Cats come in all shapes and sizes with all sorts of cat behaviors to match!
The key to a wonderful relationship with your cat is to understand your cat’s behavior. When your cat scratches the furniture, jumps on the counter or fetches his catch of the day, he is just following his natural instincts.
The key to preventing this unwanted behavior is to encourage good behavior with appropriate training techniques and reward them with loving praise when they do the right thing.
Normal cat behavior
A good place to start in understanding your cat’s behavior is to understand their normal behavior. This will allow you to better identify any abnormal or unusual behavior. Cats are creatures of habit and over time you will observe and learn what is normal behavior for your cat.
Here are just a few normal cat behaviors to get you started:
Purring – no coincidence, we humans feel happy, soothed and settled around a purring cat! This is generally the state they are in when they purr. However, be aware that cats may also purr to calm themselves when they are anxious, unwell, or injured. This is because spinning releases endorphins which can help with pain relief. Always be aware of the context in which your cat is purring.
Kneading – this cat behavior begins on the first day when the newborn kittens are fed by their mother. It is a sign that your cat feels comfortable and safe.
Sniffing Your Face – A cat uses its sense of smell for feedback about its environment, food and prey. You are one of the most important factors in a cat’s life, especially if you feed it, so it will want to commit your scent to memory!
Bunting – In a similar vein, bunting is a cat behavior where your cat will rub their faces against almost every horizontal surface in your home, such as chair legs and doors. The reason for the behavior is marking their territory. They leave a unique scent from the scent glands in their mouths, chins and cheeks that pretty much says “This is my place”.
Head butts – we all know cats are boss and if you don’t give them enough attention (when they want it!) you’re quite likely to get a butt. On your face, hand or leg… they don’t care if you start paying attention to them! So it’s a friendly gesture that says I want some love and affection from you. They are literally asking for a head scratch, so don’t hold back!
Tail wrapped around you – another sign of your cat’s affection. This time it’s a cat hug!
the cat lies anxiously on its back – it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that a cat sprawled out on its hind legs is perfectly content and completely trusting of its surroundings. Your cat is happy. When your cat falls on its back at your feet, that’s a call for a heavy belly rub!
Small “gifts” – although modern domestic cats are very well fed, their natural instinct to hunt remains strong. Don’t be surprised if your cat brings her trophy to share with you. They also follow their instinct to teach you how to hunt!
Cat anxiety and continued abnormal behavior
Cats suffer from fear and anxiety just like us humans, which can cause a number of abnormal behaviors.
Some signs that your cat is stressed or anxious are:
Excessive and exaggerated care
Not using their trash can
Reduced food and water intake
Too much hiding
These behaviors should be taken seriously. It is important to identify the source of stress in order to treat or prevent it. Watch what happens at the time of aggression.
Consult a veterinarian or cat behaviorist
If anxious or stressed behavior continues or worsens, consult your veterinarian. First, they will determine if there are any underlying medical conditions causing the cat’s behavior. An appropriate treatment plan will be recommended.
If the underlying problem is anxiety or stress, your vet may prescribe behavior modification techniques. Many of these techniques will involve preventing a stressful situation.
If your cat has more severe behavioral problems, you may want to consider a specialized veterinary behaviorist. Your veterinarian may have recommendations, or you can find one in your area on the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists website.
There are also certified animal behavior counselors, which can be found at the International Association of Animal Behavior Counselors, or a certified animal behaviorist. For more information on this, see Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists.
It’s fair to say that you may encounter behavioral problems throughout your cat’s life. Recognizing, identifying the source and appropriately treating any behavioral problems is the key to a rewarding relationship for you and your cat.
We recognize that there are many different behavioral issues and there is no one size fits all. For this reason, we bring you a series of articles covering various behavioral issues. We hope you find them informative and useful.
If you have had particular success in curbing your cats behavior problems, why not tell us about it. We would love to share your success story.