Kitten & Cat Training & Behavior

How harmoniously you cat or kitten fits into your home will depend on its behavior. Some cats behave in ways that are problematic for their owners. For instance, incessant vocalizations or aggressive behaviors like scratching and biting can cause problems for cat owners. The key to improving the behavior of your cat is training. Working with your kitten or cat to understand the root cause of the problematic behavior and instill better habits through cat training can bring your Oklahoma home back into harmony and your cat closer to your heart.

Natural Cat Behaviors

One way to prepare for cat ownership is to make sure you understand the natural behaviors associated with cats. Here are a few basic behaviors inherent to a cat’s constitution and disposition:

Nocturnal Cat Activity. Cats are nocturnal creatures and will be active at night. Although cats can also be active during the day, you cannot retrain your cat to sleep through the night. Just make sure you give your cat plenty of positive activities to focus on at nighttime and leave fresh water out to satisfy its thirst.

Chewing & Cats. Chewing is part of a cat’s fundamental hunting talents and needs to be expressed. It is also good for strengthening your cat’s teeth and jaws. To accommodate this behavior, you need to focus your cat’s chewing needs on items designed specifically for this purpose. Give your cat plenty of chew toys that are made from softer materials, nothing too hard that might crack or chip its teeth.

Roaming & Cats. Roaming is also part of a cat’s hunting behavior. If you live on the outskirts of Edmond, consider letting you cat roam, as Oklahoma has plenty of fields and grasslands for them to explore and wild animals for them to hunt. For indoor cats, this can be a problem. That’s why you need to keep your cat active with plenty of toys and activities to stimulate it physically and mentally. If activities are available, don’t be concerned if your cat spends time continuously wandering around the same room or throughout your house. It’s simply expressing its need to roam.

Cats & Scratching. Scratching serves two important functions for cats. First, it helps them fully stretch their bodies and muscles. Second, it provides a way for cats to shed dead sheaths from their nails. You cannot teach a cat not to scratch. It is an inherent behavior. However, you can teach a cat what to scratch by giving it a positive outlet for scratching with a scratching post. If needed, you can also spray items you don’t want your cat to scratch with scents it dislikes. There are commercial products available in pet stores that bottle up scents cats will avoid.

Cat Vocalizations. Cats combine different forms of vocalization along with specific body positions or gestures to communicate how they feel. The most common of these is also the one most widely recognized: the purr. Purring typically is a sound of comfort for a cat. Pet owners like it, too. But many people don’t realize that purring is also a sound a cat makes in the most extreme circumstances of stress. Meowing is the second most commonly made cat sound. It is a call for attention. Cats meow when they want to be fed or played with or when they are stuck and need help getting free. Cats make a sound, referred to as chirping, when they get excited by the sight of prey. You may hear your cat chirp when it is watching a video of birds. Cats chatter when they are frustrated. Kittens have a unique sound, called an angry wail, which is a distress call they send to their mothers. When cats feel threatened, they use vocalizations that are produced with an open mouth. A hiss indicates that a cat was surprised by a perceived adversary. A shriek or scream is the sound cats make when they are in pain or experiencing extreme fear or aggression. Snarling is the sound males make when they fight over territory or a female cat. A long, low-pitched growl sound means danger.

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Problem Cat Behaviors

Most problem behaviors for cats are the result of boredom, inactivity, lack of attention, stress, illness, or inappropriate training techniques. That’s why it is so critical to provide your cat with lots of daily physical and mental stimulation. Stress may result from changes in routine, even those as simple as changing the placement of food dishes or a litter box. A new family member can also cause stresses that result in problem behaviors.

Inappropriate training happens when cat owners want to train cats to respond in a particular way yet inadvertently reward the wrong behavior. For example, if your cat meows and cries for you to get up and play with it at nighttime, you may, after a time, just give in to make it stop. This actually rewards the cat’s behavior and teaches it to repeat these cries to get your attention. When training cats around behaviors, it is critical that you identify which behaviors you want to reinforce and which you want to change. Then only reward completion of the desired behavior. Don’t give in to your cat when training for change. One or two bad nights of sleep to make the message clear is a lot less of a price to pay than a lifetime of getting up to play with your cat in the middle of the night.

If you experience problem behaviors with your cat, the first thing to do is rule out any medical causes. You also need to make sure you pay attention to where your cat is in its life cycle. Adolescence and old age create physical changes that may cause stress to your cat. Then you can look to training solutions. Commonly demonstrated problem behaviors in cats include:

  • Destructiveness
  • Aggressive play
  • Biting or nipping
  • Excessive hiding
  • Excessive chewing
  • Excessive scratching
  • Excessive vocalization
  • House soiling
  • Urine spraying

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