Cats + Behavior & Training

  • Appropriate play and exercise are something every cat needs. Cats that have ample opportunities for exercise and play are amazing pets. Learning a cat’s preferences for play requires some observation and attention, but ultimately contributes immensely to the entire family’s quality of life.

  • The leading causes of aggressive behavior among household cats are territorial aggression, fear-based aggression, and incompatible personalities. There may be more than one type of aggression occurring simultaneously. This explains the common forms of inter-cat aggression and how they may be prevented.

  • During exploration and play, kittens (and some adult cats) will chew on a variety of objects. Not only can this lead to damage or destruction of the owner's possessions, but also some chewing can be dangerous to the cat.

  • Cats that exhibit repetitive behaviors that are difficult to interrupt may be diagnosed with a compulsive disorder. Many of these behaviors have a physical basis and a thorough medical examination is always important. Anxiety and frustration can also contribute to the development of compulsive disorders. Treatment includes addressing underlying medical components and reducing stressors in the physical and social environment.

  • There are many reasons that cats can develop such fears. Your cat may have had limited exposure to people and other animals when it was young. Socialization is an important aspect of raising a kitten.

  • Spraying is the deposition of small amounts of urine on vertical surfaces. In most cases, the spraying cat will back into the area, the tail may quiver, and with little or no crouching, will urinate.

  • Many cats are active through the night. Often, they have slept all day and are not tired at night. Enrichment that includes social play and interactive toys can solve the problem. A medical and behavioral workup should be done if your cat has only recently begun to be active at night, as there may be an underlying illness.

  • Scratching is normal feline behavior. Cats use their claws to mark territory, climb to safety, hunt prey, and stretch their bodies, among other important routine behaviors. Cats that live primarily or exclusively indoors are still inclined to claw prominent objects and do not discriminate based on an object’s personal value, which may be undesirable to their owners. Providing multiple appropriate scratching surfaces that suit your cat's preferences and using positive reinforcement when your cat scratches these provided surfaces can be helpful. If you notice changes in your cat’s pattern of scratching, check with your veterinarian. Your cat may be experiencing pain or another health condition. Next, a behavioral consultation may be needed to identify the underlying behavioral condition and to find an appropriate treatment.

  • Cats vocalize to communicate. Vocalizing can be problematic when it interferes with people’s sleep. Often, the behavior develops due to unintentional reinforcement. Since vocalization can also reflect underlying illness, particularly if it is a new behavior, both a medical exam and a behavioral work-up are needed. Providing adequate social and environmental enrichment while discontinuing reinforcement can resolve the problem.

  • House soiling or feline inappropriate elimination, is the most common behavioral complaint of cat owners. The problem may be urine and/or stool deposited outside of the litter box, or marking behaviors. When cats urinate on vertical surfaces, it is known as spraying or marking.