Tuesday, 19 April 2016

‘Why is my older cat hissing at our kittens?’ and other behavioural FAQs

On Friday Cats Protection’s Behaviour Manager, Nicky Trevorrow, took over our national Facebook page, asking live behavioural questions from cat owners and supporters.

If you missed out, don’t worry, our feline specialists will return again soon. Have a look at the bottom of this post for upcoming dates to pop in your diary.

Here are some of the questions that Nicky answered:

Question: Our oldest cat has suddenly started hissing and spitting at two kittens we have, it’s been happening since they were neutered. She isn’t the mother of the kittens but was lovely to them when they were born, almost like a surrogate mother, so why has she started being like this?

Answer: There are many reasons this could be happening. It would be worth taking your oldest cat to the vets in case she has developed a medical problem. For example, if she was feeling stiff and sore form arthritis, then she may not appreciate kittens wanting to play. It could be due to a change in scent from the kittens being at the vets and coming home smelling of disinfectant. For the time being, it may be best to separate the oldest cat from the kittens so that they have separate areas of the house with all their resources like litter trays, water bowls, food bowls, beds, toys etc in each of these areas, and get a referral to a qualified behaviourist such as a member of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC) www.apbc.org.uk to help. All the best.

Question: My neutered male cat dashes around like a mad thing for a minute or so after urinating, when in the garden or his litter tray. Why does he do this?

Answer: It would be worth mentioning this to your vet as your cat may need to have a health-check to rule out medical reasons such as a urinary condition. If the vet finds that there's nothing wrong with him, then he may be burning off excess energy. If your cat lives in the house with other animals or children that may be putting him off during toileting, this will need to be addressed as cats love privacy. Our visual guide below offers tips on the best types of litter trays and where to place them around the home.

To enlarge, click on the image
Question: My cat is licking the hair off her legs. She's almost six and it's not long started. But her legs are getting bald. Would ingesting all this hair do her any serious harm? What can I do about it? I’ve tried using Feliway, which hasn't helped and there have been no changes to the household to stress her. However she also has no interest in going outside much. She used to love being out and hunting. Now she's getting a bit plump too. Here she is getting a catnip fix.

Overweight cat eating catnip

Answer: There can be lots of different medical causes for over-grooming so it would be very wise to take her to the vets to rule these out. Your vet can also advise on her weight and a possible weight loss programme if necessary.

Feliway can be very useful in behavioural causes for over-grooming but needs to be used in conjunction with behavioural advice from a qualified behaviourist such as a member of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (see link above).

If your vet feels it's behavioural, then we would recommend a referral to a qualified behaviourist. Love the photo, she looks really cute! All the best and I hope she feels better soon.

Question: My neutered, three-year-old male cat keeps chasing his sister with every intention to hump her (he tries, he bites her neck if he can). She runs and fights back and hisses. My question is why a castrated male would do that and also if there is any way to make them friends again? They used to be more friendly with each other in their first year of life. Thanks.

Answer: Sorry to hear that your cats are not getting along. It's great that he's neutered. It is quite an unusual behaviour; you could discuss it with your vet and perhaps consider a blood test to check his testosterone levels to see if that is playing a role. If the vet feels it is behavioural, then we would recommend getting a referral from your vet to a qualified behaviourist such as a member of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC) - see link mentioned earlier.

In the meantime, try to have separate play sessions with each cat using a fishing rod toy (always store fishing rod toys safely out of the cat's reach after playtime to avoid injury). All the best.

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 answering questions on 28 April; Neutering Manager Jane Clements will be taking neutering questions on 12 May; and Nicky Trevorrow will be back answering behavioural questions on 26 May. All Q&As are held on Cats Protection's national Facebook page from 2-3pm. See you there!

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