What have you always wanted to know about your cat, but never had the opportunity to ask? From why he’s taken a particular liking to certain people to how to stop her scratching the carpet to shreds, we asked the experts for advice on some of your most perplexing cat queries.
As every cat owner knows, our feline friends can be fascinating, mysterious – and sometimes downright baffling – company! In this article we tackle some of your real-life cat conundrums, and find out how to deal with some of their more challenging habits.
1. How do I get my cat to use a scratching post, instead of the carpet?
Cats need to scratch – and some cats prefer to scratch horizontally (for example, carpets and stairs), rather than vertically (such as the scratching post you’ve thoughtfully provided!). Others will happily do either; it seems to come down to individual preference. Clinical animal behaviourist Inga MacKellar suggests putting a scratch mat over the carpet area that your cat is using, to see if that helps.
‘To make the mat more attractive to her, use a wire brush to scratch it a few times, in the same direction that she normally scratches the carpet,’ says Inga. This will encourage her to start scratching it herself.
‘I would also rub the upper side of the scratch mat against the scratched carpet for a few minutes, so that it picks up some of your cat’s scent,’ Inga adds.
2. Why does my cat bypass me, his adoring ‘mum’, to fawn over my husband, who isn’t even keen on cats?
It’s not unusual for cats to favour the company of those who ignore them – particularly those individuals that are naturally reserved and like their own space. ‘Cats like people to be passive, even indifferent, to them,’ explains Blue Cross senior behaviourist Claire Stallard. ‘Cats may find someone trying hard to win their affection a bit overwhelming, and prefer more indifferent company, like the husband.’
She recommends taking a leaf out of the husband’s book: ‘It may be frustrating, but if you want your cat’s attention, try ignoring him! The best thing you can do is be more laid back and indifferent.’ This may not be easy – but be patient, and you may see your cat seeking out your company for a change.
3. Help – how can I stop my cat yowling at night?
We shut my three-year-old Burmese in for the night, but he’s stopping us getting to sleep. ‘Burmese cats are a vocal breed,’ says Inga MacKellar. ‘Cats are twilight hunters and he may want to be outside.’ She recommends giving him some activities to keep him occupied: ‘Hide his dried food in an empty toilet-roll tube with some tissues at either end, or make holes in an empty plastic bottle and fill it with food for him to bat about. This may help satisfy his hunting instincts, letting you get some shut-eye.’
4. My cat is literally a peeping tom!
He climbs through my neighbours’ window in the morning and sits on the edge of the bath while their son takes a shower. What’s going on? ‘It might be that the cat likes the sound of running water,’ says Claire Stallard. ‘If there is already a friendly relationship between the boy and the cat – for example, if he strokes or feeds it – the cat may feel comfortable joining him in the bathroom.’
Many cats will visit neighbours’ homes if they can easily gain access, however inappropriate those visits seem! If neighbours want to discourage this, it’s a good idea to work together: ‘The family next door would need to ignore the cat, and make sure they don’t encourage him into their home,’ says Claire. ‘They could also let the cat’s owner know roughly when shower time is, so he can be kept indoors – or only leave the window open a crack!’
5. How do I stop my cat peeing on the carpet?
I use Feliway (a feline pheromone spray), to discourage scratching, but it hasn’t stopped her urinating on, and sometimes soiling, the floor. ‘You say that your cat is urinating on the carpet, but you need to rule out whether she might be spraying,’ says Inga MacKellar. Unlike regular urination, spraying is a scent-marking behaviour that often occurs when cats feel insecure and need to surround themselves with their own scent. Cats will often squat down to urinate, but stand up, while treading the ground, to spray.
‘Feliway would probably have helped if this was a marking behaviour, as it reduced the scratching – another type of marking,’ Inga adds. This, coupled with the soiling, may suggest that the cat is simply relieving her bladder rather than marking out her territory.
There can be many reasons for cats to relieve themselves in inappropriate places. If your cat starts being caught short regularly, there may be an underlying health issue: ‘Talk to your vet and have a urine sample checked,’ says Inga. ‘Your cat may have a urinary tract infection, which can result in a breakdown of toilet training.’
Urinating indoors might also indicate a problem with a cat’s usual toileting site. For example, cats who usually toilet outdoors can be deterred from doing so by physical weakness, or by a threat such as a strange cat. It may be helpful to provide an indoor litter tray, even for cats who usually go outside. If they already have a litter tray, they may be put off from using it if it’s insufficiently private, too dirty – or even too clean and smelling of chemicals!
6. Why do cats like boxes so much?
Hiding away in cosy, enclosed spaces makes all cats feel safe, secure and in control – from house cats to tigers! Inside a box, they have a great vantage point on everything that’s going on just outside, while the surrounding walls stop anything or anyone sneaking up on them unobserved. ‘This makes the cardboard boxes that come with deliveries a great, inexpensive, way to entertain your cat,’ says Inga MacKellar.
Does your cat have any particularly peculiar habits you’d like explained? Or have you recently solved some of their puzzling behaviour? Let us know on Facebook (@PetplanUK) or use #PethoodStories on Instagram – we’d love to hear from you!