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Cat Behavior - Understanding and Addressing Cat Behavioral Issues

What is the most important thing to know about cat behavior?

Cat behavior is how they communicate with us. That's how you know if your cat is happy, sad, hungry, upset, or having emotional distress. Much like humans have nonverbal communication, cats have behavior. That's what cat behavior is and that's why it's so important.

Dr. Meghan Denney
Four Paws At Fulshear

Is it possible to fix behavior issues in a cat?

Yes, if you start early and especially with cats that are food motivated. You can socialize them, train them, and manage certain behaviors. However, this does require some work. If you have a very stressful cat, there are things that we can do to help such as calming feline pheromones, cat-friendly music, and food motivators to create positive experiences.

What are some signs and symptoms of cat behavior problems?

I believe one crucial aspect to consider is the absence of bite inhibition. If you happen to adopt a single kitten, and it's vigorously biting you, potentially because it was raised as a bottle baby, you might encounter this issue. In litters, kittens learn bite inhibition from their siblings and mother. This teaching helps them understand the boundaries of how hard they can bite. Another common concern is scratching furniture, which is a topic we frequently address. Teaching your kitten to tolerate nail trims or introducing nail covers is something we can guide you through.

Another behavioral challenge is when kittens go outside the litter box. Instead of defecating or urinating inside the designated area, they might choose to go elsewhere, even venturing as far as pooping in the kitchen sink. I've experienced this myself – it can be a bit unappealing, but it's not uncommon. Furthermore, occasionally, when a cat is upset about something, it might express its dissatisfaction by using my bathroom as an alternative spot for its needs. These behaviors demand our attention as they could be indicators of underlying emotional stress or medical issues. It's essential to have these discussions with your veterinarian to address any concerns comprehensively.

When should I bring my cat in to see a veterinarian to discuss behavior?

When you notice that your cat's behavior isn't quite normal, it's a signal to take action. This might manifest in various ways, such as urinating outside the litter box, choosing inappropriate places for urination, or defecating in unexpected locations. Increased vocalization is another sign to watch for.

It's intriguing how cats have a repertoire of different meows, each conveying specific needs or emotions. Even with my four cats, my husband often chuckles at my ability to discern what each cat wants based on their meow's tone and type. I can tell when they're hungry, scared, in need of attention, or simply ready to drive me up the wall. Understanding their vocalization can provide valuable insights into their well-being. If you observe behaviors that deviate from your cat's usual habits, it's an indicator that a visit to the veterinarian is warranted. This is especially true if these behaviors are causing you frustration or straining the bond between you and your feline companion.

Pets, after all, are cherished for the unconditional love they provide. When they start scratching, biting, or wreaking havoc on your prized leather couch, those warm fuzzy feelings can dwindle. That's precisely when it's essential to seek professional guidance. We can collaborate to find solutions and improve your relationship with your feline friend.

How would a veterinarian diagnose behavior problems in my cat?

We will begin by thoroughly gathering information about your situation. I will ask you to share what's been happening, and then I'll delve into the details. For instance, your story might revolve around how you acquired this kitten from a foster who lovingly bottle-fed it. Perhaps everything seems fine until the moment you're playing with the kitten or it's resting on your lap while you're petting it, and suddenly, it turns aggressive, scratching or biting you. Or, it could be a scenario where your husband has just splurged on a luxurious leather couch, and your kitten has taken a liking to shredding it.

The goal here is to compile a comprehensive history so that we can pinpoint the root of the issue. Based on the story you share, I'll be able to identify potential problems and suggest strategies to improve the situation.

What are some possible health concerns that can arise from cat behavior problems?

I believe that one significant sign to watch for is urinating or defecating outside the litter box. This behavior can often be an indicator of underlying issues, especially in older cats who may be suffering from arthritis. Arthritis can make it painful for them to access the litter box or maintain the necessary posture, prompting them to avoid it. Cats are adept at concealing signs of illness, and a recent study highlights that many cats with arthritis go undiagnosed. Thankfully, we now have medications available, such as a monthly injection, which has been a game-changer for my thirteen-year-old cat.

Another noticeable behavior is an increased appetite. If your cat is constantly eating yet losing weight, it's a clear signal that something isn't right. Conversely, if your cat loses interest in food and starts losing weight, it's also cause for concern. Paying attention to these changes in behavior is crucial, as they serve as valuable indicators that it's time to consult your veterinarian and get to the root of the issue.

Why is early detection and diagnosis so important for cats with behavior issues?

It's important to recognize that we're all human, and nobody is perfect. We have emotions, and we all have our breaking points. The goal here is to address these behavioral issues before they escalate to a breaking point because, at that stage, you might find yourself faced with some incredibly tough decisions. Imagine a scenario where your cat is peeing on everything, and your husband gives you an ultimatum. You'd be forced to make the difficult choice of rehoming, adoption, or, in extreme cases, euthanasia if the issue stems from an underlying illness.

Early intervention is our way of preventing you from ever reaching that point. No one wants to feel backed into a corner, and that's precisely why catching these issues early is of paramount importance. Preventative medicine, in essence, is about nipping potential major life problems or upheavals in the bud before they even occur. Our role is not just to care for your pets but also to safeguard the precious bond between humans and animals. If that bond is strained due to any reason, it becomes our mission to work as a team with you to mend it. Ultimately, that's why we do what we do. We adore our animals, and we understand that you cherish your cat, which is why you're here watching this video.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (281) 801-1444, or you can email us at [email protected]. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can. Don't forget to follow us on social media Facebook, Instagram

Cat Behavior - FAQs

Dr. Meghan Denney
Four Paws At Fulshear

What should I do if I notice a sudden change in my cat's behavior?

You should call your veterinarian. Let's get an appointment because any change in behavior can mean that something is going on. If you know your cat, if it's a kitten and you're seeing a sudden change in behavior, like maybe your kitten's been all sassy and spicy and getting little kitty zoomies and then all of a sudden the next day, all they're doing is sleeping, that's a sudden change in behavior that's not normal. That's your clue to be like, hey, something's not right. The biggest thing about being a cat owner is that these changes can be really subtle, but you as a cat owner will pick up on them because you live with them every day.

What does my veterinarian need to know about my cat's behavior?

Everything. I want to know everything. Not just because I actually love cats. I'm trained to know what to look for and what to listen for when you're telling me the stories of what your cat's doing. I'm trained to pick up on these little nuances of cat behavior. I can help you decode cats. We can figure out together if there is a problem or if there isn't a problem. If there is a problem, how do we fix it?

How do I know if a sudden change in my cat's behavior is a problem?

It's all about recognizing that change, no matter how subtle, from their usual behavior, which can signal that something might be amiss. Let's use me as an example. If you've been to our clinic and had the chance to meet me, you probably formed an impression of who I am within just five minutes. And even if you're watching this video right now, you're likely getting a sense of my personality. I'm the type who speaks candidly, with no filter, and is quite expressive. I enjoy sharing stories, and I'm known for gesticulating with my hands.

Now, my team at the clinic, they're like family to me. They're not just colleagues; I genuinely care about them. They've come to expect that I'll always greet them with a cheerful "good morning" on most days. And on Mondays, I make it a point to ask everyone about their weekends because I genuinely care. So, if one day I walk in and I'm uncharacteristically quiet, that's a change. Right away, my whole team knows that something might be off. I might be feeling stressed, upset, or sad about something.

Let's switch gears and apply this to your cat. If your cat typically welcomes you home with a cheerful chirp but suddenly stops doing so, or if your cat, who usually waits eagerly for your return like mine does, hasn't been doing so for a couple of days, that's a change. We need to pay attention to these shifts because these subtle variations often serve as our only indicators that something might be wrong. Cats can transition from appearing perfectly fine to not fine, and it doesn't always happen suddenly.

Sometimes, their signs are so subtle that they slowly manifest as things start to go awry, or they begin to feel unwell. Until it escalates into a major issue, we might not even notice it. That's why it's crucial to heed these small changes. If there's an underlying infection, liver disease, or any other health problem, maybe your cat's appetite is slightly off for a week or two. But suddenly, they start vomiting everything they eat. To us, it may seem like it occurred out of the blue, but it hasn't. It's been deteriorating over time, and we may not have detected it. This underscores the importance of recognizing your cat's behavioral cues and reaching out for an appointment or speaking with a technician. You could say, "My cat's eating habits have changed." You know what my technician will say? "Let's schedule an appointment, absolutely." What about my front desk staff? They'll say, "Let's get that appointment booked."

Wondering why many of us have pets, including cats? It's because we understand that these subtle shifts can be indicative of a more significant issue lurking beneath the surface. They might signal a substantial problem we can address early, and it's also far more cost-effective to tackle an issue before it escalates into a major crisis rather than waiting until it necessitates hospitalization and more extensive treatments.

How do I know if things like kneading and hunting are normal behaviors in my cat?

Because they're cats. That's totally normal. So kneading, that's like you're kneading bread. I call it making biscuits. This is making biscuits. Hunting, they're cats. The hunting behavior, that's play. It's normal.

How do I assess whether a change in my cat's behavior means they're sick?

I believe that any sustained change in a cat's behavior signals that there might be an issue. Now, does this mean I'm going to panic if my feline friend doesn't come to greet me at the door tonight? No. You see, usually, when he's not at the door, he's somewhere in the hallway, patiently waiting for me. He tends to walk with me.

Will I start to wonder if something's amiss if I get home and he's not out and about, seeking interaction with me? Yes, indeed. My internal cat owner alarm bells, along with my veterinarian instincts, will start to tingle a bit. If it happens two days in a row, then something is certainly up. You see, I tend to be a bit of a helicopter mama when it comes to being a pet parent or a cat owner. It might be because I don't have kids, and that's perfectly fine. I know many of you watching lead busy lives, and that's okay too.

However, for me, I have a very low threshold for when to start worrying. If a behavior persists for more than a day (but not for issues like vomiting - please don't wait two days to call if your cat is vomiting multiple times in a single day), and if it's something subtle like a temporary loss of appetite followed by a return to normal the next day, then I won't fret too much. That's sort of my personal guideline for deciding when to seek help. But remember, if you're ever in doubt, don't hesitate to give us a call. That's why we're here. You can call our clinic, or you can call another clinic. It doesn't matter who you call. The point is, there's a reason why we're all in this profession, and it's to assist you. You're not alone in this. We're here to help.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (281) 801-1444, or you can email us at [email protected]. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can. Don't forget to follow us on social media Facebook, Instagram

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