What is the most important thing to know about cat behavior?

The client needs to let me know if they are concerned about their cat's behavior during a physical exam because we will try to help you as much as possible. So let your veterinarian know if you have a concern, not only about a physical problem but about a behavioral problem.

Dr. Heather Kovac
The Drake Center

Is it possible to fix behavior issues in cats?

It is. Cats can be trainable, just like dogs. Suppose there's a behavior that you don't like to see in your cat. In that case, hopefully, there is an alternative behavior that we could try to encourage and discourage that behavior you don't like. So things are fixable, and there are even trainers and behaviorists who work with cats. If it's out of our realm and we need to refer you to somebody else with more training, we can do that.

What are some signs and symptoms of cat behavior problems?

Well, it kind of depends on what you think is a problem. Some cats are aggressive towards people. Some cats are aggressive towards other cats or other pets in the house. That's not okay. It could be behavior such as scratching furniture, climbing curtains, scratching other people in the home, urinating outside the box for sure is a big one, or pooping outside the box, too—general litter box problems. You could also be concerned about your cat going out and hunting in the yard. It depends on what you think is a behavior problem, but you need to let us know.

When should I bring my cat in to see a veterinarian to discuss behavior?

Well, we like to ask the question about any behavior concerns at every visit. So when you're going to get a physical exam, we want to encompass the whole pet—not just the physical health, but the emotional and mental health, too. You’ll always be able to bring that up, any concern at any time during a visit. But if you have a specific concern and you want a vet's help, then, of course, you could make an appointment for that particular behavior concern.

How would a veterinarian diagnose behavior problems in my cat?

Really, that's on you to tell us. We're going to be talking about what your concerns are. And then if any diagnostic tests could help me figure out, is this truly behavioral versus a health concern, we might talk about that. But yeah, there will be options for treatment and behavior modification.

What are some possible health concerns that can arise from cat behavior problems?

If your cat is having litter box trouble, that could be a sign of a health concern, either a urinary tract infection, stones in the bladder, crystals in the urine, or other things like that. Inappropriate defecation can also be a sign of diarrhea or constipation. So those are health concerns that lead to behavior concerns.

But as far as a behavior that could lead to a health concern, if the cat were to get in a fight with another animal, for sure, they could get injured.

Why is early detection and diagnosis so important for cats with behavior issues?

We try to nip that behavior in the bud as soon as possible, as the longer it goes on, the harder it will be to correct. It's also easier to train a younger animal who's not as set in their ways and more amenable to training. So I definitely would want to approach that subject sooner rather than later.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (760) 456-9556, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as quickly as we can.

Cat Behavior - FAQs

Dr. Heather Kovacevich
The Drake Center

When can a cat's behavior problems typically start?

It could start at any age. Typically, if something in kittenhood is bothering you or if you're not happy with its behavior, we would want to know about it right away. But it could start at any age, young or old.

What are the most common behavior problems I might experience with my cat?

The number one problem is inappropriate urination or defecation. We just assume cats are going to use their litter box. We never train them to do it because it's just a natural thing that they do. It's great, and it's why cats are so easy to care for. If they're not using their litter box, it's a big concern for owners, and they bring their cat to the veterinarian because of it.

Why is early detection of my cat's behavior problem so important?

If there's a medical reason for it, we would want to treat it sooner to increase the likelihood of finding a cure and correcting the problem. The longer they behave a certain way, the more they think that it is just how they do things and it's normal for them. So the sooner we can correct that, the better the outcome will be.

My cat has been diagnosed with a behavior problem. Now what?

If we diagnose it here, we will give you treatment options to help you with that problem. We might also refer you to a trainer or a veterinary behaviorist for more specific problems or bigger concerns. There will also be behavior modification training activities. In addition, there might be medication and physical barriers you can put up in your home. It varies depending on the behavioral problem you're having.

Can my cat's behavior problems be managed with training?

It depends on what it is. But yes, cats are trainable. They are different from dogs, but they respond to positive reinforcement and sometimes treats or clicker training. There are training options and, hopefully, they would learn from that.

What can I try at home from my cat's behavior problems?

Again, it depends on what the problem is. Let's create a scenario: The cat is scratching the furniture. Of course, we don't want them to destroy the furniture. You could say no and get them off, try making a loud noise when they do the behavior, or make that area unappealing by blocking access. You can even use ScatMats on the floor or put different scents on the furniture. There's also a product called Feliscratch by Feliway, which you put on the item you want them to scratch to draw them to it. It depends on the problem, but each solution would be individually tailored for the problem.

When do I need to seek help for my cat's behavior problems?

Whenever you're concerned, ask a veterinarian because it might be normal, or it might not be normal, and you may not know the difference. If you're concerned, bring it up, and we'll try to help you with that.

Can my cat's behavior problems resolve on their own?

Probably not. Once a cat gets into a routine, it will likely continue. Especially if it's inner cat aggression that can escalate over time, it doesn't typically just go away.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (760) 456-9556, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.