In 2003 (I know it’s quite a long time ago) the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors published information about behaviour problems in cats in its annual review. It provides information on the incidence of feline behaviour problems, the types of problems and the breeds of cat responsible for these reported problems.
In my opinion, the most commonly reported behavioural problems are all to do with cat ownership. They are to do with how humans look after their cats including what kind of environment they provide for their cats. And this is the rub, when cat behaviourists and experts try and resolve problems of bad cat behaviour they almost universally and most commonly end up dealing with human behaviour problems. I don’t want to sound as if I hate humans and want to defend cats but the issue has to be faced.
Of 66 feline cases (shared equally between male and females all of which were neutered and spayed) the most commonly reported reason (25% of cases) for referral to pet behaviour counsellors was “indoor marking behaviour”. This refers to peeing in the wrong place outside the litter tray and defecating outside the litter tray (referred to as middening).
Most of us know by now that inappropriate urination and defecating is most commonly associated with stress and the cat’s inability to feel settled in his environment (having checked that the cat is healthy). They are marking territory essentially and in doing so reassuring themselves or fighting against forces which erode or eradicate their home range. This is all manageable by good cat ownership.
The report says that aggression towards people accounted for 23% of cases of bad cat behaviour. Cats always behave naturally. If they are being aggressive towards a person they do it for a reason. Obviously I can’t go into details here because you have to deal with matters on a case-by-case basis but it comes down to cat ownership ultimately. Provided, once again of course, that the cat is healthy.
Aggression towards other cats accounted for 13% of the cases reviewed. This also implies cat ownership issues. People are becoming more aware but there is still a tendency to develop multi-cat households without really taking on board the feelings of the resident cat or cats. Cats are essentially solitary despite being far more sociable nowadays. They need space and a home range. Some cats are more confident and some cats can tend to be timid or submissive. Stresses can build up into aggression. Cat owners need to manage this proactively to prevent it happening.
Difficulties with house training, attention seeking and self-mutilation made up 12%, 11% and 6% of the issues reviewed. Self-mutilation (such as over-grooming) is often due to stress which is due to the environment in which the cat lives which is in turn is due to cat ownership issues (barring, once again, cat health issues). Attention seeking is a human perception issue and if it is real then the cat lacks attention from their owner. House training is also a human problem.
I’m compelled to conclude that the most commonly reported cat behaviour problems really could be described as the most commonly reported human behaviour problems.
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