Feline Behavior Problems
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What are the three genera of the family felidae?
What is felis?
- smaller cats
- domestic cats
What is panthera?
large cats (lions, tigers, panthers)
What is Acinonyx?
How many species of cats are there?
What is the sand cat?
Which type of cat is the only one who lives in groups?
When were cats domesticated?
Where were cats domesticated?
What were cats initially used for?
It use to be a crime to take a cat out of Egypt, how did they get out?
smuggled out by 300AD
How many cats are there in the US and what percent are in homes?
What is the average lifespan for a indoor cat?
12 years but some can live over 20
What percent of animals are adopted from animal shelters?
What percent of cats are spayed/neutered?
What percent of females have a litter before being spayed?
What percent of breeds are purebred?
What is the only thing that changes between breeds?
- color/length of hair
- skeletal structures of all cats are relatively the same
What are mixed cat breeds called?
dsh or dlh
What are the different characteristics of cats?
- gets into places dogs can't
- hear and see (at night) > dogs
What are the different aspects of cats social behavior?
- form groups
- have perferred assoicates (pick who they want to hang out with)
- rear young cooperatively (take care of each others babies)
What is allogrooming?
groom each other
How much do cats sleep?
2/3 of the day
How much do cats groom?
1/3 of awake time
What is the flight distance of a cat?
about 6 feet
What do cats usually do when they are stressed?
not use the litter box
How do cats exercise claws?
- extend front feet and rake it down
- marking behavior - visually marks things with the claw marks and leaves sweat from their paws on where they have clawed
Do cat's pant well?
no, easily over heat
What is the size range of cats?
7 - 15 pounds
What do cats do in their "home range"?
What will cats do in the "base" territory range?
- defend it
- this range is within the home range
What range do the cats feel the most safe?
in the base territory range
What are the different ways cats communicate?
What does a dominant cat look like?
- ears up, rotated out
- hind limbs extended and stiff
- base of tail elevated, rest droops
- head up, eyes stare
- bats with paw
- mounts other cat
What will happen if there are two dominant cats together?
there will be a cat fight
What does a submissive cat look like?
- ears down and back
- tail down
- tail to side
- head down, turned aside
What does the vocal expression of a cat allow?
- allows for individual spacing
- prevents direct confrontation
What are the three different phonetically distinct sounds for cats?
- murmurs - mouth closed
- vowel patterns - open/closed mouth
- strained intensity - open mouth
Which type of communication do cats primarily use?
WHat are distance reducing postures?
- rolling over (play)
- active approach with tail up
What are the two types of distance increasing postures?
- offensive threat
- defensive threat
What does the offensive threat look like?
- direct stare with miosis (pupils dilated)
- body straight forward
What does the defensive threat look like?
- halloween cat appearance
- arched laterally/piloerection
What are some ways cat communicate by smell (olfactory)?
- used to mark territory
- rub sebaceous glands on different things
- mark by urine spraying
- tree scratching - scent from sweat glands, also a visual mark
What is the flehmen?
vomeronasal organ in hard palate of mouth - picks up odors in the air
What is the flehmen used for?
used to pick up odors in urine or strange tastes
What controls purring?
oscillatory CNS mechanism
How do cats purr?
regular, rapid, alternating activation of intrinsic laryngeal m. and diaphragm causing them to vibrate
When do we seeing purring the most?
when there is human contact
When do cats reach puberty?
7 - 12 months
Are cats seasonal polyestrous?
What influences a cats cycle?
When do outside cats cycle?
february to august
When do inside cats cycle?
all year due to the lights in the house
What causes ovulation?
When does ovulation happen?
25 - 30 hours after mating
What is superfetation? And can it happen in cats?
- litter of kittens fathered by more than one male cat
How long is the average cycle of a cat?
13 - 15 days (may range from 8 - 30 days)
How long does estrus last?
- 4 - 6 days if bred
- 10 days if no mating occurred
When can a pseudopregnancy occur?
after a steril mating
How long does a pseudopregnancy last?
30 - 40 days
Do cats have heat cycles during pseudopregnancies?
Do breeders use pseudopregnancies to stop cycling of cats?
What are the different signs of heat?
- behavioral signs only
- crouching and treading
- very affectionate
- rolls over often
How do cats breed?
- tom mounts and grapes nape
- straddles queen and copulates
- queen yeowls and may strike tom
- queen licks vulva
- may repeat in 10 - 60 minutes
- may breed 1 - 7 times a day
How long is the gestation period in cats?
63 - 65 days
How many litters can a cat have per year?
2 - 3
What is lactational anestrus?
in estrus - 2 weeks post weaning
How do we prepare a cat for queening?
- provide box out of the way of high traffic areas
- know the signs a cat may exhibit (there are not many - the cat may just disappear)
- cat may move her litter to a different spot after 2 weeks (survival mechanism from the wild)
When do kittens wean?
Once the kitten weans what does the mother do?
- brings the kittens dead prey
- then will bring the kittens live prey to kill themselves
What are the different developmental stages of cats?
- neonatal 1 - 3 weeks
- transitional at 3 weeks
- socialization at 4 weeks
Can cats be trained?
yes, harder than dogs, but can be trained as long as we can figure out what is rewarding for the cat
One pair of cats can produce how many kittens in a 7 year period of time?
How many feral cats are in the US?
What percent of cats are killed in shelters?
How many households feed stray cats?
What does TTVARM stand for?
trap, test, vaccinate, alter, release, maintain
What are the different cat colonies?
- Feral Cat Coalition
- Alley Cat Allies
What do cat colonies do?
What is the purpose of cat colonies?
can create stable populations in the wild
More cats = more _____.
How do we introduce new cats into the household?
- introduce gradually
- use carriers/cages
- separate rooms
- may use drugs in few cases
What are some behavior problems we see in cats?
- elimination problems
- destructive behavior
What are some causes of behavior problems?
- genetics (usually in pure bred cats)
- improper socialization
- normal feline behavior that owners don't understand
- emotional upset
- medical condition
What is the most common behavior problem? Second most common?
- elimination problems are the most common
- aggression is the second
What are the different types of aggression?
- pain induced
- fear induced
- petting induced
- play induced
- medical problem
What kind of males have intermale aggression?
When do we usually see intermale aggression?
- increase with overcrowding
- during mating season
How can we prevent/treat intermale aggression?
How do intermales fight?
ritualized fighting - slow approach, head turned, usually bite neck or bit in rear end while running away
When do we see fear induced aggression?
- when critical distance is violated
- usually defensive aggression
How do we treat fear induced aggression?
desensitization and counter conditioning and meds
Before a cat will be aggressive due to fear what will they try to do?
What are somethings that can cause pain induced aggression?
- hair pulled/tail stepped on
- medical procedures
What can pain induced aggression result in?
Where do we usually see territorial aggression?
- attack directed at an intruder
How do we treat territorial aggression?
- separate and then gradually introduce
- counter conditioning
What is maternal aggression?
- queen protecting her litter
- seen more in cats than in dogs
How do we avoid maternal aggression?
minimize visitors the first week
What is infanticide?
killing of kittens
When does play aggression usually happen?
in young cats left alone
Describe play aggression.
- sudden attacks on feet/legs
- may attack only 1 person or at a set time
How do we treat play aggression?
- give kitten play stuff or a second cat
- water spray
What kind of aggression could cause a sudden household change?
How do we prevent redirected aggression?
- avoid cat when they are upset
- separate two cats when one cat is upset so the aggression doesn't get redirected towards the other cat
How do we treat redirected aggression between two cats?
separate and gradually reintroduce
What is petting induced aggression?
suddenly claws, bites, or jumps down when being petted
What causes petting induced aggression?
- the cat may have reached it's "petting threshold" and doesn't want to be petted anymore
- the cat may have fallen asleep and then woken up and was scared by the petting
What is the prevention/treatment for petting induced aggression?
learn how much petting it wil tolerate/or avoid the scenario
What is predatory aggression?
going after prey
Does the cat always kill its prey in predatory aggression?
no, but can leave a bad bite that can become infected
How do we prevent predatory aggression?
- keep cats indoors seasonally
- have the cat in a large outdoor enclosure
A sudden change in a cat's attitude may be due to _____.
a medically related problem
What are some medically related problems that can cause the cat to become aggressive?
- post anesthesia (especially from ketamine)
- other drugs such as valium
Is competitive aggression common in cats?
Do cat's have a set heirarchy?
- first come, first serve mentality
When could we see competitive aggression amongst cats?
if the owner interfers with the "first come/first serve" - if the owner pushes a cat away from the food so that the other cat can get to it could cause the initial cat to become aggressive
When does learned aggression usually begin?
due to some type of pain (tail pulling by children, physical punishment, rough handling by techs/vets)
How do we treat/prevent learned aggression?
- reward cat when they are being nonaggressive
What is the most common complaint by owners of cats?
What is housesoiling?
cat urinates or defecates in the house outside of the litter box
What usually happens to the cat due to housesoiling?
cat may be tossed out, given away, or killed
Are cat's easily trained to use the litterbox?
When does housesoiling tend to increase?
when there are more cats in the hosue
What is a way to identify which cat in the household is not using the litter box?
- give the cat (one at a time) 0.3cc 10% fluorescein by mouth in the evening
- use a woods lamp on the urine to see if it lights up
- if it does then you know it was the cat you gave the fluorescein to
- if it doesn't light up then try a different cat and you know it wasn't the cat you gave the fluorescein to
Is getting a history from the owner time consuming when trying to understand housesoiling?
What kind of questions should we ask when getting a history from the owner about housesoiling?
- what is the cat doing?
- where is it doing it?
- what is owner's response?
- where is the litter box?
- what litter is used?
- how often is the litter box cleaned?
What is spraying?
How and why does a cat spray?
- backs up to a vertical object and sprays a small amount of urine on it
- usually due to territorial or anxiety based
What happens to spraying behavior when you add more cats to the household?
increase in spraying behavior
Spraying behavior is normal in _____ and _____.
- intact males
- females in heat
What are some reasons a cat may spray due to anxiety?
- new roommate, baby, cat
- new cat in the neighborhood
- moving, remodeling
- inappropriate punishment
- new odors in the house
What is the treatment for spraying cats?
- neuter if intact
- alter cat's exposure to stimulus
- alter cat's response to stimulus
- use feliway (helps if it is due to anxiety)
What is Feliway?
a feline facial pheromone
How do we use Feliway?
spray on objects the cat may be anxious about or objects the cat marks
How often can we use Feliway?
daily to once a week
How does the vet clinic use Feliway?
use it with a diffuser in the exam rooms to calm down the cats
Feliway claims it can calm the cat by _____%.
What can we do if spraying is due to an outdoor cat?
- discourage the outdoor cats visits (booby traps, scat mat, mostion detector, spray with hose, remove attractant, trap and remove)
- close drapes so your cat does not see the outside cat
- clean up urine odors from the outside cat using F.O.N (feline odor neutralizer)
What should we do if a cat is spraying due to too many cats in the house?
- separate the spraying cat from the others
- decrease cat population (allow access to more space for the cats)
- increase access to outdoors
- drug therapy (diazepam, buspirone)
What is the difference between spraying and inappropriate eliminiation?
- spraying: cat stands up and backs up on an object
- inappropriate elimination: cat squats to defecate or urinate outside of litter box
Can we see spraying and inappropriate elemination at the same time in a cat?
If a cat suddenly stops using the litter box it could be due to...
- organic or disinfectant odor that they don't like
- pain associated with eliminating
- unacceptable litter material
- too much waste present
- negative experience in the box
- too much traffic around the litter box
- found a more preferable place
How can we know if the litter box is okay and the inappropriate elimination is caused by something else?
- if the cat defecats in the box but urinates outside of the box then the box is okay and it is due to something else or vice versa (urinates in box and defecates outside of box)
- if urinates on owner's things
What could it mean if the cat is defecating in the box and urinating outside of the box?
- prefers other locations/surfaces to urinate
- needs more privacy to urinate
What could it mean if the cat is urinating in the litter box and defecating outside the litter box?
check the cat for constipation/colitis
What does it mean if the cat urinates on the owner's things?
- may be intermittent (only happens every now and then)
- separation anxiety
- could see other behavior changes as well (hiding, aggression)
What is the treatment for inapproriate elminiation?
- eliminate cause, if possible
- re-establish litter box habit
- keep cat from soiled area
- clean litter box more often
- increase boxes
- change size or type of box
- use acceptable litter
- move litter box to a less trafficked area
How do we re-establish litter box habit?
- need to confide the cat somewhere with the litter box (bathroom, crate)
- 1 week confinement for each month of soiling
- reward cat with food after it uses the litter box
What should we do if confining our cat to a small area with the litter box to re-establish litter box habits does not work?
- put the cat in a crate and add perches to the crate walls for the cat to sit on
- cover the entire floor of the crate with litter so the cat is forced to use the litter
- gradually decrease the amount of litter in the bottom until it is all in a litter box
How many litter boxes should we have in the house?
- 1 + # of cats
- example: 4 cats should have 5 litter boxes
How can we tell if the cat doesn't like the type of litter?
- the cat will perch on the edge of the litter box and not want to touch the litter
- or use not use the litter box at all
What kind of cat litter do cats prefer and not prefer?
- prefer clumping litter
- doesn't like "tidy cat crystals" or scented litters
Should we medicate our cats when they are using the litter box?
no, they will relate being medicated to the litter box and then will stop using the litter box
How should we clean the litter box?
- use hot water to clean
- avoid disinfectants
- allow to sun dry for 24 hours
If we use a covered litter box, what do we need to watch for?
- if the cat box becomes too stinky, the cat won't want to go in there
What should we do to a previously soiled area to stop a cat from using that area to urinate or defecate?
- feed cat there
- put plastic runners upside down over the spot
- scat mat
- plastic sheeting
- lemon scented room deodorant
- aluminum foil over spot
- if it happens in a sink or bath tub, leave it fill with an inch of water
- place litter box in the spot
- remove odor
What are some products that help us remove the odor?
- Outright pet odor eliminator
- White vinegar:water (1:1)
- avoid products with ammonia smells
How long should we use drug therapy to treat inapproprate elimination problems
more than 8 weeks
Can the inappropriate elimination behavior start back up again once we stop the use of drugs?
If we are using drug therapy to treat what else do we need to do?
have a behavior modification plan
In summary, what should we do for a cat that is inappropriately eliminating?
- identify which cat is soiling
- if medical cause then treat it
- remove stimulus
- modify response to stimulus
- re-establish use of litter box
- prevent resoiling
What kind of behaviors does a cat with separation anxiety exhibit?
- inappropriate urination
- inappropriate defecation
- excessive vocalizing
- psychogenic grooming
____% of affected cats urinated exclusively on their owners bed.
What is the third most common behavior problem in cats?
What are some destructive behaviors cats do?
- clawing objects
- eating plants
- chewing objects
- knocking objects off shelves
Is clawing objects normal cat behavior?
yes, its instinctual
How do cats claw objects?
extend forelegs and claws
Why do cats claw objects?
- marking (visual and olfactory)
- remove outer sheath of claw
How do cats remove the out sheath of their back claws?
chewing them off
What are ways to prevent a cat from clawing objects?
- give them a scratching post
- Soft Paws
Describe the characteristics of a good scratching post?
- at least 1 ft tall, 8 inches wide
- loosely woven fabric or rope that can be periodically replaced when it gets torn up
- at least 1 ft off the floor
How do we encourage a cat to use a scratching post?
- place near sleeping area
- introduce to cat when they are young
- reward when using the post
- prevent cat from using other objects
How do we prevent a cat from using other objects?
- block access
- squirt them with something whenever they go to scratch other objects
What are Soft Paws?
plastic covers that are glued onto nails
What percent of cats are declawed in the US?
How do we keep cats from knocking stuff off?
- keep cat off shelves, tables
- give cat things to do (interactive toys)
- limit access to sacred areas
- use barriers to keep it off
- correct when you see this behavior
Is punishment an effective way to train a cat?
What usually results from punishing a cat?
the cat learns to avoid the owner or does not do the bad behavior when the owner is around
If we are going to use punishment to train a cat, what is the best kind?
remote (squirt gun, toss object near cat to distract them)
Why should we keep cats from eating house plants?
- dangerous (can be poisonous)
What is the treatment for a cat who is eating house plants?
- provide cat with safe plants
- limit access to other plants
- spray aversive chemicals on plants (first check to see if chemical is aversive to the cat)
Why do cats like to eat house plants?
- eating grass is normal cat behavior in order to get fiber
- if an indoor cat is not able to get outside to eat grass, then they will eat house plants
- provide them with pet grass to satisfy their need
What usually causes phobias?
What is the typical response to a phobia? What will a cat do if the phobia is constant?
- litter box problems
How do we treat phobias?
What is catnip?
member of the mint family
Do all cats like catnip?
Do cats <8 weeks old like catnip?
no, they are afraid of it
What do we use catnip for?
to entertain the cat
What does the cat do when it has catnip?
- sniffs, licks, or chews it
- head shaking, gazing off, face rubbing
- cat may rub body on the ground
How long does the response to catnip last?
5 - 15 minutes
Is catnip harmful to cats?
What can cause compulsive behaviors in cats?
- genetic component (seen in some breeds)
- stress related (environmental changes)
What are some compulsive behaviors cats do?
- wool sucking or chewing
- excessive grooming
- self mutilation (chewing skin)
- chewing (other objects)
- sudden agitation and head movements
What is wool chewing?
sucking or chewing on fabrics
Which breed did wool chewing exist in first?
What are some agitation/actions cat will do with compulsive behaviors?
- head flicking
- rapid licking
- dashing away
- freeze in positions
- pouncing on imaginary prey
When we treat compulsive behaviors what do we need to first decide?
- is it worth treating?
- is it interfering with the health of the cat?
How do we treat compulsive behaviors?
- best if you can correct cause, but sometimes you can't
- drug therapy, but behavior may return once drugs are stopped
What are the signs of cognitive dysfunction in cats?
- social interactions affected
- attitude change
- litter box errors
- less active
- abnormal wake cycles
How do we treat cognitive dysfunction in cats?
What would you like to do?
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