Ask the Cat Behaviorist Cats Feline Behavior

Ask the Cat Behaviorist with Dr. Marci Koski: New Cat and Dog Introductions, How Much Exercise Should Cats Have, and More



Dr. Marci Koski is a licensed Feline Conduct and Coaching Skilled who acquired specialised and superior certificates in Feline Coaching and Conduct from the Animal Conduct Institute. Whereas Marci has been captivated with all animals and their welfare, cats have all the time had a particular place in her coronary heart. Actually, Marci can’t keep in mind a time when she’s been with out no less than one cat in her life. She at present depends on her five-member help employees  to take care of the feline duties of her family.

Marci’s personal firm, Feline Conduct Options, focuses on holding cats in houses, and from being deserted to streets or shelters as the results of treatable conduct points. Marci believes that the variety of cats who’re deserted and/or euthanized in shelters could be tremendously decreased if guardians higher perceive what drives their cats to sure behaviors, and discover ways to work with their cats to encourage applicable behaviors as an alternative of undesirable ones.

Do you have got a query for Dr. Marci?
Depart it in a remark, and she or he’ll reply it subsequent month!

Introducing boyfriend’s canine to resident cats

I’ve two fantastic cats who for probably the most half co-habit very nicely collectively. They’ve an older sister and youthful brother sort relationship. What I need to assist them with is being launched to my boyfriend’s 18-month previous pit bull/pointer combine pet. How can I assist them recover from their worry of the barking canine and assist them really feel protected when the canine is over? Presently, I’ve them take pleasure in safe personal time in my bed room throughout a go to. In fact, they’ve every little thing they want throughout their personal time (meals, water, litter field and a snug mattress and blankies). Thanks a lot. – Jill Herbert

 Hello Jill,

I’m so glad that your kitties have an excellent relationship with one another.  Introducing a brand new animal to the house (whether or not it’s one other cat, pet/canine, and so forth.) is usually a problem, however it all comes right down to counter-conditioning and desensitization.  Which means you’ll pair good issues with growing ranges of publicity to the factor that the cats are afraid of.  First, you’ll need to work out what you’ll be utilizing because the “good issues” that you simply’ll pair with pet publicity.  This might be treats, affection, brushing, a toy – no matter your cats like (and it could possibly be totally different for every cat).  If there’s a specific deal with that they REALLY like (like rotisserie hen breast, for instance), we name that a “jackpot deal with” and also you’ll reserve the jackpot for occasions that they could be extra challenged, like once they transfer to the subsequent degree on the publicity gradient.

Okay, so let’s speak concerning the publicity gradient.  This refers back to the growing quantity of puppiness that your cats can be uncovered to.  At one finish of the gradient is not any publicity, and on the different finish of the gradient is the pet romping round in the identical room as your kitties.  The pet doesn’t need to be current to be able to work on desensitization.  You possibly can first work with sounds and smells of the pet whereas he isn’t there.  Attempt downloading audio information of a pet barking (one thing that sounds just like your boyfriend’s pet), and play them at a degree that doesn’t trigger worry in your cats.  Give them treats whereas they take heed to the noise; so long as they’re consuming their treats, they’re snug.  Improve the quantity slowly, maintaining a tally of the cats’ physique language.  In the event that they cease consuming the treats (or having fun with their “good factor”), decrease the quantity till the cats can eat/take pleasure in once more.  Cease the session there, and resume at that time (or slightly quieter) on the subsequent session.

With smells, convey a canine mattress or blanket over that the canine has slept on; put some treats on it, and encourage the kitties to discover the brand new object.  Give them rewards as they strategy the brand new scent.

After the cats are snug with the scent/sounds of the pet, you’ll need to give them the chance to securely observe the pup whereas he’s in your house.  Put a child gate within the hallway and depart your bed room door open in order that the cats can come out and watch from a distance the place the pet can’t get to them – stick with them and reward once they enterprise out.  Then, when they’re snug watching on the gate, have the pup on a harness/leash and take the gate down in order that the cats can come nearer, giving them rewards the complete method.  Be sure to have loads of vertical area for the cats to make use of in order that they will get off the bottom and out of the pet’s method when they’re in the identical room – this can assist them really feel safer and permit them observe from a safe vantage level.  I hope this helps and that your kitties will quickly have a brand new good friend!

Cat urinates on wall behind the litter field

Hello Dr. Marci, I’ve a query a few cat who sprays inside and typically on the wall behind her litter field. She is spayed and has executed this since she was a younger kitten, she is a few yr previous now. She was raised with the remainder of her litter and there have been different cats round that she all the time performed with and appeared snug with.  She now lives with just one different cat that was not a part of her litter however that she has bonded with – they play and sleep collectively and groom one another.

We tried Cat Appeal to litter, and Feliway spray across the field which appeared to assist some and we switched to excessive sided packing containers -but she nonetheless appears to get it up excessive.

She’s very lively and playful and affectionate however even after a vigorous play session she is going to go over and typically pee simply in entrance of or behind the field. The packing containers are stored clear, we have now tried totally different packing containers and totally different places with out success. Do you assume she is one way or the other insecure about her litter field? What might encourage her to proceed to do that? Do you will have any strategies on what we might attempt to simply get her to maintain it contained in the field? Additionally, she does have loads of scratchers, beds and cat timber that she will name her personal with out having to share.  Thanks! – Karen 

Hello Karen,

It sounds such as you’re giving her loads of playtime and enrichment, in addition to different methods to go away her scent with scratchers, bedding, and cat timber.  And, I’m glad that she’s bonded with the opposite cat in your house; it doesn’t sound like that’s the difficulty.  I do know you stated she’s been spraying since she was a younger kitten, however I’m questioning if it’s not spraying; she may truly be what I name a “excessive peer”, or do what I additionally name “elevator butt”.  Some cats urinate whereas standing up, and others transfer their rear find yourself as they pee, which may end up in a stream of urine that goes up the aspect of the litterbox and typically over the sting.  What I like to recommend for this example is utilizing a high-sided utility tub as an alternative of a typical high-sided litterbox.  Utility tubs are inexpensive than litterboxes, and you may reduce a U-shaped door in a single aspect in order that the cats can go out and in of the field with out having to leap over the tall sides (you’ll additionally need to depart the highest of the field off).  The edges of those tubs are excessive sufficient in order that they need to include any urine streams, whether or not she is just urinating excessive, or is actually spraying.

A few questions for you – does she solely urinate behind or subsequent to the litterbox, or does she urinate in different elements of the house?  If it’s solely behind or subsequent to the litterbox, this can be because of the “over-shooting” concern, or it might be a litterbox dissatisfaction challenge.  If it’s in different elements of the house, it might be the results of territorial insecurity, litterbox dissatisfaction, and/or one thing else.  Have you ever taken your cat to see the vet about this?  She might have crystals in her urine (or another medical concern), which come and go together with pH, and she or he might keep away from urinating in her field because of ache when the crystals are current (i.e., she associates the field with ache).

So, give the utility tubs a attempt, and ensure your litterbox setup is as much as snuff – have a minimal of three litterboxes in your house, at the least one on every degree, not all in the identical spot.  Use unscented clumping litter, not more than 2-Three inches deep.  Litterboxes ought to be a minimum of 1.5 occasions the size of the most important cat within the house (with out the tail; utility tubs often meet this requirement).  Additionally, if she’s leaving urine in different elements of the house (notably if she’s merely emptying a full bladder and never essentially spraying), attempt placing a litterbox the place she has been going.  Typically a litterbox in a socially vital a part of the cats’ territory may help improve territorial safety.

And only a fast word about Feliway – I don’t advocate placing it close to litterboxes, particularly if there’s a litterbox dissatisfaction concern and never spraying.  Feliway will help with “familiarity”, which is ok when cats are spraying in a location inside the house (put Feliway in these places).  However for litterbox utilization, Feliway is just not doubtless to assist proper close to the litterbox because you WANT your cat to go away her scent there.

Lastly, you might need to attain out to a licensed cat conduct marketing consultant (like me!) that will help you with this concern.  It’s exhausting to say for positive what’s happening in your house based mostly on the restricted info I’ve, however a conduct marketing consultant will be capable of work out why that is occurring, and give you additional suggestions.  I hope this helps!

A notice from Ingrid: Ruby is a vertical pee’er – she begins out squatting, however then wiggles her butt as she completed peeing. I had by no means seen that in a feminine cat earlier than! Once I first adopted her, urine went over the sting of nearly any litter field I attempted – till I discovered the NVR Miss. It’s the very best litterbox available on the market, and it’s solved our drawback. Whereas utility tubs work simply as nicely, if esthetics are a consideration, which they undoubtedly have been for me, the NVR Miss could also be your reply, too.

How lengthy ought to new cat be separated from resident cats?

Hiya, I’ve a stray cat and we adopted her from a shelter introduced her residence we now have 2 cats we now have had for years however the brand new cat hisses and stares we’ve the brand new cat separated however how lengthy do we now have her separated?  We’re questioning if that is going to work out. – Jackie Evans

Hello Jackie,

Cat introductions may be very irritating and may take some time.  Often it takes a number of days or a few weeks, nevertheless it’s commonplace for introductions to take longer – a number of weeks, and even months.  There’s no assure that two cats (or extra) will ever be pals, however with time, we will often get cats to peacefully coexist (however there are exceptions).  The period of time this can take depends upon the cats and the way you handle their interactions.  Briefly, you need to give them alternatives to construct up constructive associations (with meals, play, and anything the cats like) whereas ending interactions earlier than they get probably aggressive.  Endurance is a key ingredient.

How did you initially introduce the cats?  In case your new cat has not been within the house lengthy, chances are you’ll need to work on build up constructive associations with the cats’ scents first by doing scent-swapping by switching bedding and pairing them with treats (or regardless of the cats take pleasure in, like petting and sweet-talk).  Making a “group scent” that features all three cats within the house can also be a good suggestion.  You should use a soft-bristled brush to softly stroke the cheeks and brow of every cat day by day (giving every cat a deal with earlier than and after) so that each one cats begin to odor comparable.  You’ll additionally need to swap which cats are allowed to roam in the home; if the brand new cat is separated in her personal bed room, let her out whereas the others are confined in one other room in order that she will turn out to be acquainted with the remainder of the house and discover snug perches and escape routes.  Moreover, lively play periods (utilizing an interactive wand toy) are VERY essential.  This will help scale back general stress and relieve extra power.

One other factor you might need to do is set up child gates throughout the bed room door the place the brand new cat is separated.  You may need to purchase two child gates and stack them on prime of one another in order that the cats can’t climb or bounce over them.  Initially, cowl the underside gate with a towel or blanket, however then regularly transfer the towel again so that there’s extra visibility.  That is historically finished throughout feeding occasions (once more, to create constructive associations and a distraction), however when you do that throughout different occasions of the day, the cats will have the ability to get used to seeing one another and study extra about how the opposite strikes, and so on.  You possibly can reward constructive or impartial interactions via the gate, too, to strengthen the notion that “hey, good issues occur when this different cat is round.”  After that, supervised interplay periods are the subsequent step the place you’ll have the cats in the identical room, however use toys, meals puzzles, or meals to distract the cats from one another.  Over time these periods will get longer, and the cats will want fewer distractions and fewer supervision.

I encourage you to learn Jackson Galaxy’s visitor submit on The Acutely aware Cat’s website, Cat to Cat Introductions.  You’ll have the ability to formulate a great introduction plan in your kitties.  Moreover, a licensed cat conduct advisor (akin to myself) can stroll you thru the method and provide help to overcome challenges once they come up.  Once more, typically it may possibly take weeks or months for an introduction to achieve success, however cling in there.  Endurance, persistence, and ending interactions on a great word are the keys to your success!

The way to get a previously abused cat to belief, take away mats

Hiya Dr. Marci, We’ve got a ‘comparatively’ new rescue; she’s eight months previous and we’ve had her for four months. She was abused at four weeks – used as a baseball, and broke her leg which healed not nicely….. I’m slowly making an attempt to get her to let me maintain her for various minutes. Aside from all of that, she has mats underneath her legs and arms. Any recommendations as to the right way to take away them? She’s fairly good, (not so good) about nail clippings. I’m positive they (the mats) should be pulling on her pores and skin. Thanks, from all of us. – Bridget

Hello Bridget,

First, thanks a lot for rescuing and loving this kitten.  I actually do commend you in your empathy, compassion, and endurance to construct belief with this little soul who was so horribly abused.  I’m so glad that there are good individuals on the market who come to assistance from animals in want.

I can think about that the mats beneath her legs and arms aren’t very snug.  If they’re dangerous, I’d advocate taking her to a groomer who has a superb popularity for working with cats.  I do know that typically groomers will even come to your house, i.e., cellular grooming providers.  Or, in case your kitty goes to the vet to verify on her therapeutic progress, you may ask them to trim the mats as properly.

For long-term upkeep, I encourage you to work on counter-conditioning and desensitizing your kitty to grooming gear reminiscent of clippers, combs, and scissors (ensure that to buy scissors which are protected to make use of on pets, with blunt ends).  Have you ever heard of Worry Free Pets?  Please go to which is geared in the direction of pet guardians who need to have the ability to assist their pets expertise house husbandry, veterinary visits, and different actions with minimal worry, nervousness, or stress.  You’ll be able to work together with your cat to assist her take pleasure in brief grooming periods (like brushing or popping out areas earlier than they get matted, or clipping out small mats) and nail trims.  Begin by merely displaying her the gear you’ll be utilizing by placing favourite treats close to the instruments, and rewarding her when she investigates.  Subsequent, attempt touching her briefly with the instruments, and rewarding.  Improve the extent of interplay she will get with the instruments to the place you’re truly utilizing them, whereas both distracting her with a favourite deal with or rewarding her endurance with one thing else she enjoys (petting, treats, sweet-talk, and so forth.).  Hold periods brief and candy – finish them earlier than she reveals stress, and let her make the choice when periods finish.  You don’t should clip all of the mats directly, and by holding periods brief and ending on a very good notice, she’ll be much less more likely to have a nasty expertise and refuse future grooming periods.  Better of luck to you and your kitty!

How a lot train ought to a cat have?

How a lot train (hours?) ought to a cat have in a day? – Sharon 

What an amazing query, Sharon!  The reply, in fact, will depend upon a number of issues together with your cat’s age and well being situation.  Youthful cats usually want extra bodily train than older cats; nevertheless, I do know many grownup and senior kitties who want no less than a few lively play periods per day.

When it comes to basic tips, I wish to see cats have two 15-minute play periods day by day utilizing a wand toy.  That is to provide them an outlet for his or her pure predatory conduct, and wand toys are the one sort of toy that may take them by means of your complete prey sequence (staring, stalking/chasing, pouncing/grabbing, then performing a kill chew).  When cats reside outdoor, they spend about 30% of their time on the lookout for meals and searching prey, so even two play periods per day aren’t reflective of what cats are naturally “programmed” to do.  So, when you can present extra play session that’s all the time good!  Youthful cats (older kittens and younger adults) might require greater than two play periods per day, notably if they’re exhibiting play or predatory aggression in the direction of people or different animals within the residence (e.g., silently stalking then ambushing individuals as they stroll by, and so forth.).  Play periods for youthful cats could be very lively – a lot of operating, leaping, leaping, and wrestling-type conduct.  And, there are some breeds (like Bengals) who want a LOT of train each day – a operating wheel might help very lively cats burn off a few of that extra power that they’ve.

Play periods for older kitties may look very totally different, they usually might not need as a lot bodily play day-after-day, nevertheless it’s nonetheless good to attempt interact them at the very least as soon as per day with a wand toy for 10-15 minutes.  They’re nonetheless predators, in any case!  They could not run or bounce, however even staring and batting at a wand toy lure may be thrilling and fulfilling for older kitties.

It’s necessary to notice that as cats age (or if a cat is injured or recovering from an damage or sickness), they could be extra fragile and fewer cellular.  Keep in mind to take it straightforward with these cats in order that they don’t over-exert themselves, which might end in damage or slower restoration time from sickness or damage.

Lastly, all cats want psychological train and enrichment!  Searching wild prey supplies each bodily and psychological stimulation. Notably for older cats, as they develop into much less bodily don’t overlook about their psychological well-being.  Offering cats with vertical area to discover, meals puzzles, clicker-training, and different enrichment alternatives will hold cats from becoming bored and assist them keep emotionally and mentally wholesome. 

 New cat is possessive of a part of the home

I’ve a 14 yr previous feminine cat, Patty, whom I’ve had since she was eight weeks previous. She has lived with two different cats till they each handed away of their 20s. About 6 weeks in the past I adopted one other cat from my native shelter, Granny who’s 12 years previous. They’re each of a candy and straightforward going nature. The now eat within the kitchen collectively and may move one another within the hallways or different locations with no response. My drawback is that this. I stay in a townhouse. At some point I got here residence and Patty had peed outdoors the litter field within the laundry room. She was sitting on the backside of the stair resulting in the eating room and den and was plaintively mewing. Granny was on the prime of the celebs growling and hissing. Patty was terrified as she has by no means had this occur to her in her life. When Patty is in the lounge now, Granny will sit on the prime of the steps and stare at Patty. I break this up and every thing is okay once more. How can I rebuild Patty’s confidence to return up the steps when Granny is there and the way can I make it in order that Granny just isn’t possessive of that spot? As soon as I resolve this situation I’m positive they are going to be fantastic collectively. – Mary Duque

Hello Mary, thanks for writing.  Cat relationships might be very difficult, so I’m glad you’re trying to resolve this concern earlier than issues worsen.  I’m pleased that they will eat collectively and usually get alongside, nevertheless it feels like Granny could be feeling somewhat bit insecure about her territory, therefore the necessity to intimidate Patty by blocking her on the prime of the steps.  Lots of people assume that that is one cat being “dominant” or “alpha”, however I don’t assume that cats actually body relationships like that; it’s extra about being safe about their territory and assets.  Once they understand that these issues are being threatened, that’s once they can begin appearing extra protecting of their stuff (therefore, Granny saying “hey, girlie, that is MY area up right here and you may simply keep down there”).

I’m unsure I’m deciphering your e mail appropriately, however it sounds just like the litterbox is upstairs (being guarded by Granny), which was why Patty urinated within the laundry room and was additionally mewing to get upstairs in order that she might use the litterbox, sure?  This all factors to useful resource competitors, so I extremely advocate that you simply improve the variety of litterbox places in your house.  I’d guarantee that you’ve at the least three litterboxes, and ensure there’s a minimum of one on every flooring of your house.  If Patty urinated within the laundry room in its place, maybe a litterbox would work nicely there (though many cats want different places, as a result of washers and dryers could make random scary noises).  Additionally, you might need to separate their feeding stations by placing them throughout the kitchen from one another.  Useful resource competitors is probably not utterly apparent, however ensure you have multiples of toys, water bowls, perching and napping spots, beds, and anything your cats take pleasure in utilizing.

To assist each Granny and Patty really feel safer, give them methods to go away their scent behind, particularly at pinch-points (like on the prime of the staircase).  Cardboard scratchers and scratching posts permit cats to go away scent behind from their paw pads.  Gentle bedding additionally holds scent, or you could need to put some nook cheek groomers on the corners of partitions or furnishings the place the cats like rubbing as they cross by.

And be sure to’re enjoying with each kitties (in separate periods in order that they don’t compete over the wand toy) – this can scale back stress, construct Patty’s confidence, and maintain your cats comfortable!  Better of luck to you and your women. 

Cat marks spots the place different cat has been

Hello Dr. Marci, I’ve two cats that don’t like one another. Little Weasel will ignore Charles so long as Charles stays away, however Charles likes to mark locations the place Little Weasel lays or has sat. That might be on a mattress, the range, couch, chair and different assorted locations. Getting uninterested in cleansing up after Charles who’s a spayed feminine and so is Little Weasel. I’ve tried the Feliway plug-in diffusers for 2 months with no constructive outcomes.  I’ve tried calming assist treats and now will attempt Hemp oil. Any strategies apart from saying goodbye to one of many cats? I actually, actually don’t need to do this. Any recommendation can be superior. – Rolfe Smith

Hello Rolfe,

I’m very sorry for the place you end up in; it’s one which I come throughout ceaselessly.  Having to determine whether or not or to not rehome a kitty could be very troublesome.  Home-soiling is especially irritating and is usually a vicious cycle, since a cat who leaves a urine mark will need to re-mark if she continues to odor her urine there.  My coronary heart goes out to you!

I extremely advocate that you simply attain out to a licensed conduct advisor (similar to myself, however there are lots of on the market) for particular suggestions tailor-made to your own home setting.  Based mostly solely on what you’ve described, it sounds just like the inter-cat relationship must be improved, however different sources of stress could also be compounding the house-soiling difficulty.  I don’t assume that Feliway, calming treats, and hemp oil (do you imply CBD oil?) are going to do the trick (and truthfully, we now have no research on cats that I’m conscious of that present CBD merchandise are protected for cats long-term, nor are any of these merchandise regulated for purity, power, focus, effectivity, and so on. so I might avoid them till we now have extra details about their impact on cats).

What have you ever tried past these dietary supplements?  First, you’ll need to ensure you’re utilizing a superb enzyme cleaner to take away urine stains – my most popular cleaner is Anti-Icky Poo (which you will get on Amazon).  Additionally, you’ll need to be sure that the litterbox setup is on level – even when your cat is spraying, it by no means hurts to have an awesome litterbox setup!  One extremely widespread stressor – which may contribute to spraying and house-soiling – is litterbox dissatisfaction, so check out my article that lists suggestions for the purrfect litterbox setup.  It’s unclear to me whether or not your cat is spraying vs. eliminating as a result of a litterbox dissatisfaction problem, however both means, a superb litterbox setup will all the time assist.

Subsequent, present other ways for Charles to go away her scent with out utilizing urine.  Cardboard scratchers, scratching posts, nook cheek groomers, offering catnip sometimes to roll round in, and bedding are all “scent soakers” that permit cats to go away their scent signature behind to create territorial safety.  Place these objects in areas that she has dirty beforehand, and reward her when she makes use of them – rewards could be reward, petting, brushing, treats, candy speak – something that she likes.  By no means punish her for her conduct, as that is often ineffective (cats don’t perceive what they’re being punished for), and it may possibly truly end in extra stress and extra house-soiling.

And as all the time, play is completely essential to assist with stress discount and confidence constructing.  Play with each Charlie and Little Weasel individually every day utilizing an interactive wand toy in order that they will get some bodily train (see the responses to the above questions for particulars about play periods).  You’d be stunned by how a lot day by day play periods can enhance a state of affairs!

I hope this helps – please do speak with a cat conduct marketing consultant in case you proceed to run into issues.  There are various issues you’ll be able to attempt earlier than you make the choice to rehome a cat, and having somebody within the nook to information you, present help, and cheer you on can actually assist.

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