Improving Behavior

Kittens and cats don’t misbehave just to make trouble. Their behavior is largely based on instinct and learning. The way you react to your cat will affect her habits for life. Cats are sensitive to your tone of voice. So if you catch her acting inappropriately, clap your hands and say “NO” and that’s usually enough to stop her.

Some misbehavior occurs just because your cat wants to play and is not having her social and exploratory needs met. Be sure to provide diversions such as safe toys, a box, a crumpled piece of paper, or a plastic ball, and rotate toys often to keep them interesting. Providing a window perch or climbing tower will allow your cat to engage in normal climbing behaviors in an appropriate way. Placement near a window gives them hours of enjoyment and makes them feel less alone.

Did You Know???

If your cat prefers water from the toilet or faucet, it may be because the water in the dish tastes bad. Provide plenty of clean fresh water daily! (Filtered or bottled is best) Preferably in a ceramic or stainless steel dish. This is critical to a cat’s health.

Nighttime Woes

Since cats are nocturnal, your cat may disturb you by playing at night. You can help alter this behavior by playing with your cat in the early evening, to use up some of her excess energy. Feeding her last meal later also may help, since she’ll probably get a burst of energy shortly after eating. Do not feed her or play with her if she awakens you; this only rewards such behavior. If the cat continues to be rambunctious while you sleep, a separate, safe sleeping area for the cat might be appropriate.

Nipping

Nipping can become a habit that you might be encouraging without even realizing it. When you tickle your kitten’s stomach and allow her to wrestle with your fingers she will probably respond by nipping and scratching at your hand, just like she would any other toy or another cat. By allowing her to do this, you’re reinforcing inappropriate behavior and teaching her that hand biting is allowed.

Never encourage your cat to play aggressively. If she tries to nip or scratch your hand, teach her that his behavior is not allowed. Disengage your hand by gently pushing toward her and making a loud noise to distract her (if you try to pull away, she’ll hang on even more tightly). Giver her toys instead of your hand. Leave her alone for a few minutes. Return after she has calmed down.

Talking

Loud or constant meowing, commonly called “talking” is often used as a means of communication between you and your cat. If she is lonely, anxious or has not had her social and play needs met, your cat will “talk” to you to try and get your attention.

Answer her cry by saying “hello,” using her name, and giving her the love and attention she’s craving. Be wary of encouraging long conversations; some cats may continue to vocalize when they are alone and bother your neighbors. If you are told that she continues to “talk” while you are out, you may want to leave a radio playing when you’re gone, to keep her company. It is essential that the environment be fun and stimulation. Try rotating toys, boxes and bags to help keep her occupied.

Litter Box

Most cats and kittens are by nature clean and like to bury their urine and fecal matter. If you interfere with your cat while she’s in her litter box, she may develop an aversion to using the box, so allow privacy and quiet for elimination. Always keep the box clean, remove soiled litter daily and change the litter often, at least once a week or more often if necessary. Place the box in a quiet location that your cat can access at all times. In large homes, more than one litter box may be necessary, especially if there are multiple cats in the home.

If your cat gets into the habit of using another location instead of, or in addition to, her litter box, it may be cause the litter box is dirty, because you’ve change the type of litter or the location isn’t easy enough to access or in too high a traffic area or there are not enough boxes. If this behavior continues, talk to your veterinarian to make sure it’s not caused by a medical/emotional problem.

If you cat experiences lapses in the use of her litter box that continue for a period of time, it could be the sign of something more serious. Urinary tract disorders can cause pain, burning and a constant urge to urinate even when the bladder is not full. A cat with such a problem may be forced to pass a small amount of urine whenever and wherever the urge strikes. Such disorders should be treated by your veterinarian immediately.

Ask yourself whether her litter box lapses may be caused by stress. Try to find out what is causing the problem: is it a new baby in the house, a new type of cat litter, a new litter box or a change in diet? To make her feel more secure, allow quiet time, create special times for play and social interaction daily.  If the problem persists, discuss the situation with your veterinarian.

Scratching

A common misconception is that cats “scratch” to sharpen their claws; however, they are merely satisfying the instinct to stretch and “clean” their claws. Another reason cats “scratch” is to mark their territory. They do this by leaving a visible sign and their scent, which is released from glands between their toes. Your cat will try to satisfy this biological urge regularly and if her scratching post is convenient and in the proper location, she’ll leave your furniture alone. If you’re having trouble getting your cat to use the post, try placing it in a more prominent location and rubbing catnip on it to make it more appealing.

When she starts to scratch something that’s off limits, clap your hands sharply and say “NO” in a stern voice. Then pick her up, take her to the scratching post and play with her there with her favorite toy, encouraging her to climb and scratch. Stimulate her urge to stretch by petting her with firm strokes down the neck and back. Always reward her with gentle petting and praise when she uses her post properly. If you have a large house, you may want to have two or more posts – one near her bed and one near a couch or chair that seems particularly appealing to her. An easy way to prevent your cat from damaging furniture is to apply double-faced tape to the areas where she is most likely to scratch, or keep her in a cat-proofed room when she cannot be supervised. If a scratching post simply isn’t curbing your cats need to scratch; consider trimming her nails. Your local groomer can provide this service, or you can purchase a cat nail trimmer at your local pet store. In addition, you may consider “caps” for your cat’s claws. These usually rubber like caps are glued onto your cat’s claws and generally stay on for 2 – 4 weeks. If you’re considering de-clawing your cat, please consider reading our tip sheet on de-clawing for further information. Declawing should be a last resort and isn’t necessary for all cats.

Did You Know?

Cats don’t use a scratching post to sharpen their claws. They scratch to satisfy the instinct to stretch and clean their claws, in addition to marking their territory!

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