Does your cat bite, chew, yowl, or run around too much? Helping your crazy cat can be as easy as providing enrichment to fulfill their hunter instincts.
A friend of mine contacted me recently to tell me that her cat was attacking her. I pressed for some details and she related:
“Every time I come home from work, he jumps out from behind the couch, claws into my leg and bites me. Or, when I’m sitting in the recliner, he races past and swipes me with his claws. I can’t stop him and he’s really hurting me. In fact, I think he’s crazy. Do you have any ideas?”
You bet I do!
As Behavior Program Manager at WHS, I’m finding that people are more open to discussing and working on their feline behavior issues more so than when I was a kid. Historically, cats have been considered more disposable than dogs were and so if the cat had a behavior problem, the cat was unfortunately released. Terrible but true. Now, folks are much more likely to reach out, ask for help and find that behavior problems are fixable, even in cats. I hope to write about cats in this blog at least once a month to address this growing field and give tips to fixing some of the most common problems. Let’s start by looking at the aggression my friend was facing with her cat.
The kitty in question is young – just a juvenile – only about 8months. So my first thoughts ran to enrichment. Consider the physical and mental needs of the cat. Here’s a predator, built to hunt long days, sitting inactive for hours as he waits for his meal to pop its head from the hole in the ground or flit by to a nearer branch. Then, *pounce* and kill. Essentially, that’s what this kitty was doing, waiting for mom to come home and engage. OUCH! But, this cat’s not crazy – he’s just being a cat.
The fix was pretty simple. Enrichment toys. Engage the hunt drive and then feed him a big meal. I advised getting a kitty wand toy or laser light – she got both – to get the cat pouncing and playing without direct contact to the person. It’s pretty simple to get a hunter to chase a toy and very fun to do – beats video games and TV time by a long shot. After a good 15-20 minutes of play, let the cat take a break and feed a large meal. This will help the cat settle and relax, having experienced the hunting arousal and now move to digestion and with that, a nap.
I recommended having regular times, twice a day at first, to get the kitty to change the pattern of his behavior. By playing morning and evening, the cat can learn when to expect the games to happen and you can remain in control of initiating the contact.
For the other times, I recommended having the cat work a food puzzle toy rather than feed from a bowl. By engaging the feline brain when the owner is not there, the cat will be more mentally fatigued and ready to rest when the owner is home. Of course, fresh clean water is always available.
I’m happy to report that my friend’s Facebook feed is filled with playful pictures of her cat chasing the toys and the aggression toward her has completely stopped. Her enjoyment of the cat has increased and she’s no long considering rehoming her pet.
Behavior always has a reason. So whether your pet is a dog, a cat or some other critter, if you are having behavior issues, we’re here to help you solve it. Sometimes the solutions are ridiculously simple – you can almost never go wrong by considering the species-specific needs of the animal and finding ways to meet those needs. But sometimes, you need a partner to help you consider the best course of action. Our behavior department is here to help. Just shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with your question and we’ll do our very best to help you enjoy your pets more.
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