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How To Deal With Destructive Attention Seeking Behavior

Discussion in 'Cat Behavior' started by bravetoreador, Jan 26, 2019.

  1. bravetoreador

    bravetoreador Thread Starter TCS Member Kitten

    6
    2
    Jul 16, 2015
    I have two cats, an eleven year old fixed male (Percy) and a two year old fixed female (Peaches), and the female's behavior has become incredibly frustrating recently.
    We moved into a new apartment five months ago. This isn't the first time I've moved house with both of them, and probably the least dramatic move. The move before this was Oklahoma to Connecticut by plane. This one was only a short car ride.

    Shortly after we arrived she began showing the first destructive behaviors, primarily clawing at the underside of my room mate's box spring and the couch. She lays on her back and drags herself along by her claws- not normal scratching behavior. I put it down to stress and got her more scratching posts and the room mate kept his door closed. Her response was to claw at the door until the paint came off and cry continuously. I think this may be where the problem really started. When she ran under my room mate's bed, he would get the fishing rod toy to lure her out. When he reached his limit with her screaming at his door, he'd go get the fishing rod toy and play with her for a bit to try and distract her. This seems to have made her associate play time with destructive and annoying behavior.

    Now, what feels like once an hour, once every few hours at most, she decides she wants attention and begins crying. When meowing extensively doesn't get me to leave my desk, she starts getting destructive, clawing the back of my chair and, most worryingly, chewing on a wicker box I keep my art supplies in. I won't rule out other causes, but it certainly seems to me to be attention seeking. She stops as soon as I look at her and comes trotting towards me making play time chirps. Even if I do stop and play with her for ten or fifteen minutes till she loses interest, she's soon right back at it.

    Last night I was trying to hang up a tapestry in my room before bed, and she was trying to get me to play with her. She almost immediately decided the tapestry was a new toy, as were the tacks I was using to hang it. She dragged the tapestry off the wall the second I turned away, then took one of the tacks and ran off with it. I had to go take it back from her, terrified she was going to stab herself in the mouth or swallow it. This morning I wasn't getting out of bed fast enough to suit her, so she immediately began clawing at the tapestry again, trying to pull the tacks out of the wall with her teeth. Later, I sat down to work, and she dragged it off the wall again. I've just put it away now because I can't risk her getting hold of one of the tacks while I'm not in the room.

    I work from home, so there's always someone here to pay attention to her and she gets play time every day, but nothing seems to satisfy her, and I can't stop working at the drop of a hat every time she gets bored. I have serious focus problems and interrupting my work can throw me off for the rest of the day. I normally just ignore bad behavior and reward good behavior, but I can't ignore her when she's destroying things and endangering herself, which she seems to have figured out. She has plenty of toys and I've even spent money on electronic toys to try and get her to play by herself, but she won't use them unless I'm playing with her. I've done everything I can think of to give her a fun, enriching environment and a reliable schedule. She has a puzzle feeder, a fountain, multiple cat trees and beds around the house, so many scratchers I'm practically tripping over them. I don't know what else I can do! My room mates are pissed at her for tearing things up and I'm getting really frustrated as well at the constant interruptions to my work. Why is she being so desperate for attention, and what can I do to satisfy her, or at least get her to stop chewing on things that could kill her?
     

  2. FeebysOwner

    FeebysOwner TCS Member Top Cat

    5,588
    6,780
    Jun 13, 2018
    Central FL (Born in OH)
    Are these new room mates, or did they move with you? Just wondering if she doesn't like their presence if she wasn't living with them before, and has lost some of her confidence with you since she views them as potential competition for you and your attention.

    I will wait until you answer before adding any tips considering your response makes a great deal of difference on what the possible solutions might be.
     

  3. bravetoreador

    bravetoreador Thread Starter TCS Member Kitten

    6
    2
    Jul 16, 2015
    One of the room mates is new, the other has been with me through the past two moves. She is a little shy of new guy, she tends to be a bit high strung, but would she really be jealous of him?
     

  4. FeebysOwner

    FeebysOwner TCS Member Top Cat

    5,588
    6,780
    Jun 13, 2018
    Central FL (Born in OH)
    I suppose you could call it jealousy, but more like intimidated by/afraid of/distrusting of - things that she doesn't understand about your new room mate because they are unfamiliar to her. I am just guessing, but perhaps she is grabbing for your attention, as she sees you as her protector against the new guy?

    Is it possible for you to confine the cats (both of them, since I assume they like each other's company) in your bedroom at night - as opposed to having the room mate shut their door? Also, see if you can't provide at least a few times a day play/snuggle time for just her and you (and, the second cat if need be). Especially a play session before you start work in the morning?

    And, if you don't work in your bedroom, when it is not time to play and she is bugging you, you could pick her up and confine her to your bedroom for 10 minutes or so. After numerous times, she is going to learn that if she bugs you while you are working, she is going to have a 'time-out' away from you so to speak.

    Also, if your new room mate is interested in becoming her friend, he can feed her treats to start off with to help her warm up to him. How does the room mate and your other cat get along, just out of curiosity?

    It might be helpful to make a log with times/events/etc. that she is acting up to see if you can find a pattern to it. For example, if one of the times she is acting up is late at night, maybe she is hungry and her dinner meal might need to be moved closer to bed time.
     

  5. FeebysOwner

    FeebysOwner TCS Member Top Cat

    5,588
    6,780
    Jun 13, 2018
    Central FL (Born in OH)
    Courtesy of another member (@Furballsmom), here are additional things you can try with your cat to see if it helps with her behavior.

    You, Your Cat And Stress

    Here's a list of other things to try;
    You could try low volume classical harp music, there is an app called Relax My Cat, there is MusicForCats.com and also George Handel compositions are known to help a cat to relax.

    Also, you could try one of these, only a small selection of a fast-growing section of pet products;
    Bachs Rescue Remedy, Richard's Organics Pet Calm-this one is drops that you put on the tip of the tongue. Also, Quiet Moments Cat treats, there is Calming Care, Calm-o-mile, Sentry, Natures Miracle calming spray, Vetri-Science's Composure is another item to look at, Pet Remedy (it has valerian) is yet another, as is Essential Pet Pet-ease, Only Natural Pet (brand and website) has a calming product, Pet Naturals also has one I believe.

    Also Thunderease has diffusers as does Sentry, and feliway although diffusers are expensive and not always the answer.
    You might want to check with your vet, but some people have good results with CBD oil, plus there are vet-prescribed calming products too.
    Lambert Vet Supply is a website to look at, and of course chewy, also there's Petwishpros, drsfostersmith, animaleo, Petco and PetSmart, and other pet stores.

    There is also product called a lickimat which could be helpful, as cats can be calmed by the process of licking. The LickiMat - Food Puzzles for Cats

    This discussion's post talks about some other products;
    Calming Treats For A Very Picky Cat
     
    Furballsmom purraised this.

  6. bravetoreador

    bravetoreador Thread Starter TCS Member Kitten

    6
    2
    Jul 16, 2015
    Thank you for all these excellent suggestions!

    I can’t confine them at night unfortunately. Theyre both very good about not causing trouble after bed time, but Percy wont tolerate being shut into my room. He doesn’t just cry and claw the door, he gets inventive. In Oklahoma where the door didn’t sit quiet straight in the frame, he learned to jump from the top of a dresser to the top of the door frame, then hang from the door frame and use his back legs to pull the door open. He’s too smart sometimes lol. He can open lever door handles as easily as a person. He only cant do knobs because he cant get traction on the rounded edges with his paws, but he keeps trying. I could try putting peaches in time out for a bit when she’s misbehaving, but i worry she wouldnt make the cause/effect connection. I feel like as soon as I respond at all Ive reinforced the behavior. Would she understand the time out as being connected to the behavior? Or just that she successfully got my attention, and then she got put in the other room? I love Peach, but shes not as quick or trainable as Percy.

    The room mate likes the cats from a distance but hes never had pets and gets really nervous about getting clawed/bit. He cuddles Percy sometimes, but Peaches gets overstimulated easily and tends to play-bite when shes had enough, so he keeps her at arms length. It’s cute actually, he’ll pet her exactly once when shes being flirty and then back away lol. Next time I buy treats I’ll see about trying to get her more comfortable with them. I dont keep treats in the house normally because Peach has been a little overweight since she got fixed and has a habit of hunting down the treat bag and tearing into it.

    The journal/record is an interesting idea. I might try that if I can find a way to just jot something down without getting pulled out of my work.

    Here’s a video of the little monster as a thank you:
     
    FeebysOwner purraised this.

  7. FeebysOwner

    FeebysOwner TCS Member Top Cat

    5,588
    6,780
    Jun 13, 2018
    Central FL (Born in OH)
    She may be a handful, but she's delightful!! I do think she is high energy! So, that is on your side as she will likely settle down more when she's a little older.

    As far as picking her up for time-out - it's just picking her up, no talking or interaction, moving her, putting down and confining her for little bit. Short of the picking up part she isn't really getting any other attention from you, and then all of sudden she finds herself not able to be near you. It might or might not work; over time cats usually pick up on the connection.

    As, for making notes, just keep a note pad and pencil/pen nearby and jot down time/event/etc. - whatever you think is relevant. It might disrupt you the first few times, but then you will get into a groove and determine what short notes work best for you, it will become second nature.

    Sounds like you might have to train your room mate (to be more comfortable with cats) at the same time you're trying to train your cat! Lol!
     

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