Understanding your cat’s behavior
Cats come in all shapes and sizes with assorted cat behaviors to match!
The key to a fabulous relationship with your feline is to understand your cat’s behavior. When your cat scratches the furniture, jumps on the counter or brings in her catch of the day, she is merely following her natural instincts.
The key to preventing these unwanted behaviors is to encourage good behavior through appropriate training techniques and rewarding 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 enable you to better identify any abnormal or unusual behavior. Cat’s are creatures of habit and over time you will observe and learn what is normal behavior for your cat.
Here’s just a few normal cat behaviors to get you started:
- Purring – no coincidence we humans feel happy, calmed and settled around a purring cat! That’s generally the state they are in when purring. However, be aware that cats can also purr to calm themselves when they are anxious, unwell or injured. This is because purring releases endorphines that can help with pain relief. Always notice the context within which your cat purrs.
- Kneading – this cat behavior starts on day one when newborn kittens feed from their mother. It’s a sign that your cat is comfortable and feels safe.
- Sniffing your face – a cat uses its sense of smell for feedback about their environment, their food and their prey. You’re one of the most important factors in a cat’s life particularly if you feed it, so he’ll be keen to commit your smell to memory!
- Bunting – In a similar vein, bunting is the cat behavior where your cat will rub it’s cheeks on pretty much every horizontal surface in your home such as chair legs and doorways. The reason for the behavior is to mark their territory. They leave a unique scent from the scent glands in their mouth, chin and cheeks that pretty much says ‘This is my place”.
- Head butts – we all know cat’s are the boss and if you’re not paying them enough attention (when they want it!) you’re pretty likely to receive a head butt. In the face, hand or leg….they don’t care, as long as you start paying them attention! So it’s a friendly gesture that says I want some love and affection from you. Literally, they are asking you for a head scratch, so don’t hold back!
- Tail wrapped around you – yet another sign of affection from your cat. This time it’s a cat hug!
- Lying on their back – it doesn’t take a genius to work out that a cat sprawled on it’s back feet splayed is in total contentment, completely trusting of it’s environment around it. Your cat is happy. When your cat flops on its back, at your feet, it is a request for some heavy duty tummy rubbing!
- Little “gifts” – despite modern day domestic cats being very well fed, their natural instinct to hunt remains strong. Don’t be surprised if your cat brings in their trophy to share with you. They are also following their instinct to teach you to hunt!
Cat Anxiety and Continued Abnormal Behaviors
Cat’s suffer from fear and anxiety just like we humans and this can cause a range of abnormal behaviors. Some signs that your cat is stressed or anxious are:
- Excessive and over-grooming
- Failure to use their litter box
- Reduced food and water intake
- Excessive hiding
- Excessive aggression
These behaviors need to be taken seriously. It’s important to ascertain the source of the stress to either treat or prevent it. Observe what’s happening at the time of aggression.
Consult a Veterinarian or Cat Behaviorist Specialist
In cases of continued or worsening anxious or stressed behavior consult your veterinarian. They will first determine if there are any underlying medical conditions causing the anxious behavior. An appropriate treatment plan will be advised.
Where the underlying issue is anxiety or stress your vet can prescribe behavior modification techniques. Many of these techniques will involve prevention of the stressful situation.
If your cat has more challenging behavior issues you can consider a specialised veterinary behaviorist. Your Vet may have recommendations or you can find one in your local area on the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists website.
There are also certified behavior consultants that can be found at the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants or a certified applied animal behaviorist. For more information on this see Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists.
It’s fair to say that in the course of your cat’s life you may encounter behavioral challenges. Recognising, identifying the source and appropriately treating any behavioral issues is the key to an enriching relationship for you and your cat.
We recognise that there are many different behavioral problems and no one size fits all. For this reason we bring you a range of articles covering a variety of behavioral issues. We hope you find them informative and helpful.
If you’ve had particular success with curbing you felines behavioral issues, why not tell us about it. We’d love to share your success story.