Cats are an enigma. Just as we think we have them figured out, we realize there are many things to learn about cat behavior and many things we will never understand about them. “Training” is a subjective word. Unless you are an animal handler in the movies or the circus, you’re really not going to “train” your cat. You can, however, modify her behavior and reward good behavior while discouraging bad behavior. Cat training is often more about training the person and less about training the cat.
Punishment is not an effective tactic in changing your cat’s errant ways. Any punishment thrown at your cat will come back to bite you. Your cat will simply associate you with the punishment and you could potentially lose the possibility of a meaningful, close, loving relationship with her.
What are some of these cat behavior issues.
1. Wool sucking
One of the most perplexing undesirable behaviors in a cat is “wool sucking”. This is usually due to early weaning and separation from the mother cat. The “Oriental” breeds, Siamese for example, are particularly susceptible to this problem. You will see a full grown cat behave as if she was suckling her mother, only the focus of her attention is on your favorite cashmere sweater. First, don’t leave your cashmere sweater lying around. Most importantly, you need to find a diversion and substitute the object of her attention. As with all unwanted behavior in cats, dedicated play time and attention daily, can do wonders for easing the boredom from monotonous, non-stimulating time your cat can otherwise be spending. Provide a chew toy or fabric covered mouse or similar, that can satisfy your cat’s oral fixation, much like chewing gum aides a smoker trying to quit smoking. Providing wheat grass to chew on might also be helpful.
2. Peeing outside of litter box
Does your cat pee outside the litter box? First, you should rule out a urinary tract infection or other medical condition if this is a new behavior in a cat that has been living in your home for a time. With that ruled out, are there new members of the family and enough cat litter boxes to go around? Most cats don’t want to use a litter box that’s just been used by someone else. Even if your household is a one cat home, there should still be at least two boxes provided. The boxes should be cleaned well and often. These should be in a quiet, out of the way place with little traffic. Any urine or feces left outside the box should be cleaned up quickly and thoroughly with an enzyme cleaner to remove the odor. The cat is less likely to return to the scene of the crime in that way.
3. Feline aggression
Aggression in cats can come in many forms. It can be as simple as the addition of a new cat to the family. In which case, a slow introduction and gentle reinforcement of kitty etiquette should be supported by you. Senior cats can become aggressive. The cat may have arthritis or some other health issue. Once that has been eliminated as the source of the problem, you might want to try a new bed or window shelf or a cat tree with multiple perches to give your cat a new perspective and time away from any other pets or people that might be causing the aggression in the first place. Aggression might be a carry-over from rough play as a kitten. When they are small, tussling, gnawing and swatting are cute. Not so cute in a ten lb. cat. Avoid the temptation of this behavior between yourself and your kitten or cat. Praise your cat for peaceful and gentle behavior and give treats in moderation.
4. Excessive Meowing
Excessive meowing can be a truly annoying habit. You must avoid the temptation of giving in to your cat. Once you have rewarded that behavior, trying to appease your cat and find something to make her happy, she has won and will continue this very bad habit. Again, no punishment is effective and can indeed be detrimental to your relationship with your cat. You can’t ignore a crying baby, but you must try to ignore a meowing cat. She will eventually get bored and find something else to do. Oscar our cat frequently resorts to this to try to get more food from us even after he has been fed. He soon gives up after we have ignored him.This is why it is imperative to leave plenty of toys, cat puzzles and scratch pads and posts available.
…………Oscar posing for the camera!
5. Eating foreign objects
For some reason, mostly in very young cats, inedible things are attractive. Ingestion of tinsel, rubber bands, twist ties, shiny things like bits if aluminum foil can be very dangerous and lead to costly vet bills and a lot of discomfort for your cat. Keep this sort of thing out of reach.
6. Clawing furniture
The most destructive and common bad habit of cats is clawing furniture. Most cat households have at least one piece of furniture that has cat scratches on it. A scratch post or pole should be introduced at the earliest point in your cat joining your family. Preferably, take the scratching toy or toys home with your new cat.
Discouraging bad behavior
There are a couple of tried and true deterrents to curb your cat’s bad behavior. When your cat is behaving badly, a soda can, with a few raw beans or a couple of coins in it with the opening taped shut, tossed from an unseen place may startle your cat and make her cease the undesirable activity. You must be consistent with this. A spray bottle or squirt gun also do the trick. Again, you cannot be seen as the source of the unpleasantness. Your cat must think that when she does this activity, bad things happen to her.
Cats make great pets. They are the perfect pet for busy people as they are relatively low maintenance pets, but at the same time very happy to see you on your return. There are few things better than curling up on the couch with a good book and a purring cat in your lap.
There is generally a solution for every undesirable behavior in a cat. In the absence of success in modifying your cat’s behavior, always consult your vet. There may be an underlying health issue that is causing the problem.