For creatures that nap half the day, cats are complex beings. They are mysterious creatures and can have some very odd behaviors, whether it's something like nibbling on your neck or eliminating outside the litter box. There are in fact explanations and remedies. Here are answers to some very commonly asked questions.
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We adopted a cat from our vet’s office and were told at the time that that his parents were feral. He lived with his parents for about eight weeks and was at the vet’s office for eight months before we adopted him. When we brought him home, he was very scared. He has gotten used to us and likes us, but never cuddles or lets us hold him at all. He is very skittish about everything. We’ve had him for three years, and he is still the same. Is there anything we can do to help him calm down?
"Although the odds are that Gellar will not become a lap cat and will continue to be skittish to some degree, you can help him become more social with people," says certified cat behaviorist Marilyn Krieger. "Do this by building trust through activities he enjoys and changing the way you approach him. Every time Gellar is in the same area with you, engage him in an activity he enjoys. In addition to giving him the treats he loves, have lively play sessions with him using a pole toy. Immediately at the end of every play session, give him treats he adores. Always reinforce behaviors that bring him closer to you. If he is lying near you, give him a treat. If he touches your finger, reinforce with a treat. After a while, he will see that good things always happens around you and your husband, and he will gradually lose his fear and socialize more with you."
Krieger points out that the way you approach him matters as well. Never corner him or force him to interact with you. Instead, encourage him to come to you. Sit on a chair or crouch down and formally greet him. Extend one finger towards him at his nose level. When he feels safe, he will approach you, touch your finger with his nose, turn his head until your finger is on his cheek. This is your invitation to pet his head and neck. Allowing him the choice to socialize with you will help him feel more secure around you and your husband.
I have a decorative blanket hanging on my living room wall. It had been hanging there for nearly eight months before Whim, our 3-year-old Ocicat, noticed it. He likes to reach up and scratch it. I have tried offering him treats, spraying water and even throwing an occasional soft pillow at him, but nothing fazes him. How do I make him stop?
There is a product called Sticky Paws which is specifically designed to deter cats from scratching drapes and upholstery. Try applying the product to the area of the fabric he can reach. He won’t like the feel and should stop on his own accord. If it works, leave the product on the blanket for a good few weeks so that he learns this is a permanent no-scratch zone.
You can also try using a can of compressed air. The sound replicates a hissing snake, something cats inherently react to.
When he approaches the rug, try redirecting his interest with a laser toy or a wand toy.
If all this fails, try sprinkling pepper onto the lower portions of the rug. He will probably sneeze and leave it alone. Keep re-applying until he gets the message. The pepper can be vacuumed out once he is no longer interested.
Before approaching this as a behavior challenge, have a veterinarian thoroughly examine your cat in order to rule out any medical issues that may be causing the problem, advises cat behaviorist Marilyn Krieger.
“There are serious and painful medical conditions that can cause cats to urinate outside their litter boxes. If this is in fact a behavior problem, there a number of factors that may be causing her to eliminate outside the litter box. These include the locations of the litter boxes, the type of boxes, litter maintenance schedule as well as changes in the household that can stress her,” says Krieger.
Also consider doing the following:
– Add more litter boxes. Place them in areas where the cats will not feel they can be cornered or ambushed. Ideally, they should be located in areas with great views so that the cats can identify and escape any potential threats. Cabinets, closets and some bathrooms are not good locations for boxes because cats can easily be trapped in them.
– In addition to being large, litter boxes need to be uncovered. Cats can be ambushed in covered boxes.
– Excellent litter box maintenance is very important. Scoop the boxes at least once a day. Also wash them out and refill with completely new litter on a regular basis.
Cats that were taken away from their mothers too young and not weaned properly often display this annoying behavior.
“I have never found a way to stop the behavior without stressing the cat, but you can redirect him to something a little more acceptable then your neck,” suggests Krieger. “Whenever he starts displaying the behavior, give him something else to suck and gnaw on. Redirect him onto objects that he cannot chew or ingest, such as special feline dental health chew toys and other durable toys."
I inherited three cats when a friend of mine died. They have been with us for about six months. I've seen them all use the litter box but at least one of them poops in my upstairs hallway and someone pees on clothes, blankets or just the floor. I can’t catch the culprit, and it is ruining my house. I’m nearing my end and don't want to have to get rid of the cats because I did promise the friend I'd take care of them. Please help.
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Are you able to separate the cats in your home? In other words, confine one to the downstairs section for a couple of days and the others to the upstairs section so that each one is separated for a time. You may be able catch the culprit that way.
You also mentioned a singular litter box. The rule of thumb is one box per cat. You may want to try keeping three boxes in three different locations. It is also important to keep the boxes clean by scooping daily. Cats are very clean creatures and often avoid a box if it’s dirty.
If this persists, once you have found the culprit, first be sure that it is not a medical condition. See the veterinarian before considering it a behavior issue and consulting a behaviorist.
Another way to ascertain who is the culprit is to set up a pet video monitor like the Wi-Fi Motorola Scout 1, which will allow you to view on your computer or smartphone what is happening at the litter box.