Once they were considered asocial beings, but as any cat lover knows this is simply a misinterpretation. They are inarguably very different to their canine counterparts in many ways, but like dogs, cats need interaction and your loving attention. Often an independent creature, cats will instigate the interactions on their own terms, this can sometimes be where their 'hostility' is misconstrued.
These days local councils have restrictions for cat owners. 'Cat Curfews' have been put in place, the parameters of these curfews vary from council to council. For our local Mornington council, cat owners are required to confine their cat to their property 24hours a day with a 12hr inside only curfew over night. Meaning that during the day your cat can venture outside, but must remain on your property, and then must remain inside over night. Many different techniques can be employed to keep your cat on your property, from wire cat runs and enclosures to meshed roofing from house to fence.
As cat's are unfortunately restricted in their roaming these days it's important for us to provide them with necessary outlets for their natural instincts and inquisitions. Directing this behaviour in the right direction will ensure that harmony reigns in your household.
SCRATCHING BENEATH THE SURFACE
Scratching is a natural behaviour for cats, instinctually this activity will start from around five weeks of age. Scratching allows cats to leave chemical and visual signals, that among other things serves as “messages” to other cats and animals. This behaviour would not be a problem out of doors, but in a domestic environment, it's often your carpet and furniture that falls victim to your cats natural instincts. If your cat decides a little re-decorating is in order you can try removing the tempting object. If this isn't an option or proves to be a useless effort you can employ the use of 'nail caps' These are small rubber caps that are glued over your cats existing nail, with rounded tips these can prove to be quite useful. They simply get replaced every 4-6 weeks, they are currently available at the clinic so contact us to find out more about them. However some cats will not tolerate them or are too ingenious and manage to remove them. So often, and to great success, cat owners will resort to the use of a scratching post, a special, designated, scratching place for kitty to call their own. Somewhat stereotypically cats are known to be slightly picky when deciding whether their scratching post is up to scratch. Some things to consider are;
- Posts that contain sisal, cardboard, wood or wood composite surfaces
- Posts should be taller than the cat when standing on their hind legs and sturdy enough not to tip over
- Home DYI jobs, posts made from soft logs, tree stumps or 2 x 4 wood covers in sisal or another material with a longitudinal weave can often do the trick
- A board about 15cm-20cm wide by about 30-35cm long attached to a wall can also work well
- Place the post in a prominent and easily accessible area for your cat
- If your pet is still using it, leave it! The more scratched up and tatty it looks to you the more appealing it is to your cat!
- Remember it can be a hit and miss process until your find what your cat likes, stick with it, your cat will find something they like eventually!
FELINE FUN TIME
Despite their sometimes aloof exterior cats enjoy playtime. Regular opportunities for interesting and challenging play will satisfy your cats natural instincts and provide them with much needed activity. Toys that bounce or flutter will encourage your cat to “chase”, “hunt” and “capture” their toys. Some cats are easily amused with dancing spots of light, content just to chase down the moving light spots made by mirrors or flashlights. Remember that interactive play is important for your cat, engaging in play with them for at least 15 minutes a day, especially if they are often left alone, will help keep your kitty on their best behaviour. If your cat does get a little bit too rough with you, don't get angry, they still love you but rough play and “love bites” are all natural to your cat and they don't realise they did something wrong. Just stop play time and let your cat calm down, you can play again later.
Spraying or urine marking is a natural behaviour for a cat, while it is most common in entire (animals that have not been de-sexed) cats, it can still be seen in de-sexed cats. It's a behaviour that is often associated with the presence of other cats or stressors, for example a change in environment like a new house member, pet or baby, sometimes even a change in routine like an increase in the amount of time your cat is left alone. Spraying can often be your cat's way of expressing their anxiety. Speaking to your vet about possible stressors and how best to combat them is the best place to start. There are products available that de-odorize the scent of cat urine, benefiting you but as they also contain a pheromone that is aimed at deterring kitty they can help to stop your cat from toileting in the same spot again.
CLEAN THE LOO
A fastidious creature cats appreciate a nice clean area to toilet, so a clean and easily accessible area will help to minimise any litter problems. While we may like those sweet smelling litters, cats often prefer the unscented, soft textured fine litter. Like the scratching posts, finding the right litter, box and place for your cat can be trial and error. Some cats enjoy having two boxes, one to urinate in and the other to defecate in, so it's often said that as a general rule of thumb your should have one litter box per cat, plus one more. For example a two cat household may use three litter boxes, one for each cat and then an extra. In terms of placement cats often enjoy the quiet to do their business so positioning their litter box by noisy equipment, like a washing machine, is a don't. Each day you should remove faecal matter, and urine if you employ a clumping litter. How often you change the litter will depend on the type of litter you use and your cat's preferences, refer to the brand instructions for more information. Once a week you should wash the box with water and a mild dish soap, if you use a clumping litter you can push washing the box to once a month. Do not use industrial cleaners or fall into washing the box too frequently, as the harsh smell might deter your cat and they might refrain from using it. If your cat does begin to toilet outside of their box it can be attributed to a variety of different reasons. Sometimes the condition can be medical, so contacting your vet is important, so a diagnosis can be made and treatment administered. A sudden disinterest in their box can also come about due to a change in brand of litter, a new soap or smell used, a difference in the placement or sometimes just stress, but contacting your vet to discuss these things is a good idea.
Remember that you know your cat best, so if you become aware of a change in your cat's behaviour or demeanour you should contact your vet. New stressors, medical problems and anxiety can have serious implications for your cat if left untreated.