Last month, we looked at some common behavior problems in dogs. This month, we’ll examine a totally different animal- the cat. There is a saying in veterinary school that “cats are not small dogs”. This is true physically, but it is also very true behaviorally. Cats by nature have a very different social structure than dogs. Although feral cats will live in colonies, most domestic cats are more loners than dogs. They have very different habits and different ways of interacting and also will display different behaviors with respect to stress than dogs will.
One common problem that cats have is destructiveness. While with dogs, this usually involves chewing, with cats it usually involves clawing. Clawing is a normal behavior in cats. They use it to keep their nails sharp and to remove old nail growth. It is also a marking behavior to identify their territory. It is not appropriate to punish a cat for clawing, instead they should be encouraged to use something like a scratching post. Many posts come with a little catnip to attract the cat to it. You can encourage your cat to use it by gently putting his paws on it when he uses something you don’t want him to use. You can also discourage him from using things like sofas and chairs by applying double-sided sticky tape to those places. If you still have an issue, please call and we can discuss other options for your pet.
One of the most common and frustrating behavior problems in cats is inappropriate elimination- that is urinating and/or defecating outside the litterbox. We should first always do an exam to rule out a physical problem. We may need to run bloodwork and a urine test to make sure there is not any disease process going on. There are many factors that need to be considered to decide how to best treat each case, including number of cats and litterboxes in the house, where the cat eliminates, any changes in the household, length of time the problem has been going on and what things have already been tried. Cats may start eliminating outside the litterbox in response to stress and by finding the cause, it can help us choose the appropriate treatment. Stress for a cat can include introduction of a new cat or loss of a cat, new litterbox or litter, construction in the house, new work schedule, or even a stray cat outside that you don’t know is there (but your cat does). There are many ways to treat inappropriate elimination and each case is different. Often, we’ll use more than one method. Some of the things we use are confinement, changing litterbox or litter type, making the areas the cat uses unattractive (such as putting aluminum foil or upside-down carpet runners on them), feliway (a cat pheromone) and certain medications. The important thing to remember is that the problem will not resolve overnight. It takes patience and perseverance to control, but we will help to guide you through correcting the problem.
If you are having behavior problems with your cat, please call to set up an appointment to examine your pet and discuss treatment options. We want you and your cat to have a long and happy relationship together.