When I visit my clients to resolve cat behavior issues, one topic almost always comes up as a "by-the-way-can-you-help-me-with-this" question. And that question is: "how can I get my cat to stop jumping up on counters and table tops?" Many cats just LOVE to hop up on tables and counter-tops, scavenging for food, knocking stuff off shelves, or getting in our way. And for many of us, that’s just not appropriate behavior. Why do they do this? Counter-surfing cats seek out work-surfaces for a few reasons.
Why, oh why, is spraying cats with water still a thing? In looking around online and talking with people, I find that - over and over again - people are drawn to using a squirt bottle to either discipline or punish cats for unwanted behavior. Even shelters and those who should know better are still recommending the use of spray bottles or squirt guns. With everything we now know about cats, learning, and behavior, we need to update this antiquated mode of trying to teach cats to stop one behavior and do something different!
Even though our cats have fur and four legs instead of being mostly hairless and able to walk upright on two feet, many of us consider our cats to be part of the family. We humans take on the role of cat parent or guardian, and we are responsible for the well-being and care of those under our watchful eyes. In most family units, there are four major parenting styles people have with their human children. I decided to take a look at these and see if there are any parallels to how we take care of our cats, and guess what? There are! Having an understanding of the type of cat parent you are (or what you'd like to become) is an important factor in the well-being of your kitty.
No matter what type of cat you have or what her personality is like, mutual trust in each other must be learned so that you can both enjoy a happy, healthy, relationship. Whether your cat is shy or fearful, bold or aggressive, there are things you should do to foster her confidence and faith in you. It's much easier to build your cat's trust from the get-go then to try to re-build it after you've broken it; however, cats are often forgiving creatures and they don't hold grudges (and they never act out of revenge or spite - cat's just don't think that way). With time, you can improve (or repair) the relationship with your cat to one of comfort, ease, and predictability. Here are a few things to keep in mind when trying to build your cat's trust.
Sometimes when you pet your cat she seems to enjoy the affection – she purrs, she stretches, maybe even gives a contented little meow. But in an instant, it's as if a flip gets switched and the predator within her pounces out! All of a sudden she latches on to your hand and chomps down on you with her teeth…hard. She may even wrap her paws around your hand and “bunny kick” your arm with her back feet, raking her hind claws against your skin. Ouch! How can a cat be so sweet one minute and such a ferocious ball of fury the next? You’ve fallen victim to what’s known as petting aggression, my friend.
Indoor cats, even though they're safer and generally live longer lives than outdoor cats, don't get to be, well, cats. We love cats for what they are, and that's a result of thousands of years of evolution and development of behaviors that have allowed cats to adapt to their environment and niche as both predators and prey. What it comes down to is this: indoor cats have the potential to miss out on a lot of things that cats evolved to experience. And when indoor cats aren't given the opportunity to act like cats, they get bored, stressed, and behavior issues can start to crop up.
Think that behavior training can only be done with dogs and birds? Think again! You'll want to include cats in the list of "trainable critters" after reading this article, and with just a little inspiration, I'm hoping that you will use what I'm going to share with you to start on a cat-training adventure. Whaaaat??? Yes, you can train your cat! And it's a lot easier than you might think - you just need to find out what motivates your cat and use that to reward desired behavior.
I get it – cleaning out the litterbox is not the most fun part about living with one or more cats. But consider this: toilets were made for humans. Humans sit on toilets, do their business, and flush the toilet to get rid of our waste. Toilets were not designed for cats, and in fact, I can’t really think of a more unnatural potty experience for a cat than training it to sit on a toilet to urinate or defecate. Why do we want our cats to do this? If you have a dog, you walk your dog, you clean up after your dog…why is that any less gross or inconvenient than cleaning a litterbox? Yet, we would never consider training dogs to use the toilet, right? It just sounds ridiculous!
My cat Jesse recently turned 17 and, while he has slowed down in the past few years, he's still a relatively healthy kitty and I'd say he's doing pretty good for an older gentleman. Cats are considered “senior” between the ages of around 11 and 14, and “geriatric” by age 15. If you're like me, you've noticed that your senior cat might be sleeping more and moving around a little less and that's pretty normal. However, it's really important that you pay special attention to your older cat and make sure his needs are met. And of course, a cat's physical, mental, and emotional needs change over time. But if you keep a few simple things in mind, your kitty can enjoy a long and healthy life!
Dr. Marci is a certified feline behavior and training consultant, with specialized and advanced certificates in Feline Training and Behavior. She started Feline Behavior Solutions to keep cats in homes and out of shelters as the result of treatable behavior issues. She believes that the number of cats in shelters can be greatly reduced if guardians better understand cat behavior, and learn how to work with their cats to encourage desired behaviors instead of unwanted ones. Dr. Marci’s family includes her four feline companions and her very patient, understanding, and supportive husband.