Friday, 16 January 2015

‘Why does my cat overgroom?’ and other behaviour questions

Do you ever wonder why your cat behaves in a certain way? On Monday we hosted our first live Facebook Q&A of the year with Behaviour Manager Nicky Trevorrow. Nicky was answering our supporters’ behaviour-related questions – here are just a few of them:

Question: Why does my cat scratch the wallpaper even when he has large scratch trees and access to the garden?

Answer: I'm afraid that many cats can't resist wallpaper, especially if it's textured - they just love it! It's great that you've provided your cat with large scratch trees. Try encouraging him to use it by rubbing it with cat mint (found in many garden centres) and playing around the scratch post with a fishing rod toy. Ideally scratch posts should be tall enough (at least 60cm), sturdy enough for the cat to put his weight against and have vertical thread (as opposed to horizontal rope), but these are hard to find. Check out our leaflet about Managing your cat’s behaviour for more advice.

Kitten with scratching post
Photo by Jennifer C via flickr / Creative Commons
Question: Do you have any tips for preventing my cat from overgrooming please?

Answer: It's all about finding out the underlying cause. The first step would be to rule out any medical reasons for overgrooming as there are many. Take a video of your cat overgrooming to show the vet, so they can see if your cat is plucking the fur or biting the fur etc. If your vet rules out medical reasons, then we would recommend a referral to a qualified behaviourist such as the APBC.

In the meantime try general stress reduction measures, such as Feliway® which is a synthetic copy of a cat’s facial pheromone (speak to your vet for more information), ensuring your cat has enough resources, like food bowls, litter trays etc. To learn more about your cat’s behaviour, check out our free online e-learning course, Understanding feline origins.

Photo by Ryusuke via flickr / Creative Commons
Question: Why does my cat dart from room to room for no reason? She will be sitting quietly and then start running around.

Answer: Some cats seem to just have a 'funny' five minutes. As long as your cat doesn't have an underlying medical problem (if you're at all unsure then get your cat health-checked by your vet), then it could be 'self play' (sometimes called locomotor play) and it's also useful for exercising their muscles and reactions. Try playing with your cat with a fishing rod toy for another style of play. Ensure the toy is stored safely out of reach after use.

Question: My one-year-old tom always falls to the ground at my feet, rolls around and rubs himself on me. I've never had a cat do this and he does it every time he comes into the house! Why does he do it?

Answer: This is a type of greeting behaviour and it's really cute! The best way to respond is to say 'hi' to them and give them a quick head rub. Don't be tempted to rub their belly as you may end up with a hand full of claws and teeth!

Check out our video on cat body language for more information.
  


Question: After watching the recent Horizon programme, Cat Watch 2014, my daughter said she'd like to be a 'catmologist'. How did you become a cat behaviourist and what subjects would be good to study in preparation?

Answer: Love it – catmologist! For GCSE level, a good grounding in sciences would be recommended. For more advice for becoming a cat behaviourist for further study later down line, check out the following websites:


Please note we are unable to make diagnoses over the internet – if you are concerned about your cat’s health please consult your local vet.

Our next live Q&A will be on our Facebook page on 29 January 2015.

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