Tips for Training Cats -Overcoming Cat Behaviour Problems

Aggression
As cats age their aggression level seems to rise. This may be due to pain caused by medical problems such as arthritis, reduced vision or hearing or diseases which effect the nervous system. The first thing to do is to identify the cause of the aggression to best deal with it. A variety of techniques are useful in treating aggression such as counter-conditioning, desensitisation and treating medical problems which are causing the behaviour. It is valuable to consult a veterinary expert or animal behaviourist when your cat begins to show signs of aggression.

Scratching on Furniture
Cats scratch on furniture either to sharpen their claws and to leave their scent on the furniture. Although it is near impossible to stop a cat from scratching there are ways in which to modify the behaviour. Firstly, start early, it is much easier to change a behaviour early on than when the cat is older. The best way to stop a cat from scratching the furniture is to get a scratching post. Cats usually scratch soon after waking so the scratching post should be somewhere easily accessible. Positive reinforcement is also important when the cat uses the post instead of other furniture.

Urine Spraying
This is a natural behaviour in cats used to mark their territory. It is commonly noticed in males which have not been sterilised and in houses with many cats. Some ways in which you can control spraying include:

  • De-sexing Toms - this is most effective if done before the cat starts spraying.
  • Restrict view of outdoors – move furniture away from windows. When cats see others outside their property they are more likely to spray.
  • Promote positive relationship between cats - In a house with multiple cats, ensure that each gets equal attention and try to play with them together. Encourage grooming of each other by wiping them with a damp cloth.
  • Routine – try to keep to a routine as change often leads to spraying.
  • Pet Repellents – use these for particular spots that the cat sprays at frequently
  • Remove odour after spraying – use specific products to neutralise odours such as those containing lemon grass or white vinegar.

FEEDING CATS

Cats are true or obligate carnivores, and must eat meat to survive. Cats cannot survive on a vegetarian diet. They are unlike dogs or humans in that they are pretty inflexible in their diet. They require a high protein diet with moderate fats and minimal carbohydrates. They also require over a dozen nutrients including, amino acids, vitamins, minerals and fatty acids. Cats like variety in their diets, so sometimes they will want to change their diet.  Cats that are fed on one type of food only from being a kitten may develop a condition called neophobia; this means they will fear anything new including new tastes and smells.  Additionally, nutritional diseases can occur from being fed only one type of food e.g. tinned fish.

Taurine is an essential amino acid that is vital in the feline diet, and it is exclusively found in animal based protein.  Taurine is essential for normal vision, digestion, heart muscle function, immune system, pregnancy and foetal development.  The symptoms of a taurine deficiency in cats develop slowly over a period of 5 months to 2 years depending on their life stage.   Deficiency degenerates the retinal cells of the eyes, impairing the vision, and is known as feline central retinal degeneration.

A deficiency in taurine can also cause cardiomyopathy, weakening of the muscle cells in the heart.  Taurine deficiencies have also been linked to causing digestive disturbances.  Cat feed with good quality animal-based protein will contain adequate taurine levels.  Dog food should never be given as it does not contain enough taurine.   Food allergic dermatitis also occurs in cats and can be checked with elimination diets or veterinary assistance. Cats should not be given cooked chicken bones.

‘Wet’ or ‘canned’ food is made up of 70 to 80% moisture and is a good option to feed cats that don’t drink much water. If a cat drinks plenty of fresh water than it may not necessarily need to have wet or canned food in its diet, however many cats are fussy and prefer the palatable taste and texture of a wet food.  

Dry kibble can help clean teeth as a cat chews. Raw chicken necks (one per week) can help maintain healthy gums and teeth.

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