For Cats

How to Curb Your Cat’s Compulsive Behavior

Many cats do things that their humans find less than desirable, such as scratching furniture, yowling at all hours or “missing” the litter box, to name a few. These behaviors can be distressing, but most of them fall within the boundaries of “normal.” Here are a few tips to help you curb some behaviors you don’t want your cat to engage in.

Missing the Litter Box

Sometimes cats who have been litter box compliant for years suddenly start having problems. This can lead to a lot of frustration for you. What can you do? Here are a few tips to help you determine the cause of the problem.

  • The number-one cause of “bad aim” is the litter box being cleaned too infrequently for the cat’s preference. Be sure to give the litter box thorough, regular cleanings.
  • The litter box could be too small for your cat to use comfortably; try a larger one. It’s also a good idea to have more than one litter box.
  • Your cat could have a urinary tract issue. If your cat seems to be having trouble urinating at all, it’s time to call the vet.
  • There could be other health concerns you’re not able to detect on your own. If your cat is still consistently missing the litter box or going in other areas of your house altogether, even after you’ve tried the tactics above, schedule an appointment with your vet to rule out things like cystitis, diabetes, kidney problems or other issues.

Being Overly Vocal

While a cat’s meowing or yowling is not likely to cause the same level of trouble an overly noisy dog can cause, it can still be a concern if your cat seems to suddenly have a lot more to say, or if your cat likes to serenade you at 3 a.m. every night. Why does your cat do this?

  • If it’s a sudden behavior shift for your cat to start meowing more frequently, look to see if a change in your schedule (or a household member’s) has upset your cat’s day-to-day routine.
  • Increased vocalizations could simply be due to your cat starting to age. Just like in people, as cats age, their hearing might deteriorate, making them less able to modulate the volume of their meows.
  • Is your cat displaying any other signs of discomfort? If an increase in vocalizations is accompanied by litter box issues, feeding issues or an increase or decrease in activity, it’s time to call the vet.

Scratching

If your cat is scratching furniture, the easiest way to curb this behavior is to make the furniture unattractive to the cat. There are a number of commercially available scratching deterrents that you can spray on the surface of furniture; cats find the flavors and smells in these unappealing, and are likely to stop the scratching. Additionally, you can try putting packaging tape or tinfoil over the area the cat is scratching, which will make the cat less likely to keep going back for more.

Read this article about scratching for additional information about why cats scratch and what you can do about it.

Other Problems

All of these behaviors are very common in cats. But where do you draw the line between normal feline behavior and behavior that could be indicative of a more serious problem?

If your cat’s behavior is interfering with normal life (e.g., he can’t stop chewing his tail and the area is becoming red and infected) or if your cat does the behavior when there are seemingly no triggers causing it, it might be time to visit the vet. Your vet can help you find lifestyle changes to alleviate your cat’s distress, or, if these don’t seem to be enough, can suggest medical solutions that will help your cat feel less like engaging in the compulsive behavior.

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