Behavioral problems in cats, such as avoiding the litter box, excessive meowing and other attention-seeking behavior (like biting and destructive scratching) can be corrected by first eliminating physical health causes, then instituting a program of gradual retraining, with the help of these resources. Remember: there are no bad cats!
Try to deal with one challenging behavior at a time. Too many “dos” and “don’ts” will only confuse your cat and frustrate your training attempts. Start with the most potentially hazardous problems first (like chewing on electrical cords), and then move on from there.
Here are the top 9 most-often reported behavioral problems in cats.
Attention-seeking behavior and excessive vocalization often go hand-in-hand with cats.
Causes for these behaviors can be either physical or emotional, or both.
Before punishing your cat for excessive crying and meowing, or other attention seeking behavior, do some homework on possible causes. The first stop should be to see your veterinarian to rule out any health-related issues (like pain).
For example, “Rippling Skin Disorder” (feline hyperesthesia) includes symptoms like loud “lost-in-the-night” howling.
The Spruce: 7 Reasons for Attention-Seeking Behavior in Cats
Aggression Toward People
There are several basic kinds of aggression based biting and scratching behaviors in cats.
Cat aggression toward people can be caused by poor training as a kitten (as in play aggression), fear, or other factors.
Learn how to prevent a cat’s aggression toward people, how to deal with it when it happens, and how to curb a cat’s biting and scratching behavior.
The Spruce: How to Stop Cats From Biting and Scratching
Aggression Toward Other Cats
Cats sharing a household will sometimes fight, but when active aggressive between cats rears its ugly head, sometime human intervention is necessary.
Aggression between cats can be fear-based, territorial, or redirected aggression.
Learn how to deal with aggression between cats so you can live in harmony again.
Destructive and Harmful Chewing
Destructive chewing by cats is undesirable, first, because of the potential of danger to the cat, and second, because of damage to family valuables.
Causes of destructive chewing by cats can range from teething in kittens to curiosity, to boredom, and even (surprise!) because of a nutrient deficiency.
Are you troubled by illegal clawing by your cats? Please don’t consider Draconian measures such as declawing a cat.
There are a number of ways you can keep your cats’ claws happily engaged in legal clawing with these articles and aids (while also protecting your furniture and carpeting).
Friends For Life: Inappropriate Scratching in Cats
Litter box avoidance is the number one reason cats are surrendered to shelters.
By eliminating physical causes, such as urinary tract infections, then targeting other common reasons for litterbox avoidance, you can help your cat overcome this undesirable behavior.
Remember that cats don’t like to use a dirty toilet any more than you would.
Cornell Feline Health Center: Feline Behavior Problems – House Soiling
Cats, like humans, can indulge in obsessive-compulsive behavior. In cats, OCD manifests in activities such as: excessive licking, fur-pulling, wool-sucking, or feline hyperesthesia.
Understanding the causes and eliminating physical problems can often lead to a speedy cure for undesirable behavior.
Shyness and Fear
Is your kitty a “fraidy cat?”
Shyness and fear stem from a number of causes, but can be overcome with gentleness and patience, as these tips explain.
It is always important to allow your cat to set his own pace, and to be patient if his pace is slower than you had hoped for.
Friends For Life: Fraidy Cat Program
Stress and Anxiety
While stress itself is not of behavioral origin, it can lead to a number of problems often considered behavioral, such as litter box avoidance or depression.
When behavioral problems suddenly appear, savvy cat owners soon learn to first rule out signs of health problems, and next for stress factors, such as changes in the environment.
Need some professional advice?
It can be hard to choose an excellent trainer.
The industry is largely unregulated, which means anyone can call themselves a trainer and charge you for their (maybe not-so-great) services (imagine if just anyone could call themselves a dentist!). We’ve put together a list of the trainers we love in Houston.
Want to talk to our Behavior Team?
Behavior challenges can seem daunting, like arguing in a language you don’t speak. Let us help.
Sometimes a pet’s behavior becomes so challenging that it makes it difficult to keep them, but for-profit trainers can be expensive. Our goal is to enhance people’s life with animals, regardless of income.