BEHAVIOUR PROBLEMS IN CATS
Like humans, individual cats respond quite differently to potential stresses – such as visits to the veterinarian, travel, hospitalisation, introduction of a new cat, the owners going on vacation, boarding or moving to a new residence. What we might consider a “minor change” could be very upsetting to some cats. Stress in cats manifests itself in many ways such as urine marking, vertical scratching, loss of appetite, reduced desire to play or a reduced desire to interact.
Urine marking or spraying is one of the most common behavioural problems reported by cat owners.
Signs of stress in cats are different but easy to identify:
Urine marking is one method used by the cat to mark out its territory. Whether male or female, neutered or entire, this behaviour is exhibited by almost every cat. But whilst spraying urine outdoors may be acceptable, most owners find the behaviour difficult to tolerate in the home due to the strong
odour and associated hygiene concerns.
During urine marking, cats adopt a characteristic standing posture and spray a horizontal jet of urine high up against a vertical object or may sometimes adopt a squatting posture to mark ground objects.
The amount of urine sprayed is usually a small volume and has a characteristic smell.
Scratching is an innate feline behaviour and it serves a number of functions for cats:
Scratching horizontal surfaces when waking up, during play or sexual excitation.
Scratching on vertical surfaces to keep claws trimmed.
Scratching on vertical surfaces to send a signal. Only this can be qualified as a marking behaviour.
How to differentiate between different types of scratching
If the cat is targeting only one or two specific sites in the home, usually discreet areas, it is likely to be keeping its claws in shape for “hunting”. If the scratching becomes more widespread, particularly in visible areas, or is centred on prominent objects such as a lounge, then this may be an indication that the cat is anxious and unsettled. Anxious cats may use scratch marking to increase the number of visual and scent signals in the immediate environment in order to reduce their anxiety.
Feliway is only active against vertical scratch marking.
Other signs of stress
Cats that are introduced to an unknown environment, such as when boarding in a cattery or moving to a new home, can become stressed due to a lack of familiarisation marks and show signs of stress such as:
Loss of appetite
Reduced desire to play
Reduced desire to interact
When Feliway is introduced into the environment, cats have been shown to carry out normal exploratory and feeding behaviour more quickly.