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5 Cat Behavior Problems and How to Solve Them

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Is your cat doing something that is driving you batty, like clawing the furniture or meowing constantly? These tips can help you address five of the most common cat behavior problems.

1. Cat Litter Box Issues

When your cat starts going outside of the box, it’s a messy problem to say the least. There are a number of reasons your cat might be avoiding the litter box, which you might be able to address fairly easily. For instance:

  • A dirty litter box – Many cats will turn their nose up at a litter box that hasn’t been cleaned in awhile—and who can blame them. Going outside of the litter box might be your cat’s way of telling you it’s time to get out the scoop.
  • Bad litter box location – Like people, cats enjoy having a bit of privacy when they go. Make sure the litter box is in a semi-private and quiet place.
  • Change in litter – Have you switched brands of litter lately? Your cat might not be a fan of the new stuff. You can go back to the old brand or try introducing the new one slowly by gradually mixing it in.

If the litter box isn’t the problem, your cat may have a health condition that is causing the issue, such as a urinary tract infection or kidney stones. Older cats with painful arthritis can also have trouble stepping into the litter box in which case you can provide one that has a lower front opening.

Get the Inside Scoop on Cat Poop for more tips on dealing with litter box issues.

orange tabby cat resting on a scratching post

2. Destructive Scratching

Scratching is a natural part of being a cat. It allows them to shed the worn-out outer nails and expose the new claws to keep them sharp and healthy. However, it’s a problem if your cat is tearing apart the furniture, curtains, or carpets in your house. Here are a few things you can try to help stop destructive scratching:

  • Provide scratching posts – Make sure your cat has access to sturdy scratching posts or mats to satisfy their need to scratch. If your cat doesn’t seem interested in them, you can sprinkle or spray a little catnip on them.
  • Trim those nails – Carefully clip your cat’s nails on a regular basis. This can seem daunting if you’ve never done it before. Take it slow and approach your cat when they’re calm and relaxed. You can ask your veterinarian for advice at your cat’s next check-up.
  • Cap the claws – You can purchase special plastic caps that fit over and adhere to your cat’s nails to keep them from causing any damage. These caps last around four to six weeks, and you’ll need to reapply them as they come off.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®) strongly recommends against declawing your cat as a solution to destructive scratching. Declawing has not been proven to resolve behavioral issues plus recovery is painful for your cat. You’ll also be exposing your cat to the risks of surgery.

tabby cat hissing

3. Aggressive Behavior

Cats who act aggressively can cause painful injuries to people and other pets in the home. There are lots of reasons why a cat might exhibit aggressive behavior such as:

  • An injury or illness – Cats who are in pain because they are hurt or sick might be irritable and upset, which can cause them to act out. Cats are notorious for hiding or masking symptoms, so you might not even know something is wrong with your ailing kitty (see 5 Signs Your Cat is Sick).
  • Shift in routine – Cats are creatures of habit, and if their routines are interrupted, they can feel stressed and anxious, which can lead to aggressive behavior.
  • Conflicts with other cats – Some cats live in perfect harmony while others might have trouble getting along. It can help to give each cat their own food bowl and litter box so that they won’t fight over those resources.
  • If your cat is acting aggressively, you should talk with your veterinarian. They can help you figure out what might be causing the issue and recommend ways to treat or address it.

    4. Too Much Meowing

    If your cat is constantly meowing, they might be trying to tell you something. Maybe they are hungry and their bowl of kibble is empty. Perhaps they are thirsty, but their water ran out. Or it could be that they are fed up with a messy litter box. Then again, they might have some sort of ailment troubling them, such as fleabites or an upset stomach.

    The first step to try and halt all that meowing is to try to figure out the cause. Check their food and water bowls as well as their litter box. Other reasons your cat might be meowing include:

    • For attention – If your cat is meowing to get your attention, you can try spending more time together if possible. You should also avoid interacting with your cat until they quiet down or you’ll be teaching them that meowing is a good way to get what they want. Wait patiently until your cat is quiet and then praise them for good behavior.
    • To demand food – Some cats meow because they want a meal and they want it now. To help stop this behavior, you should feed them at specific times during the day rather than on demand. It might take a while, but they should pick up on the fact that they only get fed at those times and not when they meow for it.
    • Because they’re in heat – Excessive meowing or yowling can happen when a female cat is in heat. Spaying will solve this problem and give your cat important health benefits, like reducing the risk of breast cancer.

    If there is no apparent reason for all that chattiness, you should visit your veterinarian to make sure your cat doesn’t have a health condition bothering them.

    domestic shorthaired cat peeking over a stair

    5. Up All Night

    Does your cat like to sleep all day and play all night? Housecats are domesticated creatures, but they can still get the urge to romp at night like their ancestors. It’s easier for wild cats to prowl at night when the light is low and there are more critters running around. If your cat is waking you up at night, you can try these tactics:

    • Wear your cat out before bedtime with an energetic game.
    • Offer a meal or snack before bedtime so your cat won’t wake you up for food.
    • Provide interactive toys that can keep your cat active during the day so they’ll be more tired at night.

    If your cat is unusually restless or cries at night, they could also be in pain. Bring them to the veterinarian to see if there is an illness or injury that might need treatment.

    Seeking Professional Help

    If you need help with a cat behavior problem, it’s a good idea to start with your veterinarian, since the issue might be related to a medical condition. Trainers or behaviorists are other good resources to get help with a cat behavior issue. You can learn more about these options and get more information on common cat behavior problems at the ASPCA’s website.

    orange tabby cat resting on a sofa

    Pet Insurance for Behavioral Issues

    Cat behavioral conditions can be a big problem that upsets the entire household. Cat parents who are at their wit's end might even consider relinquishing their cat to a shelter. That’s one reason why ASPCA Pet Health Insurance plans include behavioral coverage. This coverage can reimburse you for the costs of diagnosing and treating all sorts of behavioral issues.

    See the coverage options available for your cat today.

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