Thursday, 27 April 2017

‘Why have my cats started to spray in the house?’ and other behaviour FAQs

Not sure why your cat does a certain thing? There may be a simple explanation.

Cats Protection’s Behaviour Manager Nicky Trevorrow took to our national Facebook page recently to answer live questions from curious cat owners. Here are just some of the topics discussed:

Question: Why have my two female cats started to spray in the house? Both are two years old and there have been no changes in the household. I have two very large litter boxes for my five cats that are cleaned twice a day.

Answer: Cats can start to spray for various of reasons. The first thing to do would be get both cats health-checked, including urine samples. Have you seen both of them doing it? If not, you could set up cameras to identify which cats are involved. Behaviourally, there are a number of causes, the most common being something that causes them stress. The best way to find out the underlying cause is to get a referral to a qualified behaviourist such as a member of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC).

It's great that you've got two large litter trays already, but the cats would probably benefit from having a litter tray each if you can. Ideally these would be split out all over the house so that they can be easily accessed without going into one another's territories. If your current two trays are placed together, I'd suggest splitting them up as cats view trays in a row as simply one large litter tray! Wishing you all the best and I hope it gets resolved soon.

Cat snuggled on a blanket

Question: Why does my cat rush over to me and miaow when I start whistling?

Answer: I'm guessing that this could be a learned behaviour. Is there anything in particular you've done in the past? For example, have you whistled and then giving your cat fuss or food? Cats are very clever and can easily learn associations with something that predicts a reward or positive outcome.


Question: I had my female cat spayed around five weeks ago. I kept her in for nearly two weeks. Now ever since being spayed she is a changed cat and not for the best. She hates staying indoors and barely comes home now. She shows up every now and then but she's very grumpy and doesn't want to know us. She's always been a very affectionate cat, coming on your lap and on the bed and having a fuss made of her. I feel like I've lost my cat. Nothing has changed except for the op and just don't understand why she's gone like it. Thank you.

Answer: Sorry to hear that your cat has been behaving differently since the spay. This isn't usual as spaying doesn't change their personality. I would suggest chatting to your vet to look for possible underlying medical causes for this change, for example whether she's in any pain. Continue to keep your routines the same as cats need consistency in their lives. If the vet rules out medical reasons, I'd suggest getting a referral to a qualified behaviourist such as a member of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC). I hope she returns to her normal self soon.

Cat claw
Photo by istock.com/epantha
Question: I have four cats and one of them has started taking his claws down the wall when he comes out the litter box. Why does he do this?

Answer: Sorry to hear that your cat has started scratching the walls. Get the vet to give him a check over to make sure he's healthy and has no problems with his claws or paws.

If he is scratching the walls with his claws, it can help to understand why cats scratch in the first place. Scratching is a normal behaviour for cats for claw maintenance, to stretch their muscles and ligaments as well as usually the scent glands in between their toes to mark their territory (plus as a visual marker from vertical scratch marks). Some cats start scratching more as territory marker and may do so in response to something stressful (whereby the list is endless!). Getting a qualified behaviourist to go through all the history with you will help to identify the underlying cause.

In the meantime, ensure that your cats all have plenty of scratching facilities, spread out around the house. Ideally scratch posts should be tall enough (at least 60cm) and 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. Go here for more advice.


Veterinary note: Please note that we are unable to give specific advice on your cat's health or any change in behaviour observed. For more behaviour advice, please visit www.cats.org.uk/cat-care/cat-behaviour-hub where you’ll also find The Behaviour Guide which discusses a variety of topics on cat behaviour.

Consult your vet if you have a specific concern about your cat.

Would you like to ask one of Cats Protection's feline experts a question? Don't miss the next live Facebook Q&A sessions: get support with pet-related grief on 2 May; chat with Behaviourist Nicky Trevorrow on 18 May; or vet Dr Sarah Elliott on 1 June. All Q&As are held on Cats Protection's national Facebook page from 2pm. See you there!

2 comments:

  1. If a cat is lost what is the distance it can pick up the scent of home?

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    1. Cats have a really good sensory perception, with smell and sight and they also have the ability to remember the areas they roam. It is hard to give an accurate distance on how far the cat can pick up the smell of home, but it would only be over a short distance, and could also depend on how large a territory the cat has. However, it is with their great sense of smell working alongside other factors that make them have such good homing instincts – they are excellent at making a mental map of their area (a bit like a compass) and they will leave their scent on different items by rubbing against them and releasing pheromones which they can follow, along with sweat glands on their paws.

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