Thursday, 25 May 2017

‘Why does my cat fight with neighbourhood cats?’ and other behaviour FAQs

Don’t understand why your cat behaves the way they do? Behaviourist Nicky Trevorrow took to our national Facebook page to answer live questions from curious cat owners.

Note: If your cat starts to display any behaviours that are unusual or they develop a change in personality or demeanour, the first port of call must always be your vet. Many changes in behaviour are due to illness or pain and so you should arrange an appointment with your vet as soon as possible.

Other seemingly ‘odd’ behaviours that do not have roots in a medical condition can be explained by understanding the natural behaviour that makes a cat a cat. For these types of behaviour issues we would recommend a referral to a qualified behaviourist from the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC).


Question: My cat is nine years old but over the last year has become a bit of a fighter with neighbourhood cats, especially if those cats are strays or newcomers to the area. He's coming home with scratches and scars and has cost us a few vets’ bills to treat infections and abscesses. Can you help answer why he's developed this territorial attitude and ways we can help him feel calmer when dealing with cats outdoors?

Answer: You are not alone with this problem! This is a very common situation as cats are a solitary species and often become territorial when other cats move into the neighbourhood and start to occupy the area that was once exclusively theirs. Sharing territory is a stressful situation for many cats. Generally speaking cats will only fight as a last resort and would rather avoid confrontation. To help avoid confrontation ensure he has plenty of opportunities to avoid others and deal with stress in the ways that cats like best: provide him with lots of places to hide and places to climb up high, both indoors and in your garden. Hopefully these measures should help to reduce his stress levels and reduce the number of scuffles in the process!

It is worth noting that a cat who is ill or in pain is less able to cope with stress – often a contributing factor when a cat appears to be behaving aggressively – do get him vet checked to make sure there are no medical reasons behind the behaviour.

Grey cat looking out window
Cats that are feeling threatened by other cats may spend time being vigilant at windows and cat flaps. Credit: istock.com/sjingel

Question: My cat constantly meows at night times. He is also scared of me and attacks people quite a lot. Please help, it's like he has cat ADHD.

Answer: Thanks for your question and I am sorry to hear about your cat. It sounds like there's a lot going on there.

There are many different medical reasons for these types of behaviours and so I would recommend a trip to the vets as soon as you can.

In the meantime, make sure that all members of the household wear sufficient protective clothing and get medical attention for any bites or scratches.

Give your cat lots of places to hide, get up high and escape routes to help them feel safer and also have a read of this leaflet: Managing your cat’s behaviour.


Question: Is there any way to get mats out of fur? My cat is 19 and grumpy when I try and brush her.

Answer: Sorry to hear this, it's really common! If her mats are quite severe, then I would suggest taking her to the vets in order for them to remove them safely. Mats which have become large or are close to the skin are very difficult to remove yourself without damaging the skin underneath.

Your vet will also want to give your cat a thorough check up as many elderly cats are unable to groom themselves properly due to the pain associated with conditions such as osteoarthritis. Once any issues have been addressed medically and the initial mats have been removed, you will be able to start your maintenance programme which will help any further mats from accumulating.

Build up really gradually. Start with a very soft baby brush and just give her treats (as long as there's no medical reason why she can't have treats – discuss with your vet) for approaching and sniffing the baby brush. Don't attempt grooming for the time being unless absolutely necessary. You may wish to get a qualified behaviourist in to help you through a gradual process of getting her used to brushes again as they can tailor a programme especially for her – see the link above for the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors.

Brushing a ginger cat
If you are struggling to groom your cat, ask your vet for advice. Credit: istock.com/Aksenovko

Question: My cat shuffles her bottom on the carpet. She is regularly wormed and has no signs of infection. Is this normal?

Answer: I’m afraid this isn't normal. There are a few medical issues such as impacted anal glands or bite abscesses which can cause discomfort around the rear end so a trip to the vets is advised. 

Hope it gets sorted out soon.


Question: Is there a particular reason my cat is shoving her face in mine when we snuggle? She doesn’t give me face rubs, but sleeps with her face pressed against mine. Or is she just being generally sweet and loving?

Answer: If there is no medical reason for your cat to be head-pressing, then I think it is safe to say that your cat expressing how well bonded the two of you are! It is incredibly cute and one of the many reasons why cats are so awesome!

Woman cuddling black-and-white cat
Cats can become very bonded with their owner. Credit: istock.com/Olezzo

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: vet Dr Sarah Elliott will be taking questions on 1 June; you can get support with pet-related grief on 13 June; or speak to Behaviour Manager Nicky again on 29 June. All Q&As are held on Cats Protection's national Facebook page from 2pm. See you there!

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