Culture & Entertainment

How to fix your cat's behaviour problems

By: Guest Blogger
Canadian Living
Culture & Entertainment

How to fix your cat's behaviour problems

By: Guest Blogger

This week we'll be taking a break from our Friday dose of Maggie Tails. Instead we will be focusing on cats. I chatted with cat behaviourist and author of The Cat Whisperer, Mieshelle Nagelschneider, about all things feline. She shared with us her tips for introducing a new cat to your family and how to fix litter box issues. Plus, she reveals how she keeps all eight of her litter boxes smelling fresh! What's the most common behavioural issue owners face with their cat? Litter box issues are by far the most problematic for cat owners.  Millions of cats are euthanized or relinquished to cat shelters every year for this behaviour issue alone.  This is one of the easiest behaviour issues to fix if you find advice that is comprehensive. Do you have any basic tips on how to deal with litter box problems? The basics are to have one box for each cat plus one more (three cats means four boxes) and to have them in different locations throughout home to replicate their natural cat instincts of separate latrine site usage as happens out in nature. Cats also structure their social hierarchy by time sharing litter box locations.  If you have five cats and all the litter boxes are in the laundry room that can become a very tense (even hostile) situation.  One or more cats might decide to address the matter by carving out a latrine site in areas like your couch or under the dining room table. Cats also like clean smelling litter.  If the litter smells too much like another cat, they may not use it every time, and again, decide to create their own latrine site somewhere else in your home that you will not be happy about.  I recommend uncovered litter boxes so that the smell isn’t concentrated and cats don’t feel trapped. You should also place them in multiple areas around the home and scoop 1 – 2 times daily.  I personally use  Arm & Hammer Ultra Last Clumping Litter for my eight litter boxes and you would never know I had any litter boxes in my home—there is no smell.  I’m impressed with how effective this litter is in trapping odour.  I also recommend entirely replacing the litter once a month. Cats cannot see in absolute darkness. This is one of the biggest cat myths. They can see very well in low light, so be sure to have night lights in litter box areas and even on the way to litter box areas. Keep food and water far away from litter boxes; completely separate rooms whenever possible. How do you successfully welcome a new cat into the family? It’s very important to gradually introduce cats in a non-confrontational, non-threatening way. We do this by getting them used to each other’s scent and also by creating a group scent on each cat. The technique in my book is called “Social Facilitation” and it (just like it sounds) facilitates social behaviour in cats.  Once this is accomplished, we work on gently exposing the cats to each other visually, taking great care to not let them see each other too long or in too close a proximity of one another.  Most cat owners do the opposite and let the cats be together for too long or too close, which can end in a hiss or cat fight. And cats will remember this the next time they see each other. Think of several short-together sessions ending them while things are going well instead of a long session that ends in a hostile manner. Over time you will create trust between the cats because only positive or neutral experiences have happened between them.  In the beginning, keep the cat in a sanctuary room (a guest bedroom or room where a door can be shut) to allow the cat to acclimate to the home. Make sure your cat’s needs are in the room—food, water, two litter boxes, cat toys, a cat scratcher, perching areas and especially a place where they can hide to feel safe. What's the biggest mistake owners make with their cats? Expecting them to live in “our world” which can mean a very mundane environment that is also set up in a way that doesn’t fall in line with a cat’s natural instincts. How do owners balance being a loving cat owner and a disciplinarian? Never reprimand or discipline a cat.  It will backfire and you can have a new behaviour issue pop-up or an existing one can be exacerbated. Cats have no reason to be obedient like dogs, so don’t expect them to.  It’s all about guiding a cat’s natural behaviours to where we want them performed (scratching on the cat post, urinating in the litter box— instead of unwanted locations).  You won’t have much luck trying to extinguish their wildcat instincts by disciplining.  If anything, they will just perform the unwanted behaviour when you’re not around. What’s your best advice to cat owners? With cats, environment is key. They are very territorial and prey drive is their strongest instinct.  Keeping them in captivity (your home) can cause some stereotypical behavior issues (clawing, excessive vocalization, aggression), so creating an environment indoors that gives the stimulation they need is crucial—one that allows them to exert their “cat-ness.” Play with your cat daily using an interactive wanded toy, give them toys they can play with on their own and multiple perching and resting areas.  Do not play with your cats together—this will cause competition for the prey target. By nature cats are solitary hunters. Also very important:  Do not feed your cats all together in one location.  Where in nature do all the cats eat on 6th and Maple St?  Creating multiple feeding locations throughout the home can actually decrease territorial thinking that can lead to stress and hostility between cats. ©iStockphoto.com/omgimages
Share X
Culture & Entertainment

How to fix your cat's behaviour problems

Login