Common Cat Problems And What To Do About Them

Some common cat problems that owners face can be solved or avoided by allowing cats to be cats. That's what experts, like those at The Ohio State University's Indoor Cat Initiative, are recommending.

Understanding your cat's wild side is important, since many of your cat's behaviors stem from survival needs.

Tortie and white cat face

Many problems can be solved or at least mitigated by using the principle of consistent, persistent, slow and gradual change.

It's also important to understand that cat health problems can sometimes be inextricably linked with behavior problems.

Litter box problems -- A common example of this is inappropriate elimination, often lumped together under the term, "litter box problems."

Litter box problems, as the name implies, are where a cat will urinate or defecate in a location other than the litter box. Inappropriate elimination issues sometimes go like this:

  • Cat gets urinary tract infection
  • Cat experiences pain while urinating in the litter box
  • Cat stops urinating in the litter box and starts urinating on floor
  • Owner thinks cat is mad at him and is retaliating by urinating on floor
  • Owner yells at cat
  • Cat becomes nervous and fearful, still associates litter box with pain
  • Owner finally takes cat to vet as last ditch effort
  • Vet treats urinary tract problem
  • cat still urinates outside of litter box
  • Owner is confused
  • Cat needs new owner
  • Cat gets new owner who understands him
  • Cat is helped with retraining and all is well

More information on solving litter box problems.

Finicky eating -- Despite the Morris 9 Lives commercials, most cats are not that picky about their eating, as long as the food is not spoiled. If they are, it may be due to conditioning.

This conditioning process may or may not have been encouraged, knowingly or not, by the cat's owner. One solution to this is to vary your cat's food in terms of texture, tastes, brands, and type (wet, dry, moist), and introduce changes slowly and consistently.

Some cat parents have decided that wet food is healthier than dry, often based on advice from experts. Some of these cat people have had a hard time getting their kitties to switch from dry food to wet.

These cats are "dry food addicted" it seems. On the other hand, many cats really seem to enjoy wet food more than dry.

It can sometimes take months to transition a cat from dry food to wet. See Lisa Pierson's excellent tips for transitioning a cat to wet cat food.

Climbing -- Cats climbing the furniture or drapes can be a huge issue. Cats naturally enjoy high places as they feel safe from predators up there and can survey their territories.

Providing acceptable climbing furniture for your kitty can go a long way towards curbing unacceptable climbing. In addition, provide plenty of interesting and varied cat toys and exercise time to burn off steam. It is especially important in small apartments and houses to make good use of vertical space, and get a high cat tree/cat condo/kitty gym.

Scratching -- Scratching the furniture is another huge concern and one of the most common cat problems. Scratching, like climbing, also happens to be a natural cat behavior.

You can't punish your cat and you can't train them out of it. You certainly can't blame her for being a cat and doing what cats naturally do.

What you can do is provide an acceptable scratching surface and encourage and reward your cat for using it. You can combine scratching and climbing by getting the right piece of cat furniture, and set up a cat sanctuary inside your home.

Experts say you can solve or avoid many of the behavioral aspects of cat problems by allowing your cat to be a cat, encouraging good behavior by providing the right environment for your cat, and rewarding your cat when she does things you want her to do.

Get more information on how to better care for your kitty from the Indoor Cat Initiative (now renamed the Indoor Pet Initiative).

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