Got a Bad Cat? Causes & Ways to Improve a Cat's Behavior
Living with a disobedient cat can cause stress and even potential abandonment. Learn what may be causing your cat to act out, but more importantly what can be done to prevent or correct the cat's negative behavior.
What is Disobedience in Cats?
Disobedience in cats can be defined as behavior which breaks the boundaries and rules of the home. For example, if a cat knows she is not supposed to jump on the kitchen table and continues to do so, this type of behavior can be classified as disobedience. Disobedient behavior can also include aggressive or territorial behavior that can cause harm to other pets or people in the household.
Knowing Your Cat
All cats are unique and it is important to take your cat’s individual circumstances into consideration before deciding you live with an unruly, disobedient pet. Consider the following:
- The age of the cat – kittens are far more mischievous than adult cats, because they are just learning about the big world around them. Expect a kitten to be curious, rambunctious, and a bit of a handful. On the other hand, older cats can sometimes act out because they are becoming a bit grumpier. As long as the kitten or cat is healthy, a bit of minor, age-appropriate disobedience is nothing to be concerned with.
- The cat’s circumstances – Adopting a cat from a shelter is extremely noble, but it often means that the cat has had a rough life up until the day she met you. Cats that have been abandoned, neglected or abused can have extreme behavioral issues. They should be worked on, but owners will want to have a bit of patience with rescued cats.
Children often act out to seek attention from their parents. Cats can do the same if they aren’t getting enough interaction and attention from their human “parents.” It is important to have a warm relationship with your cat. Always spend time each day playing with your cat, and if you’ve got a cat that is acting out, some extra quality playtime and snuggling time each day may be all you need to help alleviate the problem.
Disobedience Due to Inactivity
One of the most common things dog behaviorists tell owners of an unruly canine is to exercise the dog more. The same advice holds true for cat owners. Disobedient cats are often bored and under-stimulated. Set aside five minute a day, three times a day, to play with your cat in order to provide both physical and mental stimulation. It can take a while to coax especially grumpy cats into playing, but do not give up, a little bit of exercise can make a big difference in a cat’s behavior.
Rewarding Good Behavior
Reinforcing good behaviors will teach a cat to do things the “right way.” Offer treats, attention, and affection to a cat when she uses the litter box properly, uses a scratching pad properly, and interacts nicely with other pets. The cat will quickly learn that these behaviors result in positive rewards, while bad behavior results in nothing at all.
It is important to only “punish” a cat with a “time out.” Never swat a cat, yell at a cat, or provide other forms of punishment that will lead to fearfulness. For example, if she is behaving aggressively towards other animals, remove her from the room and place her in a room alone for five minutes. Squirting the cat or swatting the cat will just encourage rough behavior and instill a sense of fear when you are around. The best tactic is to always reward good behavior to help eliminate the cat’s desire to engage in bad behavior.
Is it Disobedience or Nature?
Some types of behavior, such as spraying or scratching the furniture, may seem like disobedient behavior to people. However, this type of behavior is quite normal to cats. Cats that have not been spayed or neutered will, in many cases, begin to spray around the home. Getting the cat “fixed” can often stop the problem in its tracks.
Urinating outside of the litter box can also be a sign of bladder or urinary problems or other underlying medical conditions. Renal problems are very common in cats, and many can be life-threatening. If your normally well-mannered cat suddenly seems to ignore the litter box, it will be very important to get that cat to the vet as quickly as possible.
Scratching is a natural behavior in cats that they use to sharpen their claws and mark their territory with scent. This behavior can be very frustrating to owners, not to mention damaging to furniture. Be sure that all cats in the home have access to a variety of scratching pads and posts around the house to distract them from your furniture.
Do Cats Act Out of Spite?
Some cat owners swear their cats act out for spite. Many swear their cats know how to vomit or defecate on demand, simply to show who the “real” boss of the house is. Veterinarians agree that while it may seem as though a cat acts out like a petulant child, felines do not act out of spite. Disobedience is either a sign of a natural feline behavior, an underlying medical issue, boredom, or a lack of understanding of boundaries in the home.
Be sure to give a cat plenty of his own toys, provide him with his own space for climbing, sleeping, and looking out windows, and set clear boundaries regarding behavior. If you are concerned about disobedience, contact your veterinarian to determine if something else could be causing the problem.