Help! My Cat Is Acting Weird!

One of the great joys of owning a pet lies in observing its moods and getting to know the little peculiarities that makes it different from others. When you own a pet you get to know the little idiosyncrasies and your favorite furry pal can often let you know how it is feeling through its behaviour. Let’s take a closer look at some feline basics.

Let’s Define “Domestic Cat”

The feline world is made of many different species that have successfully survived in the wild and have evolved over time. The felines we own as pets today (domestic cats) are those that have been bred from other cats that were domesticated way back, as long as 10,000 years ago. Back then people encouraged cats to stay nearby because they were very useful to keep mice away from their food stores.

Domestic cats have traditionally been kept outside and it is only relatively recently that they have found a place inside our homes. One of the main reasons for this switch is that cats needed to have the freedom to relieve themselves outdoors since there wasn’t a practical way for them to do so inside the house. With the invention and introduction of cat litter in the 1940s, owning a cat as an "indoors only pet" became more acceptable and practical. 

Wildcats vs. House Cats

Domestic cats were not easily a thing until after 1947 when they were first bred by Ed Lowe in the USA. Ed Lowe invented cat litter because his neighbor ran out of the ashes and sand that everybody used outside.

Other than the lack of toilet facilities for our fascinating feline friends, there are plenty of reasons for not allowing your cat to roam around outside. Some of these include the risk of your cat being hit by traffic or harmed by other animals or even people. Depending on the size of a person’s living space cats may happily live indoors and receive all the stimulation and company that they require. When mainly kept indoors these cats are referred to as house cats

Ed Lowe

Domestic cats come in all different shapes, sizes and breeds. Each breed can be officially determined by its size, colour and markings. As a pet lover you will know that different breeds of cat come with different needs and behaviours but these are not the only features that you'll have to deal with. Just like humans, each cat has its own personality which means that even in the same breed different cats may behave differently. Some cats will need to be very active, have their own outside lives and act like wild cats, hunting and prowling. Others, sometime referred as gentle cats will be happy to play with their owners and sleep with no need to go outside at all. 

Whatever breed you have it is important that you are able to recognise that your cat is communicating with you through behaviour. If you think your cat is behaving oddly then you'll need to learn why that is and what you can do to improve its behaviour. 

Cat Scratching

One of the most common needs that cats have is to scratch furniture. While it is clearly a source of relief and comfort for them it can be quite a problem for you. The reason cats often instinctively scratch furniture and carpets is that it is a handy (for them) way to wear out the ends of their claws and naturally sharpen them.

Scratching posts and indoor cat trees are a great way to divert your cat’s attention away from your delicate couch or bed. They are relatively cheap and will help your cat be less destructive inside your home. Many of them already come with catnip ingrained but otherwise you can encourage them to use the post by putting catnip on them and hanging toys from them. 

Scratching Posts

Remember to be strategic about where in your home you place a scratching post: keep it in areas of the house that you know your cat will spend time in as part of its daily routine so that it will naturally come across it. In the meanwhile, to save your furniture from any more damage, try to cover the areas that your cat has been scratching until it has learned to use the scratching post.

We all know how cats like to stretch out after a good nap. Taller posts that allow them to have a good stretch may become your pet's favourite. Remember, these posts are going to see some serious scratching action and will need to be really sturdy so look out for good quality ones!

If, even after introducing the cat posts, your cat insists on scratching up your furniture you may need to go over house training again. Training a cat sounds harder than it actually is. Don't fear: over time your pet will come to understand that scratching the furniture is displeasing to you if you clap your hands to startle it when this happens. Alternatively, say if you don’t want to wake a sleeping baby by clapping, you could gently squirt the cat with water. 

Cat Scratching

Remember not to do this too often as it could make your cat nervous around you. With a range of creative cat scratching posts on the market you'll have no problem finding one that is appealing to your cat and appropriate for your home.

Understanding Your Cat’s Meowing

As you’re probably already aware, cats tend to meow for all sorts of reasons: it may be to remind you it is time to eat or because it is locked outside the house, simply to great you when you return home or to ask for attention and demand cuddles. Cats love their independence but they can also get lonely and although they can be temperamental they do love the attention of the owner.  

Some cats meow frequently while others are relatively quiet, it really depends upon their personality. The only time to be genuinely concerned about your cat’s meowing is if it meows excessively and/or loudly. Particularly if your cat is elderly this could be a sign of serious distress and you should see advice from your vet.

Cat’s Meowing

My Cat Ignores the Litter Box 

If your cat knows how to use the litter box and still does its business around the house it is likely that it is using urine to mark the house as a form of communication. To avoid disputes between cats in the wild, felines leave messages through their urine: this way they inform other cats of their presence and mark their territory. From the unique scent left in the urine, cats can tell how long ago another feline was in the area. Over time, other cats will get to know when the cat visits that particular spot and learn to avoid it at that particular time. If you have more than one cat in your home then they may be marking their territory within the house. Although this is an instinctive behaviour, your cat should phase it out relatively quickly, especially if it is the only animal inside the household. If your cat sprays excessively it could be that it is very anxious about other pets it shares the living space with. One suggestion from the cat expert Jackson Galaxy is that you give your cats plenty of extra surfaces to "claim" indoors, using Cat trees and shelves.

Cat Trees

Cat Shelves

Of course, creating the "perfect living space" for their cat can't always be the most practical solution for everyone. However you should see a real difference in its behavior by just making sure that your cat has somewhere it can go to have its own space and get away from other pets. This small adjustment can reduce your pet's anxiety levels and stop it from spraying all over your house. Jackson Galaxy also suggests that excessive spraying may be caused by your cat being nervous of a particular person in the house. In this case, once you have identified the person, he or she should make some effort to work on their relationship with the cat to prevent it from misbehaving. As well as for marking territory, cats also use urine to avoid confrontations.

Let's just say that finding your home and furniture covered in cat urine would put any owner in the wrong mood! 

While there is plenty of advice available for cat owners this article gives you some basic advice on why it is important to understand cat behaviour if you are going to have one as pet.

Author Marino
Author: Marino Tilatti
Member of PetsForAll Editorial Stuff

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