An Introduction to Feline Behavior Modification

Cats are individuals, so it follows that feline behavior can vary from cat to cat. Some cats will naturally behave worse than others, and if a cat's behavior is unacceptable to its owner, the animal must undergo feline behavior modification procedures. This is a set of procedures that, if carried out correctly with the animal, will result in changes in the cat's behavior.

Types of Feline Behavior Problems

There are a few activities that cats normally engage in that pet owners usually consider inappropriate. The anxiety-based behavior problems involve aggression and fearfulness, and include aggressive play, aggression towards other pets and people, and unreasonable fear of people and harmless objects. The instinct-based behavior problems involve improperly repressed natural instincts, that the cat would do well to act on if it lived in the wild, but are inappropriate for domesticated life. They include:

  • Excessive predation
  • Furniture scratching
  • Urination and defecation in inappropriate areas

Causes of Feline Behavior Problems

It's very difficult to pin down exactly what the cause of a behavioral problem is in a specific cat, but there is statistical data that points to some possible causes. Studies have shown that characteristics like friendliness and shyness are heritable through male lineages. This means that kittens are likely to behave similarly to their father.A higher percentage of cats with anxiety-based behavior problems had traumatic experiences as kittens, suggesting that cats are more likely to react negatively to something if they have had previous negative experiences with that thing.

Anxiety-based behavior problems are also more common in cats that were separated from their mother before the first two weeks of age, suggesting that mother cats have an influence on the development of behavior patterns in their kittens. It also suggests that a kitten's time with its mother is important in developing its emotional stability and security. Instinct-based behavior problems are more closely linked to genetics than anxiety-based behavior problems, while anxiety-based behavior problems are more closely linked to the cat's early development.

Behavior Modification

If you don't like a particular behavior that your cat exhibits, the first step in stopping the behavior is to let your cat know that you don't want it to act this way. When you see the cat engaging in that activity, interrupt it with a loud noise or physically keep it from doing what you don't want it to do. For example, when you see your cat scratching the furniture, you should immediately make a loud reprimand or pull the cat away from the furniture. If you notice your cat about to urinate in the house, clap your hands to scare it away, then let it outside or take it to its litter box. If this is repeated enough, the cat will learn that you don't want it to engage in that type of behavior, and it will stop.

For anxiety-based problems, there are anti-depressant drugs available that may help, but the best treatment is a secure and healthy environment where the animal feels safe.

Many cats engage in activities that their owners do not want them to, but it's possible to make a cat change its behavior. Pay attention to how your cat behaves, and do what you can to make it act appropriately.