Cats are very clean animals and usually learn how to use a litter tray quickly. Ideally you should start getting your cat used to using a litter tray as early on in life as possible but that’s not to say that they are ever too old to learn!
Where you position a litter tray is very important; make sure it is in a private but accessible place, well away from your cat’s bedding and food. Some cats prefer a top over their tray for extra privacy and may adapt to litter training more easily if provided with a hooded tray. Hooded trays are more hygienic too as they reduce odour problems.
Once the tray is in a position and filled with litter and a liner, let your cat explore it in its own time. If your cat seems reluctant, gently take it to the tray yourself. You can further encourage your cat by actually placing it into the tray early in the morning, last thing at night and after every meal.
You may find that even after your cat has become accustomed to using its tray that accidents still happen. This may be because the tray is not being cleaned regularly enough. Also, using strong detergents can be off-putting for cats, so use a cleaner that has been specially designed with a cat’s strong sense of smell in mind. A more common reason behind cats urinating and defecating in the house may be due to the stress or anxiety. The most important factor in stopping this problem is to discover the cause of the stress. Fear of invasion of their territory by another cat is the number one cause, so here’s what we suggest to make them feel more secure:
- Thoroughly clean the areas where your cat inappropriately soiled using biological detergent and odour absorbing crystals.
- Feed your cat on the previously soiled areas.
- Give your cat lots of love, praise and security.
- Also, try changing the type of litter used. The fine grained loose substances tend to be preferred, but some cats can be extremely fussy and will only use fine soil, peat-based products or even sand.
- Lastly, and most importantly, NEVER punish your cat for soiling in the home; this will add to its feeling of insecurity.
Cats communicate through smell. A cat’s most common response to stress or anxiety is to use the smell of urine or faeces for reassurance. Clearly, this is highly unpleasant for us, especially as cats will of ten choose a place to urinate or defecate that has a high concentration of their owner’s smell attached to it, such as the duvet, bed sheets or shoes.
By far the most important factor in eliminating this problem is to discover the cause of your cat’s stress and to reduce it, so that your cat feels more secure. This means that punishment of any kind will be counter-productive.
Fear of invasion of its own territory by another cat is the number one cause of cat stress! If your cat is spraying urine in the home the first aid treatment below may help change the behaviour.
- If you have a cat flap consider changing it to a magnetic version so that only your cat can use it. This will stop unwanted visitors and help your cat feel secure at home.
- Cats wont go to the toilet where they eat, so once you have cleaned the area thoroughly, feed your cat on that spot for a few days. Be sure to give them lots of love and reassurance at the same time. Never punish a kitten for soiling in the home – it will only increase anxiety and make matters worse.
Scratching is a necessary behaviour for cats, as it removes the outer husk from the sheath of the claw. Cats also have scent glands between their pads and this means that scent is released onto the object when a cat scratches on it – leaving a mark for other cats to read by smell, along with a visual mark as well.
Ask yourself whether your cat has the opportunity to scratch naturally? If your cat is kept permanently indoors, or does not go out very much, then an indoor scratch post will be essential. Posts will be used by cats to exercise their claws, otherwise cats may scratch your furniture or carpet. Scratching posts come in many shapes and sizes and should be introduced to a kitten as early as possible. Cats are highly motivated by scent; their sense of smell is 30 times stronger than ours and the smell of catnip is really attractive so spraying the post with catnip spray may encourage your cat to use it. Your post should be tall enough so that when your cat stretches it’s front feet upwards from a standing position, it does not overreach the top. The post needs to be covered with sisal or other scratchable material. Praise your cat every time it uses the post to scratch.
To help prevent your cat scratching the wrong surfaces, try to encourage it to cheek rub them instead. Research has shown that when cats are feeling secure, they mark objects and people using the cheek glands in their faces. Where they do this, they rarely scratch or spray. Encourage your cat to rub on your hands or a clean cloth and then rub this over the furniture.
Should you find your cat persists in scratching in unwanted areas around your home, look at where your cat is scratching. If it is in a location near a door or window, this may indicate that it is anxious about other cats coming into the home. If so, try to remove the cause of stress by blocking the cat flap and even access to the window.
Playing with your cat is not only great fun but helps to strengthen the bond between you and your pet. However, play fighting may look cute when your cat is young, but once they reach adult hood it can hurt! Some cats which perform predatory behaviours towards their owners will go to great lengths to ambush them as they come home from work, walk up the stairs or even lie asleep in bed.
Sometimes however, cats bite and scratch their owners and this is usually because owners used their hands and feet to act as prey when their cat was younger. If your cat bites you, stop the game immediately and try playing with a toy that keeps your hands distanced from your cat, such as a play wand or glove.
It’s quite normal for young cats and kittens to suddenly leap up and dash about the house in a frenzy of excitement more commonly known as “having a mad half hour.” This behaviour is not harmful and should not be discouraged. It’s just a natural way to release some pent up energy which would normally be used during the evening for hunting if they were living in the wild and usually disappears once the cat explores the outdoors.
For some cats however, the learning experience of having “a mad half hour” can lead to behavioural problems. They may learn that running around the house at top speed causes everyone to stop what they are doing, look and laugh. Even worse, they may discover that biting or scratching humans on the way past brings even more excitement. Unfortunately, such behaviours can quickly become established and bright cats and kittens may discover they can manipulate their owner’s attention by biting them and running away.
Although it is difficult, ignoring this sort of behaviour is the only way to ensure that it does not become a problem in the future.
Getting used to the outdoors
Cats can live quite happily indoors and many people choose to bring their cat up this way. For most however, it just isn’t practical.
New cats or kittens should be introduced to the outdoors gradually. Using a harness and lead is a good way of getting your cat accustomed to the outside world safely along with you by its side. Using a harness regularly will also help train your cat to walk alongside you.
Once your cat becomes accustomed to the outdoors, you will probably want to let it in and out freely which is where a cat flap can come in handy. Following these simple steps will help to train your cat to use the cat flap.
- Prop the flap right open by wedging a lump of plasticine in the hinge.
- Ask someone to take your cat outside and encourage it to go through the flap into the security of its home. It’s essential that your cat comes through of its own accord. No pushing or shoving allowed!
- When your cat is completely confident with walking in and out through the hole, it is time to gradually lower the flap.
If there are other cats in the neighbourhood you may wish to fit a magnetic cat flap. The flap will automatically open for your cat but can’t be opened at all other times.
Once your cat has become familiar with using is own private doorway, you may find that you receive a little “present” from time to time. Cats chase, bite and kill small rodents, birds and insects and many of them like to bring their kill home to you! This behaviour harks back to the wild when cats provided food for their families. As your cat’s family, your pet is honouring you with the proceeds of the hunt so never punish it for acting out what is a natural feline trait.
A cat’s favourite time to hunt is at dawn and dusk as this is when prey is most abundant, so keeping your cat in during this time may help. All Pets at Home cat collars are fitted with a bell, which will help alert birds to your cat’s presence. Alternatively, your cat could wear a liberator Collar which triggers a visual alarm whenever it pounces giving birds a pre-warning time frame to fly away.