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Cat Behaviour

Every cat has a unique personality. However, there are some aspects of your cat’s behaviour that you may wish to change. Listed below are some common undesirable behaviours and how they can be prevented.

Spraying

Cats spray urine to mark their territory and to communicate with other cats. Spraying conveys information about a cat's age, sex, health status and rank. While spraying is normal behaviour, when it happens too often it can become a problem.

There may be medical reasons for spraying, such as urinary tract infections, so you should take your cat to the vet to have it checked. This condition is treatable, but if left untreated could be potentially life-threatening.

If your cat sprays doorframes, curtains and window ledges inside, it may be responding to a perceived threat from outdoors, while spraying chair legs, beds and dressing tables can mean your cat is increasing in confidence by mixing its scent with yours.

Preventing spraying

There are a number of ways to prevent spraying:

  • Desex your cat. Desexing a male cat puts a stop to spraying in around 80% of cases.
  • Use tin foil to cover objects that your cat sprays. Alternatively, place litter trays or small bowls of dried cat food around the targeted rooms to divert your cat's attention.
  • Decrease the size of your cat's territory by keeping certain rooms out of bounds. Introduce the new territory by placing familiar items, food and toys in it.
  • Avoid punishment. You need to catch your cat in the act of spraying if it is to understand why it is being punished. If the event happened hours, minutes, or even seconds ago, punishment will only upset your cat.

If you are unable to prevent spraying, or in severe cases, talk to your vet, or a behavioural counsellor.

Cleaning after spraying

  • Clean the area with a warm diluted solution of a biological washing powder to remove the protein components of the urine.
  • Rinse the area with cold water and allow it to dry.
  • Spray with an alcohol, such as surgical spirit, to deal with the fatty deposits and then allow the room to dry thoroughly before allowing your cat access again.

You can also buy commercially-prepared sprays from pet shops or your vet that will mask the pheromone scent.

Aggressive cats

Cats are emotional creatures and can be extremely territorial. Environmental or social changes can trigger extremes in cats' behaviour. If a cat becomes fearful it can spit, hiss and scratch in order to defend itself. This response can be triggered by sights, smells, sounds or unfamiliar cats/animals.

Stopping aggression

The best way to prevent your cat from displaying aggressive behaviour is to keep it indoors.

If aggression continues, take your cat to the vet to rule out any medical conditions. If your cat is in good physical health, your vet will be able to offer you appropriate behavioural advice or refer you to a behavioural counsellor.

Destructive cats

Destructive cats can destroy your home and belongings by scratching and chewing.

Stopping destruction

If you want to stop your cat from scratching and chewing its way through your belongings, you need to offer it an alternative. Provide scratching posts which can be made from fabric, carpet, bark-covered logs, softwood remnants or sisal fibre. Put these in different locations, experimenting with both vertical and horizontal positions. Cover with smooth plastic any areas of your home or furniture that you do not want damaged.

Make sure that dangerous items that should not be chewed by your cat (ribbons, telephone cords, fabrics, sewing thread, needles etc.) are kept out of reach.

If your cat persists in scratching or chewing, or is overly destructive, contact your vet as it may be exhibiting a compulsive disorder.

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