If you listen to your cat, they’ll tell you that they are the perfect pet, no matter what! But, unfortunately, some sassy feline behaviors are less than pleasant, and can strain your relationship. While you may chalk up your cat’s problem behaviors to household tension or stress, they may be caused by medical reasons. If your cat is acting abnormally in any way, they should have a veterinary exam to ensure they have no underlying health issues. Read on to discover the most common behavior problems you may encounter in your pet.

#1: Inappropriate elimination

Perhaps the most frustrating—and most common—problem behavior that cat owners complain about is inappropriate elimination. Whether your cat is urinating or defecating outside the litter box, cleaning up mess after mess quickly becomes more than irritating. However, your cat may be refusing to use their litter box because of a medical, rather than behavioral, reason. Medical issues that can lead to inappropriate elimination in cats include:

  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD)
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Colitis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Diabetes
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Kidney or liver disease

Cats who are stressed for any reason may also avoid their litter box. Potential stress factors may include:

  • Bullying — Cats are sensitive creatures, and one cat may be bullied by another household cat without you realizing. If you notice one cat is hiding more than usual, or another cat is staring them down, they may be the subject of bullying and being denied access to resources, such as a litter box. Bullying can cause cats a great deal of stress, which can also lead to inappropriate elimination.
  • Poor litter box hygiene — Nobody wants to use a dirty toilet, and your fastidious cat is no exception. Scoop your cat’s box at least twice daily, and disinfect thoroughly with an unscented cleaner at least weekly. Provide one box per cat, plus one, to ensure each cat has ample options for their bathroom needs.
  • Improper litter box placement — Location is everything. Your cat needs a quiet place to do their business, so avoid placing litter boxes next to noisy appliances, in high-traffic areas, or next to your cat’s food or water dish. 
  • Schedule or environmental changes — Changes in your cat’s daily routine can create stress and anxiety that lead to inappropriate elimination. Reduce your cat’s stress by minimizing changes in their home life, including major furniture rearrangement or home improvements, as much as possible.

#2: Destructive scratching

Scratching is a natural and essential behavior for cats, and they will find their own outlet—often an inappropriate behavior, such as scratching furniture, curtains, carpet, or walls—if they cannot satisfy that need  Discouraging your cat from scratching can be tough, since they need to scratch to mark their territory, play, stretch, and care for their nails. Instead, teach them acceptable scratching behavior with the following tips:

  • Provide a variety of acceptable scratching surfaces — While most cats prefer sisal surfaces, offer your cat a variety, such as cardboard, carpet, wood, or upholstery. Position these scratching areas horizontally and vertically to provide plenty of options.
  • Attract your cat to scratching posts — Use catnip or pheromones to attract your cat to the desired scratching surfaces. Reward them with treats and praise when they scratch in the correct spot.
  • Discourage inappropriate scratching — Discourage inappropriate scratching by moving or covering off-limits items. For example, turn speakers toward the wall, or cover your sofa ends with plastic scratch guards.

Additionally, trim your cat’s nails regularly to help them with nail care.

#3: Aggression between household cats

Cats are territorial and may not adapt well to newcomers invading their home turf. Cats who previously got along, but then suddenly became aggressive toward one another, may have matured socially, usually between 1 to 3 years of age, or experienced an upsetting event, like a move. No matter the reason for your cat’s sudden aggression, you can take these steps to help them coexist peacefully:

  • Separate resources — Ensure each cat has their own food, water, litter box, and resting area in separate spots in your home to avoid competition.
  • Provide additional perches and hiding spots — The more spots that offer your cat climbing and hiding opportunities, and room to space themselves out, the less they will be stressed.
  • Reward desired behavior — Reward your cats any time they engage in friendly behavior, or simply ignore each other.
  • Try pheromones — A diffuser that emits calming pheromones may help ease strained cat relationships.

Above all, never let your cats fight to win, because the fighting will continue to escalate, and someone will be seriously injured. If you’re struggling to help your cats get along, contact our team for help.

If your cat is exhibiting unusual behavior, they may have developed a health issue. Schedule an appointment with our Just Cats Clinic team to get to the bottom of your cat’s abnormal behavior and reduce their stress.