How to Handle 7 Cat Behaviour Problems

Is your cat acting more like a mischievous monster than a fun feline friend? Here's an overview of 7 common cat behaviour problems and how you can handle them.


One of the things you might love most about your cat is her independent nature. However, though your furry friend likes to conquer the world on her own, she needs attention, activity, affection and training to truly thrive. Without these things, your cat might develop bad behaviours. But sometimes, an unforeseen health issue can cause your pet to act out as well.

Here's an overview of seven common cat behaviour problems and what you can do to fix them:

  1. Bad Bathroom Habits
    If you notice changes in your cat's litter-box behaviour, you should first rule out any potential health issues. "A urinary tract infection from bacteria, bladder stones or other inflammatory conditions may influence a cat to urinate out of the litter box," says Dr. Jan Strother, the founder and hospital director of North Alabama Cat & Bird Veterinary Clinic in Hartselle, Alabama.

    This condition requires immediate veterinary care. If you have an older cat who begins to have accidents right outside of his litter box, his changes in behaviour may be due to joint pain and arthritis, says Dr. Strother. "Eye problems such as cataracts or glaucoma may also impact a cat's normal behaviour," she adds. In an effort to encourage good bathroom habits, you should make sure that each of your cats has his or her own litter box, which you should clean at least once a day.
  2. Scaredy Cat
    Does your cat jump at every noise and hide from strangers? She may be scared in these situations because she has experienced a lack of exposure to new things. Thankfully, this problem can be fairly easy to fix. Be sure to socialize your cat as much as possible, and use positive reinforcement, like treats, when introducing your kitty to new things and new people. Before you know it, she'll be the life of the party.
  3. Fighting and Aggression
    Cats often get into fights over territory. As such, if you have more than one cat, you must be sure to give each cat plenty of personal space. In addition, you should make sure that each of your feline companions has his own food and water bowls, climbing towers, beds and scratching posts. Spaying and neutering cats can also reduce some of their territorial aggression.
  4. Night-time Activity
    Does your cat keep you up at night by running around the house and making a lot of noise? While cats aren't truly nocturnal, they do become more active at dusk and dawn. You can't fight your pet's nature, but you can make sure that he has enough stimulation and activity during the day to encourage night-time rest. Be sure to play with him late in the evening and feed him his main meal right before bedtime, as this will lead to calmer behaviour.
  5. Finicky Feline
    Cats have a reputation for being picky about food. Even then, you should be wary of any changes you notice in your pet's eating habits, as these changes could indicate a problem. "Stomatitis and dental disease may make a cat who normally has a good appetite refuse to eat and become lethargic," warns Dr. Strother. Diabetes and food allergies could also cause changes in appetite. If you do notice any strange eating behaviours, you should take your kitty to the vet to rule out any potential problems. Then, you should try to provide your pet with a few different foods, in an effort to entice her to eat.
  6. Scratching
    Scratch marks might seem inevitable when you share your home with an animal that has claws and knows how to use them. But "even the most unruly cat can be trained with some ingenuity and creativity," says Dr. Nicole Martell-Moran, the chief of staff at Cat Care Clinic in Indianapolis, Indiana. She recommends that you trim your cat's nails, as this process makes your pet's nail ends blunt, which prevents them from tearing furniture or causing painful, deep scratches.

    In addition, you need to provide your pet with healthy, acceptable outlets to engage in this natural behaviour. "Cats will scratch whether we give them a place to or not," says Dr. Martell-Moran. "The trick is to give them desirable locations that they are allowed to scratch." Tacky tape, nail covers and special pheromone sprays might also help you tackle the scratching problem!
  7. Destructive Behaviour
    Many cat behaviour problems involve destructive actions. If your cat is displaying destructive behaviour, he might need to engage in more activity throughout the day. You should play with your cat every day and rotate his toys on a weekly basis, says Billie Reynolds, a cat behaviour specialist and certified trainer.

    You should also "hide a few treats or some dry food around your home," she says. "This will engage your cat in exploratory behaviour." In addition, you should train your cat, as this is a great way to curb boredom, improve behaviour and correct bad manners. Kitten training just requires patience, time and positive reinforcement techniques, such as those used by the late Dr. Sophia Yin in the video below.


Text source: Kit Arbuckle works as a freelance writer covering parenting, education, health and pet care topics.

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