The Kitty Grudge Fallacy

I hear people explain their cat’s behaviour problem like “She started peeing on my boyfriend’s clothes when he moved in because she was upset about it” or “He jumps on the counters because he knows it makes me angry” all of the time, but these owners have it all wrong. Our cats don’t do things out of spite or to make us mad, they actually don’t even have the ability to think those thoughts like we do! There is always a whole other problem going on in our cat’s mind that may not make any sense to us, but it is still very real to them. For the problem with peeing on the newcomer’s clothes, your cat is most likely feeling some environmental stress and territorial insecurities, not hate for your boyfriend. The second problem with being on counter tops is most likely happening because you haven’t provided enough vertical space for your cat to climb on and explore, not because he likes it when you yell at him. When you’re facing a behaviour problem with your cat, try your best to remove yourself emotionally from the issue and think like a cat, you will be much more successful in solving the problem and you’ll even learn a few valuable lessons about your kitty!

Coming In For a Safe Landing

“Cats always land on their feet.” We have all heard this fact countless times, and it really is true that cats will almost always land on their feet, all thanks to their natural righting reflex. Cat’s amazing falling process starts when the fluid in the vestibular apparatus in the ear moves because of gravitational pull and disrupts the tiny hairs also found in the organ. All of that movement sends messages to the brain to let the cat know which way is up and which way is down. The second thing that happens is that the cat’s body starts to twist to be right side up again, and as Dr. Dodman explains, the cat goes through these 5 steps to land safely.

1. The cat turns so that his head is right side up.
2. He then moves his front legs close to his face to protect it from impact.
3. He twists his spine so the front portion of his body lines up with his head.
4. He twists the back portion of his body to align with his head.
5. He bends his hind legs and relaxes his muscles before he touches the ground.

This process of falling and twisting is so intriguing and I hope all of you cat owners out there appreciate it too, it’s just another phenomenon that makes owning a cat so fascinating.

Cats CAN Be Trained

People have been training cats to do tricks for years, but it’s becoming more and more popular for helping to fix behaviour problems, to work our cat’s minds and even just for fun and to bond. Since training cats is still pretty new, I have lots of people look at me like I’m crazy when I suggest they train their kitty to sit, down, stay, or any other trick that you would teach a dog. It makes me giggle a little. Cats can be trained, we just have to start thinking like them!

Like I’ve said countless times, cats aren’t dogs, so training cats is a wee bit different. Most cats won’t do something just to please you, they need to know what’s in it for them, and what’s in it for them is tasty treats! Always use your cat’s most favourite treat while training and make sure they are hungry, so no free feeding or treating outside of training session.

Along with treats comes clicks! Clicker training is a cat trainer’s best friend (other than the cats themselves of course). Clicker training is simple and is yet the most effective way to train cats. Since us humans are pretty slow sometimes to get treats to our cat’s mouths we teach our cats that a click means that they did what they were supposed to and now they just need to wait for their clumsy human to give them their reward. It’s always behaviour performed, click, and then treat!

There are many different types of clickers that you can use for training, a quieter click with a pointer stick is ideal.

Depending on your cat, there are two ways to train them to do a trick, they are luring and capturing. Luring is when you put a treat in front of your cat’s nose and lure them into the position you want tot rain, like sit or down. Luring a cat can be tough though, so that’s why we have capturing as well. Capturing is when you treat your kitty for doing something naturally, so if you see your cat about to sit her butt down, you would treat her as soon as she sits. Capturing works a lot more nicely for stubborn kitties, but it can only be done to teach commands that are natural for cats to do.

Lastly, patience is key, as it is for training and teaching any living being. Progress is always slow at first, but once you and your cat have the basics down, you’ll both be flying through tricks that you can show off!

This handsome guy was at a shelter I volunteer at, he was learning sit and down!

How To Curb Those Naughty But Natural Behaviours

All cat’s behaviour problems can be solved, some are rooted so deep in a cat’s instincts though that the problem can’t be stopped completely, but the kitty can instead be given an appropriate outlet to be able to act on their instincts. Here are those deeply rooted natural behaviour and how to curb them:

Scratching furniture, walls, and doors: Scratching is how cats leave visual and scent markers to define their territory. Scratching also helps them stretch all of their muscles and sheath their outer claws. While scratching isn’t something you can stop your cat from doing, you can make it so she only scratches what you want her to scratch. You do this by putting sturdy scratchers beside the object that you don’t want her to scratch and praise her with treats every time she uses the appropriate scratcher. Also pay attention to what your cat scratches to see if she is a vertical or horizontal scratcher. If she scratches carpet, she’s a horizontal scratcher, if she scratches the sides of your couches, she is a vertical scratcher, cater to that.

Jumping onto “forbidden” areas: Cats are both predator and prey so being up high lets them observe their territory for food and dangers, that’s why you will often have a problem with your cat being on counter tops, tables, and appliances. Just like scratching, you need to give her appropriate high places to perch on like cat trees, shelving, or even just a tall stool, and praise her when she uses them.

Nocturnal activity: Cats are often mistaken as being nocturnal even though they are actually crepuscular (they are most active at dawn and dusk). If you don’t give your cat enough mental stimulation and exercise throughout the day before you go to bed, she will be up all night filled with all of the energy she didn’t get to burn off. To prevent nocturnal activity,give your kitty enough mental and physical stimulation during the day by providing her with a window for some cat TV, solo toys, puzzle feeders, and play with her at least 15 mins a day, especially before bedtime.

Escaping/bolting: Any cat that is not neutered or spayed will try to escape, so always fix your cat. Some other reasons a cat would want to bolt out the front door could be lack of routine, feeling unsafe or stressed, or not getting enough mental stimulation indoors. The goal in this case is to make your cat want to be inside, you do this by providing her with cat TV,solo toys, and by having a strict feeding and interactive play routine. You can also bring the outdoors in by growing catnip and cat grass, or bring the indoors cat out safely with leash walking, a catio, or an enclosed yard with a fence that she can’t get over.

Being a pet owner isn’t easy, but making sure they live their best life is your ultimate goal. There are many ways to not have to sacrifice too much of your own homes to integrate everything they need in to it. It is all worth it in the long run for the animals we love so dearly.

Spray Bottle Blues

It breaks my heart knowing that many people still use spray bottles to punish their kitties when they’re breaking the rules. Spraying your cat with water every time she does something naughty only does two things; it teaches her that she can still do what she wants as long as you and the spray bottle aren’t around, and it also ruins the relationship between the two of you because she will begin to see you as a threat rather than a friend.

Spraying your cat is a horrible, bond breaking, fear inducing, and all around cruel technique. There are so many other methods that can be used to fix a bad behaviour that are 100% more effective than punishment. Praising your kitty for doing what is right with treats and pets, blocking her from being able to be naughty, giving her lots of mental stimulation, and playing with her daily are just a few behaviour modifiers that actually work all in tandem with each other by being fair, kind, and rewarding to all of her kitty needs.