Bad Kitty Pictures!

Is your cat breaking the house rules? Here are some cats caught in the act and tips for redirecting cat behavior.

Cats will be cats — that’s what we love about them. Their wild instincts sometimes conflict with household harmony, however, and need some gentle cajoling to line up with the house rules. Here are the behaviors cat people see most often, according to Cat Fancy polls on and Facebook, that they’d like to redirect, along with tips from experts.

Counter Surfing
Cat people use the term counter-surfing when talking about cats cruising around kitchens on surfaces that ought to be cat-free. Certified Cat Behavior Consultant Marilyn Krieger says Cats counter-surf for a few reasons. The first one is food (natch). Cats know what goes on on those counters and they want a piece of the action.

Cats also love to be up high. Counters are high. Ergo, cats love to be on counters. It’s a great spot to survey the room and show off a cats’ place in the hierarchy.

Finally, Countertops give cats a way to get closer to their people. Who can stay mad at that reason? Well, if you love your cat but would love to have a clean counter too, you can redirect this behavior.

Get your cats off the counter for good by modifying their behavior. You can use a couple of methods. Start by enforcing tidy human habits: have everyone in the house bus dishes and clean off counters.  That eliminates the temptation of the first reason cats are up there.

Next, make the counters uninviting for cats while at the same time creating a more fun place for them to hang out elsewhere. Krieger advises against products that startle or scare cats with noises or air, believing they could trigger fear behaviors and redirected aggressions. She votes for items that cover counters and make them unappealing to cats, such as cheap plastic placemats with StickyPaws  double-sided tape placed sticky-side-up on countertops. Cats loathe the feel of the double-sided tape on their paws. You can also can block the counter creatively with cleverly placed cookie jars and those glass containers of pasta you’ve always wondered about having in your house in the first place. If cats have no comfortable places to stand or sit, they’ll split.

Simultaneously, give your cats tall stools or cat trees near the counters to let them still feel like they’re in the mix. Reinforce cats’ using the alternative surfaces when they stand or sit on their chairs or stools by giving treats. You might consider clicker training, too.

Going Outside the Box
The first step in figuring out the cause and solution of cats going No. 1 or No. 2 outside the litterbox is a trip to the vet. Many medical conditions in cats could prevent good powder-room manners.

According to Arnold Plotnick, DVM, When cats poop outside litterboxes, the paw of responsibility usually points to litterbox cleanliness. A full box is a gross box; cats prefer to eliminate in clean litterboxes. Anyone who has seen his or her cat annihilate a recently cleaned litterbox can attest to this.

If that’s not the case – if you’re super neat – another possibility for cats avoiding the litterbox to defecate is poop stuck to a cat’s behind. (Gross, yes.) Sometimes stool will simply stick around for a while then drop down to the ground. In this case and the above, cleanliness is your best weapon.

If your cat scoots her butt on the floor or your lap she might have a problem with her anal area. Two small glands sit right inside cat’s rears called anal glands or anal sacs. They can fill and get impacted, and your cat will feel it; consequently, your cat could start scooting. When cats have diarrhea, soft stool sometimes sticks to the fur around cat’s butts, so they scoot to try and clear it.
Do you have enough litterboxes? The magic formula for amount of litterboxes you need is one for every cat in the house plus an extra. Have two cats? Get three litterboxes. If that is too much for you, at least have one box for every cat. Put the new box in a low traffic area. Like we said above, scoop all boxes daily, or even twice a day.

Attacking People or Pets
Let’s break down this one. Firstly: cat-on-human violence.  If your cat loves to bite your hand while you play with him, you must start a different play tactic now and forever. Once cats see hands as toys they have a hard time not biting the heck out of them.

Columnist and cat-sitter extraordinaire Jeanne Adlon says to engage cats with fishing-pole toys. These items are distracting and hard for cats to resist. Anytime your cat wants to rabbit-foot your hand and take a chomp, break out this alternative.

Is your cat biting you not during play time? Either your cat is redirecting aggression toward you or he has a medical issue. The medical issue-based biting occurs because cats will experience fear if sick or in pain, and act out they only protective way they know how. Take your cat to the vet and see if he’s well.

When cats are riled up about something they can’t act upon – showing that feral in the yard who’s boss, for example – they’ll take out their aggression on  whatever person or pet is around: redirected aggression. Which leads to our next item.

Cat-on-cat violence or cat-on-other-pet attacks happen either out of redirected aggression, as mentioned above or simple straight-forward aggression directed at the victim pet. Cat-behavior expert Krieger says cats who lack an outlet to display hierarchy ranks use dominance displays to exhibit the social structure. Give cats lots of perches – shelves or tall cat trees – so cats can pick a spot to rest high up and passively show who’s boss. Also, intervene here and play with your cats in a way that imitates hunting, with those fishing-pole type toys we mentioned earlier or other games where cats can catch things, so the inherent need to attack prey gets a small outlet. 

Stealing Food
Adlon has advice for people whose cats steal food, too. The No. 1 rule? Keep kitty off tables or surfaces where you serve food. (Good thing we covered that earlier in this article.) That will discourage cats from sharing your dinner. Get everyone in the family on the same page when it comes to the “no table” rule. Cats can hone in on the easy marks who might share a meal with them.

Another big rule: skip feeding your cat scraps from the table. In fact, Adlon advises, skip feeding your cat scraps all together. Lastly, feed your cat his dinner when you eat. Then, everyone’s fed and happy.

Sofa-Scratching, Curtain-Climbing
Readers ranked these two pretty highly in terms of bad-kitty behavior. Turns out, they’re exhibitions of the same root issue plaguing cats who display other unappealing action: boredom and lack of identity. Bear with me and I’ll explain.

A cat who climbs the curtains wants to scale the highest heights in your home, to see what’s up there and show the other cats how amazing she is. Give your cat the same satisfaction by, again, placing those high shelves and tall cat trees around your home. Put them by windows to let cats peer outside and experience the same feeling they got when summiting Mount Levelor. Also, placing the oh-so-fun sisal cat post by the window will help redirect the unwanted curtain climbing, especially when you positively reinforce the cat-tree use with treats and affection.

Same with sofas – cats like to show where they’ve been and who’s in charge around this place. Cats have scent glands on their paws and when they scratch your furniture they leave their calling card. Let them express this on a more desirable surface and place scratchers next to the furniture they’d been preferring; cover the upholstery, maybe using double-sided tape to deter pawing, and reward the cat with attention and treats when she uses the cat-friendly items.

Although this came in last on our list of what concerns cat people most, it could be the most dangerous. Some curious cats, young kittens especially, simply want to see what these snake-like fun-ropes we have all over the house taste like. They might even move funny, if you hit them just right, making them even more tempting toy.

Work immediately to cover these cords. Buy cord covers that could work on or off the ground or simply hide cords beneath rugs or furniture. Keep them away from kitty.

Then get these cats chew toys, stat, and make them irresistible. Kittens care not for catnip but they can’t resist tuna. Use tuna juice on cat chew toys to lure kittens and cats into gnawing on such items instead of cords. These cats might need extra playtime, too, if they’re turning to inanimate objects, so increase your play sessions. You’ll keep everyone safe and bond at the same time. Win-win.

Use all the tips above and you’ll have multiple wins – safe cats in nice homes filled with pet-to-people bonds. Tell us which tip worked best for you!

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