Avoiding Litter Box Problems
You will need to experiment with a variety of litter and litter boxes in order to find out your cat’s preferences. Once you figure out what your cat likes, stick with it! Do not make changes to the litter or litter box quickly (moving the litter box, changing litter or litter box type, etc.) These types of changes need to be made gradually. A confident, secure, content and relaxed cat does not need to relieve anxiety and stress by such extreme measures as urine or faecal marking.
Covered or hooded litter boxes can be offensive to cats because they tend to trap the odor inside and they do not satisfy the cats need to escape potential threats when eliminating. The hooded box forces a cat to enter a cramped, cave like structure in which the smell is contained. A variety of locations of the litter boxes can prevent location avoidance problems in which the cat is afraid or annoyed to pass through an area to get to her litter box.
The single most common cause for a cat’s refusal to use the litter box is if it is dirty. Clean the litter box at least twice a day. Non-Clumping litter should be scooped daily and the litter box washed emptied and washed every other day. Clumping litter should also be scooped daily and the litter box washed when it is soiled or when you change out the litter every 1 to 2 weeks. When you wash the litter box, use hot water and a mild dishwashing liquid. Do not use harsh chemicals that leave a lingering order. Thoroughly rinse the litter box after cleansing. Also, litter box liners and scented litter are irritating to some cats.
Continual Litter Box Problems
It is important to know that house soiling is never done to spite the owner. Never punish your cat for eliminating outside of its litter box. Try to understand what the cause of the litter box problem is. Often, continual house soiling occurs when there is a health issue, an undesirable litter box, or the environment is stressful.
Health Concerns – Not using the litter box is often the first sign of a urinary tract disorder. It is likely that the discomfort associated with eliminating may lead to aversion. Diarrhoea, constipation, and colitis are other problems that can result in discomfort during the act of elimination and cause litter box avoidance. See your vet immediately.
Undesirable Litter box – If your car starts defecating outside the box, there is probably something about the box the cat finds undesirable. The accumulation of waste, odour (organic or disinfectant), unacceptable litter or an aversive experience may be the issue.
Environmental Stress/Marking their Territory – When a cat is urinating on top of a specific object, such as the owner’s clothing, bed, favorite chair or shoes, an anxiety-motivated problem should be considered. If emotional factors are causing the house soiling, you may see behavioral changes occurring such as avoidance, hiding, aggression or general changing in the pet’s behavior.
Cats can be trained by using praise and food rewards. While direct correction is employed in dogs, if only confuses, frightens, and alienates cats. Dogs, being pack animals, are used to being dominated by a higher-ranking member of the pack, while cats, being solitary predators, avoid or attack those who show hostility toward them. It is not useful for an owner to punish a cat for something it did even a few minutes earlier because the cat is incapable of making the connection between the action and the punishment.
Come When Called
Cats respond most readily to names ending with a long “eee” sound. Call your cat before you put down her most delicious meal of the day or reward him for coming with a special food treat.
To discourage inappropriate scratching, there are several options. The first option you should try is getting your cat to scratch appropriately. Start by putting a scratching post where the cat is scratching. Using a scratching post is a basic instinct for a cat. To encourage the cat to use the scratching post, scratch on the post and call the cat over. Praise him profusely whenever he scratches on it and it will become a healthy habit. If the cat won’t use the scratching post, try a different style. The quality of the post is important. You can also try sprinkling a little bit of cat nip on the post to encourage scratching. Another option for discouraging inappropriate scratching is to place a light adhesive strip where your cat is scratching, or spray it with a deterrent. Finally, if all else fails, you may want to try putting caps on your cat’s claws.
A change in the scent structure of the home can trigger spraying. Spraying is accomplished by squirting a powerful jet of urine backward onto vertical features of their environment about 8 inches above the floor. Both females and males can do this. Cats will revisit and remark the area to freshen up a fading scent. When investigating another cat’s urine mark, the cat will display a curious, grimacing pose with its mouth partly open. It is using the vomeronasal (or Jacobson’s organ) that is located behind the incisor teeth in the roof of the mouth. This extra sense allows the cat to smell and taste an odor at the same time and sends a powerful signal to the cat’s brain resulting in sending a territorial response. It is necessary to reduce the cat’s exposure to the stimuli that trigger marking and altering the cat’s response. Conditions that may cause a cat to spray include:
- Another cat visiting in the yard
- New pet or family member
- Problem with a member of the household
- Problem with another pet
- Moving or remodeling
Treatment for controlling the marking problems involves reducing the cat’s exposure to the stimuli that triggers the marking and then altering the cat’s response. After spraying has begun, spaying or neutering is effective in reducing this behavior. It will reduce spraying in 90% of males and 95% of the females, regardless of age and experience.
Cats are territorial animals. A cat’s territory consists of a network of paths that are patrolled regularly on a fairly fixed schedule. Cats will mark territory, objects, or individuals by scratching (leaving visual as well as scent marks), spraying, urine or faeces deposits, and/or rubbing. Cats have greatly enlarged sebaceous glands around the mouth, on the chin, in the ear canals, in the perianal area and at the base of the tail. When they rub, they leave a chemical scent behind which is very reassuring to the cat and non-offensive to humans. This collection of familiar scents helps cats feel comfortable and secure in their home environment.
Cats are self-grooming and spend about 1/3 of their waking hours grooming themselves. Cats always groom in the same sequence:
- Lick their lips
- Lick the side of one paw until it is wet
- Rub the wet paw over the head, including the ear, eye, cheek and chin
- Wet the other paw in the same way
- Rub the other paw over the other side of the head.
- Clean (by licking) the front legs and shoulders
- Clean flanks
- Clean genitals
- Clean hind legs
- Clean the tail from base to tip
Cats sleep about 16 out of 24 hours a day. A typical day includes over 16 hours of sleep and 4 to 6 hours of grooming, playing, hunting, eating, and exploring. There are 3 different levels of sleep – the brief nap, the longer light sleep and the deep sleep. A napping cat is still on alert for any sounds or changes in her environment. The periods of light sleep and deep sleep alternate. The light sleep lasts for about a half an hour, then for 6 -7 minutes she experiences a deep sleep. During this deep sleep dreaming, twitching and quivering may occur. After the deep sleep, a cat returns to a light sleep for another 30 minutes before finally waking up. Cats like to sleep where it is warm and secure.
Playful attacks, such as nipping, are not accompanied by vocalization or hissing and growling. A natural reaction to being grabbed or bitten, even playfully, is to swat at the cat. Do not do this – Physical punishment may cause your cat either to fear you or engage in even rougher play. The best deterrent is your voice – a loud and shrill “Eek!” followed by a sharp “No!” can be very effective with some cats.
The next step is to shun the cat for the next 10 minutes. This means paying absolutely no attention to the cat. Don’t lecture, scold, or pick the cat up and move him to a different room. Any attention at this point can be considered reinforcing, so totally ignore the cat. This is how a kitten learns to inhibit her biting when playing with another kitten. If one becomes too rough, the victim will squeal and run away. The aggressor will watch her playmate run away and wonder what happened. Eventually he learns that if he wants to extend her play session, which he wants to do, then he has to play in a more gentle way. This training method works if you are patient and persistent.
Cats begin purring at about 1 week of age. It lets a nursing mum know that all is well with her baby and the milk supply is reaching its destination. She in turn purrs, letting her baby know she is content, relaxed and in a cooperative mood. It is believed that purring among adult cats and between cats and humans is derived from its parent offspring relationship. Contentment is not the sole condition for purring. A cat will purr to signal a friendly social mood and can be found on an injured cat to indicate the need for attention. Cats purr with both inward and outward breaths with their mouths firmly shut.
Purring that Results in a Bite
Purring that results in a bite can be caused by the following:
- Your cat is sleeping in your lap, wakes suddenly and is momentarily disorientated by its surrounding and being confined. After he jumps down, he may look confused and begin to groom himself to calm down.
- Sensitive or nervous cats can be over stimulated by prolonged petting. There are usually warning signs – restlessness, tail twitching, flattened ears, or a head turned toward the hand. You should stop petting the cat before this point is reached. At this time, a small food treat could be given, along with a few strokes, to gradually increase the threshold. Never physically punish the cat for biting as it may cause him to become defensive and to seriously retaliate.
- Patting the sensitive stomach area causes a natural defense reaction which includes wrapping its paws around the person’s wrist, holding on, and biting.
Patting and Holding
Cats vary in how much they like to be patted or held and will let you know when they have had enough. Cats that do not enjoy prolonged petting or being held will still play with their owners, follow them around the house, sleep on the bed with them, and even sit on laps.
Cats in the wild are mostly nocturnal. Domestication has shifted the cat’s activity to be more awake during the day, but they still tend to wake at least twice during the night. In order to make sure your cat lets you sleep in peace there are a few things you can do.
First, schedule a few play sessions before you go to bed and try to play until the cat is tired. Also, feed your cat their main meals before your bedtime. Cats tend to sleep after a big meal.
You can also incorporate a variety of enrichment activities to keep your cat active during the day so that he is tired at night. Be sure you do not get up and attend to the cat if he is making noise playing in the night unless you feel something is wrong. If you rise and feed or play with the cat you are reinforcing the cat’s behavior for waking you up. Where possible, cats should be kept in at night as this is when they tend to hunt and display territorial behaviours which often result in neighbourhood fights!
Cats are a highly intelligent domestic animal and they do need stimulus in their environment. This includes but is not limited to toys, treats, playtime, human touch, and other animal companions. Cats form emotional attachments to their owners and can suffer from separation anxiety when the owner is away. These cats will show their stress and unhappiness by over grooming (licking their fur off), overeating, destructive scratching, house soiling and depression.
The cats that most commonly bring home prey as gifts for their owners are spayed females. It is believed they are redirecting their instincts to bring food home for their kittens to their human companions. Under natural conditions, a mother introduces her kittens to prey very gradually. At first she brings home dead prey and eats in front of them. Next she brings home live prey and eats it in front on them. Next she brings home live prey and shows them how to subdue and kill it. After many lessons, the kittens will have acquired the skills to survive on their own. Cats confined indoors often substitute toys for prey. When your cat does this, make sure you praise and compliment them. This is a special gift from them to you!
Plant Eating and Digging
From a cat point of view, a potted plant is a snack, an entertainment center, and a bathroom all in one. Rubbing moistened black pepper onto the leaves and placing stones on top of the dirt will dissuade the cat from tasting or digging in the plant. You will need to make sure that the plants in your home are not poisonous to your cat.