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Cat Behavior Problems and Training Tips

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Cat Behavior Problems and Training Tips

Welcoming a kitty into your home is a wonderful experience. Of course, in addition to all the cute cuddles, sweet purrs, and adorable playtimes, you can expect to face some behavior problems. Even the most lovable felines can exhibit behaviors that are worrying, problematic, or just plain annoying.

Concerning Cat Behaviors

If your cat's behavior is dangerous or destructive, you definitely have an issue you should address right away. Understanding these unwanted cat behaviors can help you solve them, so you and your li'l buddy can live a happier, calmer, and cleaner life together.

Remember, too, that sometimes kitties act out when they are trying to alert you to a medical issue, so it's a good idea to pay close attention any time you notice a sudden change in your pal's behavior.


Cat aggression can be directed at people or other four-legged family members within your home. Aggressive behaviors include hissing, biting, scratching, swatting, and spitting, to name a few. Your kitty may also display warning signs before they attack, such as a stiffened posture with rear end raised, constricted pupils, and upright ears.

If your cat is acting aggressively, it's a good idea to speak with your veterinarian. Some causes could be an injury, illness, or shift in routine.

Litter Box Issues

Has your feline friend suddenly stopped eliminating in the litter box? You're not alone. At least 10 percent of all cats develop litter box problems at some point.

The cause could be something very simple like your kitty doesn't approve of where you keep their litter box, thinks you're using too much litter (they typically prefer a couple inches at most), or refuses to go because the litter box is dirty. Of course, litter box issues can also be linked with urinary tract infections, kidney problems, and other medical issues.

Urine Marking

It may sound odd, but urine marking is actually a form of kitty communication. And yes, it is a separate behavior from litter box problems. When urine marking, your cat actually sprays urine – mixed with other chemicals – to signify their presence to other cats. You can usually tell the difference because your cat will spray on a vertical surface, there won't be as much urine as you see in a litter box deposit, and you may notice a more pungent odor.

Loud, Persistent Meowing

Not surprisingly, constant meowing most likely means your cat is trying to tell you something. They could be alerting you to an injury, a flea infestation, or a tummy ache. Of course, your pal may be reminding you to feed them, fill their water bowl, or change their litter. Or, your cat may just want attention, so get out the toys and enjoy some playtime!

If your feline is a female, they may be in heat, and spaying will solve this problem, as well as help your sweet kitty reduce their risk of breast cancer.

cat scratching a door frame

Annoying Cat Problems

Let’s keep it real – sometimes our beloved li'l buddies can be kind of frustrating. But, it doesn't mean you love your kitty any less. It only means that you need to work on curbing certain behaviors that drive you nuts.

Disrupting Your Sleep

Some kitties like to stay up all night, romping and prowling like their nocturnal ancestors, while others just want to be your super-early alarm clock and wake you up at dawn's first light. Try tiring out your pal with a lively game or an interactive toy right before bed, and always feed them before you turn in for the night.

Of course, never ignore your kitty's nighttime cries if they seem agitated. Your pal may be in pain and need your help.

Scratching the Furniture

If your kitty companion is scratching the curtains or couches, they aren't trying to annoy you. They are simply playing, working off extra energy, marking their territory, or even trying to get rid of loose or frayed pieces of their nails. Try purchasing a scratching post and staying on top of grooming.

Knocking Everything Over

Cats love jumping up onto tables, desks, countertops, and just about anywhere they can perch and explore. Sometimes, this can lead to tipped-over vases, knick-knacks, and other breakable items.

One way to keep kitties away from these heights is to use plastic carpet runners near any areas where you don't want your pal to go. They don't like the nubby feel of the plastic on their paw pads. It's also a good idea to provide a perch near a window so your kitty can have a safe vantage point.

Napping on Clean Laundry

Can you really blame your pal for this one? Clean laundry is warm, cozy, and smells fantastic. Cats are always looking for comfortable nap perches. You can try buying your buddy a fluffy cat bed, but you’re probably just going to have to start putting your laundry away faster!

Eating Houseplants

Even though the goal is to discourage your kitty from snacking on your houseplants, make sure you avoid keeping any plants that are toxic to cats in your home. That said, you can try to deter your feline friend from digging in your houseplants by placing rocks, pine cones, citrus peels, or broken-up scented candles in the soil around your plants.

black and white cat riding a skateboard

How to Train a Cat

Training is a much more effective way to change your feline friend's behavior than yelling is. Punishing your pal can lead to anxiety issues and additional behavioral problems. Patient training, however, can help you establish positive behaviors. Here are some things to consider before you begin:

  1. Visit the veterinarian – Schedule a check-up to make sure your cat's behavioral issues are not linked to any underlying medical conditions or injuries.
  2. Look for environmental triggers – Is the litter box dirty? Did you recently buy a large piece of furniture or have a notable change in routine? Any of these can cause stress and lead to trouble.
  3. Provide mental stimulation – A lot of behavioral problems are due to boredom. Invest in some puzzle toys and spend time engaging in active play with your pal.

Cat Behavior Training Tips

Clicker training is one of the most effective methods of changing your cat's behavior. The basic premise is that you give a command, make the "click" when the behavior is completed, and then offer your cat a treat immediately following the "click" noise. This ensures that your kitty associates the treat with the behavior and feels motivated to repeat it. When practicing clicker training, start with just a couple training sessions a day where you repeat the behavior up to 20 times.

You may also want to try remote correction to deter unwanted behaviors. This technique involves pairing an unpleasant sensory detail with a behavior to stop your kitty from doing it. For example, if you want to keep your cat off of a certain shelf, you can try placing cotton balls soaked in a scent they don't like on the shelf. Some scents cats shy away from include: citronella, perfume, citrus, aloe, eucalyptus, and wintergreen.

If you walk in on your cat behaving badly, sound can be a very effective deterrent. You can try whistling, ringing a bell, clapping, or shaking a jar of coins. Just don't use your voice, so your kitty doesn't associate you with that startling sound.

Can Cats Learn Tricks?

They sure can! That same basic clicker and reward system can help you teach your cat to sit, shake, beg, give high-fives, come on command, and more. The key is having patience and keeping the training sessions short and fun for you and your cat.

Can I Really Toilet Train My Cat?

It takes work, but toilet training your cat can be done. Start by placing your kitty's litter box right next to the toilet. Using a stool or other sturdy surface, gradually (as long as it takes your kitty to be comfortable with each level) raise it until the litter box is the same level as the toilet.

Next, actually place the litter box on top of the toilet seat. When your cat is comfortable with that setup, you can transition to a special litter box that fits right in the toilet – just make sure you buy flushable litter! Slowly decrease the amount of litter until your pal doesn't need any at all.

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