Is my cat’s behaviour a problem? Nadia Crighton catches up with Veterinarian and Cat Behaviourist, Dr Kim Kendall, from the Cat Palace in Sydney, to chat about common cat behaviour problems.
So, your beloved feline has starting to exhibit an annoying behaviour? Peeing outside the litter box? Or don’t seem to like your visitors or other cats? Interestingly enough this are some of the top problems that cat owners face on a daily basis. So what can you do? And more importantly what is your cat trying to tell you?
Firstly, you need to seek professional help and get on a resolution plan of action. Did you know that most owners do not report a problem until after the three-month mark? This can make it very difficult to treat and resolve. Dr Kim is adamant of the importance of solving problematic behaviour quickly and swiftly.
“The average time for people to seek help for behavioural issues is three months,” Dr Kim says. “Well by then it’s getting a bit hard, as the cat has been successfully solving its problem for a long time and then this behaviour is becoming ingrained as a habit.”
“If you address any behavioural issue, and that includes peeing, pooing outside the tray, and usual things that have just popped up… if you address those things within a month you can get a 100% resolution.”
This is huge! The key to any behavioural problem is not to wait it out and see if it resolves itself, it’s to seek professional help quickly.
The other tip is to also realise that many of our cat’s behaviours that we find ‘annoying’ are actually quite normal catty behaviour. Many times; the best resolution for cat behavioural problems is understanding why your cat is exhibiting the issue, and coming to terms with normal cat behaviour.
Top Behavioural Problems;
- The cat who hides from everyone – “This is normal cat behaviour.”
Dr Kim also reminds cat owners that even though they are predators, in fact they are the prey and that’s why they seem always worried. “Breeds such as Siamese, Burmese Ragdolls etc have been bred to be so brave that they have forgotten about that.”
- My Cat doesn’t like other cats – “This is also normal and if you want to prevent this problem you get two kittens and a scratching post.”
- Attacking other cats and people. – “This is just the brave cat not the scared cat. They have figured out the best defence is offense. It comes back to the same natural things, you don’t share anything with another cat and if something looks like a predator you either attack it or hide from it.”
- Peeing outside the litter tray – “Or another problem is the cat actually peeing on the owner!” Dr Kim says. “In general people will put up with this for three months before they speak to a cat behaviourist. Now if the cat is peeing on your head that solves the cat’s problem, they are frustrated and could also be teeming with anxiety. But if you address this problem within a month you can get close to 100% resolution. So, don’t wait if the cat is peeing on your head for three months.”
Your behaviourist will explain why your cat is behaving the way it is, and also give you a plan of action to help decrease the problem. It’s incredibly important you not only follow the possible medication, but also the environmental directions. The key to success with any behavioural problem is the owner’s dedication to solving it.
““The problem is that the behaviour is a signal of distress, such as peeing on the owner,” Dr Kim says. “The cat is distressed, and for me that is when the rubber hits the road. The cat is telling you ‘I’m not coping’. They are trying to get your attention and to do something that will give it resolution for their problem.”
It’s also good to remember that mood modifying drugs are not a solution to the problem. In fact, they only increase the threshold level for your cat. So; in other words, the problem still exists, it will just take your cat a lot more stress to show a response.
“So, you haven’t solved the problem you’ve just raised the threshold,” Dr Kim reminds readers. “Then what you need to do is change the environment.”
This includes reducing the stress and ensuring it occurs at a lower level and less frequently.
In conclusion? If you have a behavioural problem seek help quickly and be prepared that it will take time, dedication and understanding to solve the issue. Your cat is probably stressed out and in need of some understanding and security.
“If the owner is resolute then it will be resolved. So, the owner either needs to commit to the whole picture or lean to deal with the unwanted behaviour.”