Many cat owners can relate to the saying, “dogs have owners, cats have staff…”
I have a special place in my heart for cats. Growing up, my family’s cat, Bright Eyes, brought a lot of joy to our home. She lived to be 20 years old, and we were all heartbroken when she passed away; I was in medical school at the time. Two of my sons are allergic to cats, so we haven’t had any in the house for a long time. I’ve recently had the pleasure, though, of experiencing (some of) my grandchildren’s delight while playing with their family cats (I don’t think it was quite as enjoyable for the cats).
Understanding Cat Behavior
Cats will be cats…
Fierce independence, unflinching superiority, and cunning boldness often earn our beloved cats reputations of “having cattitude.” However, most cats balance such strong personality traits with a great propensity for affection; they know how (and why) to endear themselves to humans and can be great cuddlers – when they’re in the mood!
Sometimes, though, cats cross the line between cattitude and acting out. Negative cat behaviors are concerning and can be challenging, but good reason generally underlies them. Often times, cat behavior problems are caused by underlying health issues, or are reactions to stressors. Yes, cats – like us – may act out in situations of stress, boredom, and strange, new developments in the immediate environment. Most animals benefit from structure and consistency, and oftentimes, disruption of their routines can be a source of stress.
Treating Cat Behavior Problems Naturally
Here are some examples of common situations that can underlie cat behavior problems and natural remedies that may help:
Upset – Your cat may not be his or her usual self when a new cat is introduced into the household, or you relocate to a new home. Some holistic vets treat upset with the flower essence walnut or chestnut bud. A few drops several times a day for up to a month may be beneficial – you can mix flower essences with your pet’s food or water, or squirt it into his mouth or in his lip fold. The homeopathic formulas – CalmStress, or Rescue Remedy may also help.
Depression – try the flower essence zinnia. One drop twice a day in water or food, or rub a drop on the ear.
Loss – When a companion cat or human in the household dies, try giving your grieving cat Ignatia 30C, a homeopathic remedy. A single dose tends to be sufficient for senior cats, while younger animals may need a dose two or three times a day for a couple of days.
Nervousness and travel anxiety – For feline nerves, I like nutritional supports like Calming Chews, which help support healthy brain and nervous system activity. You can also try the homeopathic remedy CalmStress or the flower essence Rescue Remedy; animals will often calm down rapidly after one dose or within two or three days of administering them several times a day. Feliway spray, may also be useful; it was shown in one study to significantly reduce feline stress during vet visits.
Problems defecating – Cats usually have bowel movements once or twice a day. But if you notice your cat hunching inside or outside the litter box, and straining, regard that behavior as a serious warning sign and see a veterinarian right away. Your cat may be constipated, and able to defecate perhaps only every several days. Constipation is a serious situation and fairly common among cats. Without medical attention, the animal could die due to dehydration and buildup of toxins in the bloodstream from accumulated waste. Many holistic veterinarians believe that constipation is frequently caused by routinely feeding dry commercial kibble. In most cases, they say, you can prevent the problem by feeding a high moisture diet, meaning more meat from a canned or frozen product, or home prepared meals either raw or cooked.
Missing the litter box – If your cat pees outside the litter box, it could be a sign of a urinary tract disorder and it is recommended that you contact your veterinarian. The situation could be life-threatening.
If there is no medical problem, the cat’s behavior may be caused by any of the following reasons bothering the cat:
- The litter box isn’t clean enough.
- The litter box is not located to the cat’s liking or doesn’t offer easy access. (Keep the litter as far away as possible from your cat’s food dishes).
- In multi-cat households, there may not be enough boxes to accommodate the number of cats.
- The cat just doesn’t like the litter.
Cats, after all, will be cats.
- Pereira JS, et al. Improving the feline veterinary consultation: the usefulness of Feliway spray in reducing cats’ stress. J Feline Med Surg. December 2016;18(12):959-964.
This blog has been reviewed and approved by veterinarian, Emily Wilkinson, DVM.
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