when the baby is crying, screaming, wiggling, and flailing its arms and legs. This can provoke a prey like response from some dogs. Install a sturdy baby gate at the nursery door to keep your dog out.
- Supervise your dog and baby whenever they’re together. Never leave a baby or small child unattended around an animal. No matter how young the child or gentle the animal. Once your baby starts to crawl, supervision is even more important. Your child should never be allowed to grab, chase, sit on, ride or pick up the dog, so keep your child and dog separate when supervision isn’t possible.
Bringing home a new cat
Take these steps to make sure your cat feels comfortable in his new home.
Set up a sanctuary room
- Pick a room where your cat will spend his first week. The room should be clean, uncluttered, and as quiet as possible.
- Supply the room with at least one litterbox, water, a bed, toys, and at least one hiding place. This will allow your new cat to slowly acclimate to his new surroundings without becoming overly stressed.
- Give your cat space
- While it may be tempting to rush in and cuddle with your new cat, it may not be ready for this. Many recently adopted cats hide for the first few days, if not the first week. Be ready for this and let the cat decide when it wants to approach. You can simply sit with your new cat in its room, not asking for anything rather allowing it to observe and smell you. Often times offering treats by hand can be irresistible to your new cat, helping to create trust and connection.
- Prepare litter boxes
- The general rule for litter boxes is one litter box per cat, plus one. Scoop each box once a day and dump out the litter box completely and wash with warm water at least once a month.
- Cat-proof your house
- Once your cat is safely its room, go through your house and look for potential dangers and problem areas. Tie up dangling cords, hide fragile objects, lock up hazardous chemicals, shut doors to forbidden areas and put away food items.
- Keep your new cat and other pets separate
- Don’t attempt introductions to other pets for at least 3 to 4 days. See “Adding a new cat to your household” for information on introductions.
Preventing and solving litter box problems
Inappropriate elimination in cats is a very common and frustrating problem and can be caused by many different factors. Most cats require little training to use their litter box because cats have a natural desire to dig and bury their waste. But once a cat has developed undesirable toilet habits the problem can be very difficult to resolve. Follow these suggestions to prevent and solve litter box problems.
How to prevent litter box problems
- Pick the right litter box location. Place the litter box in a semi-private area, away from lots of traffic.
- Keep kittens in a small room with a litter box for a few days until they use it consistently.
- Do not place the box next to your cat’s food or water. Avoid placing it near loud noises such as a washing machine. Loud noises may be startling or scary.
- Avoid corners and tight areas like closets where your cat might feel trapped. This may be more of a consideration for multi-cat households and the personalities of your cats.
- Select your litter carefully. Once you have found a litter that seems to please your cat, don’t switch.
- Keep the litter box clean. Solid waste and clumps should be scooped out daily. Empty the entire box and wash it with warm water at least once a month.
- Give your cat attention
- Cats are often stressed by change. Big stressors include moving, grief, new pets or a new baby or family member. Even small changes like rearranged furniture, moving its litter box or new household cleaners can cause a change in your cat’s behavior. Giving it extra attention, playtime, care, and reassurance during these times will help with adjustment.
How to solve litter box problems
- Rule out illness. Check with your veterinarian to make sure that medical issues aren’t the underlying cause. Be sure to fully explain the litter box issue and understand your vet may request a urinalysis, stool check or bloodwork to ensure the health of your cat and rule out health disease as a contributor to unwanted behavior.
- Don’t punish your cat. Physical and verbal punishment will likely make the problem worse. Contrary to popular belief, litter box problems have nothing to do with spite and are often caused by stress.
- Do a test. Place numerous litter boxes around the house with different linings: newspaper, clumping litter, non-clumping litter, sand, sawdust, carpet remnants, and no litter at all. If you find that your cat prefers an unacceptable surface (such as carpet), try to slowly convert the cat back to a litter by adding a little litter each week. Continue adding more litter until you can remove the carpet remnants from the box.
- Clean properly. Clean soiled areas with an enzymatic like Nature’s Miracle. Regular cleaners will not break down the scent and your cat may continue to use those spots.
- Increase litter box cleaning. Scoop the litter boxes at least twice daily and wash them once a week with soap and warm water. Avoid using strong-smelling disinfectants.
- Try different depths of litter. If you routinely find excess clean litter on the floor beside the box, you’re probably using too much. 2 inches should be plenty.
- Confine. If the problem is only in one area, close the door to keep your cat out.
- If needed, confine your cat to a small, cat-proofed room with bedding, food, water, toys, and at least one litter box. Keep it there until you can be sure it’s using the litter box. Gradually allow your cat access to other areas of the house.
- Other techniques. Feed your cat where it’s urinating or defecating. Cats do not like to eat or drink where they eliminate. This may do the trick!
- Use aluminum foil, upside-down carpet runners, or double-sided tape to encourage your cat to avoid areas where unwanted eliminating is happening.
- Try a synthetic pheromone spray such as Feliway or a Sentry-calming collar.
Aggression in cats
Play aggression and overstimulation
- Cats aren’t close-contact animals by nature, and some cats tolerate less touching than others before becoming uncomfortable. Understanding your cat’s body language can help to avoid aggression caused by overstimulation.
- Be aware of warning signs
- Tail lashing/thumping, shifting of body position, skin twitching, and direct stares are indications that your cat has had enough petting. If you continue to pet your cat with these warning signs it will likely scratch or bite. Stop petting your cat if you notice these signs and leave it where it is.
- Make sure no one is encouraging rough play
- Using hands or fingers to rough-house with cats teaches them these things are play toys. Use appropriate toys such as “cat dancers”, streamers or catnip toys as chasing and pouncing outlets.
- Try not to reach your cat’s warning phase
- You don’t want your cat to learn that the only way to this message across is to hurt you. If your cat becomes overstimulated after four minutes of petting, stop at two.
Respect a cat that doesn’t like petting
- It may sound strange, but some cats simply don’t enjoy being pet. If yours is one of them, allow it to sit on your lap or beside you on the couch. Not petting your cat will build trust and allow it to feel safe around you. You might try scratching its chin or the back of its head, starting with just a few seconds.
- Avoid rubbing your cat’s belly
- If your cat exposes its belly, it typically means one of two things: defensive aggression or relaxation. Even a relaxed cat can become defensive when its belly is touched.
- Supervise all child-cat interactions
- If you have small children, don’t let them chase, grab, pick up or carry the cat. Older children can be taught that cats are not playthings but living, sensitive animals. Young children simply won’t understand this and should be closely supervised around your cat.
- This may sound like strange advice, but cats don’t generally respond well to physical or verbal punishment. Playful cats may interpret the reaction as a game and bite harder, while fearful or aggressive cats may think they are being attacked and bite harder. Bored cats may learn that such tactics are a successful way to get a reaction.
- Provide plenty of environmental enrichment
- Cats in the wild cover a wide range of territory and can spend up to 6 hours a day seeking out and hunting food. Owners of busy or high energy cats need to be able to duplicate that hunting activity, especially if they are gone during the day. One method is to buy a rolling food-dispensing toy and feed the cat’s meals exclusively from it. The cat can then spend his time rolling the toy around and eating each piece of kibble as it falls out, providing mental as well as physical stimulation. For cats that don’t like such toys, the owner can simply scatter kibble in various parts of the house allowing them to seek out their food.
- Rotate the cat’s toys
- Keep them off the floor, take out 1 to 2 at a time, and put them away when the cat is done playing with them. This will prevent him becoming bored with them and provide further stimulation when the toys are out.
- Consider adding a second cat
- Young, higher energy cats sometimes benefit from a playmate with whom they can play hard and who may provide an education on appropriate cat-to-cat manners. Cats typically either pin each other down or “whap” each other without claws, and thus can communicate rules in a way that humans cannot.
Aggression between cats
Description: As males reach adulthood they may begin challenging one another. Unneutered stray cats frequently engage in ritualistic threats and actual fights. The cats sit or stand very stiffly and stare at each other. They tilt their heads slowly and turn their ears so that the backs of the ears face forward. This posturing is accompanied by prowls and very loud howling. Then, one cat may leave very slowly or one or both cats may attack.
Solution: Sterilization usually prevents or stops inter-male fighting, especially if both males are neutered, although a small percentage of neutered males continue to fight with other males. Some drugs may suppress a cat’s motivation to engage in inter-male aggression. The advantages and disadvantages of drug therapy should be discussed with a veterinarian.
Description: Territorial aggression between cats in a household usually develops slowly and gradually. One cat is usually the aggressor and the other the “victim.” The encounters begin with hissing and growling and progress to swatting, chasing, relentless pursuit, and finally attacking and fighting. The “victim” may become progressively more afraid of the aggressor and become defensive. It may hide and come out only when the aggressor cat is not present. Occasionally, litter box problems occur because the fearful cat is too afraid to move from its hiding place.
We do not know what factors determine which cats will become territorial and will try to exclude other cats from the home. If territorial aggression develops, it usually does not start until one or both cats are between 1 and 3 years of age. A territorial cat can be aggressive toward one cat in the household yet get along well with other cats in the home. The aggressor is not necessarily always the first cat that was introduced into the house or is the oldest.
Solution: Territorial aggression is rarely treated successfully. Although new behavioral procedures are constantly being tried and new drug therapies explored, sometimes the best solution for this problem is to find one of the cats another home. Territorially aggressive cats can be wonderful pets in a home without other cats.
Another method to manage the problem is to keep the cats in separate areas of the household or yard to avoid encounters. Sometimes providing a larger living area by moving from a small apartment to a large house or giving one of the cats access to the outdoors will help the problem.
Description: When two cats in a household become aggressive toward each other, the cause is generally fear related. The cats do not seek each other out, but if they run into each other, both are startled and will attack. Usually this problem begins by accident. For example, two friendly cats may be resting when a frightening incident occurs, such as a bookshelf falling over. Both cats become startled, puff up, and assume defensive postures. When they see each other in a defensive posture, they respond as if the other is about to attack. Thereafter they are aggressive whenever they see each other.
Solution: This type of aggressive behavior is usually treated successfully. The cats must become used to each other again without either cat becoming afraid or aggressive. First, the cats should be separated so that they cannot see each other.
One way to reintroduce the cats is when they are hungry. The cats can be positioned at opposite ends of the room several times a day and fed small amounts of food. If both cats are hungry and occupied with eating they will see each other in an unaggressive state. Bring the food dishes closer together gradually over several days or weeks. Eventually, after eating, the cats can spend some time with each other if they are kept apart or on leashes at a safe distance. Pet or play with the cats to keep them relaxed and in a good mood. This technique is more likely to work if the level of aggression is relatively low. If the cats’ behavior does not improve using this method, the following technique can be tried.
Expose the cats to each other for prolonged periods without letting them come in direct contact. They might be kept in large cages at opposite ends of the room, where they can see each other but cannot escape. After several hours, they might be brought closer together. After many sessions, it should be possible for them to be close to each other and eventually be let loose.
Other option, is separating cats by a screen door, with the lower screen covered completely with a large piece of cardboard. First, the cats should be allowed to approach the screen door and encouraged to play with each other’s paws at the under the door. Then, a very small gap or slit can be made in the cardboard so that they can barely see each other. The play under the door should be allowed for several days. Very gradually (every few days or so), the opening in the cardboard should be widened so that the cats can see more of each other. Once they can see each other completely and still play (several weeks at least and maybe even several months), it is safe to let them play with the screen door removed.
Description: When a cat is highly aroused and in an aggressive state (for example, by the sight of an outdoor cat or after being chased by a dog), it may redirect its aggression to a person or another animal. Redirected aggression can occur whether the motive for the aggression is inter-male, territorial, fear-induced or defensive in nature. Generally, cats do not redirect aggression unless they are touched or closely approached by another animal or person.
Solution: Don’t pick up or approach a cat that is highly aroused and aggressive. Wait until after the cat has groomed itself, played or eaten. If the aroused aggressive cat must be moved, use a very thick blanket to catch it and pick it up.
Adding a second cat to your household
Thinking of adopting a second cat? Here are some tips that can increase your chances for establishing a peaceful multi-cat home.
Selecting your second cat
- Don’t worry too much about the gender of the cats involved. Age and temperament are the most important factors.
- If you’re choosing from a group of kittens, avoid a kitten that’s hissing, growling or engaged in serious battle with his mates.
- If you’re choosing an adult cat, success depends largely on the personality of your present cat. If it’s easygoing and the new cat is also laid back, you may have little trouble if you introduce them slowly and correctly.
Introducing your new cat to your resident cat
Cats are typically solitary and can be territorial creatures that often require weeks or months to adjust to changes in their environment and lifestyle. For that reason, first impressions are extremely important when meeting other household pets. Cats that are introduced too quickly and fight may never learn to coexist peacefully.
- Create a sanctuary room for your new cat. When you bring your new cat home, confine it to one room with its own litterbox, bed, food, and water.
- Feed them on opposite sides of the same door. At the next meal, place the two cats’ bowls on either side of the door to that room. The aim is for the cats to associate the pleasurable activity of eating with the presence of the other cat. Gradually move the bowls closer with each feeding. When they can eat calmly with both bowls directly across from each other, open the door a crack — for just a few seconds — so they can see each other as they eat.
- Let your new cat explore. Once the new cat seems comfortable in its new surroundings, is eating well, and using the litter box, confine your resident cat in another room and let the new cat explore the house. This allows the new cat to come in contact with the resident cat’s scent without direct contact. Another option is to exchange the cats’ bedding for a night.
- Monitor the cats’ first encounter closely and limit the time they spend together at first. Some display of fearful or aggressive behavior such as crouching, hissing or ears back is to be expected, but you want to avoid letting them establish a pattern of aggressive or fearful behavior. If these behaviors intensify separate the cats and go back to step one.
- If an actual fight breaks out, throw a towel over them or make a loud noise as a distraction in an effort to separate them. Lure the new cat back to its sanctuary room. It is important that you do not pick up the cat while it is still aroused. Give them both a few days to calm down before trying again.
- Do not hold either cat in your arms during introductions: if either one reacts aggressively to the other cat you could be scratched or bitten.
- Continue to provide supervised encounters with both cats, watching closely for signs of tension or aggression. If one cat appears to be freezing, staring, or fixating on the other cat, have some treats or fun toys nearby to direct them away from each other. This will also continue to teach them that good things happen when the other cat is near.
Tips and reminders
- Be sensitive to what a big change this is for your resident cat. Give it the security of its usual routine and keep its own special time with you.
- Keep in mind that “success” doesn’t necessarily mean your cats will be best buddies. Some cats become bonded to one another while others spend the rest of their lives avoiding and hissing at each other. Realize that either of these scenarios might happen. Your goal in facilitating introductions is to set the stage for the cats to peacefully share their living quarters, but understand you simply cannot “make” them like each other.
- This process takes time: count on 2-4 weeks if integrating a kitten and an adult could take 4-6 weeks.
- While following this protocol will maximize your chances of success, know that some cats simply never learn to coexist peacefully. If you have followed the introduction process and do not see any improvement after a month’s time — especially if one cat is terrorizing or injuring the other — long-term success may be unrealistic. Rehoming one of the cats or keeping them permanently separate may be necessary for everyone’s safety.
Preparing your cat for a baby
Your cat can continue to be a loving part of your family after your new baby has come home. Taking these steps to prepare your cat for the baby’s arrival will help to ensure a smooth transition.
- Prepare your cat for baby smells. Begin to wear the kinds of lotions, powders, and other products that will be used with the baby. If your new baby is born at the hospital, bring home the baby blankets to allow your cat to adjust to the new scent.
- Prepare your cat for baby sounds. A baby that’s crying and screaming can be disturbing to a cat. Find a recording of baby sounds and play them at a low volume while your cat is eating or playing. With each session, raise the volume just a little until your cat appears more comfortable with the sounds. You might also want to expose your cat to various baby toys, musical mobiles, and other sound-making devices before the baby comes home.
- Change your cat’s environment gradually. Whether preparing a nursery, painting walls or purchasing new furniture, do so in small stages to allow your cat time to adjust. Cats rely on consistency and are creatures of habit. Even small changes to their environment can cause considerable stress. When the various areas are finished, play with your cat in those places to help it build positive feelings about them.
- Take precautions against toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasmosis infection usually occurs by eating undercooked contaminated meat, exposure from infected cat feces or mother-to-child transmission during pregnancy. Expectant mothers can reduce any risk by wearing gloves and a mask while cleaning litter boxes or by asking another family member to do the job.
Introducing your cat to the baby
- Keep your cat’s schedule intact. When you’re busy with your new baby, try not to neglect your cat. Engage in play and continue to promote positive experiences for your cat. Use synthetic pheromone sprays to reduce stress. Confine your cat to a safe room if necessary.
- Don’t allow your cat access to the baby’s crib. Install a sturdy screen door at the entrance to the nursery or keep the door closed and place a baby monitor in the room.
- Supervise your cat and baby whenever they’re together. Never leave a baby or small child unattended around an animal. No matter how young the child or gentle the animal. Once your baby starts to crawl, supervision is even more important. Your child should never be allowed to grab, chase or pick up the cat, so keep your child and cat separate when supervision isn’t possible.
Managing scratching behavior in cats
Why cats scratch
Cats scratch for a variety of reasons: to maintain the health of their nails, to stretch out the muscles in their shoulders and back, to mark their territory around other cats and to serve as an emotional outlet. Cats need to scratch just as puppies need to chew, so the owner’s goal is not to eliminate the behavior but to manage it in the safest and least destructive way possible.
Some owners of dedicated scratchers consider declawing them, but there are consequences to be considered. First, it is serious and permanent surgery. It’s the equivalent of having the last joint of all of your fingers removed. There are numerous medical drawbacks to declawing your cat that include chronic ongoing pain in the paw, lameness, and back pain. Removing claws changes the way a cat’s foot meets the ground and can cause pain similar to wearing an uncomfortable pair of shoes. There can also be regrowth of improperly removed claws, nerve damage, and bone spurs. Declawed cats are completely defenseless against attackers. They often turn to biting as a defense and of course, can never be let outside. Declawing can also alter a cat’s sense of balance, a danger in any animal that likes to climb.
Cats are usually about 8 weeks old when they begin scratching. That’s the ideal time to train kittens to use a scratching post and allow nail trims. Declawing should not be considered routine prevention for unwanted scratching.
Redirecting scratching behavior
Provide the right scratching post
Choosing a post. There are 3 rules for a scratching post. It must be covered in the right material, sturdy and well-constructed and tall enough for a full stretch. It is recommended that the post be covered in sisal, rope, or any other rough texture. Carpet is OK only if the material is rough enough. Also keep in mind the stability of the post ensuring your cat cannot tip it over. Some cats prefer horizontal scratching surfaces to vertical ones. Most pet supply stores carry such products in their cat section or you can search Pinterest or YouTube for DIY cat scratch posts.
Placing the post
Keep the post plainly visible. Do not hide it in the spare bedroom. If the post is for a kitten, put it in the middle of its room where it can’t be missed. Your cat is most likely to want to scratch when it’s aroused or excited, after a nap and after meal time. If the post isn’t visible, bad scratching habits can develop.
Introducing your cat to the post
Make the process of introducing your cat to the post a game. Dangle a cat-teaser near or over the post and wait for your cat to put its claws on it. If there is no interest, turn the post on its side and keep playing. If you choose, you can gently run your fingernails over the post but do not put the cat’s paws on it: there will be no understanding of what you’re doing and may your cat may learn to dislike the post. Once your cat discovers the texture and begins scratching, deliver praise for using it. If your cat is food motivated, you can offer a small treat.
Replacing a used post
When it’s time to get a new post for your cat, simply put it alongside the old post. If you remove the old one altogether, your cat may not use the new one at all. The old one belongs to your cat. It’s been marked and it carries its scent. Remember that scratching is not just for marking and nail-maintenance, but serves as an emotional outlet as well. Once your cat abandons the old post for the new one, you can get rid of it.
- Don’t punish scratching
- Scratching is a normal behavior and shouldn’t be reprimanded. Focus instead on redirecting your cat back to its post. Remember to engage in playtime around the post and give praise and treats when the post is used.
- Other ways to deter scratching
- Make your furniture unappealing to the cat
- Double-sided tape can leave a residue on furniture that is hard to get off. There are products sold that come in sheets and the adhesive is water-soluble and easy to get off of furniture. Apply this to areas your cat has been scratching. If your cat has been using the entire piece of furniture, cover the affected areas with a sheet. Place your cats post right next to the furniture. When your cat has been routinely using the post instead of the furniture, move it approximately 1 inch a day to where you want it permanently located. Remember, it should still be highly visible at all times. When the cat appears to go right for its post without paying attention to the furniture, take the adhesives off.
- Trim claws regularly
- Well-trimmed claws don’t do as much damage. Have your vet or a groomer show you how to trim their nails.
You might also consider Soft Paws, little plastic caps that can be glued to your cat’s nails. Your cat will still go through the motion of scratching, but the caps will prevent damage to your furniture. The nail caps typically last one to two months and are removed and replaced as the cat’s nails grow.
Why does my cat meow so much?
Meowing, howling, wailing, and chattering is often a cat’s way of expressing its personality and feelings. While this can be annoying, there is no specific definition of excessive vocalization, since it largely depends on your tolerance level as an owner. Follow these guidelines to rule out medical issues and manage your cat’s chattiness.
Rule out illness. Sudden changes in vocalization can indicate a health problem. If your cat has always been quiet and is suddenly yowling a lot, take it to your veterinarian.
Don’t reward the meowing. Attention, even negative attention, can reinforce the behavior. If you can, avoid feeding, playing, petting or talking to your cat while it’s meowing.
Redirect, don’t punish. If your cat tends to become vocal in certain situations or at certain times of the day, try to intercept your cat before it starts and redirect to a fun game or petting session. This will prevent the problem behavior from starting in the first place.
Reward quiet behavior. Save petting, playtime, dinner, etc. for quiet moments to reinforce peaceful behavior. It may take time, but animals naturally repeat behavior that benefits them.
Consider your cat’s activity level. Cats sometimes vocalize out of boredom. Kittens and younger cats need more exercise and stimulation, so make time for interactive play at least once a day. You can also purchase a food-dispensing toy for your cat, which will burn both mental and physical energy.
Consider your cat’s age. Your cats vision and hearing typically get worse over time, and meowing is sometimes the result of confusion or disorientation. These types of vocalizations sometimes become stronger in the evening. Give your senior cat plenty of loving attention to soothe and reassure them.
Explore medication if necessary. If your cat truly seems distressed and anxious, your vet can prescribe anti-anxiety medication to calm it while you work on modifying its behavior.
Keeping your cat off the counter
Cats like elevated places and in many homes, the highest surface from the floor is the counter or table. These spots can be especially tempting if the cat finds food. Frustrated with your counter-cruising cat? Follow these guidelines.
Make counters unrewarding
If your cat is rewarded for jumping on the counter, the behavior will continue. Keep your counters, table, and sink clear of food at all times. Buy several cheap plastic placemats and cover one side of them with double-sided tape. Keep the placemats on your counters and tables when they aren’t in use. Cats don’t like sticky surfaces, so the goal is for your cat to jump up, feel a painless but uncomfortable sensation, and jump down. When weeks have passed without signs of the cat on the counters, remove one placemat every day until the counter is clear. If your cat’s cruising habit returns put the mats back.
- Confine your cat during mealtime
- If your cat won’t stay off of the counters while you’re working with food, confine it in a cat-proofed room with bedding, toys, water, and at least one litter box while you prepare food and while you eat. Let your cat out as soon as you’re finished.
- Don’t punish
- Cats generally don’t respond well to punishment. They become frightened and don’t make the connection that their behavior caused it to happen. If you have more than one cat, punishment can startle the other cat while it’s doing an appropriate activity like using the litter box. Physical and verbal punishment often causes stress in cats. It can provoke aggression which opens the door to other problems such as biting or litter box rejection.
- Reward appropriate activities
- Provide your cat a tall condo for climbing and reward it with treats for perching in the top. Buy a food-dispensing toy and where your cat can bang it around on the floor where you’d it to be. Since animals repeat what benefits them, make doing the right behavior rewarding for your cat.
- Play with your cat at least once a day
- Playtime gives your cat an appropriate way to earn attention and burn excess energy.
- Pick your battles
- The tips we’ve provided may reduce your cat’s cruising habit, but they might not eliminate it. If you can’t keep your cat off of the counter, make sure to clean before food preparation and clear the surfaces promptly so that your cat doesn’t eat anything it shouldn’t.
Cat keeping you awake? How to manage night activity
Naturally nocturnal, cats are more active during nighttime hours than during the day. If your cat is keeping you up, follow these tips to manage their environment so that you can get some sleep.
- Don’t reward the behavior with your attention
- People sometimes reinforce their cat’s boisterous nighttime activity without meaning to. They might get up to feed or play with their cat or chase it out of the room. All of these responses will teach your cat that disturbing you works, and that they will get some kind of payoff. The first step is to avoid rewarding the disturbing behavior with your attention.
- Provide enough exercise and stimulation earlier in the evening
- Cats will sleep all day if allowed, so make time for regular sessions of interactive play early in the evening. Even a little bit of playtime will go a long way towards tiring your cat out.
- Provide daytime activity in your absence
- One option is feeding your cat one of his meals from a food-dispensing toy. This simulates a cat’s hunt-catch-consume behavior, providing both mental and physical stimulation.
Manage your cat’s environment during the night
If your cat is jumping on the bed and disturbing you, confine it in another room so your cat can’t practice the wrong behavior. You can keep it in a kitty-proofed room with a litter box, water, bedding, and (quiet) toys. If this isn’t possible, a large dog kennel – big enough to allow the cat to sleep away from the litter box – can also serve this purpose. If you choose this option, let your cat out immediately when you awake. You can also place a towel between your closed bedroom door and the door frame to prevent door-rattling. White noise machines in the bedroom and ear plugs can also help you get a good night’s sleep.
- Don’t punish your cat
- As frustrating as this behavior can be, it’s not generated by spite, resentment, revenge or any other human emotion. Persisting in this belief will only set cat and owner up for a hostile, stressful relationship, and will not ultimately solve the problem. Focus on teaching appropriate behavior by following the guidelines above.
Unusual eating habits
Dogs and cats sometimes eat non-food items, which can produce life-threatening blockages in the animal’s intestines. A form of this behavior is stool eating (either their own of that of another animal). While not necessarily dangerous to the animal, it is often unacceptable to the owner.
Eating non-food items is called pica, and stool-eating is called coprophagy. Because pica and coprophagy are behaviors which are not well understood, stopping them may require assistance from an animal behavior professional who works individually with owners and their animals.
Causes of pica and coprophagy
The causes of pica (eating non-food items) and coprophagy (stool eating) are unknown but the following causes are possible.
Attention-getting: If showing these behaviors results in some type of social interaction between the animal and the owner then the behavior may be reinforced and occur more frequently.
Parental behavior: Coprophagy may be carried over from the normal parental behavior of ingesting the waste of young offspring. Some experts believe coprophagy occurs more often in animals who live in relatively barren environments — who may be frequently confined to small areas and received limited attention from their owners.
Learned behavior: Coprophagy may be seen more often in dogs that tend to be highly motivated by food. It is possible that a dog may learn this behavior from another dog. Coprophagy is fairly common in dogs but is rarely seen in cats, for reasons unknown.
Lack of nutrients: Both pica and coprophagy may be attempts to obtain a necessary nutrient lacking in the diet, although no nutritional studies have ever substantiated this idea.
Boredom or anxiety: These behaviors may be frustration or anxiety related and occur when the animal is “bored,” anxious or afraid. It is possible the behaviors begin as play, as the animal investigates and chews on the objects, and subsequently for unknown reasons begins to eat or ingest them. Suckling of objects may occur in animals who were weaned too young or prevented from nursing for some other reason.
This can be a more serious problem because items such as rubber bands, socks, rocks, and string can severely damage or block an animal’s intestines. In some instances, the items must be surgically removed. The chances of resolving this type of problem successfully will probably be greater if the reason for the behavior can be determined. Unfortunately, this will often not be possible, as the behavior is poorly understood. Making the objects the animal is eating taste unpleasant may be helpful. Owners may need to either prevent the animal’s access to the items and/or be very vigilant about putting socks and other such items out of reach. If the animal is very food oriented, it may be possible to change to a low-calorie or high-fiber diet to allow him to eat more food, more often, which may decrease the behavior. Check with your veterinarian before changing diets.
Pica can be an attention-getting behavior, play behavior or a frustration or anxiety-relieving behavior. If anxiety or frustration is involved, the reason for these reactions must be identified and the behavior changes using behavior modification techniques. Cats commonly play with string, rubber bands, and tinsel and ultimately ingest them. Owners need to keep these out of reach and provide a selection of appropriate toys.
Because pica can potentially be a life-threatening behavior problem, it may be advisable to consult both your veterinarian and an animal behavior professional for help.
Because the causes of the problem are not well understood, no treatments which are consistently successful are available. There are products you can add a dogs diet that will make the stool its producing taste unpleasant. Based on owners’ reports, these products appear to work in some cases, but not with others. The stools can also be given an aversive taste by sprinkling them directly with either cayenne pepper or a commercial product called Bitter Apple. For this method to be effective, every stool the animal has access to for a length of time must be treated in order for him to learn that eating stools results in unpleasant consequences. It is obviously difficult for most owners to watch their dogs each and every time they defecate. In addition, it may be possible for some dogs to discriminate by odor which stools have been treated and which have not. Punishment which comes from the owner is usually not effective because the dog may interpret this as attention or many dogs learn not to show the behavior when their owners are present but will do so when they are absent. The simplest solution may simply be to clean the yard daily in order to minimize the dog’s opportunity for coprophagy.
Any type of environmental “booby-traps” to stop a dog from eating cat feces from the litter box must be attempted with caution. Anything which frightens a dog away from a litter box is also likely to frighten the cat away as well. It is much better to install a baby-gate in front of the litter box area as a cat will have no trouble jumping over it while most dogs will not make the attempt. Alternatively, the box can be placed in a closet or alternate room.