Top 10 cat behavior tips - Veterinary Medicine
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Top 10 cat behavior tips
Pass these words of wisdom on to cat owners to put to immediate use.



Placing bells on a cat-safe collar is an easy way to make a cat more detectable. With intercat conflict, putting bells on the aggressor may allow the victim to use avoidance strategies. And in cats with play-related aggression toward people, the bells can warn people that they are about to be pounced on, so they can then avoid the attack or divert the cat onto a more appropriate target (string, ball). Cats that scratch furniture can be monitored by owners listening for the telltale sound of the bells as the cat tears into the sofa. And cats wearing bells may be less successful in predatory conquests.


When a cat gets aggressively aroused, it can take a while for it to calm down, sometimes days or weeks.15 So before making any attempts at reconciliation, give a cat plenty of time to calm down after an upsetting incident. Cats are also notorious for redirected aggression—when upset they often lash out at the closest target. The slightest action, such as brief eye contact, sneezing, or uncrossing your legs, can trigger a redirected attack in an aroused cat. Watch for signs that indicate an upset cat (ears back, tail fluffed, tail twitching), and avoid interacting with that cat for an extended period.15


Marking is a form of both olfactory and visual communication in cats. Several forms of marking exist, including scratch and urine marking, bunting (facial marking), and rolling. The most problematic markings for pet owners are scratch and urine markings, since they often damage property. Considering that marking is a normal cat behavior, it is understandable that it is challenging to completely inhibit it.

Scratch marking

A cat's motivation for scratch marking varies from maintenance grooming of the claw bed to deposition of an olfactory mark to convey temporal cues regarding the cat's proximity or passage. Owners need to provide outlets for scratch marking and make unacceptable targets less attractive.

Cats tend to scratch mark on surfaces in their usual paths, so scratching posts need to be placed in prominent, well-traveled locations. Some cats prefer to scratch on vertical surfaces while others prefer horizontal surfaces. Cat owners should watch their cats to see what orientation they prefer and should provide scratching surfaces that cater to their cats' preferences. Scratching posts should be sturdy and tall enough to provide a cat with a good stretch. Entice cats to the post or pad with catnip, toys, and treats, and praise them when they use it.

Selecting furniture fabrics (e.g. suede, leather) that do not provide purchase for the claws can make the furniture less attractive to cats. Placing aversive materials, such as double-stick tape, on the unacceptable targets can also deter a cat from using these sites. Spraying unacceptable scratch sites with the feline pheromone Feliway (Ceva Santé Animale; Veterinary Products Laboratories) may encourage bunting instead of scratch marking.

Urine marking

Stress, anxiety, sexual status, and territorial issues can all play a role in urine marking. Social strife among cats is a likely cause of urine marking. If the underlying cause can be identified and removed or modified, then the urine marking behavior may decline. Marking can occur seasonally, coinciding with a cat's mating season. Providing adequate litter boxes (number of boxes = number of cats + 1), cleaning the boxes regularly (scooped daily, washed weekly), and cleaning soiled spots with an enzymatic cleanser can help reduce the frequency of marking.16 And using Feliway can also help reduce urine marking.17


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