Feline Behavior Modification through Environmental Enrichment

Frequent behavior problems exhibited in cats are scratching, inappropriate elimination and aggression, all of which can be treated with feline behavior modification, a growing training movement. A big part of this modification is enriching the cat's environment so that he has more outlets for inappropriate behavior.


Much is made of the critical socialization period in dogs, but cats have one too, and it is crucial to their development. If cats aren't handled by several people in the first three months of their lives, they may always be aggressive toward people. Though there seems to be a genetic component to a cat's level of fear and aggression, exposure to different stimuli early in life can reduce fear and anxiety that can lead to other problems.

To reduce these problems later in life, you can spend time desensitizing your cat to its fears. Many cats love treats, scratches or games. Put your cat on a collar and leash and expose him to stimuli, such as a stranger, at a low level. For example, the person can be in the room but not touch or interact with the cat. Reward the cat with treats, games and scratches. Keep the sessions short and positive.

Enriching the Environment

Just like any other mammal, cats need appropriate toys and activities with which to fill their time. Often, inappropriate behaviors such as furniture scratching and destruction can be solved by giving cats more stimuli. Begin teaching your cat appropriate scratching places as soon as you introduce him to your home.

Scratching is an innate behavior in cats. It is a social behavior as well as a necessary behavior to keep their claws the appropriate length. When adding scratch posts to your house, put them in prominent locations where the behavior is most likely to occur. Cats need to scratch. This will give them an appropriate outlet.

Buy appropriate cat toys and engage in games with your cats during the day. Though cats are not as social as dogs, they enjoy interaction and games that mimic catching prey. This will help reduce pent up energy.

Appropriate Elimination

When a cat is eliminating in inappropriate areas, it is often a result of something in the environment. Your cat might have an aversion to the smell, feel or sound of the litter. He might associate the smell or feel with a time when he had a painful condition such as diarrhea and be afraid to enter the litter box. These problems are easily solved by experimenting with a different type of litter.

The location may also be a problem for your cat. Some cats prefer a quiet place. If your litter box near something that makes a loud noise or is otherwise scary to your cat, try moving it to a new location.

A deprived environment can cause many feline behavior problems. By adding more toys, scratch posts and perches to your house, you can improve your cat's setting and, as a result, eliminate several behavior problems.