65 Stoney Creek Road
Caring for Cats in Northland and Auckland, New Zealand
Cats are among the easiest of animals to live with as pets, which in part accounts for their massive and ever-growing appeal. Cats are naturally quiet, clean, affectionate, and largely self-sufficient, capable of adapting to any kind of dwelling and any definition of family.
But when things go wrong . . . they go very, very wrong from the human point of view. A cat with a behaviour problem, such as aggression, can be a source of frustration and even heartbreak in your family, with the cat the eventual loser. Other cats can ruin your belongings, covering them with the hard-to-remove stench of urine, clawing them into tatters, and chewing them into bits. Your furniture isn't safe, nor are your houseplants, nor are your own hands, for some cats seem quite deranged at times, purring one minute and biting the next.
To some cat-lovers, these behaviours can seem unpredictable and even spiteful when, in fact, they're nothing of the sort. What cat lovers call "bad" behaviour often makes complete sense to a cat, who's just doing what comes naturally to him, coping with boredom, illness, stress, or change in the way cats have always done. What cat lovers call "problems" are natural behaviours to cats, as much a part of their genetic makeup as super-keen hearing or whisper-soft paws.
To solve problem behaviour, you must understand problem behaviour. Unfortunately, too many cat lovers don't even try to understand, reacting instead in the way that makes sense to the human animal - in anger- that can start with physical punishment (which never works on a cat!) and can end with a one-way trip to the animal shelter or the vet.
For your cat's sake and for your own, seek for alternatives to spare you both the confusion, anger, and resentment that feline behaviour problems cause and to restore contentment and trust in your home - to help you reclaim the loving relationship you both deserve.
You need to start to understand what's causing your cat's unwanted behaviour and in the coming articles you’ll be shown how to set up a program to turn the situation into something you both can live with. Your cat's not perfect, and neither are you, and that's something to keep in mind as you work with behaviour problems. Problems often take time to develop, and they also take time to fix. The process takes patience and a certain degree of accommodation on your part. But most cat behaviour problems can be worked out to both your satisfaction. Don't give up!
The first step in solving any behaviour problem is to make sure that it's not a medical problem. We can't stress this fact enough! The signs of illness in cats can be very subtle and are often disguised as behaviour problems. Talk to your veterinarian before attempting to change your cat's behaviour, because your efforts will likely fail if you're working with a sick cat. This advice is doubly true if your cat's behaviour change is sudden - he's likely sick, especially if you can't pinpoint any other environmental changes as a reason for the behaviour change, such as a new person or pet in the home.
Your veterinarian can also guide you with your plans for changing a healthy cat's errant behaviour - or refer you to a behaviour specialist who can. Behaviour is one of the fastest-growing areas of knowledge in veterinary medicine, a result of the profession's realisation that behaviour problems end up killing more animals than do diseases. This new emphasis has increased the use of drug therapy to help with behaviour problems, including use of some of the same anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medications used in human medicine. These medications aren't miracles, but they can give your cat a fresh start as you work to cure behaviour problems.