No one adopts, rescues or purchases a cat with the hope that the kitty will misbehave, destroy the house or hide under the bed. Whenever you enter into a relationship with a cat you have expectations about sharing a wonderful life together. So what goes wrong? Well, all-too-often we’re the ones who mess things up. We’re quick to blame the cat but we don’t follow through on our part of the bargain. So here’s a little reminder list of ten things you shouldn’t forget:
1. Your Cat is a Social Creature
Cats benefit from companionship. There has been so much misinformation out there about cats being solitary animals. Cats hunt alone because they go after small prey but they benefit from being with other animals. New cat introductions are tricky because you have to take into account the cat’s territorial nature but if done right, you can provide a wonderful companion for your cat, in most cases.
2. Create an Appealing Litter Box Set-up
Pay attention to what your cat needs when it comes to the proper set-up. It’s not about what’s convenient for YOU, it’s about what’s convenient and appealing for your cat. The type of box, the type of litter, the location of the box and how often you clean it are all important factors in a successful litter box set-up.
3. Scratching is Normal
Cats have a natural need to scratch and it’s actually a very beneficial behavior physically and emotionally. Many new cat parents assume the behavior is just the way a cat sharpens his claws but it’s more complex than that. Take the time to learn about the importance of the behavior so you won’t be misled into having your cat declawed. Provide a tall, sturdy scratching post that’s covered in a rough texture and you’ll be well on your way to training your cat to scratch in appropriate places.
4. Environmental Enrichment
Many behavior problems can be avoided if you increase environmental enrichment so your cat can have sensory stimulation. Cats have amazing senses, are natural hunters and thrive on stimulation in their surroundings. Environmental enrichment involves opportunities to engage in interactive playtime, solo playtime, discovery, vertical territory, security and comfort. A cat who sleeps all day, rolls off the sofa to waddle into the kitchen for food and then waddles back to the sofa isn’t getting adequate environmental enrichment.
5. Every Behavior Serves a Purpose
Whether you approve of a particular behavior or not, everything your cat does serves a function or else he wouldn’t repeat it. Cats don’t willfully misbehave out of spite, anger or stupidity. Your cat isn’t sitting around at night thinking of ways to irritate you. If you don’t like a behavior, figure out the reason why the cat feels the need to do it (in other words, what’s the pay-off) and then provide a better option. Look at behavior from a positive approach in order to set the cat up to succeed. This method of training will strengthen the bond you share with your cat and will help you better understand what he needs.
6. Be Consistent
Don’t send mixed messages when training and make sure everyone in the family is on the same page. A common mistake in training is that pet parents aren’t consistent so the cats never fully understand what is allowed and what isn’t.
7. Maintain Veterinary Care
All cats, regardless of whether they were rescued from the street or purchased from a breeder for top dollar need regular veterinary care. Don’t assume a problem is behavioral without first having your cat checked by the veterinarian. Many behavior issues are actually the result of an underlying medical problem. Cats, regardless of whether they ever step one paw outside or not, should be seen for annual veterinary exams. Older cats should be seen at least twice a year.
8. Pay Attention to What Your Cat is Communicating
Be aware of your cat’s body language and respect his distance-increasing requests. There are signals your cat gives off when he doesn’t want to be bothered and if you respect those, you’ll increase the bond of trust. Cats are masters of communication and they use their bodies to let others know whether they are in play mode, affection mode and leave me alone mode.
9. Don’t Allow Your Cat to Get Fat
A few extra pounds on a cat is the equivalent of about 40 pounds on a human. You may have believed that cats know how to self-regulate their food intake but considering the epidemic of cat obesity, I’d say that’s not an accurate statement. Your veterinarian can help you determine the proper amount your cat should be eating each day based on age, health, body type and activity level. Instructions on pet food labels are general guidelines so you have to take your cat’s particular condition into consideration. Obesity in cats can lead to arthritis, heart trouble and diabetes among other medical problems.
10. Play With Your Cat
Play with your cat every day. Cats are hunters so they were born to move. Whether your cat is an athletic youngster who can do backflips or he’s a more sedentary senior citizen, he will benefit from daily interactive play. Customize the play session to meet your cat’s physical limitions and abilities. Interactive playtime is good for both of you. It can help strengthen the bond, ease fear, help kitty develop a positive association with you and his environment and is just plain FUN!
Need More Information?
You can find specific information on cat behavior and training in Pam’s books, including Think Like a Cat.
Pam Johnson-Bennett is the star of Psycho Kitty airing on Discovery UK. She is author of seven best-selling books on cat behavior including Think Like a Cat: how to raise a well-adjusted cat – not a sour puss. Think Like a Cat has become known as the cat bible. Pam is considered a pioneer in the field of cat behavior consulting. In addition to her television series and public speaking engagements, Pam owns Cat Behavior Associates, a private veterinarian-referred behavior company in Nashville, TN. Cat Behavior Associates offers private cat behavior appointments on a limited basis. Pam Johnson-Bennett is a Certified Cat Behavior Consultant.