Thursday, 28 August 2014

‘Why does my cat meow?’ and other cat behaviour FAQs

Last year we hosted an online Q&A session with Cats Protection’s Behaviour Manager Nicky Trevorrow. It was so popular that we decided to bring them back! Earlier this week we hosted a live Q&A session on our Facebook page with Nicky answering a range of cat behaviour questions. Here are just a sample of some of the questions and answers from the session:

Question: My cat meows loudly, over and over, usually of an evening or first thing in the morning. She sometimes just sits at the bottom of the stairs wailing or sits looking at me on the sofa meowing. I try food, letting her out, fuss, playing; but she just sits there and meows! She's 11ish, has thyroid issues and early signs of kidney issues. I love her to bits; is she just being a weirdo or am I missing something?

Answer: It's good that she's already been to the vets for her other ailments. Have you mentioned to your vet that she's excessively miaowing? If possible it would be great if you can get a video of it (even if it's just the sound) to show the vet as this can help with diagnosis. Have you noticed any other signs such as walking into a room and looking like she doesn't know why she's there, or staring at the walls? There are quite a few medical possibilities (hyperthyroidism being one of them) and dementia is another possibility. If the vet rules out medical problems, then look into getting a referral. To find a qualified behaviourist near you, check out www.apbc.org.uk

Meowing cat
Photo by nannuu via flickr / Creative Commons
Question: Why does my cat use the beds in my home as his toilet?

Answer: It may be that your cat has a medical problem. This is much more common than people realise! Once you've checked your cat's health at the vets, try
  • cleaning litter trays twice a day
  • put litter trays in quiet, private locations
  • 3cm of soft sand-sized litter, non-scented
  • a large litter tray, covered as well as open ones for choice
  • don't use odorisers or litter tray liners
To find a qualified behaviourist near you, check out www.apbc.org.uk

Check out our leaflet about Managing your cat’s behaviour for more advice.

Question: When you’re petting your cats and they are purring, why do they suddenly attack and start biting for no reason? Is it over excitement?

Answer: The first step would be to check that your cat doesn't have a medical problem, such as pain (remember that cats are extremely good at hiding pain!). With petting and biting – to be stroked by a human is not a natural behaviour for a cat to accept (they learn interactions with people during the kitten socialisation period) and some cats are more naturally reactive than others. This can also be directly related to the amount of human interaction the cat has had during the key sensitive period of two to seven weeks of age. The more interaction (positive) carried out during that time, the more likely the kitten will be well adjusted to everyday life and human interactions. Try a very brief rub on the head and then end the interaction before it's too much.

Question: I’m introducing a male dog into the home and I have two female cats. Do you have any tips? Thanks

Answer: Firstly check out our Welcome home leaflet. The key is to always give the cats plenty of control over their environment (don't lock them in cat baskets) and not to block escape routes. Any introduction needs to be extremely gradual. Most people progress through it too quickly. With dogs, it's important that the dog knows a 'down/stay' command and is controlled on a lead and distracted with a toy or feeding enrichment. Hope it goes well.

Photo by elisfanclub via flickr / Creative Commons
Question: Any tips on getting a cat to respond to their name? We have two kittens which are about five months old.

Answer: Yes! So many people train cats without even realising it. Many will come back to the sound of a food packet or the name of their favourite treat! To try training your kittens, sit a couple of metres away from one of them with a tasty treat (try some cooked chicken as long as there's no medical reason why they can't have it) and show them the chicken while saying their name. They will start come towards you for the chicken. Gradually change the timing, so that you first call their name and then after present the chicken. Over time they should associate their name with being given food. Once this is working well, remember to reinforce this behaviour every so often once they are going outside.


If you missed this session, don’t worry there are more to come!

  • 11 September, 2pm – Neutering Q&A with Neutering Manager Jane Clements
  • 23 September, 2pm – Veterinary Q&A with Director of Veterinary Services Maggie Roberts
  • 17 October, 2pm - Cat behaviour Q&A with Behaviour Manager Nicky Trevorrow
  • 31 October, 2pm – Neutering Q&A with Neutering Manager Jane Clements
  • 17 November, 2pm – Veterinary Q&A with Director of Veterinary Services Maggie Roberts

Please note that we can only give general advice and therefore, for specific guidance and help with your cat, we would highly recommend that you consult your own vet who will be able to examine the cat and have access to its medical history. Find more information on cat care and behaviour by reading our Essential Guides and you can also check out our free online e-learning course.

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