The DosIs This Really a Behavior Problem?
More often than not, the behavior is perfectly normal for a cat. Scratching objects in our home is natural behavior for any cat. By the same token, biting the hand that reaches out to her during playtime is just what any kitten would do. However, peeing outside the litter box is not something that should be happening.
Not sure if your cat's behavioral issue is normal feline behavior, a developmental stage or an actual problem? Visit our cat behavior articles section and learn more on the topic, or visit our cat behavior forum and ask.
Work with Your Veterinarian
If your cat appears to have a behavior problem, consider medical issues. Read more about Physical Problems That Turn into Behavior Problems.
Your vet should rule out any physical problems before you can move on to address behavioral ones. While many vets are not experts on feline behavior, they can often refer you to a behaviorist and also help with stress-reducing medications, either as a temporary measure during behavior modification or a permanent solution. Read more about Anti-Anxiety Medication for Cats.
You can't teach your cat to behave in a certain way unless you address the root cause of the behavior. In the case of litter box issues, for example, you should use our guide to Litterbox Problems in Cats to find out the reason for the inappropriate elimination and fix it. In the case of scratching furniture, provide your cat with adequate alternatives before you try to convince her to stop scratching the couch. More on that in our guide on How To Stop Your Cat From Scratching The Furniture.
Remember, solutions and alternatives always come before correcting the behavior.
Use Positive Reinforcement Techniques
Depending on the type of behavior you're dealing with, positive reinforcement using praise and treats may work. Specific techniques are described in our various cat behavior guides and articles.
Stay Calm and Positive
Whatever your cat is doing, don't lose your temper. Cats do not do things "for spite" or out of vengeance. They are simply incapable of such complex motivations. Your cat is doing what she's doing either because she is physically ill or because one of her basic needs isn't met. That's it. So don't get angry and don't take this personally.
The Don'tsDon't ever hit or otherwise physically hurt your cat
This is pet abuse, plain and simple. It achieves nothing except distrust and potential stress-related problems.
Don't punish your cat
Cats don't understand the concept of punishment. Withholding food, confining a cat to a room, or any other method of punishment is a recipe for stress and stress-induced problems. It is possible to use confinement to a room as a way to allow the cat to calm down in a stimuli-free environment, but it should never be used as punishment.
Don't shout at your cat
Shouting can make a nervous cat even more nervous and more prone to behavior problems.
Don't use spray bottles or air pressure cans
These are likely to startle and scare nervous cats and cause more problems. Moreover, they make the cat associate you - the owner - with something scary and unpleasant.
Declawing is not a solution to either furniture clawing or aggressive behavior. It is an extremely painful procedure which could potentially cause more behavior problems down the road. Read more about declawing here -
Why Cats Should NOT Be Declawed
Declawing - More than Just a Manicure
Declawing and Alternatives
Don't give up!
If your cat displays unwanted behavior, there are always positive and effective ways to deal with that. Our community members are here to offer advice and support, so post and let us know about your problem in the cat behavior forums!
Comments? Leave them using the form below. Questions? Please use the cat forums for those!