Friday, 29 January 2016

‘Why is my cat scared of my partner?’ and other behaviour FAQs

Do you have a question about your cat’s health or behaviour? Join our regular Facebook Q&As with feline experts, taking your live questions.

Last week Behaviour Manager Nicky Trevorrow answered queries, some of which are highlighted below.

Question: Why is my 11-year-old cat still scared of my husband who has lived with us for seven years?! He feeds her, strokes her (when she very occasionally is brave enough to sit near him), he talks to her, and yet she still runs a mile if she thinks he's going to be anywhere near her. I'm baffled.

Answer: Bless your husband, he sounds very patient! There are a variety of things that could affect her behaviour. Many cats that are fearful of men have not been used to men during their socialisation period when they were young kittens (two to seven weeks of age). If they have only been used to women then this could explain it. Continue to let your cat be in control of all the interactions and always let her come to him. She may feel a bit more secure if he ignores her more too, eg reading a book silently to himself when she's in the room. If you wish to seek the help of a qualified behaviourist, check out www.apbc.org.uk

Tortie cat with man sitting on a sofa
Photo: CP library
Question: Why has my outdoor cat suddenly started peeing near our front door? He still goes out, isn't ill and gets along fine with the other two cats. And it isn't every day. We've tried all sorts to get him to stop.

Answer: Sorry to hear that your cat has started peeing near the front door. You say he's not ill, has he been to the vets to rule out medical reasons? If not, this is the first port of call and do get a urine sample tested too. Cats are masters of disguise at hiding illness! 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. If it's urinating, then once you've checked your cat's health at the vets, try the following:

  • clean litter trays twice a day
  • put litter trays in quiet, private locations
  • use 3cm of soft non-scented sand-sized litter
  • use a large litter tray not kitten, covered as well as open ones for choice
  • don't use odorisers or litter tray liners

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. Trying to identify signs of stress or other factors that may cause a cat to spray can be very tricky so we'd recommend that you seek the help of a professional behaviourist (use www.apbc.org.uk).

For more information, check out these blogs posts:


All the best.

Cat standing near door
Photo by Luigi Rosa via flickr / Creative Commons
Question: My younger, more confident cat insists on pouncing on my older, nervous, diabetic cat, jumping on his back and chewing the older guy's neck whenever they're both indoors together. Both are male and neutered. We have used water spray on the young boy and told him 'NO' at the time of each incident but it's not having much effect. Any reason for the younger guy's repeated dominant behaviour? Any idea what we can do to help sort it?

Answer: It's good that both boys are already neutered. It's hard to say for sure without seeing your cats and witnessing their behaviours for myself. Depending on how young your other cat is, he may be feeling very playful and particularly with the bad weather lately, many cats can feel bored, stressed or frustrated from staying indoors more. Try giving your younger cat lots of frequent interactive play sessions with fishing rod toys to keep him occupied and burn off some excess energy. Also give your older boy some quality time with just you (when the younger cat is not around) so he too can enjoy some gentle play and fuss. Toys with feathers on the end are great for all cats but especially nervous ones. Always store the fishing rod toy out of reach after play has finished.

Having evolved from a solitary species, cats are not actually dominant with each other, it could simply be play, or perhaps they might not get along. Either way, water spraying the younger cat will only make things worse. Ensure the older cat has a quiet sanctuary room with all his resources in it to go to when he needs some peace and quiet. You may wish to get a referral to a qualified behaviourist following a vet check – have a look at www.apbc.org.uk


Veterinary note: 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.

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: Vet Vanessa Howie will be taking questions on 4 February; Neutering Manager Jane Clements will be hosting on 18 February; and Nicky Trevorrow will be back answering behaviour questions on 3 March. All Q&As are held on Cats Protection's national Facebook page from 2-3pm. See you there!

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