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Cat Behavior 101

Everything you Need to Know About Cat Behavior

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Cute young tabby cat laying on sofa [Andrei Spirache]/[Photographer's Choice RF]/Getty Images

Behavioral problems in cats, such as avoiding the litterbox, excessive meowing and other attention-seeking behavior, biting and painful or destructive scratching can be corrected by first eliminating physical causes, then instituting a program of gradual retraining, with the help of these resources. Remember that there are no bad cats, only uninformed cat caregivers.

I would suggest trying to deal with one problem cat behavior at a time. Too many "dos" and "don'ts" will only confuse your cat and frustrate your training attempts. Start with the most potentially hazardous problems first - such as chewing on electrical cords - then move on from there. Here are the most-often reported behavioral problems in cats:

Attention-Seeking Behavior
Attention-seeking behavior and excessive vocalization often go hand-in-hand with cats. Causes for these behaviors can be either physical or emotional, or both. Before punishing your cat for excessive crying and meowing, or other attention seeking behavior, do some homework on possible causes.

See Also: Rippling Skin Disorder
Also called Feline hyperesthesia, one of the symptoms of Rippling Skin Disorder is loud "lost-in-the-night" howling.

Cats' Aggression Toward People
Cats' aggression toward people can be caused by poor training as a kitten (as in play aggression), fear, or other factors. Learn how to prevent a cat's aggression toward people, how to deal with it when it happens, and how to curb a cat's biting and scratching behavior.

Feline Aggression Toward Other Cats
Cats sharing a household will sometimes fight, but when active aggressive behavior between cats rears its ugly head, sometime human intervention is necessary.

Aggression between cats can be fear-based, territorial, or redirected aggression. This article will help the reader deal with aggression between cats in a household.

Destructive and Harmful Chewing by Cats and Kittens
Destructive chewing by cats is undesirable, first, because of the potential of danger to the cat, and second, because of damage to family valuables. Causes of destructive chewing by cats can range from teething in kittens to curiosity, to boredom, and even (surprise!) because of a nutrient deficiency.

Destructive Scratching by Cats
Are you troubled by illegal clawing by your cats? Please don't consider Draconian measures such as declawing a cat. There are a number of ways you can keep your cats' claws happily engaged in legal clawing with these articles and aids, while protecting furniture and carpeting.

Cat Urine Problems
Inappropriate elimination (litter box avoidance) is the number one reason cats are surrendered to shelters. By eliminating physical causes, such as urinary tract infections, then targeting other common reasons for litterbox avoidance, you can help your cat overcome this undesirable behavior. Remember that cats don't like to use a dirty toilet any more than you would.

Obsessive-Compulsive Behavior in Cats
Cats, like humans, can indulge in obsessive-compulsive behavior. In cats, OCD manifests in activities such as excessive licking, fur-pulling, wool-sucking or feline hyperesthesia. Understanding the causes and eliminating physical problems can often lead to a speedy cure for undesirable behavior.

Shyness and Fear in Cats
Is your kitty a "Scairdycat?" Shyness and fear stem from a number of causes, but can be overcome with gentleness and patience, as these tips explain. It is always important to allow your cat to set his own pace, and to be patient if his pace is slower than you had hoped for.

Stress and Anxiety in Cats
While stress itself is not of behavioral origin, it can lead to a number of problems often considered behavioral, such as litter box avoidance or depression. When behavioral problems suddenly appear, savvy cat owners soon learn to first rule out signs of health problems, and next for stress factors, such as changes in the environment.

Clicker Training for Cats
Anyone involved in clicker training their cats will readily tell you that it is not only fun for cats and their humans, but also important training for safety reasons. Need to get a cat in his carrier quickly? Clicker train him. Does he try to slip out the door? Clicker train him.

Cat Behavior FAQs
A large percentage of questions I receive by email or on the About Cats Forum are those concerning cat behavior. Many so-called "behavioral problems" result from the cat owners simply not understanding what cats are trying to tell us. And often cats' behavioral "quirks" are their most endearing traits.

I hope you and your cat have been able to utilize the lessons given here to develop good habits for your kitty and a better relationship for both of you!

Share your Cat Behavior Success Stories

If you've been particularly successful in correcting one or more of these behavioral problems in your cat, share your experiences here in the attached form. You may very well help another frustrated cat and his frustrated human. Note: This form is not for asking questions or replying to another user. Think of it as your own mini-article on the About.com Cat site.

Readers Respond: Have you had success solving a cat behavioral problem? Share your Tips Here!

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