Feline Wellness

Common Negative Cat Behavior Issues and Their Solution

August 22, 2023

It's easy to become frustrated if your cat is doing something you don’t want them to do, but most behavioral issues have easy fixes! Here are some common problems and their possible solutions.

Scratching furniture: Cats have a natural instinct to scratch and they sometimes scratch in places you don’t want them to such as your furniture, drapes, or carpet. Redirect your cat to more appropriate scratching posts in your home when they start scratching furniture. Place the scratch post near the area where the cat is inappropriately scratching. Use positive reinforcement, such as treats or praise, whenever your cat uses the scratch post so they understand that using the scratch post = rewards. If your cat is rather reluctant, you can add some catnip to the post to get them more intrigued. Note that some cats like vertical posts while others like horizontal mats or pads. Cats also like to be able to stretch out while they scratch so make sure their post is long/tall enough for them. A kitten sized scratch post won’t satisfy an adult cat. You can further discourage your cat from scratching your furniture by spraying citrus scents on it since cats do not like the smell of citrus fruits.

Litter box troubles: Cats may urinate or defecate outside their litter box. This can be due to medical problems, stress, a dislike of the litter box or litter, or a change in the home, among other reasons. To start, always make sure that your cat's litter box is clean - check it and remove waste at least twice daily - accessible, and in a quiet and calm location. If the litter box is inconvenient to get to - only upstairs and not downstairs or vice versa - your cat may find it easier to pee on a rug or bed. On the other hand, if the litter box is in a busy area of the home, your cat may feel stressed being in there. Cats like their privacy while using the bathroom too! If you have multiple cats, you need multiple litter boxes. Perhaps the cats like their own boxes, or use one for urination and one for defecation. Or maybe you tried a new kind of litter and your cat doesn’t enjoy it. A new animal or person in the home can also stress out a cat and lead to inappropriate elimination. Litter box issues are usually easily fixable - it’s just a matter of figuring out what has changed. You can also consult with a veterinarian to rule out any underlying health problems. Senior cats can have trouble making it to the litter box on time or maybe your cat contracted a UTI. Your cat is definitely not eliminating outside of the box out of spite - they are trying to tell you something. Please listen.

Aggression: Cats might behave aggressively toward humans or other animals. This includes swatting, hissing, growling, or fighting. Identify your cat’s triggers and work on desensitization. Aggressive behavior in cats can be triggered by fear, pain, territoriality, or predatory instincts. Maybe when a stray cat is in your yard, your cat gets defensive and takes that out on your new kitten. Their aggression is a reaction to something that is triggering them. Once you figure out the cause, you can find a solution. Make sure to supply an array of toys and tire out your cat with playtime to expel energy. Always allow them to “kill” their toy after playing to satisfy their predatory instincts.

Excessive meowing: Meows are cute, but sometimes it can be too much. Cats may be extra vocal when they want attention, are hungry, bored, or in pain. Ensure that your cat's basic needs - food, fresh water, a clean litter box - are met. While cats are known for their independence, they definitely can get lonely too. Spend plenty of quality time with your cat and really play with them - this stimulates them both mentally and physically and allows them to get proper exercise. If your cat is alone often, like  while you’re at work, get some electronic, interactive toys or fun puzzle feeders so they have something fun and challenging to do while they wait for you to return home. If your cat seems unhappy or uncomfortable, consult with a veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical conditions.

Destructive behavior: Cats are curious creatures and sometimes their curiosity gets the best of them. Knocking your things off shelves, counter surfing, chewing on electronic cords, chomping on your plant leaves... To keep your cat satisfied, mentally, emotionally, and physically you need to tire them out. Provide plenty of toys and really play with them. Don’t just toss some toys on the floor. A jingle ball isn’t that enticing when it’s just sitting there. Throw it, shake it, hide it, wiggle it around, your cat will LOVE IT. They will do that little butt wiggle we all love. And MAYBE they will play fetch and carry it back to you in their cute little mouth. Interactive play sessions throughout the day keep your cat engaged, alert, and HAPPY. When they feel satisfied, they will be less likely to engage in destructive behaviors. You just need to show them things that are more appealing.

Midnight zoomies: Cats are crepuscular, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk. To curb their zoomies and whatever else they get up to while you’re trying to sleep, you need to tire them out before you head to bed. Engage in interactive play right before bedtime and soon they will learn to sleep when you sleep. When they do wake you up with their antics, do not give in! If you give them snacks or play with them, that will only reinforce the behavior. If you want to sleep through the night, you need to tire out your cat with some really intense playtime. So get out your wand toys and get in a good game before you put on your PJs.

Understanding and modifying negative cat behaviors requires a lot of patience and consistency. A cat’s conduct can be influenced by their environment, past history, as well as their health. Learn to think like a cat and try to figure out why they are acting this way. And then figure out how best to change it. Since negative behaviors can be a sign of underlying medical or emotional issues, schedule a vet visit to rule out any health concerns.

Please note that a one size fits all approach doesn’t always work. If you need more specific solutions or one-on-one help, you can contact a cat behaviorist. They would be happy to assist you and your cat!

Love, Nala