Cat Behavior Blog | Good Kitty

Cat Behavior Blog

setting a new standard for cats

I am a cat behavior specialist/expert. This information usually provokes a variety of reactions from people. When I am in an animal behavior or welfare environment, I am usually asked a question about why their cat does a certain behavior. When I am outside the animal world, I get all sorts of responses. I’ve actually had people respond to me with “That’s a thing?”. To which I reply “Yes, yes it is.” I can understand this question especially if you don’t and never have owned a cat. I have also had to navigate around responses such as “I hate cats.” This is a statement that breaks my heart every time I hear it. OK, at first is really pisses me off and then I calm down and am left with the sadness of the statement “I hate cats”. Cats are cool! We need to stop comparing them to other animals (usually dogs) and begin to accept and love them for what they are; a bad ass solitary hunter that lives life in the delicate balance of being both a predator and a prey with super cute paws and bellies you want to touch even though they are generally off limits.           10246458_10152293637694351_8950902476494867775_n

 

So what does a cat behavior specialist/expert do? The simple answer to what I do is study the natural behaviors in cats. By understanding their natural behaviors, it helps me to decode the causes of behavior issues that can happen in our human worlds such as not using the litter box, scratching furniture and not getting along with the other pets in the home. I’m starting my eighth year of working with cats, both owned and homeless and I have come to the conclusion that it is time to set a new standard for cats. I have witnessed far too many cats being relinquished to a shelter for behavior issues that are easily resolved.  In my work with owners, I am seeing behavior issues that are easily resolved once the owner has some basic information on natural cat behavior.

What do I mean by set a new standard for cats? Well, it’s like what we have done for dogs in the past 25 years. Most dog owners now know their dog will need a variety of outlets to accommodate their natural behaviors (such as chewing, exercise and social needs) as well as some basic training in order to have a form of communication between the dog and its human owner. What about cat owners? In my experience most cat owners think they need food, water and a litter box and they’re set. Sure, a scratcher and tower would be nice but it would be a luxury for the cat. The truth is cats need a lot more than we think if we want them to live happily and stress-free lives in our human world. There has been a trend the past few years that is helping elevate the status of cats in our lives from rodent hunter to family pet. As a former animal shelter worker, I couldn’t be happier to see an increase in value to cats. As a full time cat behavior specialist/expert and cat owner, I know now is the time to start informing people of what it means to own a cat…or two…or three.

Mikey “Doodle Bug”

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Millie “Mill-Mill”

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Sasha “Mooshu”

 

 

That’s just setting a new standard among the cat lovers. I also want to set a new standard for cats with the general public, cat lover and those unfamiliar with cats. I will need the help of the current cat lovers. I am asking for you to start putting how much you love your cat on social media, tell your friends, family and co-workers, brag about your cat. For more the in-depth reason for this specific call to action, read this wonderful article It’s time to smash the ‘crazy cat lady’ stereotype.

My intention with this blog is to increase knowledge and awareness to the public on cat behaviors and to promote better coexistence between cats and their owners. I plan to educate cat owners on the needs of their cats as well as give them ideas, advice and resources on how to achieve it. There will likely be stories, pictures and videos of adorable cat things along the way just to help illustrate the point and it allows me to shamelessly plug my cats, every cat parents dream! I will continue to call all cat owners to action to help me smash negative cat stereotypes.

animal-soul

I hope you will join me and give these things a try. I promise your cat will not hate you for it.

MRROW!

Cheap entertainment and other enrichment toys for cats.

While most of us might think our cat has it all; someone to prepare their meals, toys to entertain them and a day full of sleeping, it may not be exactly what your cat wants. We need to look at the day from your cats perspective and more importantly, their ancestry. The cat that is in your home is not too far down the evolution path from its ancestor, the African Wild Cat. Your kitty still has natural instincts to seek and hunt food. Without helping to provide outlets for these natural desires, our kitties tend to find outlets on their own and we rarely approve.

There’s good news! Providing enrichment activities for your cat can be cheap, easy, and most of all, fun! When trying to think of enrichment activities for your cat, always start with their strengths; scent and sight are the easiest. Scent may include hiding food. This doesn’t have to be too challenging for your cat. Take an old shoe box, cut holes in the lid and a few on the sides and then throw in some treats or dry food. (Note: If you free feed your cat, they may not be as motivated to work for their food. If scheduled feeding isn’t an option, try putting toys in the box instead.)

Sight enrichment might be the most important, because cats are visual learners. An easy idea to keep your cats visually stimulated and their brains working is to put bird and/or squirrel feeders in view from a favorite window or perch.

Why is my cat peeing/pooping outside the litter box? How do I get it to stop?

There are several reasons why a cat would stop using the litter box – medical reasons, anxiety, or location preferences – to name a few. It’s important to rule out possible medical reasons first by taking your cat to your veterinarian. If the cause is medically related, behavior advice will not help.

Once medical concerns are ruled out, the next step is to remember that your cat’s behavior isn’t because your kitty is mad or upset. Cats use urine to communicate to other cats. It’s my job to educate you, the owner, to understand what your cat is trying to say.

The solution to each cat is individual, but here are some basic tips to set your cat up for success:

  1. Provide one additional litter box than number of cats in your home
  2. Place those litter boxes in separate areas of your house (not all in the basement)
  3. Use a fine grain litter and scoop daily
  4. Don’t change the brand of litter if your cat uses it. A common mistake is when people buy brand A, and then buy brand B next month because it is on sale. To the cat, it smells different and maybe feels/looks different. Simple changes like that are enough to create a house soiling kitty!

My new kitty isn’t getting along with my other pets. How can I make them get along?

For a cat, it’s all about territory. One of the most important steps to creating a peaceful house is making sure the cat(s) feel they have enough territory. Territory can include perches, scratching posts, food, litter boxes, sleeping spots and much more.

Unfortunately, we don’t get to decide what or where their territory is in the home. If your cat isn’t using his perch, it may need to be relocated to a more desirable area in the home. If your cat is attacking, causing injury to another pet, or acting fearful due to the other pets in the home, it is vital to get professional help. This scenario can be tricky, as it involves deeper behavior issues and should be addressed on a case by case basis. Cats are not like dogs. They will not “work it out” or “just get use to it”.

My cat will all of a sudden attack me. How can I stop this aggression?

First, aggression regardless of the reason is a serious issue. Cat bites can be deadly and when they happen, first aid needs to be addressed immediately. The good news is most cat bites can be prevented.

When a cat bites or attacks its owner unprovoked, it can be one or a combination of reasons. The most common reason is over stimulation due to too much, or not enough, play and/or petting. Cats are natural hunters, so it’s important to play with your cat routinely with a toy they can stalk, chase, catch, kick and bite.

It’s also important to read your cat’s body postures. Is your cat’s body posture indicating that he’s had too much play or petting? Respect their form of communication, and allow them some time to calm down before resuming play or petting.

There are several causes of aggression. In order to accurately diagnose the reason, a professional should be hired to observe the behaviors and create a plan with the owner and potentially the cat’s veterinarian.