Q: My male Maine Coon cat misbehaves. He knocks over lamps and pushes the pictures off the wall. I have tried squirting him with water and putting sticky tape and citrus spray on my valuables. He doesn’t go outside but tries to escape whenever possible. He’s 18 months old, so he is just a teenager. Even though he has loads of toys, he seems bored with them and wants my constant attention.
A: Some cats, when bored, will entertain themselves with activities that do not amuse their favorite people. Many are also attention-seekers, soliciting attention through behaviors that aren’t always appreciated. These behaviors can be changed with increased environmental enrichment, interactive toys and through activities the cats enjoy. Sometimes bringing in new cat friends will also help since the cats can then focus on playing with their new buddies instead of doing destructive behaviors.
Start by increasing your cat’s vertical territory. Provide your Maine Coon boy with tall cat trees or high shelves and window perches. Positioning a cat tree next to a secured window will help keep him entertained with the activities of birds, squirrels and other neighborhood animals. He will also appreciate interactive toys such as turbo scratchers and puzzle boxes. There are also puzzle feeders and treat balls commercially available that make meal times interesting since your cat will have to work a little for his food. Scratching posts and horizontal scratchers placed around the house are a necessity. Cats scratch for a variety of reasons, including when they are feeling playful.
Activities such as daily treasure hunts, play and clicker training will help keep him from “redecorating” the house. Play with him in the early mornings and evenings when he is the most active. Pam Johnson-Bennett’s method of playing in a way that imitates the hunt is very effective for tiring out active kitties.
Treasure hunts every day will also keep your cat occupied. Hide his favorite treats throughout the house, on cat furniture, in toys, on shelves and on places he likes to nap. Good times for treasure hunts are just before you leave for the day.
Clicker training can also change your youngster’s destructive behavior, focusing him on challenging, fun activities. It will also strengthen the bond between you and will mentally stimulate him.
If your cat gets along well with other cats, consider adopting a cat buddy for him to play with. Before adopting a new cat, do your homework; look for a cat who is around the same age and has a history of enjoying the company of other cats. Please remember whenever bringing a new cat home, the introductions need to be gradual.
You will find that enriching your cat’s environment, engaging him in rewarding, fun activities and possibly adopting a new cat friend will help stop your cat from engaging in destructive behaviors.