Common Cat Problems Solved: Separation Anxiety

December 8, 2009 by  
Filed under Common Cat Problems Solved, Featured

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Question: My cat really struggles to be alone. When I leave the house for any extended period of time, such as to go to work or out for a social occasion, I return to a scene of devastation and a very unhappy cat. I can hear my cat crying out for me as I leave the house, and while I’m not there, they have a habit of destroying furniture and knocking things over. I can’t always be at home – so how do I stop it?

Answer: One of the most common causes of this is loneliness, as this type of behaviour is seen most commonly in house cats where they are the only animal present. A simple solution is to take on another cat, as company for your existing animal. When they have another animal to socialise with, your existing cat may find being separated from you less distressing.

However, that isn’t always an option, so the next step is to create a comfortable scenario for your cat to be alone in. Fill a room with toys and a comforting, familiar blanket. Then, use a small wind-up radio and leave it running. Your cat will therefore always be able to hear a human voice, which they should find reassuring. Ensure when you come home, you lavish affection on your cat to cheer them up and create a sense of confidence that you will always come back.

If your cat is destructive when you are not there, it is best to keep them to one room only while you are not present. Make sure ‘their’ area has some toys, a water dish and a tray, and remember to let kitty out as soon as you’re home.

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Common Cat Problems Solved: Bathtime Blues

December 8, 2009 by  
Filed under Common Cat Problems Solved

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Question: Whenever I try and bathe my cat, I have a real fight on my hands. My cat will bite, scratch and claw at me in an attempt to get free, making the entire experience an absolute nightmare. I need to know how to bathe a cat – how do I do so without losing blood and making both cat and myself angry?

Answer: Cats are not big fans of water, and while you may think their monthly bath is completely reasonable, they’re unlikely to agree. They will fight, claw, scratch, hiss and make an almighty noise as they struggle for a dry freedom – and during this, you’re meant to be able to apply shampoo! It’s a nightmare.

The main reason for their aggression is fear; your cat cannot understand what is happening, so they object to it. Try and keep bath time a calm and simple affair. Begin by preparing your bath prior to fetching your cat. Lay out all of the items you need (shampoo, a comb, a towel) within easy reach of the bath, and only when the room is completely ready to go should you bring your feline in.

As you put your cat in the water, make soothing “hush” noises in the back of your throat. Do not shout if the cat scratches you; just keep calm and bite your tongue. Just imagine how scary it would be if someone suddenly threw you into a big tub of water for no apparent reason! The calmer you remain, the more likely it is your cat will also remain calm. Make the process as quick as possible, move efficiently from step to step and – most don’t lose your temper!

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Common Cat Problems Solved: Stealing Food

December 8, 2009 by  
Filed under Common Cat Problems Solved

Question: My cat does not seem to understand that he / she is not allowed to eat human food. They will often steal food off the kitchen counter or our dinner plates if we happen to turn our backs for one second. They are extremely sneaky and make life very unpleasant, as we have to constantly be on our guard. How do we teach them that they cannot eat human food?

Answer: The problem here is that the cat does not understand why they are not allowed human food, and no amount of cat training will actually rectify the issue. As an animal, who cannot understand reasoning, the idea that they cannot eat the incredibly tasty food they see before them is a cause of confusion. They want it, it looks nice, it’s right there… why not eat it?

As you cannot explain the hygiene and behavioural problems with a cat, the situation has to be dealt with differently. When your cat does eat food off a kitchen counter or a dinner plate, your reaction should be swift. Say “no” in a firm and powerful voice, then remove the cat from the room for the rest of the meal. If possible, keep the cat out of the room when food is around.

In terms of prevention, this is a difficult thing to achieve – as mentioned, you cannot override that instinct for wanting to eat what a cat conceives to be nice food. Always ensure your cat is well fed, so they are less likely to want to steal food – ideally, feed your cat a half hour before humans are going to eat. This, combined with clamping down on bad behaviour, should see a reduction in food theft.

Common Cat Problems Solved: Bullying Cat

December 8, 2009 by  
Filed under Common Cat Problems Solved

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Question: We are a multi-cat household, and one of the cats is bullying the other animals in the house. They are generally very aggressive, to the point where the other cats fear the bullying cat and will not eat or drink when this cat is around. I love all my cats, but this can’t continue – what can I do?

Answer: While cats are not pack animals by nature, they do tend to form roles within a social grouping. One of these roles will be as the alpha male or female; one cat who believes themselves to be the leader of the group, and takes a very authoritarian attitude.

In some cases, this manifests itself in aggression. The lead cat is often extremely territorial, and may – behind your back if necessary – be extremely protective of the food and water dishes, and sometimes the litter tray. Therefore the best way to deal with this problem in the first instance is to use separate food and water trays for the problem cat. Do not feed all cats together, but rather remove the one causing the issue and feed he or she in a separate room. When they have eaten, remove the dishes and trays so that the other cats cannot approach them; if this is allowed to happen, it can trigger aggression from the dominant cat.

This should calm the worst of the problems associated with territory – anything else you will have to deal with as it happens. If you see the problem cat being unnecessarily aggressive, remove them from the situation for a ‘time out’. They should soon learn you are not on their side, and you are ultimately the dominant one in the household.

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Common Cat Problems Solved: Fighting With Others

December 8, 2009 by  
Filed under Common Cat Problems Solved

Question: I have more than one cat in my household, and the cats fight with each other continually. Sometimes, it can even become so aggressive I fear for their safety. What should I do?

Answer: There are two, very different reasons, two cats (or more) could be fighting.

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Firstly, there may be genuine emotional issues between the two. Some cats, just like humans, will naturally dislike one another. They may see themselves in competition for your affection, or there may be some other territorial transgression which neither animal can deal with.

If this is the case, separate the cats as much as possible – do not force them to interact with one another in the hope that they just ‘get over it’. Use separate feeding dishes (preferably in separate rooms), separate beds, separate toys – and ensure you lavish affection on them both equally. When they do fight, put each kitty in a separate room immediately until they have calmed down.

However, the primary reason for cats who live together actually fighting is boredom. What we as humans constitute as fighting may actually just be playing; even if they do occasionally hiss and scratch at each other. For cats, this is just a form of fun, a way to play around with their friend. You can alleviate this problem by introducing a range of toys into your home, such as mobile or cat DVDs, which will keep their attention off each other. All cats have different preferences, so experiment with different cat toys until you find something that truly holds their attention – and then, you can relax in a fight-free environment.

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