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The “Must-Have” Checklist for Solving Your Cat’s Behavior Problem

Aggression toward people

Inter-cat aggression




CatWise book and a quote from Dr Lore Haug


1. Time for Your Cat to See the Veterinarian

Regardless of how convinced you are that the problem is behavioral or the cat is acting out of anger or spite, the first call you should make is to your veterinarian. There are many medical conditions that could be the underlying cause for an unwanted behavior. For example:

  • a cat may be displaying aggression toward you when you pet him because he’s in physical pain
  • a cat may be eliminating outside of the litter box due to a urinary tract issue
  • a cat may might have become fearful of people because of vision problems
  • the overgrooming that a cat is displaying might be due to hyperthyroidism

A thorough check-up by the veterinarian is always the first step when it comes to dealing with a behavior problem. Once your cat gets a clean bill of health, look at the problem from his point of view and not yours. My think like a cat technique is based on simply looking at the environment from the perspective of what a cat needs and whether the situation encourages the cat to engage in natural behavior or whether it creates stress. Look at all behavior problems with a think like a cat eye-view for effective problem-solving. Here are some other examples to get you thinking in the right cat-direction:

  • A cat may have stopped using the litter box because another cat has ambushed him there
  • Litter box avoidance might be due to the fact that there are too many cats and not enough boxes
  • A cat may be spraying because a new cat was introduced into the household
  • A cat may be showing aggression toward visitors because he wasn’t properly socialized to people
  • A cat may be hiding in fear because the family dog wasn’t properly and safely introduced
  • A cat may be scratching the sofa because there’s no appealing scratching post around
  • A cat may unexpectedly attack a companion cat because he just returned from the veterinarian and smells threateningly different



three books by author Pam Johnson-Bennett and a quote from Beth Stern


2. Act Early When it Comes to Cat Behavior Problems

Don’t wait on a behavior problem with the hope it’ll resolve itself. If you have two cats who aren’t getting along and you’re of the mind they’ll “work it out” you may be setting them up to establish an ongoing tense relationship. If you notice your cat has peed on the carpet and assume this is a one-time event, you may miss the fact he has already peed in a number of undetected places. Don’t wait when it comes to a problem. The earlier you address it, the greater the chance of success.

3. Be a Detective to Help Your Cat

You won’t be able to successfully solve the behavior problem unless you know what’s causing it. If your cat is peeing outside of the litter box, the problem may have less to do with the litter box itself but might have more to do if the fact that a companion cat is stalking and ambushing him every time he walks down the hall in the direction of where the litter box is located. In that case, you’d now have the information you need so start a behavior modification plan that would not only include adding more litter boxes in secure locations but would also include addressing the cat-to-cat relationship. Working on a behavior problem requires you to first uncover the cause (as best as you can) so you can then create a specific plan or make appropriate environmental modifications.