There still seems to be a gap between the number of dog owners willing to ask for help and the number of cat owners. Far fewer cat owners seem to think behaviour help is worth paying for and many cats end up in rescue for quite simple to solve behaviour issues. Help available via our full SafePets site HERE. As from August 2014 we are based centrally in Leicestershire.
I get lots of people asking for help because their cat sprays or fights, but after basic advice hasn’t worked and a visit is suggested because I need to assess properly the reasons for the problem to draw up an effective plan, far more cat owners than dog owners suddenly decide it isn’t worth paying for. This is a great pity as most cat problems resolve successfully with the right help.
Debbie Connolly is the behaviour consultant to Bengal Cat Helpline, so we can give specific help to owners of this breed, which can be different to the general suggestions for other cats.
Just like dogs, cats struggle with no boundaries, stress, boredom and other cats nearby. You don’t have to live with a cat problem because it’s a cat and not a dog, but you may need proper behaviour help the same as you would for a dog problem. This advice is general guidance:
Help for fighting, spraying and furniture scratching problems
Cat problems fall into a few common categories: spraying or marking, aggression, scratching furniture and introductions. Behaviour help means you can identify the cause and so choose the correct treatment. Cats don’t scratch your sofa or spray to annoy you. It can be a message that they are bored, stressed, spoiled or lonely. Treating each of these is very different. Our new sheet in our advice pack offers help with a cat persistently going missing or moving in elsewhere, including how to tackle the people.
You must be honest about whether your cat has enough to do. Active breeds and ex or semi ferals may need far more to do than the average moggy and our advice pack has some simple suggestions for games and toys that the cat can do alone and also satisfy some hunting instinct too. Buying a kitten too young can mean the cat has never learned social behaviour or boundaries. If buying a pedigree breed, it should be sold fully vaccinated at 12 weeks, no earlier. Moggies should be ideally the same age and vaccinated, but many kittens are sold too young, too early with no vaccinations and they are biting, scratching and have no understanding of how to behave. Adopt from a reputable rescue, not from free ads.
Stress is a common reason why spraying happens. A new cat (not just in your home, but in the neighbourhood) might be on your property and trying to take it over. Even if your cat doesn’t go out, other cats often spray the outside of your doors or sit on the window sill glaring in. Wild cats don’t live in social groups like dogs do, so many domestic pets don’t tolerate or worry about a new cat on their territory.
Natural products like Zylkene or Bach Flower Remedies can help to make the animal feel better, but the cause of the stress needs to be dealt with.
Scratching to shorten claws is natural but some cats use your sofa and other furniture. Spraying a cat scratching post with cat nip to attract the cat can help. For some cats, other smells work instead. Scratching objects can be a way of claiming them and marking them, again, sometimes stress related.
Deterring cats from inappropriate behaviour is often done with a water pistol. If this hasn’t worked, because some breeds such as Bengals like water, then using noise distraction, similar to training dogs can work. It is important though that you use a method that is fair and you sometimes need help to choose the method, and understand what to expect from your cat and when to praise. Also enough games and outlets for natural behaviour needs addressing.
Spoilt cats , like dogs, can become difficult, aggressive and a nuisance. Some cats have strong personalities and no boundaries turns them into monsters. They can steal your dinner, mark your house, wake you up, refuse to be handled and more. Cats can be trained and need boundaries in the same way you would expect from a dog. This can also create a very noisy cat, constantly demanding your attention.
Toilet issues such as going next to the tray or other places in the home are a common reason why people get rid of cats rather than trying to treat them. Cats can be fussy about sharing a tray, the location and type of litter, and again, if sold too young they may simply never have learned properly. Changing the location of and number of trays, type of litter and restricting the space can mean you can start from scratch with the learning cycle.
Spraying is more common with unneutered cats or those neutered late. It can be competition with other cats, spoilt by owners, fear, stress or a mixture. Sometines puting the cat in one room or even a cage in serious cases is the best way to start from scratch, but again, the root cause must be dealt with.
Meeting other cats / dogs
Introducing cats to other cats and dogs has to be done carefully. Remember, the wild version doesn’t live with other cats and so sharing doesn’t come naturally for some. Cats prefer to smell things before meeting them, so sending home something that smells of the new cat before it comes can help both an existing cat or dog. Same with the new arrival, sending something that smells of your existing pets can reduce the stress for them too. For some dogs, on a lead is the only safe starting point, confining a new cat to one room and only gradually introducing them is recommended. If it goes wrong and one of the cats becomes aggressive, using a cage for introductions may become necessary. Which one to cage, where to put the cage and the timing and other treatment needs the help of a professional.
Straying, Roaming and moving into another home
A common problem is the cat who keeps going missing and you discover that some selfish person is actually encouraging this to happen. This often persists as they can’t let their egos feel that the cat is just using them and they often don’t care that the cat is crossing roads and worrying its owners. They want a cat without responsibility, or they just don’t care. They soon dump your cat if it is injured or ill as they want adoration, they don’t want your cat unless its free.
You must make sure that your cat is happy, not bullied by other cats whether yours or not and has enough to do and has some respect for you. The right play, feed times and basic behaviour can help this. A good routine and manners can stop you from simply being a local hotel and just offering B&B. Our new sheet in the advice pack covers this and also ideas to tackle the people deliberately encouraging your cat.
There are still people saying cats can’t be trained, but they can. Some owners don’t set any rules and allow and encourage behaviour they wouldn’t tolerate in a child or dog and then want rid of the cat. Cat behaviour treatment has come a long way in the last 10 years and most issues can be solved.
Read our available help, all on the SafePets Website HERE
Want to ask about this? Call us on 0208 1445799 or email us here
Or send us a private training enquiry by filling in this form