Coping with Kitty's Behavior Problems

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Coping with Kitty's Behavior Problems





COPING WITH KITTY'S BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS

BY

KATHERINE E. TAPLEY

As a first time cat owner, I've had to learn a lot about cat behavior. My cat, Sir Lancelot, came from the S.P.C.A. and had lived on the streets prior to me owning him. Searching the Internet for some tips, I came to an informative site ,http://www.vet.co.za/catsbeha.html, that had some good advice on cat psychology. They said, "You cannot discipline cats as you would dogs. Dogs form social hierarchies that you can take advantage of by placing yourself at the top. Cats form social groups only by necessity and the arrangement is based on respecting territory, not by respecting the 'top dog'. Many mistakes made with cats are due to thinking that they will react like dogs." I've had Sir Lancelot for a year and a half and during that time some of his bad behaviors have been: getting into plants, love bites, getting into garbage not wanting to go on the leash, smashing glass Christmas balls on the Christmas tree, trying to run out the apartment door, jumping up on the counters and tables, and trying to suffocate my boyfriend etc. Yes, he's bad but I still love him. I've discovered that I've had to baby proof my apartment and learn some tips on behavior modification for cats, which I will share so you can control your cat's nightmare behaviors.

First and foremost hitting a cat is not a good idea. Your hands should be associated with affection not corporal punishment. I've slapped Lancelot when nothing else was available and he just went on with his bad behavior. However, cats hate to be surprised, hence a water bottle or squirt gun seems to work when nothing else does. You have to squirt the cat with water as soon as the he misbehaves. Even if you wait seconds he may not know what he is being punished for. Always keep the squirt gun at the ready.

When I first go Sir Lancelot, I had a large Aloe Vera plant in the living room. Every morning I would rise to find that the earth had been pawed all over the carpet. Cats are very attracted to houseplants and many plants are poision to kitty. If the cat is chewing on the plant try spraying with Bitter Apple or Bittler Orange (made especially for plants). However, if you can't find that dusting with cayenne pepper may help. I buy Cosmic Kitty Grass for my indoor cat so he can have some legitimate greens. For digging in the soil it is recommended to put aluminum foil or gravel in the plant's soil. Putting Popsicle sticks or twigs around in the soil may curb kitty from digging as well.

"Love bites" from a cat may be kind of cute, but they can lead to more serious biting that you have to go to the hospital and get a tetanus shot for. Sir Lancelot has never broken the skin, but he can nip me quite hard at times when he gets affectionate. This may sound nutty, but I read on the Internet that when a cat bites you, you should howl like a cat in pain. Although skeptical, I tried it, and believe it or not it does work. Lancelot looked at me with a very startled look and stopped biting. One note of caution though. Don't allow other people to tease the cat or encourage biting. Some men in particular like to rub the cat's belly and get the bite reflex. If you are trying to discourage biting, then don't let other people encourage your cat to bite. Since Sir Lancelot was a cat of the streets and may have lunched out of garbage cans, I had a terrible time with him knocking them over. The only remedy was to get garbage cans with lids. Some people even have to hide the garbage cans under sinks in cupboards or weight them down with bricks. I haven't had to go that far, because the lids worked for me. Training kitty to go on the leash will not be as easy as training your dog to walk with you. However, the leash can be a safe way to let kitty go outdoors without exposing him to hazards like getting run over by a car. Bonnie Beaver, a veterinarian specializing in animal behavior says, "It could take a few days to perhaps a week to train a cat, depending on the personality of the cat and how often the owners try the lessons." Some tips for training kitty to the leash are as follows: 1. For a few days, keep the harness and leash in the cat's "toy box", so he will associate it with fun. I have a special basket for kitty's goodies like his brush and comb which he adores and I keep his leash and halter there. 2. Put kitty's halter on and after a minute give him a treat. 4. Next try the leash on and heap lavish praise on him and give another treat. 5. Take kitty in your arms with his leash and harness on and introduce him to the great outdoors and give him a treat. Repeat this until he is O.K. with it. 6.Take kitty outside and lower him down. Get down to his level and speak encouragement to him. Let him direct the route at first. The main point is don't expect the cat to walk like a dog. Cats are extremely curious and they usually walk you. I find that Sir Lancelot will gallop enthusiastically up the apartment stairs, but he doesn't like going downstairs too much. In the final analysis I think that training a cat to the leash is a battle of the wills. Cats are stubborn and you have to be persistent, however, don't frighten puss or you'll put the training process in reverse. When Sir Lancelot smashed a glass Christmas ball and had a shard of glass in this mouth I nearly had a kitty conniption. The only thing that worked was removing the balls from the bottom of the tree and keeping him away from the area with a squirt gun. Cats can develop a vocabulary of about 100 words and when my friend saw the squirt gun sitting on a table at the ready, she mentioned the object's the name and guess what? Lancelot took off like a shot. The other bad behaviors like trying to run out the apartment door and jumping up on counters I also use the squirt gun on as well. Sometimes Lancelot gets a little forgetful and I have to repeat the training by soaking him a few times. Recently, when my boyfriend was sleeping on the airbed on the living room floor he awoke to find Sir Lancelot lying across his face. I could just see the tabloid headlines reading, "Cat suffocates Finance". My friend who has 12 cats, told me that this was a blatant act of jealousy on the cat's part. She explained that just at cats can get jealous of a baby, Sir Lancelot was jealous of Dave. Well, I really have no solution to this problem. The only thing I can say is that they'll have to get used to each other.

Well, I hope that you've learned a few pointers on cat behavior from my experiences with a tough cat off the streets. His behavior modification is always still in progress. Some days he's a model cat and other days he acts like the hounds of hell are after him, getting into one thing after another. Owning a cat is sort of like having a child around, only the "fur child" never grows up.

   

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