Written by: Chris Poupart
For many people, cats are the perfect pet. Playful, curious, affectionate — our feline friends have a lot to offer. Some cats, however, develop habits that can test the patience of their owners. Identifying and addressing the root causes of these issues can make our furry companions much easier to live with.
Who hasn’t been woken up by their cat crying at four in the morning? Cats are nocturnal, so some nighttime crying and other vocalization can be expected. However, cats can cry for many different reasons…
Your cat may need more interaction with you or other family members, or more toys to keep it entertained.
Need for Attention
Related to boredom, cats often cry to initiate petting or play. This behavior is self-reinforcing, so if you interact with your cat every time it cries, guess what it will do? Instead, wait until your furry friend is quiet to give it attention.
Many cats will howl when they’re hungry. As above, try to feed your pet when it’s quiet, rather than vocal — otherwise, you’re just reinforcing the unwanted behavior.
Health issues. Cats that cry constantly or when using their litterbox may have a health problem. If you suspect there’s an issue, consider a trip to the vet. Crying can also be a sign of senility in older pets. If your vet believes that could be the case, they may recommend medications or supplements to help your senior cat.
Cats are hard-wired to scratch — they do it to mark their territories, stretch, and keep their claws sharp. If you don’t provide a suitable scratching post for your pet, it will choose its own — often an expensive piece of furniture. Encourage your cat by placing the scratching post in an easily accessible location. Sprinkling catnip on the scratch pad can also promote the desired response.
Note that some cats prefer certain materials and surfaces for scratching, so you may need to experiment. In some instances, pheromones may be used to calm your kitty and discourage inappropriate scratching. Pheromones come in different forms, such as sprays or wipes.
It’s frustrating if your cat sprays or urinates outside its litter box. Often there’s an underlying condition such as inflammation, an infection, a kidney stone or a tumor. If you suspect a medical issue, you should immediately take your cat to the vet. Urinary problems may indicate emotional issues as well.
Cats are very picky about their litter boxes, and you should maintain multiple, clean boxes for your pet. Consider changing your litter brand is your cat is not consistently using the box (yes, they can be that fussy!). Changes in the household situation (such as a new pet or new roommate) can also upset your cat and impact their urinary habits. Often this behavior is temporary until they become adjusted to the new circumstances.
Chronic licking in cats is often a sign of anxiety or stress. Excessive licking can indicate a serious medical issue and warrants an immediate trip to the vet. If medical problems are ruled out, sometimes ‘over-licking’ can be managed with supplements, special diets, and pheromones to reduce stress.
Solving the Mystery
Cats can be mysterious creatures and figuring out what makes them behave in a certain way is often a challenge. If your cat exhibits unwanted behaviors, ask yourself what has changed in your pet’s environment. Observe them carefully and determine if a trip to the vet is in order. Finally, modifying your own behavior (how you interact with your cat) can also change how your feline friend behaves.