Educational Articles

Cats + Behavior

  • Losing a pet is difficult for all members of the family including surviving pets. Dogs and cats view family members, animal and human, as part of a pack. The stability of the pack is important to the pet’s sense of well being. Disruption of the pack dynamic that occurs when one pet dies can impact the other pets in the family. Pets form relationships with each other and with humans and they respond to the loss of a family member with physical and behavioral changes that manifest as grief. Recognizing and dealing with pet grief can help re-establish a healthy family unit.

  • Learning to eliminate in the chosen area is a crucial skill for pet kittens and cats. Most cats prefer unscented, fine grit clumping style litter, a deep box with at least 3” of digging material, a large area inside the box, and boxes located in quiet areas that are easily accessible. Provide lower-sided litter boxes for kittens and senior cats and multiple litter boxes for multi-cat homes. Doing our best to keep the litter clean and appealing to cats is one of the most important factors in maintaining good elimination habits in our pets. If you find a mistake after the fact, calmly and quietly clean the area, and resolve to better supervise the kitten in the future. Do not punish your kitten or cat for making a mistake. If your cat is ever seen frequently going to and from the litter box, standing or squatting in the litter for prolonged periods, posturing or standing in the litter box and vocalizing, these are all urgent concerns and require immediate veterinary attention.

  • Pain is very difficult to detect in older cats. It is important for cat owners to monitor their cats for subtle clues including changes in grooming, litter box behavior, and degree of activity. If changes in these behaviors are observed, your cat should be evaluated by your veterinarian and a pain management plan devised.

  • Inappropriate elimination generally refers to a cat is urinating and/or defecating in the house in places other than its litter box. Most successful treatments rely on a combination of behavior modification techniques and drug therapy.

  • Counterconditioning and desensitization are powerful ways to change behavior. They are usually used in combination. Desensitization provides a means of safely exposing the pet to the stimulus at a level at or below which fear is likely to be exhibited.

  • Play is a very important part of the feline world and kittens need the opportunity to play in order to learn vital adult skills both for communication and for hunting.

  • Crate training is most commonly used with dogs, but it can be useful for kittens and cats too. Crate training is useful in many situations, such as providing a safe place when home alone or unsupervised which prevents housetraining mistakes, a safe place to sleep undisturbed, to travel by car or airplane, for medical care and visits to the veterinarian, and for boarding or vacation camp. Starting while your pet is young makes training easier, but most pets can be trained. If your pet shows signs of distress (e.g., prolonged vocalization, trying to escape, salivation, rapid continuous movement) while using the training methods provided in this handout consult with your veterinarian.

  • Cats can suffer from hearing loss due to increasing age, chronic ear infections, or may be born with a defect. Deafness in cats can present some challenges but overall, they can have a fairly healthy, normal life. It is possible to teach your cat household routines by incorporating hand signals and body language into your communication with your cat. It is important to take their deafness into account when considering their safety.

  • For most cats, a visit to the veterinarian is an overwhelming experience. If your cat’s veterinary appointment is for a routine wellness examination, your veterinarian may prescribe a sedative or antianxiety medication. Natural medicines, also known as complementary therapies, cover a wide range of products including herbs, nutraceuticals, supplements, and homeopathic remedies and may be beneficial in treating your anxious cat. Products such as Feliway® and Rescue Remedy® are examples of natural therapies that may be helpful in reducing your cat’s stress. One of the most important ways to decrease your cat’s anxiety level is to remain calm and relaxed during the visit as this will help reassure your cat that she is safe.

  • If you are moving with a cat, there are some things to consider to reduce her anxiety, minimize problems, and help her settle in. Before you move, make sure she has adequate identification (a collar or microchip). Make the move to your new home with your cat in a safe, well-secured container, such as a cat carrier, to avoid danger of escape. On arrival at your new home, leave her in her carrier until a room has been unpacked and set up with familiar objects and furniture. Then make this 'her' room for the initial adjustment period. Cats are very territorial and may be reluctant to accept a new environment as their home. There are things you can do to help them settle in and see their home as 'home.' Give your cat lots of extra attention and petting during this adjustment period.