Understanding your Cat and letting them be a Cat

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Cats are the most popular pet now a days. It’s not difficult to see why when they don’t need walked, they’re small, and are fairly easy to care for, but as cat owners do we really understand their needs? It’s hard to say yes when so many are euthanized or put into shelters because of behavioral issues. Fortunately most problems can be prevented if we really take time to understand our cats and their needs.

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Cats are solitary hunters and can adapt to family life if we still allow them to be cats. Cats need to have a sense of control over their physical and social environment, having this reduces stress for them. Providing multiple scratching and hiding places, perches, feeding, water, and toileting areas can reduce stress and give a sense of control. This is especially important with multiple cat homes as well as when introducing them to a new environment. Having fancy cat trees are nice for perches, but you can also just use some shelves allowing the cat to gain higher grounds, and cardboard boxes for hiding. Having these things don’t have to make you break the bank, you can think outside the box and they’ll still appreciate it.

Many owners feed their cats in one bowl or next to each other for multiple cats. Some also do free access to food or feed certain amounts once or twice a day. Unfortunately not providing opportunities for predatory behavior can lead to problems of boredom, stress, and overeating, which can lead to obesity and obesity associated diseases. We can help stimulate the hunting behavior by providing food toys, puzzles, tossing kibbles, or hiding food in different places around the house.  There are lots of food toys and puzzles available, or if you’re a handy DIYer you can even make your own! Providing these things will allow for a more normal cat like behavior and provide exercise as well as preventing competition for food. Having multiple water bowls set around the house is also a benefit for the cat so they can have separate areas without having to compete for water.

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Inappropriate elimination is the most common behavior problem in cats, especially urine. Cats need multiple places to eliminate and in separate places. If there are multiple floors, there should be at least one box per floor and allow an exit from at least two sides outside the box. Keeping boxes in a cabinet or in an area where other pets or people may scare them while using the box is a bad idea. Having open, clean boxes without deodorizers and liners can help keep cats happy about their box. Litter boxes should also be scooped daily and be at least 1.5 times the cats length.

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Scratching is another trait that can be undesirable by owners. Scratching is a healthy behavior for cats that they use to stretch their muscles, sharpen their claws, remove old sheaths, and leave both scent and visual cues. These are many times near a place where the cat sleeps, a prominent piece of furniture, or the periphery of a territory. Providing different types and areas for scratching posts can help decrease the scratching of household furniture and create a happy environment for everyone.

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If you’re having issues with your cat waking you at night or just before dawn, they may be crepuscular, meaning more active around dawn/dusk. This can be frustrating when you are woken up from a nice sound sleep then later in the day see your cat enjoying a deep slumber. It’s important to never intentionally or accidentally reinforce this behavior, especially with a kitten that is learning how the world works. If this becomes reinforced it may become routine for them to start waking you up to get what they want, food, attention, etc.  Keeping them stimulated throughout the day to avoid boredom and oversleeping will help with excessive activity at inappropriate times. Being more active with them and having vigorous play before bedtime may help them sleep better through the night along with yourself.

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Hopefully with all these things covered, you can enjoy having lots of cuddles and play with your furry friend. If you’re ever having issues and questions, never hesitate to call your veterinarian and ask for advice on the matter. Our goal is to help you and your kitty have a purrrrrfect bond together and live happily as can be.

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