貓隻行為科學

Feline Behavioural Issues

May 29, 2024
Overgrooming

Overgrooming is the most common behavioural issue in cats, and involves excessive licking and preening behaviour, often to the point of causing baldness and skin damage.

Cats normally groom and lick themselves to help stay clean and stimulate hair shedding. However, if stressed or anxious a cat will often increase their level of grooming to a point where it becomes excessive and problematic. This increased grooming initially has a self-soothing function, which can help to calm the cat up to a point, but over time the behaviour tends to become compulsive and damaging.

Cats who overgroom usually have equal patterns of hair loss on both sides of the body, most commonly in easily licked areas such as the forearms, belly or sides. The skin may be completely bald, or there may be short stubbly hair growth or grazes and scratches.

Interestingly enough, overgrooming is also an issue for the larger cats in captivity, such as zoo lions and tigers, and has very similar causes related to anxiety and stress.

Overgrooming is often the result of anxiety and stress in a cat’s life. Cats are very much creatures of habit, and even simple changes in routine or lifestyle can result in a cat acting out with unusual behaviours.

Common causes include new pets or people in the house, a change in diet, a change in cat litter, changes in household furniture or owners going away for a vacation. Cats are also good at hiding their emotions, and apart from the overgrooming or protest elimination behaviour a cat may seem quite normal, even if they are stressed and agitated on the inside.

Urinating on Beds and Furniture

Urinating outside the litter tray can occasionally be due to a medical problem such as kidney disease or a urinary tract infection, but often it's a behaviour issue called protest elimination, and it is unfortunately quite common, and very frustrating.

Cats often protest eliminate in a very obvious area, such as on a bed, chair or table, to be sure they get their message across.

It is worth remembering that a cat is not trying to get revenge or punish their owners – but they are trying to let you know that they are upset.

Punishing a cat won’t help, the best solution is to do a little detective work to find out the cause of the problem and try to fix it.

As with many behavioural issues in cats, protest elimination is usually the result of anxiety and stress in a cat’s life. Cats are very much creatures of habit, and even simple changes in routine or lifestyle can result in a cat acting out with unusual behaviours.

Common causes include new pets or people in the house, a change in diet, a change in cat litter, changes in household furniture or owners going away for a vacation. Cats are also good at hiding their emotions, and apart from the overgrooming or protest elimination behaviour a cat may seem quite normal, even if they are stressed and agitated on the inside.

Scratching Furniture

In the wild, scratching is an important cat behaviour to help mark their territory and signal to others. Cats will commonly mark trees or other territorial boundaries both with scent and scratch marks.

Cat scratching behaviour is also important to keep claws short and sharp, and to stretch muscles.

On saying that, although it's natural and necessary, it sure doesn't help when your cat decides the new sofa is the best thing to scratch or tears holes in your curtains.

Fortunately there are some strategies we can use to minimise or divert the behaviour.

Make the home comfortable

The first step in keeping any cat happy is making them feel at home and comfortable in their environment. As discussed for anxiety issues, all cats should have separate areas for sleeping, eating and the litter tray, and these should always be accessible. Animal behaviourists also suggest that each cat should have their own separate litter tray and bed, although I do find that many cats are happy to share. 

One great option for the sleeping area in Hong Kong is having a cat tree or bed near a window with a view – cats will often be amused for hours as they watch the world go by.

Enriching the environment

Environmental enrichment can also be very useful for cats who scratch furniture – try giving them scratching posts or cardboard scratching mats. Rubbing a small amount of catnip on the post will encourage the cat to scratch in the approved area. We have a wide election of Cat Scratches and Cat Grass.

Petree: Fuji lynx scratching post

Price: $188.00

Gimcat - Super Tender And Juicy Cat Grass

Price: $65.00

At the same time, some people also put double-sided adhesive tape, foil or cellophane over furniture to deter cats from scratching in unwanted areas. Trimming nails can also help as it still allows the cat to scratch but limits any damage – however to be effective nails need to be trimmed every fortnight. Good nail trimmers make a big difference.

Aggressive Behaviour in Cats

Aggression and biting can be an issue in some cats, although thankfully cats rarely show true aggression, often preferring to remain aloof and disinterested when confronted with a situation they don't like.

The most common form is play aggression, where an owner is stroking or playing with a cat and all is going well, then suddenly the cat turns around and gives a sharp bite or scratch.

Play aggression is more common in cats that have been raised alone. Experts believe that kittens learn to moderate their behaviour when playing with littermates, and these solo kittens have difficulty determining the line between normal licking and grooming behaviour and excessive aggression.

Inter-cat aggression does also occur at times, and can be fierce, but is thankfully relatively unusual. Cats will invariably hiss and spit at a new cat brought into the house for a week or two. This is important in establishing the pecking order and dominance hierarchy, but after a few small fights the cats will normally learn to get along.

While cats are establishing dominance they may sound quite fierce, but generally the fights will be over quickly and there should be no lasting wounds or damage. If the cats show more severe aggression, there are bleeding wounds or repeated fights, there may be a more serious case of inter-cat aggression.

The good news is there are a number of ways we can really help cats who scratch and cats who are aggressive.

Make the home comfortable

The first step in keeping any cat happy is making them feel at home and comfortable in their environment. As discussed for anxiety issues, all cats should have separate areas for sleeping, eating and the litter tray, and these should always be accessible. Animal behaviourists also suggest that each cat should have their own separate litter tray and bed, although I do find that many cats are happy to share. We have a wide election of Cat Litter Tray.

Catit - Gray Flip Up House Shaped Cat Litter Tray

Price:$293.00

One great option for the sleeping area in Hong Kong is having a cat tree or bed near a window with a view – cats will often be amused for hours as they watch the world go by.

Enriching the environment

Environmental enrichment can also be very useful for cats who scratch furniture – try giving them scratching posts or cardboard scratching mats. Rubbing a small amount of catnip on the post will encourage the cat to scratch in the approved area. 


Helping Resolve Play Aggression.

The best way to deal with play aggression is to try to watch for those tell tale signs that a cat is getting too stimulated and excited during patting or play sessions. Common signs of an impending play attack include dilated pupils and mischievous eyes, a slowly snaking tail and crouching down with ears flat against the head. When it looks like they are about to pounce try to break their attention with a loud click or whistle, or take a short break from playing. Over time this will hopefully break the cycle of play, excitement and aggression. If a cat does bite or scratch during play the best response is not to fight back – this will only reinforce the behaviour. Instead, act offended, stop the play session immediately and give the cat a five minute time-out to calm down.

Dealing with Inter-Cat Aggression.

True inter-cat aggression can be difficult to solve through environmental changes alone – but remember that a little hissing and meowing is very normal when a new cat is introduced. Cats will often compete over resources, so make sure all pets have separate, safe areas for feeding, drinking, sleeping and going to the toilet. Over time as the cats become settled it may be possible to reduce these back to one combined area. If cats continue to fight aggressively after a few weeks it can help to separate the cats, take them both out of the house for one week then reintroduce them both at the same time. This will help reset any territories or pre-existing ownerships in the house.

Solving Anxiety Issues in Cats

Is the problem behavioural or medical?

The first step in properly resolving any of these issues is to confirm that the problem is entirely behavioural, and doesn’t have an underlying medical cause which requires specific treatment. Hair loss or overgrooming can also be the result of skin irritation or dermatitis, infection, allergies or pain. Going to the toilet outside the litter tray could be something very simple, such as a new type of litter or an unclean litter tray – cats are fastidious animals and will often avoid a little tray that is even slightly dirty. But it could also indicate a more serious issue, such as bladder infections, kidney problems, diabetes or gastroenteritis. For this reason I’d recommend a thorough medical examination before any behavioural therapy starts.

Stress

As mentioned above, anxiety, stress and boredom are the primary causes of most of the behavioural issues of cats. Busy and mentally active cats are generally happy cats, and environmental enrichment can really help to prevent or solve behavioural issues. There are a number of cat toys that provide a challenge or a game are excellent for keeping cats mentally active. The best toys can be used by a cat without their owners, but laser pointers and similar human-cat toys can also be lots of fun as long as people are willing to put in the time.

Make the home comfortable

The first step in keeping any cat happy is making them feel at home and comfortable in their environment. As discussed for anxiety issues, all cats should have separate areas for sleeping, eating and the litter tray, and these should always be accessible. Animal behaviourists also suggest that each cat should have their own separate litter tray and bed, although I do find that many cats are happy to share.

Enriching the environment

Environmental enrichment can also be very useful for cats who scratch furniture – try giving them scratching posts or cardboard scratching mats. Rubbing a small amount of catnip on the post will encourage the cat to scratch in the approved area.

One great option for the sleeping area in Hong Kong is having a cat tree or bed near a window with a view – cats will often be amused for hours as they watch the world go by.


The above content is provided by Dr. David Gething.

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