Cat Behavior Training

Your cat is wild at heart.

Training a cat presents a host of unique problems. A cat cannot be forced to do anything. It is rather like handling a stick of dynamite. You can only push it so far and then it explodes.

Most objectionable cat behavior comes from a place that remains primitive. It involves either their need to hunt, their need to control territory, or their need to calm themselves in a stressful situation. It is far better to understand what is causing the behavior, discourage it with environmental deterrents (such as a Scat Mat), and give the cat an approved outlet for any problem behaviors he is simply programmed to accomplish.

"Hunt, stock and kill" manifests itself in climbing, running and attacking. Controlling territory manifests as marking and scratching behavior. Calming activities include rubbing and scratching on furniture. The inability to share comes from a deep-seated solitary existence.

They prefer a high vantage point from which to survey their territory. If that means that the kitchen counter, a window sill, or the back of the couch then that is where they will perch. If it they knock picture frames or knick-knacks off of the mantel, a small price to pay for such a great look-out.

Your cat's need to control his territory may extend to a dislike of your boyfriend or a need to urinate on anything lying on the floor - even a piece of paper that is placed in an unusual spot and "intruding" on the space or that needs to be possessed. Any environmental change can trigger either a stress response or a territorial response.

My mother's cat was feral as a kitten. In his many years, he continued to exhibit very deep-rooted feral behaviors. He insisted on perching on the highest points in the house: the back of the couch, the center of the dining room table, the fireplace mantel.

When he entered a room he surveyed it for anything that had changed. If he noticed me sitting on the love seat (an interloper for sure) he jumped to the back of the adjacent couch to get a better look, then cautiously approached me (but not within reach), then moved to the end of the love seat and started a territorial and calming sequence of scratching the upholstery. A nervous cat often rubs his face on a wall corner or scratches the edge of a chair in order to release calming pheromones that soothe him. The scratching also released marking pheromones - making sure I knew the boundaries of my movements.

There is a reason for the saying , "Curiosity kills the cat". Cats are unquestionably the most curious of animals, and that leads to a lot of problems in your house. He needs to find out for himself if the new rocking chair bites or if there is a new house plant on the dining room table. What are you preparing for dinner? Is the plant at the doorway a real one or a silk one and would it make a good litter box?

Most cats are fastidiously clean. They have an inborn need to keep their personal habits secretive, which causes them to bury their eliminations. (Some breeds of wild cats actually sit on a branch overhanging a river to eliminate.) If you understand that they need a clean, private litter box and that their need for territory might make them object to sharing it with another cat, then you will understand many cat litter box problems.

Cats Mark for a Variety of Reasons:

  • To define their territory
  • To demonstrate dominance to other cats
  • Reaction to new pet or family member
  • Problems with a member of the household
  • Moving or remodeling the house
  • Visitors to the home
  • To initiate sexual activity

Where is marking found?

  • Marking spots are characteristically found on walls, corners, furniture, and other prominent objects in the house, approximately 8 inches above the ground or floor - where it can be easily perceived by other cats.
  • In marking, the cat follows a prescribed behavior pattern. He or she chooses a spot - kneads the ground/floor with increasing excitement - backs up to the target - and with the tail held vertically, sprays a horizontal jet of urine.
  • The more cats in a household, the more likely spraying behavior will be a problem.
  • Some cats spray in response to a strange cat - even a cat they see outdoors through a window.
  • Some cats spray in response to any new situation - even a new piece of furniture in the room.
  • BOTH MALE AND FEMALE CATS MARK - including a percentage of spayed and neutered animals.

Scratching

  • Scratching is largely territorial behavior. Like urine marking, it's found primarily on vertical surfaces. It leaves both visible and pheromonal evidence of the cat's presence as a warning to other cats. It is also a soothing pheromone-releasing activity for a nervous cat. (Pheromones are natural chemicals secreted at various locations on the animal's body that communicate with other members of a species to affect their behavior. They're one of the keys to feline marking and scratching behavior. They excite or quiet him depending on the situation.)

Litter Box Problems

  • Some cats begin to avoid the litter box if it gets dirty and is not cleaned to his liking or if too many cats are sharing the same toilet. My cat actually uses two litter boxes for two purposes. She prefers the "outside" box (on a glassed-in patio) for her bowel business and the inside box (in the bathroom) for her urination. This is very convenient for me, but entirely her own choice. You can see that if ONE cat uses at least two boxes, multiple cat households may need several.
  • Sometimes a cat simply dislikes the litter. Many cats are repelled by perfumes or deodorizing pellets found in litter.
  • If the cat has favored a particular spot outside his litter box, it might be calling him with the scent of urine or other cats.
  • Most cats are modest and prefer to do their business in solitude and peace. If the litter box is in the center of the living room or next to the washing machine, chances are it won't get much use.

Rules to Remember:

Consistency wins. Once a habit is established, it is very hard to break. For instance, if you have a cat that persists on getting on the counter top, you must stop him EVERY time for a long time to end that habit. If he gets sprayed with a squirt gun 10 times, but manages to successfully get up there on the 11th try, he will become a confirmed gambler - playing the odds of getting caught. A Scat Mat works 100% of the time.

Don't get blamed If you are nowhere to be found when the correction happens, the cat will blame the deed or location and not you. If he connects you to the punishment, he becomes smarter than you are - waiting until you are nowhere to be seen to make his move. A Scat Mat works without you there.

Offer alternatives. A cat who wants to climb high needs something that he is allowed to climb on. Purchase a climbing tree. A cat who is compelled to scratch needs a scratching post. Use Scat Mats to protect the items he is abusing, and offer the alternative free of any possible encumbrance.

Take away opportunities. I you have a cat that is so territorial that any new stimuli sets off his marking behavior, introduce new furniture or new decor slowly and only while you are in the room to supervise. If you can protect it with a Scat Mat, do so from the beginning. A Scat Mat prevents the problem before you have to correct it.

Change arrangements or locations of problem items such as an under-used litter box. Put it in a nice, quiet corner. Or use a covered litter box. It is more private regardless of location. Put a Scat Mat where the "mistake" was happening. A Scat Mat stops him from returning to the scene of the crime.

Examine the behavior right BEFORE the bad bahavior. Use a Scat Mat strip to stop him from getting into the window perch where he is seeing the visiting feral cats that so anger him. If he doesn't see them, he won't be compelled to mark against them.

Don't be in a hurry. Most cats are not natural partners who want to please you. Unlike dogs, there are few positive rewards that will motivate good behavior. "Good kitty" won't work. Their motivations are strictly their own, and they are persistent. Don't take the Scat Mat away too soon.

Scat Mats protect your home, furniture, and belongings

The Tracks Stop Here
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