Behavior Modification

Your cat brings you joy as she curls up on your lap and purrs herself to sleep. She provides you with endless entertainment as she chases her feather wand with enthusiasm. But from time to time, she might also drive you crazy as she scratches your favorite chair, executes sneak attacks on your ankles, or stops using the litter box.

Whatever “issues” you or your cat may have, we have information that can help you address them and to empower pet caregivers to solve the problems that threaten their relationships with their companion animals.

Solving your cat’s behavior problems may take a renewed commitment on your part, but it can be done. And it’s worth it. After all, research shows that most dogs and cats are relinquished to animal shelters—or otherwise given up—because of common behavior problems their families didn’t know how to solve.

Don’t let challenges threaten the bonds you have with your feline companion. With some effort and patience, you can address problem behaviors and keep your cat where he or she belongs—with you.

Jumping on counters/scratching furniture: Using a spray bottle with water and telling the cat “No” in a firm voice when it exhibits the inappropriate behavior.

You don’t need to actually hit Kitty with the stream of water– nearby is good enough. After a short conditioning period, Kitty will respond to you simply saying “no” in that stern voice, without the water.

Make sure you have appropriate furniture for kitty to scratch on– if she has nothing else, she will use your furniture to shorten her nails. This is normal behavior and you need to provide an appropriate outlet for her.

Make sure kitty has a high spot to get too– such as a cat tree, a window perch, or someplace high she is allowed to be. Cats like to survey their world from up high, it is a good defensive position and they can see everything that is going on. Give her an appropriate place to perch up high– instead of your countertop!

Scratching furniture: Keep a scratching post next to the furniture being scratched. Consider a tall 6’ cat tree so cat can climb/sleep/scratch and stretch. Cats have scent glands in their paw pads so their scent is left behind where they scratch. So, first remove his/her scent and spray Organics No Scratch (available at pet stores) on the furniture twice a day while you are trying to develop new habits. Place a scratching post in that spot until she is using it and then slowly move it to the location you prefer. It can’t be too far away or she may not use it.

Also, if you can do it quickly, pick her up and put here where she can scratch and praise her for doing so. To attract Kitty to her scratching place, try putting kitty-treats there so that she’ll find it when she goes there next time… in the cubby hole, on the platform, on the base, etc.

Inappropriate urination or defecation: First and foremost, always take your cat to a veterinarian for a checkup when this problem presents itself.  The most common reason for not using the litter box is that the cat is stressed or feels threatened. (Also, see our Litter Box Behavior page for more information.) See the next section for several suggestions that may help your kitty.

Consider the type of litter, the location of the litter box, and the type of box. If your cat is de-clawed (which we do NOT recommend), her paws are very sensitive to the harsh feeling of the litter and you’ll need to try a finer brand.

Stressed, nervous cats: We can recommend four over the counter remedies that should help: Rescue Remedy, Calming Collar, Feliway, and Quiet Moments.  All are either help the problem or do nothing, but they will not hurt Kitty or make the situation worse.  Rescue Remedy, the purple Good Behavior™ Pheromone Collar and  are all remedies to relax stressed cats.  Feliway can be sprayed on bedding when cat is away and let dry, but should never be sprayed on or at the cat. CC4C members have used all of these products and have found them to be helpful in many situations. Thundershirts also help to calm stressed or anxious cats for travel or vet visits. A co-workers uses this for her older cat who is having inappropriate urination and it seems to be helping; as well as on a younger kitty in her house that gets stressed with car-travel.

Other Resources

A great resource is Jackson Galaxy and his show on Animal Planet called “My Cat from Hell.”