Friday 18 May 2012

Most Common Cat Behavior Problems

A discussion about the most common cat behavior problems. First we must recognise the fact that cat behavior problems are problems from the point of view of people. Often a behavior problem is normal behavior for a domestic cat that a person does not like; not strictly speaking a cat behavior problem. In fact, that is the default scenario. I know that obvious fact is hard for some people to digest, but it's true.

My research indicates that it is difficult to rank cat behavior problems as there is not enough widespread available research. In any case if the true problem is about our perceptions, likes and dislikes, all we are doing is ranking what we don't like about domestic cat behavior.

In no particular order the most common cat behavior problems referred to Pet Behavior Counsellors (APBC), a UK organisation were:
  • Indoor marking behavior - this will be spraying urine and depositing feces. Feces are used by wild cat species to mark territories. Domestic cats can do it too from time to time for various reasons.
  • Aggression towards people. This is particularly unhelpful as often aggression towards a person will be defensive in nature. Accordingly it might be argued that the aggression as caused by the person.
  • Aggression towards other cats. This was complained about half as much as aggression towards people. Once again the root cause of this form of cat behavior problem might be traceable back to the person who looks after the cats. If he or she introduces a cat into a multi-cat household that upsets the hierarchy leading to inter cat aggression it could be said that the problem is a human one.
  • Difficulties with house training.
  • Attention seeking.
  • Self-mutilation (one cause: separation anxiety). This is often caused by stress and stress can be caused by an inappropriate environment created by a person. The point I keep making is that cat behavior problems are not free-standing but often a reaction to something we did.
  • Of the purebred cats the Siamese and Burmese (related cat breeds by the way) were the most represented in respect of cat behavior problems. This does not automatically mean that these breeds are the worst behaved. It might mean there are more Burmese and Siamese cats in circulation. They are popular cat breeds especially the Siamese.
A study published in 2000  and 2001 (Bradshaw et al and Casey respectively) compared:
  1. data collected from questionnaires given to English people living in the south of England with:
  2. a diagnostic review from the USA.
Certain cat behavior problems were "over-represented" meaning occurring more than average. These were:
  1. House soiling which includes inappropriate elimination and marking. Inappropriate elimination is a litter box/stress problem while marking is deliberate territory marking and
  2. Aggression towards people and other cats.
Cat behavior problems that were under-represented were scratching and fearful behavior.

The studies produced different results to the APBC referrals. This is partly put down to differences in cat caretaker knowledge of cat behavior. Also people will seek help for problems such as house soiling as it causes a lot of disruption in a person's home.

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