Helping Your “Crazy” Cat

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Brown tabby with green eyes on bright fleece

Let’s begin with a scenario: You come home from work, and your cat jumps up from behind the couch, claws into your leg, and bites you. What’s happening here? 

Your cat is a predator, built to hunt. In the wild, he might stay on alert for hours as he waits for his meal to pop its head from the hole in the ground. Then, *pounce* and kill. 

A house cat can engage in this same activity, but you become the prey. Your cat waits for mom to come home and engage. OUCH! 

This cat’s not crazy – he’s just being a cat.

Helping your cat can be as easy as providing enrichment to fulfill their hunter instincts. Let’s consider a three-part plan:

  • Enrichment toys.  Try a kitty wand toy or laser light 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. Hand out a treat when the cat pounces, and then restart the game! You’re rewarding your cat for physically interacting with the toy. 
  • Play sessions. Engage the hunt drive and keep at it. Don’t stop until 15 or 20 minutes have passed.  
  • Timed feedings. When play is done, 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.

Repeat this pattern regularly, 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 meals, use a food puzzle toy rather than 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 should always be available.

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 behavior@whs4pets.org with your question and we’ll do our very best to help you enjoy your pets more.