Common Cat Behaviour Problems

We are a nation of cat lovers, with an estimated population of almost 11 million pet cats. While we adore or furry felines, they have their fair share of behavioural quirks that can cause serious problems if not addressed.

Today, we will take a look at the most common cat behaviour problems and how to correct them so you can give your cat the best life possible.

Why Certain Behaviours Need Correcting

When it comes to pets, we must remember that domesticated animals still retain a lot of their wild instincts and behaviours. What may seem strange to us, is completely normal for them.

The key to preventing further episodes of problematic behaviour is to find the trigger. Scolding the bad behaviour will not stop it from occurring again if the situation that causes the behaviour is not removed.

Litter Training

For cats, this is not a problem as they will toilet instinctively in a place they feel safe and comfortable. Without any litter training, this means your cat is likely to toilet behind the sofa or under the dining table.

This is an easily preventable issue by providing gentle and positive reinforcement when your cat toilets in an appropriate place.

First, you must provide a suitable litter tray. Confident cats will have no problem learning to use a simple tray, but nervous cats will be more comfortable with a covered litter tray.

Every time you see your cat getting ready to toilet (circling, sniffing, squatting) gently pick them up and carry them to the litter tray. If they do their business in the tray, give them a small treat and lots of fuss.

Don’t worry if they jump straight out, just be consistent. Eventually, they will start to connect the litter tray with toileting. It is important to clean out the litter tray regularly or your cat will stop using it. Nobody wants a dirty toilet!

Scratching Furniture

Clawing and scratching at furniture is one of the most commonly reported problems to veterinarians and animal behaviour experts. For us, it is frustrating to see our cat tearing shreds out of a brand new sofa, but for cats, this is normal and necessary behavior.

There are 3 reasons a cat will scratch:

  • Shedding claw sheaths
  • Frustration/lack of exercise
  • Communication

Cats shed their outer claw sheaths every 3 months or so and scratching helps to remove those shed sheaths. Cats also scratch to alleviate boredom and frustration caused by a lack of exercise. In households with multiple cats, scratching is a form of communication or territory marking.

The best solution to furniture scratching is to provide your cat with a more suitable scratching option. 

Scratching posts and towers are ideal as they are specifically designed for cats to scratch. A simple post with a solid base is fine, as it provides both vertical and horizontal scratching surfaces.

For cats with a more adventurous personality, a cat tower is a great option. These towers look like the cat version of a playground, complete with posts, tunnels, hammocks, and swinging toys.

To protect your furniture, try draping a blanket over the armrests of your sofa or armchair to dissuade your cat from scratching. They do not like to scratch on soft blankets as they are likely to get their claws stuck.

Furry Alarm Clocks

Cats are early risers, which do not bode well if you want a lie-in. If your cat shares your bedroom at night you will have learned to expect an early morning wake-up call, which includes loud yowling, face-licking, and patting.

Nobody wants a cat batting their nose at 5 am! So, how do you stop this behaviour? Your cat is waking you because they are hungry, so addressing this will prevent the unwanted wake-up call.

There are two options here. First, if your cat eats dry food, try switching to an automated feeding bowl. You fill the container with your cat’s food and program the times you want food to be dispensed.

 

Not only does your cat learn to anticipate when he will be fed, but he also no longer needs to wake you up.

The second option is to adjust his feeding schedule. Start by setting an alarm for 5 minutes before your cat normally wakes you and immediately feed him. Every day, add an extra couple of minutes until you get to a time that you want to wake up yourself.

This method creates an association for your cat between the sound of your alarm and him being fed. He will no longer try to wake you because he will be waiting for the alarm.

Excessive Meowing

It might surprise you to know that meowing is not a natural cat sound. They have learned over thousands of years to meow as a way of getting our attention. Cats never meow at other cats.

When your cat meows at you and follows you around the house, he is trying to get your attention. If he has already been fed, the likely reason is that he is seeking some company.

Try playing with your cat for 5 minutes, either will a lure toy or a cat ball. This is a two-fold solution. Your cat gets to spend some quality time with you and also gets to release his pent-up energy.

If your cat is an outdoor cat, try installing a cat flap so he can come and go as he pleases, instead of having to pester you to be let out. You will notice that he leaves and comes back at the same time each day.

This is because outdoor cats have a schedule. Outdoor cats have a territory, which is typically a small area around their own house, such as the houses on either side or perhaps two houses on either side. The size of a cat’s territory depends on the availability of food. If they get plenty of food at home their range will be small.

Tomcats (males) have a larger territory than females and will spray around the edges of their territory to keep away other tomcats.

Understanding Cat Behaviour

Cats are expressive creatures and are always telling their owners how they feel, but sometimes, their behaviour intrigues can be frustrating. Understanding their behaviour is the way to speak their language, and the following insights into their mind and behaviour can help you bond faster with them.

Peeing on personal belongings

It may seem disgusting that your cat urinated over some of your belongings, but that’s a way cats mark their territory. Cats transfer their scent to objects in the house by peeing on them so they can relieve anxiety. If this bothers you, be very tidy with your belongings to reduce the chances of further reoccurrence.

Rubbing

When a cat rubs their cheeks against your hand, the doorway, or furniture, it’s more than just an act that shows affection or says hello. That behavior is referred to as “bunting” and usually involves the release of pheromones, which is primarily another way to show pride in that you’re his and that space belongs to him.

Sniffing

By now, you must have realized that cats rely heavily on their sense of smell. When a cat sniffs your face or other parts of your body, they’re trying to commit your scent to memory so they can build trust which relieves anxiety and fear.

Kneading

Kneading refers to the activity where your cat alternately pushes out and pulls in their front paws into you or any soft object like a bed or blanket. Cats do this prior to relaxation as it’s a sign that they’re happy or trying to alleviate stress.

Chattering

It’s not uncommon for cats to emit a fast and intense tooth chattering when watching a bird through the window. Behaviourists speculate that chattering indicates their frustration at not being to hunt or catch the bird they are watching. They also may be excited or slightly aggravated.

Swishy tail

Cats can get anxious easily, and it helps to provide a place they can retreat to in such situations, so they don’t become aggressive. You can tell that your cat is becoming uncomfortable and is ready to pounce by its swishy tail. In such instances, it’s always best to distract them by directing their energy onto appropriate toys.

Eating non-food items

If you notice your cat is chewing on non-edible items, it’s time to take a trip to the vet. Eating non-food items is often a sign of Pica which is often attributed to mineral deficiencies. A visit to the vet for a full examination can help rule out any underlying problems.

Surprise gifts

Although domestic cats don’t need to do anything to feed, their hunting skills are still top-notch. It’s not unusual for cats to bring the remains of a dead (or live) rodent or bird to their owners, and while this may seem gross to you, behaviourists believe cats do this to thank you for taking care of them.

Cat eyes

Cats communicate a lot through their eyes; for instance, if your cat slowly blinks at you from afar, it’s a sign that they are comfortable with you and enjoy your company. Behaviourists call this act “cat kisses,” and you can return the gesture by slowly shutting your eyes and opening them. But if you notice that your cat won’t look at you no matter how hard you try, it could be a sign that they need some time alone.

Conclusion

Since cats can’t speak to communicate with their human owners, it’s imperative to understand their behaviour, so you can give them appropriate care. The above tips can help you understand their needs and personality better.