Cat Behavior Problem Got You Puzzled?

The cause of a cat behavior problem can be puzzling, but the solution may be easier than you think.

Learn to think like your cat, and you can overcome feline behavior problems.

A behavior problem may stem from either a medical problem (such as physical pain due to arthritis), a specific set of environmental and social factors (like she won't use the litter box because your other cat jumps her each time she tries), or a combination.

Remember, you should always report any change in your cat's behavior, eating, sleeping, and activity levels to your veterinarian. Any sudden changes can indicate a cat health alert, and should be evaluated by your vet.

Yes, what seems like a cat behavior problem can actually be one or a combination of cat illness symptoms.

Brown and white bicolor cat face

Learning to see things from your cat's point of view can go a long way in helping to understand what is causing her to misbehave.

Pay close attention to what your cat is really doing (not what you think she's doing).

Understanding basic cat behavior, and carefully piecing together the facts is the key to solving problems.

Many people seem to think that cats are very similar to dogs and tend to approach behavioral issues with them in the same way. While cats and dogs certainly do have some behaviors in common, cats have a very different approach to the world from dogs.

Cats do not have the same pack mentality as dogs. With some exceptions, such as lions, who live in a pride, and cheetah siblings who sometimes hunt together, cats are primarily solitary creatures.

They are much more concerned with territorial issues. The well known face rubbing and scenting of everything your cat comes near, as well as the infamous (and feared!) spraying behavior are evidence of that.

In this respect, it might be said that any cat behavior problem not due to illness is genetic in origin. After all, a cat can't help how it is built to handle the world. Learning to work with, rather than against, your cat's predisposition is the answer.

Note: This is not to say that cats are not social animals or that they don't have rules of engagement for social situations. In fact, some believe that a genetic change of sorts took place in the domestic cat which actually makes them more social.

Some evidence of this can be seen in domestic cat populations that have gone feral (wild). They often band together and form feral cat colonies.

This type of social behavior among cats can also be seen in the so called barn cats on farms or ranches. These cats are typically welcomed in for their ability to control rodent populations in or near the barn or grain stores. Often many of these "barn cats" will join together to form a social colony.

Felines will live together out of convenience or necessity, and by mutual agreement, not necessarily because of a need to form a group. While cats can form strong bonds with other animals (yes, even other cats, dogs, and humans!), they do not have a dog's sense of social order and strong need to please.

In the dog world, being part of a pack means getting along with the other members, and pleasing the alpha dog, who is the leader. By setting yourself up as the alpha dog, you can influence a dog's behavior and her natural desire to be part of the pack.

Try that on your cat, and I'll bet your results aren't so good. So, the bottom line is, the same behavior modification trick that you use on your dog won't work on your cat. The "let's all get along" pack mentality won't work to fix a cat behavior problem.

This might explain why you don't see many pet cats who sit or roll over on command. It also explains why your cat keeps getting on the "forbidden" sofa, despite your complaints. You may view this as a cat behavior problem, but your cat doesn't think so!

Oh, cats can certainly be trained. They can even be trained to do tricks, but it is definitely more difficult than dogs. More importantly, however, cat behavior can be modified, if you understand it.

Since cats are relatively new to domestication, they also have more "wild" in them. This, for many, is one of the appealing things about a cat. Having a cat in your house is a lot like living with a small wild animal.

The results of this wildness, however, can lead to an incorrect assumption that there is a cat behavior problem. In fact, your cat may just be acting "normal" - for a feline, that is.

The rules for social behavior, cat body language, and what they get out of interacting with other animals is uniquely, cat. The fact is, domestic cats developed from primarily solitary creatures. It makes sense then, that they have a fairly limited set of communication skills and responses. Grasp that concept, apply it, and you'll go a long way to understanding why your cat does what she does.

The Humane Society of the US has information in some of their cat tip sheets.

Topics Related To Cat Behavior Problems

The residual patterns of hunting and scenting remain in domestic cat behavior

Communication, body language, self-grooming, and other cat behaviors are discussed here

Cat behavior problems tip sheet

Feline behavior problems solved on TV by a celebrity veterinarian on Housecat Housecall

Male cat behavior, including issues of territory, aggression, and roaming

For extreme cases, pet psychologists, especially those specializing in cats, may help

Cat Behavior

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