Managing cat behaviour


by: Peta Gay Railton

Cat behaviour is one of the great conundrums of pet ownership. How often have you heard of cat owners buying a lovely bed for their cat to sleep in, only to find that the cat will sleep on a bit of paper beside the bed.

Cats like options. They like somewhere to hide, somewhere to go up high, and they like a choice of places to go to the toilet as well.

A lot of people are guilty of not providing enough options with litter trays and food areas, especially with multi-cat households. One cat will actually block another cat from getting to food and you won’t even see it. All they do is sit there with a blank expression, but what they’re doing is saying, “Don’t even think about coming past me.” This is classic cat behaviour.

Cat behaviour with litter trays

Most owners haven’t considered multiple litter trays. But cat owners should have enough for each cat, and one extra.

Your litter tray should be at least the length of the cat, tail included. The smaller trays are way too small. Cats adapt to them, but if they had a choice, they wouldn’t use that size litter tray, they would choose something bigger. Space the litter trays out so that, for example, one is in the laundry and one is in the garage.

If you have one cat, you can get away with one litter tray as long as you clean it regularly. Cats are extremely fastidious and do not like going on a dirty tray, so as long as you’re religious about picking up the mess, urine included, then they’re alright with one. Once you get past one cat, there’s a bit of competition and there’s a bit of stress.

Cats don’t like other cats

Another feature of cat behaviour is their independence. Cats are not meant to live together. They will form family groups if they grow up together. Sometimes, if you get an adult and a kitten living together, they may form family groups. You can tell if that has happened because they’ll actually sleep together in the same room.

If they’re not a family group, they’ll keep their own spaces. For example, one cat will go into the lounge, and the other cat will only come in and lie in the lounge once the first cat has left. They don’t hang out together.

Each cat will have a different scent marking so they don’t have to associate that much with each other. Owners of multiple cats will find that very familiar.

That said, it is possible to acclimatise cats to live together. If you get two kittens at the same time, or an adult and a kitten, they will often settle down together. If we’re talking about two adults that didn’t know each other, it is a very unlikely proposition that they’ll ever become friends.

The problem is that because they can’t read cat behaviour and body language, humans often don’t realise the extent of anxiety that the animals are experiencing. The cliché of crazy cat people with a house full of cats is not doing the cats any favours. They are actually doing a disservice to the many cats that have to live in this communal way.

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