Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Preventing Common Behavior Problems – What Every Cat Needs, a Guest Post by Nancy Peterson, Cat Programs Manager for The Humane Society of the United States

I adopted my first kitty, Shasta, shortly after moving into my new apartment. The furnishings were bare, so I let Shasta use a decrepit upholstered chair for scratching. It was shredded when we moved two years later. To prevent Shasta from destroying the sofa in the new place, I covered it with a tight-fitting sheet and provided her with a catnip-seasoned scratching post. Once she was using the post consistently, I slowly uncovered the sofa. Mission accomplished.

Nancy's First Cat "Shasta"
Photographer:Nancy Peterson of the HSUS



Your cat has probably scratched something or “misbehaved” from your standpoint, but everything cats do makes perfect sense to them. Tragically, cats who “misbehave” may lose their homes if their owners can’t stop an undesired behavior. Nationwide, 70 percent of cats – community (feral and stray) cats as well as owner-surrendered cats – who enter shelters are put down. However, many common “misbehaviors” can be resolved so that cats won’t be given away, surrendered to an animal shelter, made to live outdoors or abandoned.

For example, scratching is instinctive for cats. They scratch to remove the dead outer layer of their claws, mark their territory, or just to have a good stretch. Your job is to provide them with appropriate items to scratch – like a scratching post or pad. If you don’t give them a suitable object, they will find their own – like Shasta did.

Photographer, Mike McFarland of the HSUS


Many owners plan to have their cats declawed during their spay/neuter surgery and so don’t bother to provide scratching objects prior to the procedure. Guess what? Their cat scratches the furniture because there is no other option. A well-placed scratching pad or post would have saved both the furniture and the cat’s claws.

In July, the American Veterinary Medical Association strengthened its policy on declawing. The procedure is now considered a major surgery that should only be performed to prevent destructive scratching after veterinarians have informed their client about the true nature of the procedure and the possible complications, as well as the many available alternatives.

Really, it’s not hard to train your cat. Just observe. Some cats prefer standing up and scratching vertically on the front of a sofa arm, some horizontally on the top of the sofa arm and other cats are equal opportunity scratchers. The key is making your furniture and other possessions undesirable and providing several desirable scratching opportunities throughout your home. For example, a tall scratching post will be an attention grabber for cats who like scratching vertically. They’ll be able to stand on their hind legs, stretch their body to its full length, and sink their claws into the material covering the post.

The Humane Society of the United States has a Cat Answer Tool and cat care tip sheets that will help you prevent or stop destructive scratching, as well as other behavioral issues. Avoid encouraging any behaviors you don’t like. It’s easier to prevent behaviors than stop them once they’ve become a habit. Here are other tips for having a great relationship with your cat.

Spay or neuter your cat before four months old when kitty hormones kick in and undesirable behaviors may occur – such as spraying urine to mark territory or trying to escape to find a mate. Spaying and neutering will not change your cat’s personality, but may make him or her calmer and less aggressive.

Take your cat to the veterinarian at least yearly for wellness examinations and whenever you notice unusual behavior. For example, you land a new job and your cat stops using the litter box. Your cat isn’t mad because you’re away from home more; he or she is stressed because the routine has been disrupted. There could also be a medical cause for the litter box avoidance, like arthritis or feline lower urinary tract disease. Always have your veterinarian rule out any medical issue that could be causing your cat’s unusual behavior.


Help relieve stress and boredom with toys that your cat can play with independently and kibble dispensers which act as invitations to work for food. Teach your cat to play nicely by playing together.

Photographer Mike McFarland of the HSUS


Give your cat his or her own high place to survey the world. A tall cat tower by the window provides a nice place to hang out above the action where cats feel safe and have a better view. If you don’t choose the place, your cat is likely to find one– such as the kitchen counter or dining room table.

Introduce your cat to other pets in your home very gradually. Imagine if someone you didn’t know showed up at your house with no warning. I bet you’d be upset. Proper introductions between pets are so important to maximize the chance that they will get along or at least learn to tolerate each other.

Adopt a cat if you’re thinking of adding another to your household. Animal shelters and cat rescues can help match your cat’s personality and activity level to a new cat. Kittens are adorable, but their activity level may upset your older cat. A relationship with a veterinarian and shelter or rescue group can help you eliminate unwanted behaviors so your cat remains a cherished family member.

Read a good book about cat care and behavior. Studies have found that people who read even one book that explains normal cat behavior and helps people prevent or resolve unwanted cat behaviors are less likely to surrender their cats to shelters.

There are bound to be some bumps in the road, but thanks to our better understanding of cats, improved veterinary care and indoor lifestyles, we can keep our cats on their best behavior.




34 comments:

  1. Great advice indeed...there are some much more disgusting human behaviours that we seem to tolerate...go figure ? hugs Bev xxx

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  2. Pawsum posty. And even tho' weez not fur declawin', kitties still need to hav a scwatchin' posty cuz they're still gunna scwatch.

    Luv ya'

    Dezi

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  3. Nice one to Nancy. Yes many thanks for sharing. Have a terrific Tuesday.
    Best wishes Molly

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  4. Pawesome advice! Thanks for sharing it with us.

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  5. Wonderful post...............!!!

    Hugs, Pam

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  6. Very good advice and info. I still can't believe some humans practice declawing... us kitties would never slice off humans finger tips! Plus I need my claws to balance when we're sailing!

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  7. Great post! I really enjoyed reading this!
    We are right in the middle of trying to stop our kitties from scratching our brand new leather chair. Unfortunately the first night we brought it in the house, it they clawed the heck out of it overnight :(
    Which is odd for my cats, because they have never done this before, and they do have a couple different scratching posts.
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

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    1. Jenna, wonder if because it is new they were trying to put their scent on it? Or maybe a smell was on it from the warehouse that they didn't like?

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    2. Cats like to investigate anything new and as Caren writes, they probably wanted to make the chair smell like them. The more things smell like your cats, the safer they feel. When in doubt, prevention!!! Sorry about your chair.

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  8. That was really good! Now, what about common human behavior problems?

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  9. We have scratching spots all around our den...courtesy of the peeps who decided that then we could stay where we were to 'do it'.
    Despite these attractions, Minko still likes to attack a newer chair that has firm upholstery on it...he even bites it! MOL! (So we keep cushions on it and he just naps there...problem solved!)

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  10. Both Angel and Chuck will use the hubby's blue jeans as a scratching post...when they want their dinner! He wears those shred marks on his pants with pride; he's owned by cats! They will try the same thing with me, but at dinnertime, I'm just home from work and my slacks are too thin (ouch!) and absolutely no fun for scratching. Otherwise, they use the scratching posts around the house. My friendly ferals have three favorite scratching areas: the picnic table that serves as their feeding station, the wooden post holding up the awning over their 'house', and one big maple tree root in the lawn.

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    1. Thanks so much for caring for outdoor cats. Others who feed outdoor cats can check The Humane Society of the United States map at http://www.humanesociety.org/assets/maps/feral-cats.html to find an organization to help them spay/neuter, vaccinate and ear tip the cats. Thank you community (feral and stray) cat caretakers!

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  11. I think the world needs to experience the havoc my cat bro Bert brings to our home. Mom is at her wits end with his naughtiness and it just keeps getting worse. Food obsessed, can't have toys because he eats them within minutes, jumps on the table during meals...out of hand boy! He even tries to steal from us dogs and he gnaws on our bones too.

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  12. Great advice ! It's the A-B-C every cat owner should know ! Purrs

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  13. We have found that it is easy to train a cat to use a scratcher--praise works much better than scolding. And it helps if you have other cats in the household. Ringo watches Sadie especially and then copies her.

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  14. Terrific post. It seems a lot of these behavior problems could be solved if humans learned to think a little more like their kitties!

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  15. Lots of great information as usual!

    Noodle and crew

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  16. An excellent post! Thanks, Caren! Also, your comment about captcha has me baffled; do I have that on my blog? Or was it part of the AVA's link? I was just double-checking, 'cause I want to get rid of it if so, but I couldn't find anything...

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    1. yep my friend you do! When you leave a comment it makes you type in a word that they show. It hinders the number of comments that are left because most people can't stand them (((hugs))))

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  17. Lots of great info to help owners learn how to properly care for their cat and prevent cats from being surrendered for preventable behavioral issues. I think the AVMA's position on declawing is still too weak, but it's a start. I think vets should be opposed to declawing in 99.9% of cases. It's hard to imagine a case where declawing is done for the medical benefit of the cat.

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  18. That's a great article and should be shared with prospective adopters!
    We love our scratch pads at home and have several around so we can always find one =^.^=
    Purrs

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  19. A great article full of great advice. Will be sharing on the KCC Facebook page tomorrow. I especially appreciate the info on declawing -- I wish more people realized what a cruel and terrible procedure that is. It should be illegal. Thanks for sharing this!

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  20. Thanks, Caren. No matter how much I know, I continue to make mistakes. I appreciate the links for future help I might need. Hugs Janet Hope you will join us for our Sunday Selfies Blog Hop.

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  21. Grrreat post !
    My mom-person have lots of cat books and think that everyone who ever get a cat should read atleast one !

    XOXO

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