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Cats Behaving Badly: A Guide to Destructive Feline Behaviors

Cats have been domesticated since the dawn of civilization.  They’ve been worshipped, owned, traded, bred, and killed over the course of human existence.  In short- they’ve always been a part of us, and they still very much are.  Housecats are one of the most popular pets in the world.  They’re easy to train, small enough to house, and independent enough to spare your attention.

They seem like the perfect pet, right?  Maybe not.  Tell that to the tattered corner or your couch, or your urine soaked mattress.  There’s nothing more frustrating that doing everything right, and having everything go horribly and disgustingly wrong. 

You’ve taken perfect care of your sweet fuzzy housecat.  He’s had his shots, been fixed, is well-fed, and has a regular bevy of household admirers.  In other words, he has no reason to be unhappy.  One evening he hops up on your lap, purring like a revved up engine, and being as sweet as any cat can possibly be.  You start to pet him, congratulating yourself on being such a fabulous pet owner- and that’s when you feel it.  The warm spray hitting your chest and bouncing up to mist your hair.  The feral fur-ball is spraying all over you and your thousand-dollar mattress.  You can put up with a cat scratching the couch, but this- this is taking it too far! 

No, your cat’s not possessed- he’s just trying to tell you something. Unfortunately, he’s using his pee to do it.  Here’s a very basic guide to some very disruptive feline behaviors:

Scratching

Those ragged corners of your couch, or that bare spot on your favorite carpet aren’t there because your cat is angry or trying to upset you.  In fact, it’s not about you at all.  Your cat’s claws are necessary to their survival (because Fluffy’s so fierce), and they need to keep them in shape.  Just like you clip your nails, a cat needs to remove the dead skin from around their claws. 

Scratching helps keep their claws sharp, and helps to establish their territory.  Cats actually have scent glands in their paws, and they use these to take ownership of parts of your home.  If this is a problem, try getting them a scratching post.  You may have to get several different models before you find one that your kitty will choose over your couch.

Sharing their Kill

If you’ve ever woke up to find a mouse carcass sharing your pillow- don’t worry, it’s not the mafia.  It’s just your cat’s way of telling you how much they love you.  Cats associate food with survival.  You feed them, and they may be trying to feed you in return.  It’s their way of saying, “Hey, I want you to live”.  That’s about as sentimental as a cat can get.  So, dispose of the “offering”, clean your pillow- and pet your feline companion a little bit more than usual. 

Ignoring the Litter Box

It can be really distressing to discover that your cat’s been using your laundry pile as their personal bathroom.  Cat urine is notoriously strong smelling, and difficult to get out of pretty much everything.  Their feces isn’t much better, and can cause infection. 

This can be a sign of a urinary tract infection, and can signal a need to get your cat to the vet.  If a UTI isn’t the culprit, you may need to clean the litter box more frequently.  Or, change the litter box altogether.  Having options can help.

If a cat is fixed and still spraying, then it may be due to psychological issues.  Try to identify any major changes, and try to make your cat feel more secure.

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Four Tips For Taking Care of Long-Haired Cats

With their luxurious fur, long-haired cats are a delight to live with. Many fans of these cats maintain that their personalities are as unique as their fur is beautiful. If you want to share your life with one of these gorgeous cats, however, you will need to give it extra attention. By taking care of the cat’s fur, you are making sure that it is as healthy and happy as it can be. Here are four things to keep in mind when you’re caring for a long-haired cat.

Brush your cat frequently. To avoid matting and other issues, most long-haired cats need to be brushed often. The longer the fur is, the more often the cat should be brushed. Cats with very long hair should be brushed daily. Older cats or cats with arthritis may not groom themselves as much and should also be groomed more often. Fortunately, most cats love to be brushed, so the experience will be enjoyable for both of you. Be sure to purchase a special brush especially for cats, as other types of brushes won’t work as well or may even cause harm to the cat or its coat.

Give your cat the occasional bath. One unfortunate side effect of a long coat is that dirt and litter can get stuck in it. For this reason, it’s a good idea to bathe long-haired cats if needed. Although some cats enjoy baths, many others find bathing stressful. Cats are best introduced to baths as a kitten, although older cats can be trained to enjoy them as well through a slow introduction. Be sure not to bathe your cat more than once a month unless absolutely necessary. Frequent bathing can dry out a cat’s skin.

Carefully remove any mats in the cat’s fur. The longer the cat’s fur is, the more prone it is to matting. When tackling matted fur, the first step is to attempt to gently comb or brush it out. If the mat is too thick, you can use clippers to snip it away. Be sure to use cat clippers that you buy at the pet store, since scissors could harm your cat.

Be on the lookout out for hairballs. Although any cat can cough up a hairball, long-haired cats are especially prone to it. While the rare hairball is not overly concerning, it’s a good idea to minimize them as much as possible for the cat’s health and comfort. Some ways to help reduce hairballs include feeding moisture-rich foods and adding fiber and omega-3 supplements to the cat’s diet. Regular brushing also helps.

Long-haired cats bring beauty, grace, and fun to any home. With tender loving care, you can be sure that your cat’s coat will be beautiful for years to come.

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A Quick and Cheap Scratching Post Your Cat Will Love

cat scratching post

Scratching posts are a great idea, at least in principle. Give your cat a place to expend all that destructive energy, and save your furniture! Unfortunately, many cats are unsurprisingly persnickety, and more often than not after a first inspection your fancy new scratching post will never again rate so much as a glance. How can you convince your oh so discerning feline to actually use what you provide?

Cats scratch away at whatever is available to them in order to clean and sharpen their claws, an instinctive behavior they will engage in no matter how much you discourage them. It’s all well and good to tell them no when they have a go at your couch, but unless you provide them an alternative, it’s unlikely to stick. That alternative needs to be at least as good as your furniture if you want it to see use.

3 Key Elements of a Successful Scratching Post

Cats look for three things in their scratching spots: stability, size, and texture, and the generic posts you can buy at any pet store fail two out of three of these considerations. If you’ve ever really watched your cat sharpening their claws, you know they put their full backs into it, and all but the most solid of posts will wobble or even tip over under this treatment, especially for larger cats. Cats also like to reach up high and dig in with both claws at once, and most posts are a bit too short and too narrow for this treatment.

A quick look at on-line source will reveal an enormous number of plans for homemade scratching posts, of varying quality, and many do work quite well. If that’s your preferred route, look for one of the larger, heavier models. There is, however, an easier, cheaper option. You almost certainly have any number of surfaces in your house that meet the size and stability requirements, but are only missing the third consideration, texture, and this can be quickly fixed.

First you need your texture. If you happen to have any old pieces of shag carpeting lying around, those work well, but otherwise a well-textured sisal or fabric welcome mat is perfect in both size and material, and should be available for about ten or fifteen dollars at any home goods or hardware store.

Next you need a surface. An out of the way door frame is probably the best spot, but any really solid location will do. If you do use a door frame, it’s just a matter of wrapping the mat or carpeting around the bottom corner of the frame, and fixing it in place with a staple gun or small tacks. Running it lengthwise up from the floor will create a surface tall and wide enough for any cat, and pulled tight and stapled securely it will be as solid as your house itself. Don’t worry too much about damage, the tiny holes the staples leave can easily be fixed with paint alone, and even tacks will only require a swipe of filler. Now just introduce your cat to their new post, and hope they take the hint!

Quick Results

For less than twenty dollars and five minutes of work you can have a rock solid, easily replaced scratching spot that will hopefully have your cat turning up their nose at the inferior option provided by your furniture, rather than the other way around.

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How To Stop Cat Scratching

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It might be your expensive Italian leather sofa, your intricately woven rug, or even your crappy old recliner with the cushion coming out – no matter the chosen object of destruction, your cat probably isn’t tearing it apart as a judgement on your taste in décor. Rather, he is engaging in a normal and natural feline behavior, that can be, in most cases, redirected to a more mutually copacetic location.

Why Do Cats Scratch?

The scratching behavior itself is normal and natural, and the aim should be to redirect your cat’s habits to an appropriate location rather than stop the behavior in its entirety.

Scent Marking

When your cat scratches your new leather recliner, he is depositing his scent on it, marking it as a safe place that he recognizes. This scent encourages your cat to return to the same spot over and over again, creating both a habit and a soothing behavior that he enjoys.

Scent marking also means that cats who live in multi-feline households can be more difficult to break of the behavior, particularly if the household cats do not fully accept each other. Additionally, felines who are anxious, fearful, aggressive or seeking territory dominance are more likely to engage in excessive scratching behavior in order to repeated leave their scent in the area.

Of course, even well-adjusted kitties enjoy some amount of scratching – it provides a degree of exercise, and would help to in keeping nails sharp and groomed in the wild. In fact, it is a good idea to trim your cat’s nail’s regularly, as cats with long nails may engage in more scratching behavior. Ultimately though, all cats deserve a place to exercise their scratch instincts, and providing the right scratching surface in the right manner will maximize the chance that it will be a location you are both happy with!

How To Pick A Scratching Post That Your ­Little Lion Will Love:

First, what NOT to pick. Posts that are unsteady are the first no-no. Your cat wants a post that he can stretch out and lean on with his full body weight. If your cat doesn’t feel secure in doing this with your post, he will be happy to simply use your sofa instead.

Carpeted posts may teach your cat to scratch on carpet. So, unless you are looking for a feline powered carpet removal service, stay away from carpeted scratching posts.

So which surfaces make for ideal scratching posts?

Sisal posts, are extremely popular with cats and owners alike. There are also a number of vertical cardboard-type scratchers on the market, with many feline aficionados declaring successful purchases. Keep in mind, that it’s a good idea to provide your feline with a variety of scratching options, and this is even more important in multi-feline households, as some cats would rather not share scratching equipment.

cat on sofa

Why Declawing is NOT the Answer:

Declawing is not the equivalent of trimming the nails, or having a tooth pulled. It’s far more similar to having a limb amputated, as a cat’s claws are crucial for balance, and while a domestic cat would hopefully never require its claws for survival, the loss of its primary weapon can cause severe mental distress.

Declawing is a permanent surgery, akin to an amputation which physically removes the last joints on the cat’s paws. The surgery is prone to complications of both a physical and mental nature for your cat. Should your cat ever become lost, it will be without its main defense mechanism, and lacking the balance felines are known for. Also, your cat may become more likely to bite, engage in nervous behaviors such as inappropriate urination (marking), develop a fearful personality.

The paws may become very sensitive or even painful after the procedure, causing some felines who were previously litter-trained to stop using their litter box, likely due to the pain from scratching the litter after the procedure. You may be replacing one problem behavior with another, with serious consequences for your kitty.

 cat wearing a tie

How To Convince Kitty To Use The Designated Scratching Surface

Initially, put the post where your cat goes to scratch.  This may be by a sofa, a chair or wherever Kitty has chosen as her territory, and you may need more than one post to cover her favorite spots.  Security is a major factor in making the post appealing to your cat.  If it topples or shakes, she won’t use it.  It should either be secured to the floor or have a base wide enough and heavy enough to keep it stable.

To begin, place the post near where your cat currently goes to scratch. This is very important because the cat has a routine of scratching that area, and may have deemed it an important territory to deposit its scent. You will want to set your cat up for success by making the routine as easy to change as possible

If your cat reacts to catnip, you may want to increase the desirability of the post by using a catnip spray or rubbing some of the dry herb on it.

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