Tuesday, 18 August 2015

‘How do I teach my cat to use the cat flap?’ and other behaviour FAQs

Last week feline behaviour specialist Nicky Trevorrow returned to our national Facebook page to answer questions on cat behaviour. Here are some of the queries she answered:

Question: How do I get my Billy to come in through the cat flap? We've had it a month and he goes out fine but won’t come in through it!

Answer: This requires a lot of patience and some bribery with treats! Check first of all that there's easy access to the cat flap from the outside (eg do you need to add in a little step to make it easier?) and also whether there is a bit of cover nearby – using potted plants works well. Also check the environment that he is coming into and whether any changes are needed to make it more appealing. Then repeat the cat flap training of pinning the cat flap door opening inwards into the house, gradually lowering it so that Billy learns to push it open himself. Best of luck!

Cat walking in cat flap
Cat flap training requires patience! Photo courtesy of Stephen Hanafin via flickr / Creative Commons
Question: Hi Nicky! We have just adopted a kitten, but our 18-month-old female cat is not too happy. Hissing and growling. We kept them apart for five days and introduced them yesterday. Our older cat swiped at the kitten. What would you suggest? We rubbed blankets on each of them and shared them. Thank you!

Answer: Sorry to hear that your cats are not getting along. It's a really common problem. It sounds like you need to take it back to the scent swapping stage. Rub a clean cloth on the cheeks of one cat and then leave it in the middle of the room in the kitten's separate territory and vice versa. Carefully observe whether the cat chooses to sniff the cloth and ignore it (good sign) or avoid the cloth, skirting round the edges of the room. Keep going with the scent swapping until both the cat and the kitten are not reacting to the scent. The scent swapping stage should be the longest part of the whole introduction process.

Check out our leaflets for more information: Cats living together and Welcome home. Also check out our free e-learning cat behaviour course as the 'solitary' section has some videos at the end that talk about introducing cats together. Best of luck!

Question: Hi Nicky, is there any way to stop cats from scratching sofas?! We've got various scratching posts but our cat always seems to prefer the sofa instead!

Answer: Ideally scratch posts should be tall enough (at least 60cm), sturdy enough for the cat to put their weight against and have vertical thread (as opposed to horizontal rope), but these are hard to find. Place the post next to your sofa and cover your sofa in something unappealing to your cat such as a few layers of foil (patch test on your sofa first). Make your post more interesting by rubbing cat mint leaves on it. Never tell your cat off for scratching behaviour as it won't stop them scratching and they could even develop other problems.

Have a read of our leaflet for more advice: Managing your cat’s behaviour. Lots of people will feel your pain here!

Cat relaxing on sofa
Scratching is a normal cat behaviour. Photo courtesy of Tom Page via flickr / Creative Commons
Question: I have a six-year-old male cat who is neutered but sprays. How can I stop this behaviour? It is a multi-cat household with six cats but it’s just the one cat that spraying.

Answer: Sorry to hear that your cat is spraying. Cats sometimes spray short bursts of urine on vertical objects outside to mark territory and leave information for themselves or other cats to ‘read’. If your cat starts to spray inside the home, then it is almost certainly a sign that all is not right in their world.

But it's important to differentiate between inappropriate urination (a puddle on the floor) versus spraying (backing up to a vertical surface and spraying a small amount of urine). Each has different motivations.

The first thing to do is to rule out medical reasons. Cats can spray for all kinds of reasons, however one thing you could start looking at now would be how the cats interact with each other, which is really valuable info for a behaviourist. Write a table with the cats’ names down the left column, and then in the headers above, write the following behaviours; sleeping together, touching, washing each other, rubbing against each other, avoiding each other etc (you can include other behaviours specific to your cats). Then fill in the table with the name of the cat that they show that behaviour with, for example Fluffy washes Tigger. This can help identify the social groups which can be really hard to determine.

To identify the underlying behavioural cause, we recommend that you find a qualified behaviourist near you, check out www.apbc.org.uk and read our leaflet for more advice: Managing your cat’s behaviour (linked to above).

Question: Our cat continuously wants for food and miaows incessantly until you feed him. He also tries to bite your feet or will swipe for you. He's a sweet soft cat the rest of the time, but how can we get him to calm down? It worries us when children are around. Thank you.

Answer: It could be that your cat has a medical problem that is causing him to be hungry all the time. Mention all the changes in your cat to the vet to help with history taking. If the vet says that there isn't a medical problem, then discuss which diet is best for your cat.

There are satiety diets available that can help to make cats feel full without putting on weight. Feeding little and often can help to keep your cat's sugar levels more stable and is closer to how they would eat in the wild. Provide your cat with feeding enrichment (feeding cats in other ways that a food bowl that require them to use their brains!) and always show the cat how to use it so he doesn't get frustrated. Start with a cardboard egg box with dry food in the cups and then move onto a toilet roll pyramid. Check out our boredom busters videos for more ideas (featuring our gorgeous, clever CP cats)!


Please note that we are unable to give specific advice on your cat's health or any change in behaviour observed. For medical problems consult your vet who will have access to your cat’s medical history and will be able to examine them. You’ll find more information about cat care and behaviour here.

Would you like to ask one of Cats Protection’s feline experts a question about your cat? Don’t miss the next live Facebook Q&A sessions: CP vet Vanessa Howie will take veterinary questions on 3 September; neutering expert Jane Clements will host the Q&A on 10 September; while Nicky returns to answer behavioural queries on 24 September. All our live Q&As are held on Cats Protection's national Facebook page from 2-3pm. See you there!

1 comment:

  1. Wow brilliant idea surely I will use it for my cat ;)

    ReplyDelete