Understanding Cat Psychology and Behavior

Cats are emotional and expressive animals, capable of deep affection and sweetness on the one hand and anger, jealousy and fear on the other. On top of that, each cat has a unique personality and temperament, so deciphering your pet's cat psychology can be a difficult task. Many veterinarians recommend methods of training and problem behavior modification based on cat psychology. Understanding the basics of cat psychology will help to explain why your cat acts the way he does, and how you can best address difficult behaviors.

Many Problem Behaviors Are Natural

Because cats developed as wild animals and predators, even domesticated house cats retain certain basic instincts that do not always fit with the home environment. One of the most common problem behaviors that cat owners face is cat scratching, when a cat scratches doors, floors, walls or other hard surfaces in the house. Scratching is a perfectly natural activity for a cat, as wild cats need to scratch their claws periodically to sharpen them. Punishing your cat for scratching the furniture or another spot in the house is only confusing for him. Instead, make sure that you give your cat towers or posts for scratching. When he scratches where he is not allowed, redirect him to the designated scratching tower and encourage his behavior.

Cats also developed as nocturnal animals. Many owners are frustrated by the fact that their cat sleeps during the day but seems to be wide awake and rambunctious at night. Again, this behavior is natural for a cat and should not be punished. Rather, take the time to play with your cat before you head to bed. Doing so may help to wear your cat out and shift his playtime earlier into the night. In extreme cases, consider keeping your cat in a separate part of the house at night so that he does not disturb your sleep.

Although most cats can be housetrained easily, there are some that have difficulty adjusting to using a litter box. Former strays and cats who have primarily lived outside may have a natural difficulty accepting the convention of using the litter box. In this case, some gentle reprimanding may be useful. Without hurting or frightening your cat, firmly chastise him for failing to use the litter box. Similarly, reward him with attention and praise for each successful episode.

Cats Are Trainable

Each cat has a different personality, and the most successful owners take the time to get to know their cat's moods and disposition. With an understanding of how your cat thinks and operates you can train him to avoid problem behaviors. Firm but appropriate reprimanding can be combined with small rewards and praise to encourage your cat away from troublesome behaviors and towards positive ones. Owners that take the time to build a gentle and loving relationship with their pets tend to be the most successful trainers.

If your cat has a sudden shift in temperament, or dramatically shifts his behaviors for no apparent reason, schedule an appointment for a veterinary examination. Sudden changes in personality and behavior may indicate a variety of underlying health problems, and a prompt examination may allow you to identify and treat an ailment quickly and with minimal suffering for your pet. The better that you understand general cat psychology and your own pet's personality, the better equipped you will be for assessing and dealing with any changes and problems that may develop.