Picture the scene: You’ve woken up in the middle of the night and you’re stumbling into the kitchen to pour yourself a glass of water when suddenly you jump out of your skin as “something” swats your leg and proceeds to bite and attack it.
You switch on the light, only to be greeted by a real mess as kitty disappears behind a curtain. Your beloved cat has decided to go to the toilet outside the litter box.
After you’ve cleaned up the mess and tended to your wounds, you’re probably beginning to wonder if your cat hates you, or is jealous or spiteful.
The truth is, cats don’t react emotionally in the same way that humans do. They understand that actions have consequences, but that doesn’t mean that they do things on the basis of “right” and “wrong”. While cats feel fear, pain, hate and love, the simply don’t process information in the same way as we do, and because of this they are unable to link actions and the effects of those actions.
For example, your male tom has just urinated on the wall, so you march over to him, rub his nose in it, and smack his behind. This kind of reaction is really not recommended as he won’t be able to connect the dots between urinating on the wall and being punished for a type of behaviour that seems natual to him. In fact all that it will probably do is result in him running away and hiding under the couch when you walk towards him again – he will simply decide that you’re not a very nice person and that you should be avoided.
In your cat’s reality, he might be spraying the wall because he’s insecure. Perhaps there is a new cat in the house, or even a piece of new furniture. Cats really hate change, so they really get upset over the smallest changes to their surroundings. If he’s insecure because something has changed, he may want to assert himself by marking his territory. He’s certainly not thinking about you or the paint on the wall. The scent of his spray is actually comforting for him, and if you don’t get rid of the smell he will do it again to further claim his territory.
Young cats may feel unsettled until they are about a year old and you may find your cat testing his boundaries during this time. Older cats may urinate or soil the house if they are going through physical and emotional changes that you might not be aware of. Just remember that your cat’s behaviour has absolutely nothing to do with being angry, jealous or spiteful.
Understanding why your cat is misbehaving and then getting to the root of the problem is the best way to correct unwanted behaviour.
A cat may have performed a certain type of behaviour for some time without being reprimanded for it. In a case like this, it will take some retraining.
The other cause could be environmental or medical. If you suspect this to be the case, try and work out what has changed in your cat’s environment so that you can adjust it and eliminate the problem.
Behavioural problems are often symptoms of biological problems, so it is always worth taking your cat to the vet to rule out any medical causes of your cat’s behaviour. A vet may not be able to deal with a behavioural problem, but they have a vast knowledge of diseases and conditions that could lead to certain types of behaviour.
A cat who doesn’t use his litter box all the time might be trying to tell you that it hurts for some reason or another. Cats tend to externalise “blame” when they are feeling unwell, for example he may associate the litter box with pain, even though the two are not connected, and choose not to use it. If it hurts when you pick him up, he may think you are huring him, and although one of this may be completely logical to you, it would make complete sense for your cat to lash out at you. Hence a visit to the vet would be a wise decision so as to rule out any health issue.
If the vet thinks that their is an emotional issue at play, he may recommend a dose of of a drug like Prozac. Prozac would need to be administered daily. Although this is extreme, it is generally only used as a last resort, and you may wish to consult an animal behaviourist before you embark on this kind of path. One of the biggest problems with Prozac is is you have an outdoor cat. The cat may not be aware that it is in danger because of the effects of the drug.
Some vets recommend a progesterone injection (safer than Prozac) which lasts up to 5 months and can significantly calm a distressed or aggressive cat.
Medroxy progesterone acetate (MPA) is a hormone. It may be used in cats to treat behaviour problems (i.e. roaming, inter male aggressive behavior, spraying, mounting), hair loss and inflammation of the skin. MPA may be used for other conditions as determined by your veterinarian.
Regardless of what your cat does wrong, never shout at him or hit him. This is cruel and will definitely not help correct the problem; in fact it may create feelings of mistrust for you which could further compound the behavioural problem. The best thing is to catch your cat in the act and teach hum what he should be doing instead. The longer you leave this kind of behaviour without trying to correct it, the more difficult it will be to break the habit. Barring a medical condition, using positive training and reinforcement, your cat will soon learn what is expected of him.
Should you require expert intervention, a pet behaviourist – someone who understands animals well and has been trained in this area – can help you properly retrain your cat. If you are looking for an accredited animal behavourist in South Africa, visit The Animal Behaviour Consultants of South Africa.
– Article posted by Phillipa Mitchell