As we focus on animal behavior in the month of April, we’d like to highlight two common complaints from cat owners – destruction of property and inappropriate urination. Unfortunately, unless you are Dr. Doolittle, it is impossible to communicate verbally with your cat. Cats can be very misunderstood creatures. As an owner you must follow your cat’s behavior and physical cues to determine their needs. Always rule out medical causes for an unwanted behavior. There may be a deeper cause for the perceived misbehavior.
It is healthy and normal for cats to scratch. Cats communicate with others through scratching. The presence of scratch marks signals to other felines this territory is taken. Scratching is a natural reflex for cats. Stretching, sharpening, and cleaning their claws is important.
Don’t punish your cat for scratching.
Punishing a cat for scratching or taking away scratching surfaces can cause stress for your cat. This will most likely lead to increased bad behavior.
To encourage your cat to scratch in way that is not destructive to your home, give them appropriate options. Pick a fibrous or rough surface like the tree bark cats would use in nature. All cats are individuals so some may want a horizontal scratch pad, others a vertical scratching post. Click this link to view the cat’s favorite scratch post for 2022: The Best Cat Scratchers for 2022 | Reviews by Wirecutter (nytimes.com) A cheap or free option for cat scratching is cardboard. Many cats love the feeling of shredding cardboard. A cardboard box can also double as a play and hiding spot.
How to introduce your cat to a new scratching location.
What can you do if your cat is already scratching in an inappropriate location and ignores your attempts at introducing a new scratching location? First, make sure the new scratching post has been placed somewhere your cat is comfortable – not in a high traffic area or an area your cat would naturally avoid. Many cats like to scratch as soon as they wake up. Cats do not like to share their scratching locations, so make sure to provide one location per cat.
There are companies that make products to help you with cat behavior problems. Ceva Animal Health manufactures products to encourage cats to scratch in appropriate locations. Feliway diffuser plugs into your home’s electrical outlet. It releases pheromones to calm your cat which decreases unwanted behaviors. Call us today to order a Feliway diffuser starter kit.
Some cat owners elect to declaw their cat for the prevention or elimination of scratching. Declawing is the amputation of the last digital bone, including the nail bed and claw. Due to the permanence of the procedure, we encourage owners to try adding scratching locations and a pheromone diffuser first.
Inappropriate Urination – Make an Appointment with Your Vet
Inappropriate urination is another very common problem in our feline patients. Whenever a cat is straining to urinate, urinating outside the box or has blood in their urine they should be examined by a veterinarian.
Veterinarian’s Screening Process
At your cat’s appointment Dr. McFarland will ask many questions. She will ask:
- Has anything changed in your home such as family members, new pets, or have you rearranged furniture?
- Have you recently returned from a vacation?
- Are there any stray pets your cat can see from the window?
- Do you use flea and tick preventives on your pets?
- How many levels is your home? Where are the litter boxes located?
- Have you changed the litter you use?
- Where does your cat frequently urinate?
- Does he stool in his litter box or outside of the box?
Cats are creatures of habit. They don’t like change. Changes that you don’t think about can cause your cat stress.
Thorough Veterinarian Health Examination
After going through the screening process, the doctor will do a thorough health examination and perform a cystocentesis to obtain a sterile urine sample from your cat. The urine sample will be evaluated for protein, crystals, blood cells and pH. Then it will be cultured to determine if a bacterium is causing your cat’s infection. Bacterial infections are treated with an antibiotic. Adding Fluoxetine, Feliway or Hill’s C/D Stress urinary tract food are also commonly prescribed treatments. Patients who are struggling to get in and out of the box may need arthritis medication. Inappropriate urination can be solved once the root of the problem has been identified.
If you have 13 minutes to spare, please check out this video from Jackson Galaxy, the star of My Cat from Hell: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZcItn2RfknM. This video gives an in-depth evaluation of more behavioral red flags that may indicate your cat may need to be seen by a veterinarian. It’s important to be in-tune to your cat’s behavior and know when to consult a veterinarian. Problems such as refusing to eat for 24 hours, hiding, or straining to urinate, need to be addressed by a veterinarian immediately. Always call Wags and Whiskers Veterinary Service if you have questions about your cat’s health and well-being.
Dr. Janelle McFarland, DVM