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What Your Catís Misbehavior Really Means & How to Address It

by brian (follow)
Pet Care (148)      How To (67)      Cats (73)      Behaviour (46)     
As a die-hard cat lover, I can say that felines arenít always the easiest pets. But thatís part of what makes us love them, right?

Aggressive Behavior in Cats

Whereas most dogsí behavior is often pretty transparent, decoding a catís actions can be a bit more of a challenge. They often behave in ways that drive us crazy and we simply donít know why or what to do to make it stop.

But the truth is that for the most common troubling behavior your cat demonstrates, thereís a perfectly reasonable explanation and relatively easy ways to address the underlying issue.

Tearing Up Furniture
No matter how much you love your kitty, it can be pretty frustrating when he decides to use your favorite piece of furniture as a scratching post. The first thing you should understand is that cats scratch in order to naturally trim their nails, exercise and to mark territory with their scent.

Cat Using Scratching Post

So, always remember that itís very natural behavior and has nothing to do with their hatred for your taste in dťcor. The solution is 2-pronged: provide scratch-appropriate objects and make the furniture less attractive. Here are a few tips to make it work:

Get scratching posts that mimic the position and material of furniture they tend to scratch most.
Rub new scratching posts with cat nip to get them interested.
Make sure the scratching post is stable enough to allow cats to put their whole weight into scratching without it wobbling, dragging or falling over.
Cover their favorite scratching furniture with tin foil or double-sided tape (Sticky Paws is made exactly for this purpose).
Praise use of the new scratching post.
Never resort to declawing as itís essentially amputating a third of their paws.

Aggressive Behavior
Even the biggest cat fans around know that cats can quickly turn from cuddly to aggressive or can sometimes display aggression towards certain people they meet. Itís a sad state of affairs when you or anyone in your home is afraid of your pet. It helps, however, to understand the reasons your cat might be displaying aggression

There are several possible causes: boredom, over-stimulation, fear or even that, as kittens, you inadvertently taught your cat that itís ok to scratch and bite your bare hands, arms and legs. The last reason is pretty common as many people tend to allow kittens to play roughly Ė itís fine when theyíre tiny but not so much when theyíre big enough to do serious damage.

Try these strategies to address the behavior:
Avoid ďrough playĒ entirely.
Use toys that allow cats to appropriately direct their hunting instincts.
Know how your cat likes to be pet Ė most prefer the head and neck and most get agitated when you pet their whole body, backs or belly.
Read cat body language so you can stop petting or playing if they seem agitated; warning signs include: twitching tail, flattened ears, and dilated eyes.
Provide cats with high places to retreat to.
If your cat is particularly aggressive to one person in your home, let that person take over feeding and playing duties, which will help create a more positive association.

Urinating Outside the Box
It can be positively maddening to have a cat who does his business outside of the litter box. You might be willing to put up with a scratched-up couch, but finding an unpleasant surprise in your shoe or having your whole house smell of cat urine is another story. But again, if your kitty isnít using the litter box, thereís a reason.

Oftentimes, the cause is physical/medical, so your first step should always be consulting a holistic veterinarian. Chances are, thereís something causing discomfort or pain and a professional can help you address the issue. Otherwise, use these tips:

Look for patterns of behavior Ė if it started after something in your home changed or only occurs at specific times, you can identify and eliminate the cause.
Have separate litter boxes for multiple cats.
Frequently clean the litter box to keep it fresh and inviting.
Use natural litters that donít have perfumes or create dust.
Experiment with different litters, boxes (lid vs. no lid), box placement, etc.

Keeping You Awake at Night
Being woken out of a deep slumber by incessant meowing or pouncing or random objects hitting the floor is not fun. But for many cat owners, this is a frequent issue. But why is it so common? Well, simply put, your cat is probably bored. Waking you up results in some stimulation, even if itís not all that interesting. Even getting up to scold or stop the behavior is affirmation of the behavior, so do your best to ignore it completely.

Just as with small children who wake up in the middle of the night, changing the routine will require you to commit to new habits. The following tips wonít necessarily work immediately, but they will have a positive impact if you stick to them night after night.

First rule out a medical issue by consulting a holistic veterinarian.
Mimic their instinctual need to hunt, kill, eat, groom and then sleep - in the hour or so before you go to bed, initiate the following routine: play with them until theyíre good and tired, feed them and then watch as they groom themselves and happily curl up for a long rest.
Ignore bad behavior; donít get up and feed them or pet them or theyíll learn that disruptions result in getting attention.
Keep your home as dark as possible when you sleep.
Make sure to keep water replenished and try an auto food dispenser that releases a bit of food during the night.

The saddest thing is when a cat owner gives a cat away because of behavioral issues. The truth is that a catís behavior is never ďrandom,Ē nor simply the cause of a bad temperament. The true cause is almost always related to something that you, as a pet guardian, can control.

Addressing these issues, however, requires commitment to establishing new routines that will make your cat feel safe and happy. Use these tips and strategies and youíll almost certainly be able to eradicate the problematic behavior over time.

About the Author: Narayan Khalsa is a passionate natural pet care practitioner on a mission to help educate pet owners about natural and healthy ways to care for animals. In addition to specializing in natural hoof care for horses, Narayan is a co-founder of Effective Pet Wellness, which produces 100% organic medications and holistic wellness products for animals. To learn more, head to Effective Pet Wellness.

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