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December 7, 2019

My Cat is Mad at Me

I know my cat is mad at me because she is: (urinating on the bed, defecating on my clothes, biting me when I sleep, scratching the furniture—fill in the blank—). People sometimes jump to the conclusion that their cats have a vendetta against them or are mad at them when they engage in unpleasant behaviors. I hear this frequently from my clients.

Behavior does not occur in a vacuum. There is always a reason for behavior, cats being mad at their people or trying to get even with them is not one of them. Cats do not hold grudges. People do.

Look beyond vendettas and grudges.

Check the environment—look for the circumstances that contribute to the behavior. Inadequate litter box maintenance, poor litter box locations, lack of scratching posts and vertical territory, changes in schedules and household tensions are examples of situations that set the stage for unwelcome behaviors.

Additionally, check out the consequences of the behavior. Consequences predict if a cat will repeat a behavior. It is common for cat parents to unknowingly reinforce behaviors. Attention seeking, night time/early morning demands, counter surfing and aggression are some behaviors that people easily and accidentally reinforce.  A cat who wakes her favorite person at dawn will predictably repeat the annoying behavior if her person feeds and pays attention to her. The cat has learned that when she wakes her person, she gets what she wants—food and attention. A cat who bites when soliciting play most likely has been played with using hands and bites during play. The cat, enjoying the interaction with her favorite person, will try to solicit attention and play from her favorite person through biting.

There are other times when no one is reinforcing the behavior. A cat who urinates on their favorite person’s bed or couch may feel safe eliminating in those locations (always rule out any medical reasons by first having the cat examined by a veterinarian). Beds and couches usually have extensive views—perfect for a cat to identify and then escape a potential threat. Feeling safe is the consequence of urinating on the bed or couch.

It is easy to understand why people make ethnocentric assumptions about cat behavior. Humans hold grudges and they sometimes indulge in vendettas against each other. Cats don’t hold grudges, neither do they engage in unpleasant behaviors because they are mad at a specific person. Look beyond initial assumptions for the reasons for a behavior. After identifying the triggers, a successful behavior modification plan can be designed and implemented.

It’s a Toy! It’s a Scratcher!

Cats are not designed to be bored. They are intelligent predators who need activities and toys to stimulate them mentally and physically. There are a variety of toys on the market that are designed to enrich their lives—some are more affective at fighting boredom then others.

Treasure hunt in the Turbo Scratcher

Kingsley and Sudan searching for treats in the Turbo Scratcher(r)

Turbo Scratcher® Review

I am always on the search for cat toys that mentally stimulate and physically motivate cats. There are two types I am on the alert for—interactive toys that people use to play with their cats and toys that cats can interact with when their people are not around to entertain them. One toy that stands out for me is the Turbo Scratcher®. Most cats enjoy interacting with this toy with or without the benefit of people intervention. Turbo Scratchers® are always marked as must-have toys on product lists I send my cat behavior clients.

The Turbo Scratcher® is multi-functional. In addition to mentally stimulating cats, it is a behavior tool. The TS is a flat, circular combo toy/scratcher with a replaceable cardboard scratcher in the center. Circling the scratcher is a tract with a ball inside.  This toy takes the frustration factor out of playing. The tract is open from the top—perfect for directly interacting with the ball. Because play is an extension of the hunt, cats need to catch their prey and feel it under their paws. The open tract design is perfect for satisfying this need—allowing them to chase and finally catch the ball.

Additionally, Turbo Scratchers® are perfect for hiding treats in when conducting treasure hunts. Encouraging cats to hunt and work for treats helps burn calories and mentally stimulates them. Treats are placed throughout a room, on vertical territory (cat trees), shelves, in puzzle boxes and of course in the TS. The added benefit of hiding a few treats in the TS is that cats typically will bat the ball around a bit while fishing for their treats.

It goes without saying—the Turbo Scratcher® is also a scratcher. Cats need to scratch for a variety of reasons. In addition to nail maintenance, marking territory, scratching when frustrated, they scratch when playing and when they excessive energy. The TS, being multi-functional, encourages cats to both scratch and play.

I like this combo scratcher/toy. It addresses cat behavior. I have not found many other cat toys that are as versatile and multi-functional as the Turbo Scratcher®.

Cat: The Masterpiece

Cats are nature’s masterpiece. They are perfectly designed. They are compact and streamlined hunting machines. Every part of a cat has multiple jobs to perform. From the tips of sensitive whiskers to the bottom of silent paws, every part of a cat multi-tasks. Every part of a cat is perfect.

A cat’s claws and paws are good examples of this. Cats use their claws for many reasons. Defending themselves is one, catching prey is another.  Cats also need to scratch. When cat’s scratch, they are telling the world about themselves, broadcasting information, marking their territory. Cats have scent glands on the bottom of their paw pads that leave vital information about themselves. Additionally they are marking visually.

Cats give themselves manicures when they scratch. When we get manicures and pedicures, we spend lots of money and time in order to have perfectly shaped finger nails and toe nails. Cats have it made. All they have to do to maintain the health of their claws is scratch on a surface that has a certain texture and resistance.

When cats scratch they are stretching. Every morning my cats go to their favorite scratching posts and reach up as high as they can and scratch and stretch. They stretch every muscle with these daily stretches. We can learn a lot about how to properly stretch just by watching our cats scratch and stretch.

Cats do have to scratch. They don’t have to scratch the antique sofa or the Persian rug. They can be taught through methods that include positive reinforcement and modeling to scratch the right cat-centric furniture.  Declawing a cat is not a good solution to stop a cat from scratching furniture. Besides being painful and inhumane, it can lead to other behavior problems such as biting and inappropriate elimination.