We love our feline friends when they rub against our legs, knead our laps, or look us in the eye and purr. Yet sometimes we may not like everything about our four-footed friends. Not when they streak through the house at 3 a.m. or reject a perfectly clean litter box.
You can go a long way in preventing problems by enriching the environment to prevent boredom and stress. But nothing is 100% effective. Here’s a brief overview of three of the most common cat behavioral issues. For any of these, visit a veterinarian first to rule out medical problems before assuming the problem is strictly behavioral.
Going outside the litter box
Unlike puppies, kittens are easy to house train—show them the litter, and you’re pretty much done. That said, problems can arise down the line. Once you consult with your veterinarian to rule out any underlying health problems, it’s time to take a good look at your litter. How clean is it? Clean enough to meet a cat’s exacting standards?
Cats hate dirty toilets, just like we do. Keep it clean by scooping at least daily, and follow the one-plus-one rule for litter boxes: one box per cat, plus one.
You also want to make sure the litter is in a nice, private place—again, human bathroom preferences apply here—and that the box is roomy enough. Most commercial litter boxes are on the small side so it’s suggested using larger plastic storage bins if kitty is going next to the box.
Still not having any success? Try switching up the litter—your go-to brand could be irritating your cat, or simply not meeting his expectations.
2. Scratching at Furniture
A new sofa can be a source of anxiety for those with a feline roommate. Textured, tall, and stable furniture is the perfect scratching destination for cats, so the trick is to mimic it and provide more attractive scratching options.
Choose a couple of cat scratching posts that are tall enough and on a platform that prevents them from moving. Cats also like to scratch horizontally, so provide both horizontal and vertical opportunities and be sure they are tall and long enough for the cat to really stretch and scratch. When kitty uses the post, provide a reward. Consider using Feliscratch to attract them to the scratching posts.
Covering the couch edges with a throw blanket can also be helpful. If all else fails, you can ask your veterinarian to place rubber/silicone-based covers over your cat’s nails. This will allow your cat to continue to go through the motions of scratching, without damaging the furniture.
3. Jumping on Counters and Tables
You know where those paws have been, and you don’t want them near your food. Unfortunately, cats like to explore, so if your table or counter is their only chance to get a bird’s-eye view of the room, they’ll take it. If possible, providing a space that is counter height, near a window and has a smooth surface for rolling around in the sun—essentially, the ideal cat lookout point. You can also place clear vinyl carpet runners on the table when not in use—the nubby underside is not comfortable to walk, nap, or land on, so your cat will find better accommodations.
There’s probably isn’t a single issue you’ll have with your cat that your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist hasn’t seen — and helped to overcome. You don’t have to live with frustration and you don’t have to give up your cuddly companion when things go awry. Early intervention is far more successful, so don’t wait until you are at the end of your rope. Armed with a little help from the pros and a bit of patience, you and your cat companion can live together in perfect harmony.