Behavioural problems in cats

There are many reasons why your cat’s behaviour may change; it may be that they are simply exhibiting normal cat behaviour! Some behaviours you may wish to discourage, but others may be a sign of an underlying condition that requires more attention. If your cat is behaving unusually (for them), they are usually trying to tell you something, so be vigilant around them and try to look for other signs and symptoms that may give you more of a clue for this change.

Our Senior Customer Care Assistants Lauren and Chris have five rescue cats and have seen almost every conceivable behavioural issue as each new feline joined the family!

Here are some that they wanted to share:

Pain

As with most animals, cats are very good at hiding pain. However, we’ve detailed some of the changes you may detect, which might indicate something is wrong:

  • Your cat becoming more withdrawn or hiding more than usual.
  • Sleeping more or slowing down.
  • Aggressive behaviour or less tolerant of being handled.
  • Reluctant to run and jump in their usual manner.
  • Eating and drinking less.
  • Vocalisation (more than usual or associated with use of litter tray, for example).
  • Over-grooming or lack of grooming.
  • Some cats will even purr with pain (or fear).

If you do notice any of these symptoms, a quick vet check-up is advisable. Sometimes, the simplest of interventions can help address the source of the pain and improve the quality of your kitty’s life.

Stress

We know that lifestyle changes can cause a cat to suffer from stress; something like a house move or a new addition to the family, so it might be short lived or more of a lasting issue. Signs of stress can imitate those of pain. Some additional symptoms can include:

  • Appearing to sleep more, whilst only pretending to sleep to monitor something that is stressing them.
  • Pacing, circling or restlessness.
  • Soiling the house.
  • Overeating (or not eating).
  • Being less playful and less interactive with you.
  • Crouching, recoiling when you try to approach and hiding.

Shy cats

Don’t worry if you feel your cat is a little timid, some cats are simply just shy! If you have a timid cat there are some easy wins for you to try at home. Here are a few we would recommend:

  • Talk to your cat in calm and quiet manner.
  • Sit quietly in the vicinity of your cat and allow them to get used to your company.
  • Always let your cat make the first move, they may find a direct approach too threatening.
  • Reward your cat with a treat when they learn to approach you, then calmly stroke just once or twice.
  • Try to be consistent with your daily routines, this will provide a reassuring  environment for your cat.

Time is key with a timid cat. Allow the progress to be slow and don’t give up. They will begin to gain confidence within a calm, predictable and caring environment.

Aggressive behaviour

It is unusual for a cat to be naturally aggressive towards a human, so consider what might be causing this type of behaviour. It could be a medical reason, in which case, we’re just a phone call away and one of our vets will be able to help. Other reasons may require more behavioural expertise to help to resolve. Try to identify which type of aggressive behaviour you feel may be the route cause, such as:

  • Pain-induced aggression: pain reduces a cat’s tolerance levels and is a common cause for aggression.
  • Defensive/fear aggression: if your cat feels threatened and cannot flee the threat it may fight as a form of defence.
  • Territorial aggression: usually when another cat encroaches on your cat’s territory, or they meet on disputed ground.
  • Playful/petting aggression: This is more likely when human interaction is slightly more intense than your cat would like. Cats generally prefer shorter, more frequent bouts of attention.

You can discuss your cat’s behaviour with any of our team, who’ll be able to advise on the best form of management. It may be that we refer you and your pet to a qualified behaviourist or a Certified Clinical Animal Behaviourist, who are trained to advise on the most appropriate care. Importantly, you should never punish your cat for its behaviour as it will not understand, and this will only stress them further.

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