Cat Behavior Problems

Even common cat behavior problems can be tough.

They can sometimes be puzzling and seem almost impossible to solve.

A little insight, however, into the needs of your cat may help you find a solution.

Stress is an important and frequent contributor to both cat illness and behavioral problems.

So, doing what you can to reduce stress in your cat is of primary importance.

Jazzy the cat tears up the toilet paper with text overlay Common Cat Behavior Problems Explained

In addition, some behavior problems may either be aggravated by certain illness symptoms, or be the result of the illness itself.

Be sure to report any changes in behavior or physical appearance to your vet.

Cats Will Be Cats

Cat on scratching post

A scratching post is an essential item for the house.

Cats will be cats. Cats need to scratch.

They need to hunt. They need to play fight, and chase things (like mice, or birds, or you!).

Most of them like to climb and sit up high to survey their territory.

If you see your cat climbing your furniture, resist the urge to lash out.

Cats need to release pent up energy. They also need their space.

They would not ordinarily be living in crowded spaces with all manner of non-cat species (or even other cats, necessarily).

It follows that if we want to get along with and better care for our furry friends, we must learn to understand domestic cat behavior.

Solving a behavior problem involves thinking like a cat. We can prevent future problems by giving your cat whatever environment satisfies her needs.

We can't take a cat, put her in a room day after day with nothing to stimulate her, and expect her to be happy. That's asking way too much of the kitty.

Cats need exercise, and most of them need to exercise their hunting skills, even if you serve them their favorite food on a silver platter every day.

We can't punish a cat for being a cat. In fact, most punishment techniques don't work on cats.

They respond much better to positive reinforcement, including food, praise, affection and play activities. These are the tools that work best for cat behavior training.


Tips on Solving Common Cat Behavior Problems

For the typical house cat, behavior problems are relatively minor. They scratch the furniture here and there. They get into things they shouldn't. They want to get on the other side of a closed door. They jump on the counter, and so on. Below are some of the more common and perhaps more troublesome issues.

Scratching the Furniture

Cat scratching behavior is natural. You can't stop it and you shouldn't try. Even cats that have been declawed will put their paws on an inviting surface and scratch away.

Scratching helps cats remove the old, split, dry outer sheath of the nail as the new nail grows underneath. Scratching also deposits scent markings, which is very important to cats.

Cats feel more secure when the home smells like them, and it's a method of communication between cats.

It's thought by some that scratching also relieve stress, gives your cat a bit of exercise and some stretching along with it, and it probably just feels good.

Solution: Provide a scratching post and toys. Get rid of pent up energy with toys and play sessions. If needed, you can use repellent methods and products on the furniture.

Provide acceptable and appropriate scratching places, including a cat condo and a scratching board (catnip enhanced and prominently placed to encourage usage, of course).

If your cat is climbing the furniture like a tree, offer your cat something else attractive to climb on, and praise her when she does. A tall cat condo is excellent for this.

You can get them equipped with scratching posts, built in toys, and hiding spots. Also make the furniture and areas you don't want your cat to climb on less attractive by using cat safe repellent methods (see Natural Cat Repellent).

Jazzy the cat and I got a new PetFusion scratcher to try out, which seems to have reduced his need to scratch the furniture a bit. You can read how Jazzy liked it here.

More on the cat scratching post, and cat repellent for furniture. To keep cats off sofas, counters, tables, and shelves, you can try electronic cat repellent devices.

Spraying and Marking

Some cat parents will keep their cats outdoors because they complain that they spray. Marking behavior, usually exhibited by backing up to a vertical surface, tail quivering, and releasing urine, is used to mark territory.

Cats that mark territory indoors often either feel threatened by something, or are otherwise stressed. This behavior can be found in both mail and female cats, and is more prevalent in cats that are not spayed or neutered.

Solution: Kittens will often gladly share resources as they learn about the world around them and their housemates. As they get older, however, and reach sexual maturity, things can change.

Playful kittens can turn into scrapping teenagers, and things can get contentious when cats are around 6 months to 4 years old, especially when resources are tight.

Things to do:

  • Spay/neuter is the name of the game.
  • Mediate disputes and give each cat in a multi-cat or multi-pet household their own space and other resources.
  • Provide plenty of attention, affection, and use positive reinforcement.
  • Give your cat a sanctuary area in the house where she can be undisturbed. 
  • Remove any threats to your cat.
  • Use pheromone products, such as Feliway spray and diffusers to calm your cat.

Read more on eliminating cat spraying behavior.

Inappropriate Elimination

Litter box problems have essentially 2 causes, medical or behavioral (or both). Always assume a medical problem first. Resolve that, then deal with behavioral.

A healthy, well-adjusted cat with a clean litter box (clean enough for the cat, that is) will use it.

Solution: A large litter box (a low, but wide box is best for kittens and cats with mobility problems) placed in an easily accessible, but quiet area, on a hard floor is best. Clumping clay litter is usually the top recommendation as it matches the texture preferred by most cats, and is easy to maintain.

Cats generally like loose, sandy soil to eliminate on. If your cat was previously an outdoor cat, however, she may prefer some grass added to the box. Cat Attract can also be added to the litter to encourage box usage.

The 5 O'clock Crazies

Some cat owners will notice that many cats will get up after an afternoon nap and go absolutely nuts. Sometimes they jump all over the furniture they're not supposed to go on, and even climb curtains. This is, of course, perfectly normal, as pent up energies need somewhere to go.

Solution: Don't expect to break your cat of any of her instinctive drives. Allow your cat to run around the house if that's what she needs. I wouldn't expect to totally eliminate this behavior.

You might be able to keep your cat from going totally nuts and being destructive, however, by letting her go a little crazy on a regular basis. Controlled play and exercise sessions are great for both you and your cat.

Give your cat lots of exercise and stimulate the hunting and stalking instincts. Give your cat toys, and lots of them. Rotate out the toys so they seem fresh to your kitty. If your cat brings a toy to her bed, or has a habit of sleeping with a toy, leave that toy available and don't rotate it.

A Scratching board is essential, preferably periodically spiked with catnip or catnip oil (if your cat responds to catnip). Give your cat hiding spots and a bed. Leave treats around the house for your cat to find. You can also get feeders that hide treats and make them like toys.


Trouble Introducing Two Cats

Two cats are better than one, I always say, but how do you introduce them the right way? And... what happens when you don't?

How to introduce a stray cat into the house with another cat?

What happens when you don't do a proper introduction of a new cat to your home, and how to repair the damage. We break down the elements of proper introduction for a reader who moved a bit too fast for his cat's comfort.

Introducing a new kitten to a resident cat without separating them (Need Advice)

Cat Lovers Only readers respond to a question from another reader... Can you introduce a new kitten to a resident cat without separating them in two separate rooms?


Getting Professional Help

If you're unable to resolve your cat's behavior problem yourself, I recommend you enlist the help of a professional who is experienced in cat behavior. Some veterinarians are very skilled at dealing with feline behavioral issues, and others are specifically trained in clinical animal behavior.

These professionals act as pet psychologists and can work with you and your cat (sometimes in your home) to patch things up.

Some of these cat behavior specialists are not veterinarians, but nevertheless are trained to handle cat behavior problems. These folks may sometimes be called cat therapists, and they may have some veterinary training, perhaps as a veterinary technician. Others may be trained in human and animal psychology.

One way to find veterinarians who are also cat behavior specialists is to search the directory of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists.


Aggressive Cats

Aggression is one of the most common cat behavior problems readers ask questions about here at CLO.

Dealing with aggressive behavior in cats that once got along

Here's one reader's question about cats that no longer see eye to eye. When dealing with aggression, should you separate the cats and essentially start over, like they've never met?

My cat attacks my feet

This question is from one of our readers on how to deal with her Maine Coon that has become aggressive with her whenever she leaves the house.

Questions on cat aggression

A compilation of reader questions and answers on aggressive cats.


More on Cat Behavior

Do cats grieve for the loss of another cat?

One of our readers had to have one of her cats put to sleep and her remaining cats were not acting right stopped eating. She asked for some advice about helping her cats get over the loss of their furry friend.

Cats has been crying and seems afraid to go into the bedroom

A reader's cat's behavior suddenly changed. The kitty began "crying in a different cry, and seems to be afraid of going into the bedroom where he has always slept with my father at the foot of his bed."

Does Anyone Else with Multiple Cats Wake Up to a Mess Everyday?

Looking for some advice, Mary asks, "Does anyone else with multiple cats wake up to a mess everyday?" Her cats are having a party each night while she tries to sleep. 


Puzzled by Your Cat's Behavior?

Is your cat's behavior causing problems or confusing you? Tell us about it!

Share a story here about your cat, and get advice from other cat lovers.

Read About Other Cat Behavior Problems

Click on the links below to read about cat behavior problems from other visitors.

Why is my cat refusing to come downstairs? 
Last year (November 2017), I took in three kittens and they grew up in my home. One of them, Tuck, would wait for me to come home next to the door. Then …

How to introduce stray cat to dog and resident cat? 
I have a little bit of a complicated situation here. In my household I have a 3-year-old female cat we got from the shelter when she was two months old. …

Why has my kitten's sweet disposition changed? 
Four months ago I got two kittens, a male and female, 2 months old. Both have been spayed and neutered and had their rabies shots. They were not related, …

My cat escaped after move 
It's been nearly 15 days since my cat escaped from our new home and ran back to the area where we lived. Someone informed me that my cat has been hanging …

Can two sister cats learn to get along again? 
Can two sister cats learn to get along and be friendly again? I have two sister cats who have been living together since birth, but after we took them …

Male cat suddenly a jerk sometimes 
I've got a 1 1/2 year old fixed male Tabby. He's always been very feisty and a big Mama's boy who follows me everywhere. About two months ago, I got …

Cat Aggression 
My cat gets fed in the morning and then wants to go out. He stopped using the litter tray after about six months, although I still keep it clean and available. …

Why is my cat suddenly spooked by everything outside? 
I leash trained my kitten at around 5 months old (he's almost 8 months now). He loved it and would beg to go outside. In the past month, almost every …

How do I stop my cat from trying to go outside? 
I need some advice with our cat. She's a stray that one day showed up in our house and just decided to stay. She stays in the house a lot, but every so …

Can cats be depressed? 
Two days ago one of our two cats was hit by a car and died. His brother, our other cat, seems depressed. They are/were 13 years old. What can we do about …

How do I stop older cat from chasing younger one? 
I have two 2 year olds and a 1 year old male. A few months ago, I brought my 10 year old female down and introduced them slowly. Now the older female is …

Why does my cat hiss at my other kitten after 2 months? 
Why does my cat hiss at my other kitten after two months of interacting? My older cat is sometimes OK with my new kitten and sometimes not. She sometimes …

My cat will not let me pick her up to carry her 
My cat is great and loves to sit on my lap, but she will not let me pick her up to carry her. When I try to carry her the claws come out and she wiggles …

Why does my cat yell? 
I have a neutered male cat, aged 5 years old. I adopted him with his brother when they were both kittens. Unfortunately, his brother died in May this year …

Why does my cat splash water onto the floor before drinking? 
My 12-year-old cat puts her paw into her bowl and splashes the water onto the floor and drinks it from the floor. This only started about two weeks ago, …

Why does my grandmother's cat hiss at me? 
My grandmother's cat hisses at me every time I move. But when I’m on the couch, she comes over and rubs against me and I brush her and give her treats. …

My cat is acting strangely with my kitten 
I have an 8-month-old cat, and a kitten I found abandoned under my home. The older cat has wanted nothing to do with the kitten since I have had him until …

A question about cat dominance 
I have two kittens and try to play with them everyday as long as they are too young to go outside. They also play with each other, so that's good. But …

After move, older cat hissing at younger cat 
We have two cats. One is 3 years old, the other is just under a year. After living together in a flat since October last year, we've recently moved into …

Fighting between 2 brother cats 
My two house cats were on the back porch. They saw a stray cat outside. Then they started fighting with each other. Major hissing, growling, etc. Why …

How do I stop my cats from fighting? 
I have three cats, all rescued from bad situations. All are fixed females. The oldest was about a year old when we got two small kittens. She was fixed …

What do I do about a cat with extreme anxiety? 
I’ve had my female cat since she was 2 weeks old and she is now 6 years old. I rescued her, her mother, and her sister at the same time and kept them all. …

My newly adopted 3 month old cat has regressed in socializing 
Two weeks ago, we adopted a 3-month-old semi-stray kitten. I say semi-stray because her mother was a stray cat that gave birth in our friend's garden, …

Kitten keeps us awake after learning annoying meow 
I have a 13-week-old kitten we've had for three weeks now. She's a mongrel but she looks like an Abyssinian and acts like one. When she was alone she used …

Click here to write your own.

My male kitten licks or sucks the stomach of my female kitten 
My male kitten licks or sucks the stomach of the female kitten all the time. It irritates the female sometimes and sometimes she doesn’t care. Why does …

Cat is biting his brother's back 
I have four cats. There are three house cats, and then there's Lightning. Lightning has been a handful since I got him at 7 weeks. Definitely a behavioral …

Why does my cat knead and then bite me? 
Almost every night my cat will get on my stomach while I’m lying in bed. He’ll use all four paws to step on me kind of like he’s kneading. If I try to …

Cat acting out over an event 
A week ago tomorrow, our oldest cat peed on our dog bed. My husband punished the older cat by putting him in the cat carrier for a bit. Well, the cat …

My kitten is attacking my new kitten! 
I currently have a male kitten of 12 weeks, and have owned him for two weeks now. Yesterday, I got another kitten, a female of 7 weeks to keep him company …

Falls asleep on lap then gets up and moves 
My kitten is very affectionate. She frequently comes over to me for loving and cuddles, then she falls asleep on my lap or chest. What I don't understand …

Stray cat with odd temperament 
About a month ago, a stray cat began to visit my yard. I live in the city, so strays are pretty common, and most people (including myself) leave food out …

1 cat of 2 wants all the attention 
I adopted two kittens the same month and they are about three months apart. They are now 3 years old. Snicker started out to be dominant, but the two …

Cat doesn’t want to be pet after bringing in new kitten? 
Hello! I’ve had my cat for about eight years and she has lived with dogs and one other cat before. I recently moved out of my parent’s house (yay college) …

Will my cat accept the new kitten? 
I have a 6-year-old cat, Smokey, and we adopted an 8-week-old kitten, Freya. The first day, I kept Freya in a separate room so she could get used to the …

Why does my cat bite my new kitten? 
My resident cat who's 7 months old (male) has been attacking our 9 week old kitten. We got her almost three weeks ago, and for two weeks we slowly introduced …

Why won't my cat go to sleep at night without me? 
I have really bad insomnia so I don't go to sleep until 2 or 3 am or later, so I stay up working until I'm sleepy. The problem is that my cat (Marshmallow) …

My cat rips up the carpet 
I found a cat two years ago. He was about 4 months old. We had him neutered and chipped, and his shots are up to date. He stayed out all night and came …

My cat has suffered a complete personality change 
My cat was a stray my mom found near her work. He's around a year-and-a-half and we've had him for around eight months. He used to be the most playful, …

My cat is acting up and I think it's because of the new kitten? 
I have a two year old adult female cat who has been a beloved only child for myself and my roommate for a while now. She was abandoned by her previous …

How long will it take for my cats to adjust to a new home? 
How long will it take for my cats to fully adjust to a new home environment? Relating to my question, I moved into my new house out of a one bed flat. …

When will my kitten get along with my two other cats? 
When will my recently fixed kitten get along with my two other fixed cats? My kitten, who I got at two months old, got along with my fixed female and male …

Weird cat behavior at night 
I have a half Siamese and half calico cat that we think was weened too early. She used to only love me and will let no one pet her other than my fiancée, …

New mother cat mean and aloof 
My cat Lucky is the sweetest thing ever. When she had her fourth litter of kittens, we kept one and named it Franny. We never have kept one before, but …

Will my cat ever become less skittish? 
I am a new cat owner. I am 19 years old and adopted a 10 week old kitten who was once feral at the end of June. When I visited her at the shelter she wouldn't …

Moody male cat 
We have a brother and sister that are almost 3 years old. The female is loving to every person she meets. The male, on the other hand, is the opposite. …

Our cat has stopped eating from her bowl without encouragement 
Our cat is elderly, a good 16 years. She is in good health according to the vet. She is and has been spoiled all her life, but until recently would eat …

Male cat's interest in my female kitten 
I have a 10 month old cat. But recently I brought home a 5 month old female kitten to be his mate. He gets use to her but wants to bite her neck and …

My cats decided to fight all night 
For a week now I have kept the two cats separated. They take turns in a dog kennel where they can see each other and in the rest of the house. One …

My cat wants to be the only one! 
Dolly was 6 weeks old when I rescued her. I already had Ramey who was about 9, and he raised Dolly. However, as she got older, she didn't seem to want …

Click here to write your own.

My older male cat is licking my female baby kitty 
I have a male neutered cat not quite a year old. I have gotten a female kitten, she is 9 weeks old. He play bites her, never hurts her. Now he has started …

How to introduce a stray cat into the house with another cat? 
Anyone with experience introducing a stray cat into the house with another cat? I brought in an abandoned cat about four weeks ago and my inside cat …

My cat is a slob 
We recently moved into a new house and of course I dragged all my outside cats with me. I have 3 feeding places for them in case the neighborhood cats …

Is my cat pining? 
I got two kittens nearly a year ago. Sadly, one was run over last week--the tom--and the female is meowing all the time and pacing around the house literally …

My cat is my shadow 
My cat, Charlie, follows me everywhere, from the shower to bed he is always with me. I didn't mind it much at first but now it is getting quite annoying. …

Odd tail chasing 
I own two cats, Frodo and Raphael, from the same litter. Frodo is very talkative, playfully aggressive, and seems to be the more intelligent of the two …

My cat torments my dog 
We got Pal (the dog) when he was a puppy and about a year later decided to get a cat. We went to the pound and looked around for the perfect match. Alliegh …

My cat has a biting obsession 
My male cat Marley has started this thing where he meows and lunges either at my feet or my arms and bites me. He wont let go, he'll just keep a hold …

Still nursing 
Spot was being tossed around like a bean bag, by a group of boys who were walking down the street in front of my job. She was only 3 or 4 weeks old, and …

My cat has stopped eating from her dish & will only eat out of my hand! 
I'm puzzled by this... my 3 yr. old female (Graycie) stopped eating her food from her dish about 4 weeks ago. The only way she'll eat is if I put the …

My Cat Kneads Me All The Time 
I know they say when a kitten is younger it may knead because of nursing. My little kitty was found outside. From the moment I picked him up he started …

Will my cat hate me now? 
I recently adopted a cat from a shelter. I've been a dog person my whole life. I know next-to-nothing about cats. Well, recently, I moved into a house …

Is my cat seeking attention or jealous? 
Is he seeking attention or jealous? He is meowing and going around to certain places in the house and knocking over papers onto the floor. What does …

Cat chewing electrical cords Not rated yet
I have two male cats. I'm not sure which one is doing it, but they are chewing my electrical cords on my new TV. They are now taped temporarily with electrical …

A True Scaredy Cat! Not rated yet
My one cat (Simone) is approximately 3 years old. I got her when she was about 4 months old from someone who found her and her 3 siblings in her yard - …

My cat is chewing on cords Not rated yet
Will someone tell me how to stop this problem of chewing on cords? Editors' note: Some cats are chewers for sure. In young cats, s/he may be …

My Cat's Strange Water Problem  Not rated yet
I have a cat with a strange problem that I can't seem to correct. Late at night while I am sleeping or when I am watching TV, my cat contaminates the water …

Click here to write your own.


Related Topics

Cat Repellent

Cat Litter Box Training Tips

Christmas Cat

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