Cat Behavior - A Compassionate, Sensible, Effective Approach


The right start is key in avoiding cat behavior issues!

At Creekside Animal Hospital, preventing and avoiding feline behavior issues are the first step having a happy, healthy cat. Every cat owner needs to provide an environment that enriches their cat’s life and promotes normal cat activities. Climbing, playing, scratching, and hunting are all behaviors that should be encouraged in your cat or kitten.  Rewarding these behaviors with positive reinforcement (treats, favorite toys, a good head scratch- if you cat enjoys that!) can help teach them the way to engage in these activities that do not disrupt your household.  You should always avoid punishment (negative reinforcement) with your cat.  The best results that you can expect from punishment is that your cat does not misbehave in your presence. Punishment will most likely create stress and make your cat afraid of you. This will increase the behavior or even manifest into more behavior issues.

What can be done if your cat has a behavior issue?

Dr. Dolan and Dr. Robinson have many years of experience diagnosing and prescribing treatment methods for feline behavior issues. We can help determine the cause and help you develop techniques and strategies to modify the behavior. 

  • Step 1: Rule out Medical Issues
  • Step 2: Prevent and avoid unwanted behavior.
  • Step 3: Behavior modification
  • Step 4: Medication

Sometimes medication is prescribed but this is not a “magic pill”.  Medication for behavior issues are always more effective with behavior modification. 

Common Feline Behavior Issues

  • Inappropriate Urination- is when a cat urinates in the normal squatting position, but not in the litter box.
  • Urine Marking-  Spraying is when your cat is standing and spraying urine on a vertical surface like a wall, furniture, curtains, windows, doors, etc.  Spraying is a natural behavior for cats, and it serves to mark their territory. Male and female cats spray but it is most common in unneutered males.  Neutering your cat before six months of age decreases the desire to spray and mark their territory
  • Over-Grooming  Cats will lick when a part of their body is itchy or painful due to a medical issue. The most common reason a cat will overgroom is fleas.  After flea preventative is applied and the fleas are eliminated, most cats will stop within a matter of weeks. Other medical causes include allergies, skin conditions, skin irritation, skin infections or constipation. If medical issues are ruled-out the over-grooming is a behavioral issue called psychogenic alopecia. It is a stress-induced obsessive-compulsive behavior where the cats suddenly cannot stop licking or chewing at themselves.  When cats groom themselves, it releases endorphins (the hormones that make cats happy) and makes them feel calm and happy.  Cats that are overgrooming are trying to self-soothe because they are being triggered by a stressor.
  • Destructive Scratching - Cats scratch to satisfy certain needs. It is a natural behavior like grooming or covering waste.  It is difficult to stop but your cat can be deterred from scratching things that you do not want him to scratch and re-directed to scratch on more appropriate objects. 
  • Aggression is everything related to a threat or attack. Cats can become aggressive toward people or other cats because of fear, play, predatory behavior, and perhaps to maintain social status among other cats. Examples of aggressive acts in cats include hissing, biting, chasing, and growling.

Schedule An Appointment So We Can Help You Solve Your Cat’s Behavior Issues

If you would like to discuss how to solve your cat’s behavior issues with one of our veterinarians, please contact us to schedule an appointment. We are here to partner with you so that you and your cat can have many happy and healthy years together.

If you're ready to enjoy the company of a well-behaved cat, give us a call!

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