Pay attention to cat to understand behavior

Cat owners know that cats are unique creatures. But cat lovers also know the unique challenges that raising cats and kittens can present, especially indoor cats and multiple-cat households.

Cats are not small dogs. They have unique nutritional needs, have unique behaviors, and can be far more challenging than dogs when trying to correct unwanted behaviors.

Cats will always claw. It is an instinctive behavior that has both physical and emotional causes.  Granted, some cats are more destructive than others when they claw, but you will never be able to completely prevent this behavior.

Knowing this, it then becomes necessary to find ways to direct the behavior toward appropriate locations and deter them from unwanted areas.

Pay attention to each cats preferred surfaces: Do they like flat or horizontal scratching? Wood or carpet? A cat scratching post with a variety of surface options may be all your cat needs.

Multiple posts may be needed in multicat households as cats leave their scent when they scratch to identify the object as their own. In general, think one post per cat plus one additional (this same rule also applies to litter boxes).

Placing cat nip on a desired surface will help attract them as well.

Deterring scratching in unwanted areas requires that the areas be made unappealing.

Double sided tape on upholstery edges is generally effective as can be a light dusting of cinnamon or baby powder on flat surfaces.

Cats like to display their scratching behavior. Try positioning scratching posts near the off-limits objects and in fairly visible locations near windows or feeding areas.

Yelling at a cat or spanking them will often backfire as some cats actually receive positive reinforcement from these reactions. Instead, interrupt unwanted behavior with a sudden loud noise (clap hands or shake a tin can filled with rocks). Once they’ve stopped, direct them to the correct area and praise them when they do the right thing.

Pheromone sprays such as “Feliway” are designed to calm cats by reproducing some of their natural calming hormones. Lightly misting an area twice a day for three or four weeks results in about a 70 percent reduction in unwanted behaviors including scratching and inappropriate elimination.

It is estimated that some 3–4 million unwanted pets enter shelters each year and are euthanized. Approximately 70 percent of cats that enter a shelter do not get adopted and are eventually euthanized.

There are a number of reasons why cats end up in shelters, including overpopulation, abandonment and injury. Not spaying or neutering keeps these numbers high, as no shelter, spay neuter program or cat rescue can possibly outpace cats’ reproductive rate.

However, the No. 1 reason most cats end up in shelters is due to unwanted behaviors in the home.  Destructive scratching, inappropriate elimination, aggression and allergies suffered by family members are some of the reasons given for relinquishing a cat.

Understanding cats behaviors and taking corrective steps can help keep cats in homes and out of shelters.

The Ohio State University Indoor Pet Initiative is a great resource for both dog and cat owners with tips on the unique needs of animals being raised indoors. Check out their website at

Drs. Tom and Tara Suplizio own Animal Medical Clinic in Grand Junction. The Suplizios are graduates of the Colorado State University Veterinary School. Email them at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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