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Here’s a quick and easy infographic on the importance of interactive playtime.

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Here’s a quick and easy infographic to help you select the right scratching post for your cat.

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Cat Behavior Associates by Pam Johnson-bennett - 2M ago

Here’s a quick and easy infographic to get you started on setting up a cat-friendly litter box.

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Cat Behavior Associates by Pam Johnson-bennett - 3M ago

If you live with a cat, you have most likely had to clean up some vomit from time to time. Vomiting in cats can be a sign of various health conditions. Many cat parents may disregard vomiting and label it as a typical or normal cat behavior but it’s important to know that it’s not normal. Vomiting means something is wrong. The cause could be serious or minor but it definitely means your attention is required.

If your cat is vomiting it’s important to determine the cause as it could indicate a potential medical problem.

The Difference Between Vomiting and Regurgitation

Regurgitation involves bringing undigested food back up out of the mouth or esophagus that hasn’t reached the stomach. Vomiting involves expelling the contents of the stomach up through the mouth.

Potential Reasons for Vomiting Hairballs

Cats groom frequently and as a result, hair gets swallowed. The backward-facing barbs on the cat’s tongue prevent him from spitting out the hair so he has no choice but to swallow it. The hair may pass through the system without issue and get eliminated in the stool. Hairballs may also not pass easily in the intestines and they could cause a blockage.  Sometimes though, the accumulating hair doesn’t make it through the stomach and gets vomited back up. When a cat vomits up a hairball it typically appears as a cylindrical shape. If your cat frequently vomits hairballs it indicates there’s a problem. The cat may be grooming more than usual due to stress, a medical issue, pain, parasites, or simply because he isn’t getting brushed at all.

There are OTC hairball prevention products available to help hairballs go through the cat’s system more smoothly but you should first talk with your veterinarian because there may an underlying cause for the hairball vomiting that needs to be addressed medically.

BUY PAM’S BOOKS NOW Change in Diet

This can be the result of making an abrupt change in the cat’s diet, whether that includes changing brands or types. Dietary changes should be gradual to give the cat’s system time to adjust. It also decreases the chances of the cat rejecting the food. Vomiting may also occur if a change in diet includes an ingredient that causes stomach irritation.

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As cat parents, we have so many things in common. It’s wonderful to meet other cat lovers and cat parents, whether in person or through social media, and share pictures, stories, offer or receive advice. It’s wonderful to enjoy the special bond we share. When it comes to the things we have in common, I’m sure you can relate to 15 things I’ve listed. Of course, there are many more things we share so I hope you’ll add them in the comments section.

If you’re a new cat parent or are unfamiliar with cats, the list below will give you a peek into our special world.

1. We Don’t See Cat Hair on our Clothes

When we were novice cat parents we were careful about making sure to remove all traces of fur from our clothing, but after going through countless lint rollers, we started wearing that cat hair without a second thought. Now, when we find those hairs on our sleeve or jacket during the day while we’re at work or out in public, it causes us to smile because it reminds us of the precious furry family members waiting at home.

2. A Puking Cat is the Best Alarm

No matter what time of night it is or how deeply we’re sleeping, we can bolt out of bed in seconds to locate the cat in the process of puking. In some cases, it may be the only exercise we get for the day but we show our best athletic ability when we’re trying to move the cat off the carpet and onto the floor before he pukes!

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For most of us, cats are beloved members of our family and cherished companions. We appreciate the beauty, joy, love and fun that cats share with us. For some people though, cats are viewed as untrainable, sneaky, cold and destructive animals. I feel bad for those people who are missing out on all that cats add to our lives.

We actually share some similarities with cats. For the people who haven’t been able to relate to cats yet, maybe learning about a few of the things we have in common with these intelligent and loving creatures will soften their hearts a bit. Here are just some of ways in which  we’re similar:

1. We Enjoy Affection and Companionship

It surprises many people when they learn that cats are social animals. Although mistakenly labels as solitary, cats benefit from social interaction just as we do. Cats are solitary hunters because they go after small prey and this is probably where the misconception begins. They’re also territorial so social interaction initially requires finesse, but they are social creatures. Just because cats don’t exhibit instant social ease the way two unfamiliar dogs might doesn’t mean they don’t have a social structure.

Cats also display affection but each cat may exhibit it in different ways. People show affection in various ways as well; we aren’t all the same. Some people enjoy being physically close and like to be hugged and some don’t. Cats can be like that as well. Just as with people, some cats prefer a gentle, casual touch over a long, close embrace or hug. A cat may give an affectionate display in the form of sitting nearby or being on a lap without being held or confined. Some people show their love and affection through acts of kindness, thoughtfulness or words as opposed to close physical contact. When it comes to cats, it can be easy to miss subtle signs of companionship and affection. Your cat’s purr, a slow eye blink, relaxed posture or desire to sit close to you are displays of affection. The cat may lean his body against yours, touch your face with his paw or place a paw on your arm, rub his face on you or give you a gentle (or not so gentle) head bunt. Again, these are signs of affection that are easily overlooked. Just as with your human companions, pay attention to individual preferences and displays. Some are grand and hard to miss and others are subtle, yet no less meaningful.

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If you haven’t spent much time around cats, you may have the impression they’re aloof or unapproachable. Perhaps you’ve always considered yourself a “dog person” and find it hard to figure out why cats don’t respond in the same way as your favorite canine. Maybe this is your first cat and you’re trying to make friends but don’t quite know the correct approach. It’s really easy to start the bonding process with a cat but if you’re confused or need some advice, I have some important tips that can make a big difference in successful trust-building.

Allow the Cat to Make the First Move

It may have been your experience with dogs that you could go right up to them and begin petting and interacting. With cats, however, that’s not the recommended approach. In fact, cat lovers who enthusiastically go right up to an unfamiliar cat and try to immediately touch or interact often end up getting an unwanted response.

Have you ever noticed how often the person who doesn’t even like cats or is allergic to them is the one who gets approached by the cat? The reason is simple. The cats picks up on the body language of that person and sees he has the freedom to come closer to do a scent investigation without the threat of getting handled. Scent is an important means of communication and when the cat has the freedom and ability to do that, it helps him feel more at ease. When it comes to approaching the cat, my advice is to not do it. Let the cat come toward you. Let him do his scent investigation undisturbed.

It’s Impolite to Stare at the Cat

In the animal world, a direct stare can be interpreted as a threat. Avoid staring, and instead, if you do look at the cat, make your glances soft and brief.

The Cat Version of a Handshake

Cats who are familiar and friendly to each other will often approach and engage in some nose-to-nose sniffing. You can do a version of this by extending your index finger for the cat to sniff. This becomes the human version of a cat nose. Hold your finger out without wiggling it or pushing it toward the cat. Just keep your finger still and let the cat make the decision about whether to step forward and sniff. If he does sniff your finger, he’ll let you know whether more interaction is ok or not. He may sniff and back away, which means he doesn’t want to engage at this point or he may rub against your finger or walk closer toward you. This is an indication that he’s open for more interaction. Pay attention to his body language because it’ll tell you whether he’s cool with things or needs a little more time to assess the situation.

Carry Some Treats with You

If the cat is reluctant to come toward you, gently toss a treat nearby to help him associate your presence with good things. Sometimes, bribery is a good thing. You can also offer a treat for any positive interaction with you, no matter how slight.

Pet in a Cat-Friendly Way

When dealing with an unfamiliar cat, stick to only petting briefly and watch how he reacts to see if he asks for more. Although each cat is an individual and can have specific petting preferences, it’s usually a good idea to stick to the top or back of the head, along the cheeks or under the chin. Some cats like long strokes down the back but for others, it can be too stimulating. When you don’t yet know a cat’s preference, stick to brief petting around the head and then watch the reaction. It’s always better to leave the cat wanting more affection rather than push him beyond his tolerance level.

Use Your Voice Carefully

You may have gotten an over-the-top positive reaction by doing a high-pitched squealing tone or talking in a baby voice to a dog but that doesn’t fly with the felines. Keep your voice soft and reassuring.

Photo: Pexels

Play with the Cat

Cats were born to move. They’re predators with incredible stealth and accuracy. A good number of the behavior problems seen in indoor cats are due to boredom and lack of activity. If you’ve spent most of your time around dogs, you know the need for regular playtime, walking and exercise, but cats need regular activity as well.

Being indoors is the safest place for cats but that also means it’s up to the cat parent to ensure there’s adequate stimulation, activity and fun. As predators, cats have a natural need to stalk and pounce. You’re a big part of ensuring successful playtime with a cat. It’s not just about leaving a pile of toys available or tossing a toy at the cat in order for him to fetch. Playtime is about discovery, strategy, precision and success. For cats that means stalk, pounce, capture, reward. Playtime is just as much mental activity as it is physical activity. When you engage in a play session by using an interactive toy, you get to move the toy like prey so the cat can focus on being a hunter. Interactive playtime is also a wonderful way to strengthen the bond and in the case of a cat you’re trying to get to know, it can help him associate positive experiences with your presence.

Photo: Fotolia

An interactive toy is based on a fishing pole design. There are many available that have different types of toy targets at the end so try to match the toy with the cat’s personality. For example, if you’re dealing with a very timid cat, stick to a toy that has a smaller toy at the end.

To trigger the cat’s interest, move the toy away or across the cat’s visual field. Never dangle the toy right in front of his face. Let him have the time and space to plan his move. When you move the toy like prey, the natural predator in the cat will take over.

Allow the cat to have several successful captures so the game becomes rewarding and not frustrating. Play with the cat at least a couple of times a day. Give the cat a treat after playtime or time the play session before a meal so you can offer a food reward. That way, the might hunter gets to enjoy the feast after capturing his prey.

When dealing with a cat who isn’t ready to be petted or get too close to you, interactive playtime is a great way to share the space and leave the cat feeling more confident about trusting you.

Handle Negative Reactions the Right Way

If the cat hisses, growls, swats, or even bites, it’s an indication that he feels threatened. If any of this happens, it’s probably because you may have moved too fast or gotten too close. A negative reaction is a clear sign the cat isn’t ready to take the next step. All-too-often, well-meaning people don’t pay attention to early warning body language signs from the cat. If you want to build trust and develop a relationship, pay attention to the cat’s body language and know when to back off before it gets to the point where the cat feels the only option left is to show aggression.

Here are a few body language signs that indicate the cat wants you to back off:

Looking away

Moving away

Curling up and wrapping tail tightly to body

Lashing Tail

Twitching ears

Flattened ears

And of course, vocal sounds such as hissing or growling

Set up the Environment for Success

When a cat feels anxious or nervous, he’ll look for a place to hide. It’s important that you provide options for hiding, whether it’s something as simple as a box placed on its side or an open paper bag. The ability to have a safe hiding place is a valuable coping mechanism and allows the cat to stay in the area and yet remain “invisible” and safe. A hiding place gives the cat the choice of staying put or venturing out, whether just a bit or all the way into the open. Don’t overlook the value of hiding places for cats.

Elevation is another important feature when it comes to creating a cat-friendly environment. Cats feel safe when they can be up high. Elevation gives the cat more of a visual advantage in order to oversee the area and watch out for potential threats. Being up high also decrease the chances of getting ambushed.

If you’re trying to bond with an indoor cat, increase the environmental enrichment. Provide opportunities for fun and distraction. In addition to the interactive play sessions, offer toys for solo play sessions. Include food-dispensing toys as well so the cat gets a reward when he engages in play. Don’t forget the importance of scratching as well. Make sure there’s a tall, sturdy scratching post nearby so the cat has a convenient place to scratch and stretch.

Photo: Pexels

Food and water bowls, bedding and litter boxes should be convenient and located in areas where the cat feels safe. The cat needs to know he has no reason to feel threatened or nervous when eating, trying to nap or using the litter box.

Don’t Rush Things

This is a hard one because it’s normal to desperately want the cat to like you. It’s worth the wait though, so take it slow and remember to let the cat set the pace. Always end each session on a positive note. Gradually build on each session as the cat’s comfort level increases. If you experience a set-back, then go back a few steps and allow the cat to get comfortable again. It will all be worth it as you begin to see little signs indicating that trust is beginning to happen.

Photo: Pam Johnson-Bennett

Need More Information?

For more specific information on cat behavior and training, refer to the books by best-selling author Pam Johnson-Bennett, including the latest release, CatWise. Pam’s books are available at bookstores everywhere, through your favorite online book seller or through our website.

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One of the things many people find very appealing about cats is that they can be left alone for longer periods than dogs. Even with the convenience of a litter box and an endless supply of food, cats left alone for long stretches of time, day after day, can suffer from loneliness, boredom and even separation anxiety.

Indoor cats left alone with no stimulation or environmental enrichment are more likely to become bored or lonely. Does that mean the solution is to allow your cat to go outdoors for stimulation and entertainment? Certainly not. The outdoor environment is filled with stimulation but it’s also filled with danger and uncertainty. It’s my recommendation that cats be kept indoors but when you do that, you have a responsibility to ensure the indoor environment provides the enrichment need to keep your cat mentally active and healthy.

Some Signs Your Cat may be Bored
  • Over-eating
  • Lack of appetite
  • Sleeping more than normal
  • Destructive behavior
  • Over-grooming (even to the point of creating bald patches)
  • Depression
  • Litter Box Issues

If your cat is displaying any of the above behaviors or another change in his normal behavior, the first step is to visit the veterinarian. Behavioral changes can be due to an underlying medical condition so it’s important to get a veterinary exam before assuming a problem is behavioral. If there does turn out to be a medical issue it doesn’t mean your cat won’t also benefit from some boredom busters as well though. Every cat deserves environmental enrichment. To get you started, here are some tips to help prevent boredom in your “Home Alone” cat.

1. Set out Some Puzzle Feeders

Food-dispensing toys are an easy way to provide added enrichment. Working for food is a concept that’s a natural for cats but in many households, food is just piled high in the food bowl so the cat doesn’t get the opportunity to seek out his prey. As hunters, cats enjoy the chance to search for prey, stalk, pounce and enjoy their reward. Use a puzzle feeder so you can enjoy a little bonus playtime during meals. The puzzle feeder also encourages him to eat more slowly. There are more puzzle feeders available for dry food because wet food will spoil more quickly, especially if you plan on leaving puzzle feeders out for the day while you’re at work. You can still use wet food puzzle feeders but they’re best when the cat can enjoy them right away to ensure freshness. Save the wet food puzzle feeders for when someone will be home.

More on the subject: How to Introduce Your Cat to Puzzle Feeders

2. Create Treasure Hunts

Hide a few treats around the house in places you know your cat typically goes and this will create opportunities for some treasure hunting. Don’t go overboard because treats shouldn’t make up more than 10% of a cat’s meal. Place a few treats around so your cat’s nose can do a little work to locate those tiny but tasty rewards.

3. Scratching Post and Scratching Pads

If you haven’t provided your cat with a scratching post it’s certainly long overdue. If you do have one but your cat doesn’t use it, then it’s time to re-evaluate why it has failed. Most cats prefer sisal-covered posts and not carpeted ones. Make sure the post is tall and sturdy so your cat can lean his weight against it to get a good scratch and stretch. Locate the post where your cat likes to scratch. I find this is one of the most common mistakes cat parents make because they don’t like the look of the post so they place it in a remote corner. Look at where your cat is currently scratching and locate the post there.

Photo: Fotolia

Some cats like to scratch horizontally and if that’s the case with your cat, you can purchase inexpensive horizontal scratching pads to scatter around. Some cats enjoy both horizontal and vertical scratching so keep that in mind as you plan your cat’s scratching arrangements.

Scratching is an important part of enrichment in a cat’s life so don’t under-estimate the value of having an appealing post available. Scratching is used not only for nail conditioning but also for stretching, marking and emotional release.

More on the subject: Why Does my Cat Scratch the Furniture

Scratching Posts: How to Choose the Best One

4. The Right Toys Used the Right Way

You should have some toys for interactive playtime as well as toys for your cat’s solo play. Interactive toys are the ones you’ll use so you can engage in play sessions with your kitty. These are typically based on a fishing pole design. Interactive playtime is important for all cats but the ones who are left home alone all day will especially need them. Interactive play should be done at least twice daily for about 15 minutes each. There are many types of interactive toys available so when you go shopping, try to match the toy to your cat’s personality or play style.

When it comes to solo toys, don’t make the mistake of thinking that a filled toy basket is all that’s needed. From your cat’s perspective that’s just a pile of already killed prey. You need to add a little life into those toys (not literally, don’t worry). Strategically place toys around the house so they’ll spark interest from your cat. For example, place a furry mouse on the cat tree with its tail dangling down, or maybe put a toy inside an open paper bag for your cat to discover.

Photo: Fotolia

You don’t have to have a large amount of toys to keep your cat happy. Rotate toys every week to re-ignite interest.

More on the subject: Choosing the Right Toys for Your Cat

Pick Toys That Match Your Cat’s Play Style Preference

Interactive Play Therapy for Cats

5. Cats Love to Climb

Cats love being on elevated locations and they also love the process of getting there by climbing or jumping. Create safe climbing options for your cat by having a sturdy cat tree. It may seem like a costly expense but a well-made, sturdy tree should last your cat’s lifetime. Make sure the tree’s perches are large and comfortable. Typically, “u” shaped perches are best because they allow the cat to feel more secure.

Other climbing/perching options can be created by installing sturdy window perches or cat shelving. You can even create cat walkways. Just make sure everything you purchase or create is sturdy, safe and comfortable.

More on the subject: The Benefits of a Cat Tree

6. Window Views

Speaking of climbing, one of the reasons cast love elevated locations is because of the view. Place cat trees near windows for your cat’s viewing pleasure. Even a bed placed on a piece of furniture will do so your cat can watch the outdoor activity. Place a bird feeder outside to create more entertainment.

Photo: Pam Johnson-Bennett

7. Let the Sun Shine in

Cats love to sun bathe. Another benefit of a cat tree or window perch is that can be a comfy place to nap in the sun. If there are windows that allow for a long beam of sunlight to fill the room, make sure you keep that curtain open so your cat can stretch out on the carpet or floor and enjoy a sun-filled nap.

8. Places to Hide

While you’re gone during the day you have no way of knowing whether anything very noisy or frightening occurs right outside your home. Whether it’s construction, a car accident, sirens, thunderstorms or even someone knocking on your door. Make sure your cat has places to hide. Very often cats will seek out a hiding place during severe storms and if you create cozy hideaways they may be a more secure option for kitty instead of ducking under the bed.

Set up a couple covered beds, cat tunnels or even just open towel-lined boxes placed on their sides. In my house, I have open beds and hideaways available for my cat so she always has a comfortable option.

More on the subject: Every Cat Needs Hiding Places

Photo: Pam Johnson-Bennett

9. Have a Consistent Schedule

Cats are creatures of habit. Something that tends to cause anxiety is when a cat doesn’t have the comfort of routine to count on. Don’t be inconsistent so your cat never knows if dinner will be two hours late one day and then four hours late the next day. Try to stick to a schedule that won’t cause your cat’s meals to be delayed.

10. Use Boxes and Bags

I previously talked about using boxes as cozy hideaways but you can also use them, as well as bags, for playtime and fun. Leave a couple boxes or paper bags out for entertainment. You can cut holes in a box and then it upside down to create a kitty fort or cut the bottoms out of paper bags and then tape the bags together to make a homemade kitty tunnel. Cats love to explore and this is an inexpensive way to add a little extra activity into your cat’s day. If using bags, make sure they are paper and never plastic and that you cut all handles off to prevent the risk of strangulation.

Photo: Pam Johnson-Bennett

I love to hide little toys in boxes and bags as an added surprise for my cat.

More on the subject: How to Use Cat Tunnels

11. Have a Catnip Party

Set out a little dried catnip twice a week so your cat can enjoy a little catnip party. You can just leave it loose on something like a paper plate or you can rub a couple toys with the dried leaves. I typically leave a few toys “marinating” in a container of dried catnip and then offer that to my cat.

Although catnip is safe for cats, don’t offer it more than twice a week because if constantly exposed to the herb, cats can become immune to its effects.

More on the subject: Helpful Facts About Catnip

12. Have a Pet Sitter or Neighbor Visit

If you spend very long hours away from work or if there are a few days coming up where you know you’ll be delayed, consider having a pet sitter or trusted neighbor come in to care for your cat or offer a little mid-day playtime. Maybe there’s a teenager in the neighborhood who would like to earn a little extra money by visiting your cat every afternoon. Just be sure the person is someone your cat likes so the experience of having someone in the home doesn’t add anxiety.

13. Bring in Some of the Outdoors

There are so many interesting scents and textures outdoors and there are a few ways you can bring those indoors so your cat can enjoy them without the danger of being outside. In the Fall, bring in a few dried leaves for your cat to play with. The lightness and crunch of the leaves may make them appealing toys. Bird feathers found on the ground could be brought indoors for playtime as well. If you don’t use any weed killers or pesticides on your grass you could snip a few blades for your cat to munch on. The other option is to get a container of kitty greens from your local pet product store and grow a patch of grass indoors.

For added scratching fun, bring in a small log (as long as you don’t mind the mess from the bark). Don’t bring in a log though unless you know for sure that other animals have not peed on it.

14. Maybe it’s Time to Add a Companion Cat

Adding another cat to the family can be a wonderful way to provide companionship and friendship. Introductions take time and finesse so if you think the addition of another cat would be a good idea, make sure you can devote the time needed to do a gradual and positive introduction.

More on the subject: Thinking About Adding a Second Cat to the Family

How to Introduce a Second Cat

A Simple Little Trick to Use During New Cat Introductions

15. Make the Most of Your Time Together

When you get home after a long day, it’s very tempting to just want to relax and take time for yourself but your cat has been waiting for you all day. When you walk through the door, it’s the beginning of his day with you. Take time to enjoy playtime, grooming and if he enjoys it, lap and cuddle time. Talk to your cat as well so he stays connected with you.

More on the subject: How Cats Show Affection

Seven Tips for Turning Your Cat Into a Lap Cat

Need More Information?

For more specifics on cat behavior and training, refer to the books by best-selling author, Pam Johnson-Bennett. The latest book, CatWise, contains answers to the behavior questions that cat parents ask most often. CatWise is available at bookstores everywhere as well as online at sites such as Amazon.

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For many cats, drinking water is a simple process. They walk over to the water bowl, lower their faces near the surface of the water and stick out their tongues to get a little drink. For other cats though, a front paw becomes a vital tool when thirst strikes. Why do these cats dip a paw in the water and then use it almost as if they’re licking a popsicle? There are a few reasons for this behavior.

Whisker Discomfort

The whiskers on your cat’s face are very sensitive tactile hairs. They are more deeply rooted than normal hairs and are rich in nerve endings. If the water bowl is too small or deep, the whiskers can get squished when the cat lowers her head for a drink. To avoid this discomfort, a cat may learn it’s easier to just dip a paw in the water.

Ensure your cat’s water bowl allows for whisker comfort by using one wide enough to accommodate those long whiskers. It’s better to have a shallow, wide bowl that you can refill every day rather than use a deep, narrow one to avoid having to replenish the water supply so often.

Photo: Pam Johnson-Bennett

Inconsistent Water Depth

If you are inconsistent in how much water you put in the bowl, your cat may use her paw to test the depth. I’ve seen this with cat parents who don’t refill the bowl until it’s almost dry and then when they do replenish the water it gets filled to the very top. In a multicat house where there may be some tension, a cat may not feel comfortable lowering her head into an almost-empty water bowl so far that she can’t see over the side. It may be safer for her to use her paw so she can keep watch for any opponents entering the room.

It’s important to clean the bowl and refill the water on a daily basis in order to ensure your cat is getting fresh water. By doing this, you are also better able to maintain a consistent water level in the bowl.

Water Bowl Placement

This has more to do with safety and security. If the bowl is up against a wall where a cat would have to have her back to the room in order to drink, she may choose to dip her paw in so she doesn’t become too vulnerable.

To encourage your cat to feel more comfortable drinking the traditional way, slide the water bowl out from against the wall so she can position herself more securely. Have multiple water stations as well because each cat may have preferred drinking locations.

Photo: Shutterstock

Water Fun

Cats love to play and your kitty may have discovered that when she puts her paw in the water, she can create movement. She may have initially started doing it when she first noticed a piece of fuzz or food in her water bowl. Maybe she started paw dipping out of boredom. For some cats, the behavior is simply based on having a little fun.

Everyone wants their cats to have fun but dipping a paw in the water isn’t great for keeping the water clean. If you think your cat may be exhibiting this behavior out of boredom then it’s time to rev up the fun factor in your house. Make sure your cat is getting adequate stimulation in the form of daily interactive play sessions with you as well as having opportunities for solo play. It may be time to buy or create a food-dispensing toy to keep your cat busy. Look at her environment as well and see if there are other areas that could use a little enrichment.

Need More Information?

If you need more specifics, here are some articles to help you.

What is Environmental Enrichment and Why Does Your Cat Need it

Interactive Play Therapy for Cats

Your Cat’s Whiskers

How to Introduce Your Cat to Puzzle Feeders

How Appealing is Your Cat’s Water

You can also find more information in the books by best-selling author, Pam Johnson-Bennett. Think Like a Cat is Pam’s comprehensive guide to cat care and behavior. In CatWise, Pam’s latest book, she answers 150 behavior questions.

This article is intended for general information purposes only and is not meant to diagnose a medical condition, dispense medical information or be a replacement for your cat’s veterinary care. If you have questions about your cat’s health or behavior, contact your veterinarian.

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If this behavior happens out in a free-range environment with intact cats, or if we see it on a nature program, it’s something we understand as normal animal behavior. However, when it’s a neutered male cat attempting to mount a female or even another male in the household, it causes concern for many cat parents. Even more upsetting for cat parents is when the family cat decides to start humping Aunt Ethel’s leg when she’s visiting for the holiday.

Some Reasons for Mounting Behavior in Neutered Cats

For most cats, this type of behavior stops after being neutered. The behavior may not stop immediately after castration surgery though. It may take weeks and in some cases, months or even years. After being neutered, there is a dramatic reduction in testosterone levels but the hormone is still present just as a reduced level of progesterone will still exist in the system of the female cat.

Even after being neutered, the male may become stimulated enough to try to mount a nearby female cat in heat due to her scent. A neutered male can even display mounting behavior toward a spayed female. Veterinary behaviorist, Nicholas Dodman, has suggested this may have something to do with the fact that the female doesn’t smell like a male. Since intact males can detect the odor of a female in heat from a distance, the fact that the female, although not giving off the scent of being in heat, may have enough of a scent to trigger the male.

Cats neutered at an older age may be more likely to engage in mounting behavior as well.

High levels of social stress may trigger mounting behavior just as it can trigger urine-marking behavior.

Mounting behavior in neutered cats can also be an attempt at reinforcing status.

If you allow your neutered cat outdoors he may encounter an unspayed female and her scent may be enough to trigger the behavior.

Some cats display the behavior toward objects such as pillows or toys, and then there are also the embarrassing situations where the cat humps a human’s leg. This behavior may be an indication that the cat requires more attention and constructive outlets for his energy.

How to Reduce the Unwanted Behavior

Neuter. If cats aren’t neutered or spayed, obviously that step should top the list. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you just have to neuter the males without spaying females. It’s not just about eliminating the risk of pregnancy, it’s about reducing stress and creating an environment for healthy behavior.

Never punish. Never punish a cat for exhibiting mounting behavior because it’ll only elevate stress levels. A cat who is attempting to mount due to social stress in the environment will only feel even more anxiety if physically or verbally punished.

Increase vertical territory. Increase your cat’s sense of territorial security by expanding vertical territory. This can be done by way of cat trees, window perches, elevated walkways and elevated beds. Vertical territory allows the cats to more peacefully establish and maintain status. Claiming a top elevated spot is an important factor in status.

Provide scratching posts. Scratching serves many purposes for a cat and one them is to mark territory. This can also help in communicating status. It also serves as a displacement behavior to help relieve stress.

Resource availability. Provide multiple resources in multiple locations to prevent competition and jockeying for prime position. This means more than one feeding station, more litter boxes than cats, and plenty of napping, hiding and personal space options.

Introduce new cats carefully. The addition of a new cat may trigger the behavior. To reduce the chances of this, do a gradual, positive new cat introduction.

Increase the fun factor. Increase physical and mental activity to give your cat beneficial outlets for his energy. Engage in interactive play sessions at least twice a day.

Other ways to occupy your cat’s time in a fun way is to set out puzzle feeders. This provides your cat with the opportunity to work for food rewards.

Work to improve relationships. In addition to the above suggestions, pay attention to the specific dynamics between cats so you can help them co-exist peacefully. This may just involve making environmental adjustments as mentioned above, or you may have to separate them and do a reintroduction.

Pay Attention to Warning Signs

Pay attention to the body language signs indicating your cat may be about to engage in the behavior. This way you can provide more appropriate alternatives for his energy. Stash some interactive toys in each room so you can conveniently access one if you need to refocus your cat. Even tossing a fuzzy mouse, ping pong ball or other little toy may be enough to redirect him. Try to distract your cat before he engages in the behavior.

When petting your cat, watch for signs that he might be starting to get too stimulated. Your cat may have certain areas of the body that over-stimulate him when petted so stick to the spots that appear to cause relaxation. If he gets over-stimulated due to the length of time you pet him, be mindful of that so you can end well in advance of it.

Need More Help?

If you’re unable to improve the behavior and you need help, talk to your veterinarian about a referral to a qualified, professional behavior expert such as a veterinary behaviorist, certified applied animal behaviorist or an IAABC-certified cat behavior consultant.

For more information on cat behavior and training, refer to the books by best-selling author, Pam Johnson-Bennett. Pam’s books are available at Amazon and other online retailers, in bookstores everywhere, and also here on our website.

Pam is unable to respond to comments. If you have a questions about your cat’s behavior you can find  many answers in the articles on this site and in Pam’s books. If you have questions or concerns about your cat’s health, contact your veterinarian. This article in not intended as a replacement for your cat’s veterinary care.

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