How to Encourage Good Scratching Habits in Cats

As more and more cat owners are realizing the risks and hazards of declawing and letting their cats roam outdoors, they are faced with the issue of unwanted cat scratching behavior in the house.

Why do cats scratch and how can you encourage appropriate scratching?  Here’s some great information from the American Association of Feline Practitioners!

Why do cats scratch?

Cats have claws to help them hunt, defend themselves, and mark their territory.  Scratching is a natural feline behavior that serves a variety of purposes:  keeping their nails healthy, marking objects in their territory, and good old-fashioned stretching!

Some cats may also scratch when they are anxious and stressed.

How to help your cat with scratching issues

The AAFP advises cat owners to trim their cats’ claws regularly.  You can also provide multiple appropriate scratching surfaces and interactive play toys for each cat in the home.

Cats that exhibit stress related scratching (often in multi-cat households) can especially benefit from their own space and scratching materials.

What’s the best scratching product?

Most cats like to stretch upwards and scratch on a vertical surface.  Make sure you get a post that is tall enough for your cat to stretch on.  Horizontal scratchers are also available if your cat uses the carpet.

Cats prefer rough surfaces to scratch on, like tree bark in the wild.  This is why your cat may be drawn to textured furniture upholstery and carpet.

Choose a scratching post made of a rough material like sisal, corrugated cardboard, or wood.

How to encourage your cat to scratch appropriately

Place scratching posts near your cat’s favorite sleeping areas, and also near furniture that your cat likes to scratch.

Encourage your cat to use scratching posts by gently placing her near the post when she scratches furniture or carpet.  Reward good scratching behavior with your cat’s favorite things (treats, play, brushing, etc.)

 

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House Soiling an Indicator of Urinary Health Problems in Cats

A recent study of cats with a history of urinating outside of the litter box (called “periuria”) has shed some new light on the connection between feline health and litter box issues.

A study published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery examined cats from multi-cat households that exhibited two types of periuria—spraying their urine and urinating outside of the box (called “latrining”).  These cats were compared to cats from the same households that did not exhibit periuria.

The results?  Both the spraying cats and the latrining cats were found to have more urinary (and other) health issues than the normal cats.

Common health problems identified included kidney disease, diabetes, bladder stones, and cystitis (inflammation of the bladder).

Of course, not all litter box problems in multi-cat households are due to medical conditions.  Behavioral problems and environmental stressors such as territoriality and dominance among cats can also be a factor.

The bottom line?  Cats with litter box issues should always be evaluated by a veterinarian to diagnose or rule out health problems.

If no health problems are found, there are lots of resources on litter box behavior that can help cat parents who are struggling with litter box issues in their house.  Check out this comprehensive article from the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine’s Feline Health Center.

 

 

What Kinds of Litter Do Cats Like Best?

Litter box issues, such as going outside of the box, are one of the most common cat behavior problems experienced by owners.  Sometimes these problems are solved with an easy fix, like adding extra boxes in a multi-cat household, cleaning the box more often, or placing the box in a quiet, isolated area.

Another major factor that contributes to litter box problems?  The type of litter you are using may be bothering your cat.  A recent study published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior examined litter box filler preferences among a group of 18 cats.

The researchers gave the cats a choice of clay granules, silica granules, silica microgranules, and wood pellets.  The cats demonstrated a significant preference for clay and silica (both sizes) over the wood.

A second phase of the study gave 12 cats a choice between clay and silica.  The researchers found that the cats showed a significant preference for eliminating in the clay litter over the silica.

If your cat is not happy about that fancy new litter you bought, consider switching back to good old-fashioned clay and see if that makes a difference in your cat’s litter box habits!

Still having problems?  Check out this guide to solving litter box issues.

Owner Education Helps Prevent Undesirable Behaviors in Cats

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Most cat owners will tell you that there are some fairly common cat behavior problems they would like to solve…things like scratching the furniture, jumping on kitchen counters, or scratching/biting while getting pets are just a few examples. What impact does a little education for new kitten owners have on feline behavior problems? As one Italian study found out, quite a lot.

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Researchers studied a total of 91 kittens, divided into two groups. In the first group, owners were provided with advice from veterinarians on how to prevent undesirable behaviors in their cats, both at an initial visit, and then at a follow-up visit 10 months later. In the second group, owners had just one session with the vet.

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Results showed that owners who got one educational visit reported significantly more problems than those who got two opportunities to talk to the vet about behavior issues (43.5% vs. 15.6%). Owners who got less education reported that their cats were more likely to climb on multiple pieces of furniture (and curtains), vocalize more, and disturb them more while in bed or watching TV than those who got more education.

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The owners who got more advice reported that their cats were more likely to climb on only allowed pieces of furniture. The cats were also more likely to seek out physical contact when the owners returned home and were less likely to disturb them at other times. These cats were also more likely to accept petting on any part of the body.

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The results indicate that early–and repeated–education of new cat owners by veterinarians (or others such as pet adoption counselors) on feline behavior issues can go a long way towards solving many of the most common behavior problems seen in cats. For more information on the study, click HERE.

 

The Importance of Play in Reducing Behavior Problems in Indoor Cats

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A recent study published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior demonstrates the importance of environmental enrichment in the well-being of indoor cats. Indoor cats lead longer, safer and healthier lives than outdoor cats. But what about their emotional health? An indoor cat who does not experience adequate play and interaction with his owners, and who isn’t provided with enough stimulating toys, is more likely to experience behavioral problems.

Behavior problems are sadly a common reason why cats are surrendered to shelters. The most common feline behavior problems are aggression towards owners, visitors, or other cats in the home and urination and defecation outside of the litterbox.

Researchers studied 277 indoor cats brought to veterinary practices for non-behavioral issues. The owners were surveyed about their provision of toys and activities for the cats. Results show that the average number of toys and activities per cat is 7. The most popular toys are fur mice, catnip toys and balls with bells. A majority of the cat owners reported that they make the toys available to the cats all the time. All of the owners reported playing with their cats, most 2 or more times a day for an average of 5-10 minutes per play session. Owners who reported longer play periods also reported fewer behavioral problems.

Approximately 60% of all owners reported that their cat had engaged in at least one of the behavior problems at some time. About 50% of them had reported the problem to their vet. The two most common behavior problems seen in the study are aggression towards owners and inappropriate urination. Female cats were found to be less likely to have behavior problems than males.

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Results indicate that environmental enrichment is an important component to feline emotional health. Indoor cats who do not receive adequate play and attention are more likely to demonstrate behavioral problems than those who engage in more frequent and sustained play and interaction.

For more on the study, click HERE.