Behavioural Problems in Cats
There are some behavioural problems in cats that can be tolerated and some that can’t. These behaviours will be specific to you and your cat. Something that you will tolerate may be different to what someone else will. A good example of this is excessive meowing. Personally I don’t like this, I prefer my cats to talk to me rather than shout all the time. Owners of Siamese cats will probably enjoy this sound as this particular breed is known for being noisy.
As far as your cat is concerned, anything it does is normal. It is not thinking of its effect on you, it is doing a particular behavior because it wants to. It is up to us humans to direct the cat to express its natural instincts in a way that is pleasing for us. For example, if your cat is scratching your furniture or curtains, you may choose to redirect or train your cat to use the scratching post instead. The cat is still undertaking an instinctive behavior, scratching, but is doing it in a way that is acceptable to you.
Redirection to eliminate unwanted behaviours in your cat is much more acceptable (especially to the cat) than punishing it for doing something it considers normal or natural. Punishing your cat will only teach it to be afraid of you and that you cannot be trusted. Cats don’t act out of revenge or spite. But if they are frightened, they will do something such as eliminate in the wrong place because of that fear. However redirection or training will allow the cat to continue that behavior in a way that you approve of.
You need to give your cat interesting alternatives to channel the behavior the way you want. Simply stopping the cat scratching the furniture is not going to solve the problem. You need to give it something else to scratch.
Try to think like your cat. Look to see what temptations are there for it. Do you have a caged bird that your cat finds tempting? Distract it with a toy such as a feather on a spring or a squeaky toy filled with catnip. Is your cat using the pot plants for elimination purposes? Perhaps that is preferable, for the cat, to a smelly litter box. Again the redirection is simple, make the litter box appealing while making the pot plant unappealing by adding some river washed stones or marbles on top of the soil.
Cats are not known for their self control. Some things can just be too tempting for them to resist. If your cat likes to shred the newspaper, put it somewhere out of reach. Give it a box full of scrunched up paper to play in. It will probably keep your cat amused for ages.
Cats will misbehave if they are bored. How would you feel if there was absolutely nothing to do or nothing to play with. We make sure our children are entertained so we need to provide entertainment for our cat. This can be in the form of various types of toys – ones that roll and rattle, ones that run and squeak, some that can be thrown into the air and batted away and some that will swing back to be hit away again. These toys don’t have to be expensive – a feather tied to string or wool and hung from a table, a small round container full of pebbles, a ball of old wool. Your cat is not going to know how much you paid for their toys so go for the cheap option.
Sometimes you might need more obvious methods of discouraging the bad behaviors. Again these should not be done to punish your cat, they should be used to redirect it. If your cat continues to scratch the furniture instead of the scratching post, try rattling a tin of marbles each time it starts the problem behavior. You can also squirt it with some water but aim at the rump and not the face. These methods of discouraging bad behavior will not erode your cat’s trust in you as the rattling tin or squirting water is detached from you. Combined with a firm ‘no’ will get the message across. The cat will soon learn that that sound means stop what I’m doing.
As with children, the earlier bad behaviors are discouraged the easier they are to eliminate. Allowing your cat to jump on the table for some months then suddenly telling it this behavior is no longer acceptable will be harder to change than never letting it on the table to begin with.
Be patient, be firm, be fair. Bad behavior in cats won’t be changed overnight but with repeated and consistent redirection, the behavior will be eliminated. They say it takes a month to eliminate bad habits in humans. I’m sure it will take much less time with your cat.