Cat Behavioral Questions

Cat Health and Predatory Behavior

Is hunting and eating his prey bad for our cat’s health? We live in a rural area and our neutered male cat is quite the hunter. At least once a week he brings mice, moles, birds, and even a bat into the house. He normally kills the prey and then eats it, if we don’t get there first and take it from him.

Hunting is certainly the most natural way for a cat to eat, and in general, eating the prey is not that dangerous, with a few exceptions.

Most concerning is the bat you mentioned. In many parts of the country, bats can carry rabies, which is a disease you don’t want to fool with. Make absolutely sure your cat stays current on all his vaccinations, particularly his rabies vaccination. And don’t directly expose yourself to a living or dead bat; wear gloves if you must handle a bat. Other species that are at risk for carrying rabies include skunks, raccoons, foxes and occasionally coyotes. Although your cat does not prey on these animals, he could come into contact with them if he spends a lot of time outdoors.

If anyone in your household is pregnant or planning pregnancy, she should avoid contact with the cat’s feces (have someone else do the litterbox cleaning and the gardening), and wash her hands after petting him.

Other things your kitty could contract are mostly minor, such as bacterial and fungal infections and some parasites. Check your cat often for fleas and ticks, and have a stool sample checked by a veterinarian every six to 12 months to determine the presence of intestinal parasites.

As long as your cat goes outdoors, he will always hunt, and not much you do will change that. A bell collar may help a bit to alert prey to the cat’s presence, but plenty of cats hunt quite effectively with such collars.


Why does my cat urinate on the carpet instead of in the litter box?

Why does my cat urinate on the carpet instead of in the litter box?

Answer:
There are several causes of inappropriate urination, including

* Dirty litter box
* Territorial behavior
* Urinary tract disorder

Have you cat checked out by a veterinarian to help differentiate between a physical versus behavioral problem. Sometimes it is as simple as making sure the litter box is kept clean, or adding another litter box. There are also ample tips to remedy inappropriate urination that your veterinarian can give you.

This question was answered by Dr. Lauren Keating, owner of Natural Bridge Hospital for Animals in Natural Bridge Station, Virginia.


Why does my cat sleep so much?

Most likely because he’s a perfectly normal cat. It’s a natural instinct for cats to sleep most of the time. It’s an adaptation they developed in order to survive in the wild. Wild cats are hunters and predators. They are generally active only at times when there is food available. For short periods during the day they will hunt; the rest of the day, they conserve their energy by sleeping, eating, and just resting.

This is why your cat seems to have only two settings: “high speed” and “off.” Lazing in the sun is just as much average kitty behavior as racing around the house and attacking everything in sight. If you’re worried that your cat sleeps more than most cats, you can take him to your veterinarian for a full exam.


Why does my cat “knead” me?

Kneading is a cute behavior to watchdcats flex and extend their paws against a bedspread, the carpet, or a person, usually while stretching and purring. It’s a very common behavior for cats, but no one has determined exactly why they do it. All sorts of theories exist. Some say that “kneading” cats were weaned from their mothers too early; some say they were weaned too late.

Most likely it’s just a habit some cats develop, like people that bite their nails or crack their knuckles. What theorists do know is that it’s a sign that cats are comfortable, happy, and relaxed. So you can take it as a complement: it’s your cat’s way of saying that he’s happy you’re around!


Why does my cat attack me?

Sometimes my cat will be content and purring when I’m petting him, and then suddenly his tail will start to twitch and he’ll start to bite my hands. He also loves to jump out and attack my feet when I’m walking by. Why does he get carried away and attack me?

Answer Strange as it may seem, your cat is not attacking you out of hostility, but because he is a perfectly normal cat. Many cats nip and bite when they’re happy, particularly if they have a low threshold for stimulation. You can learn the warning signs of when your cat’s becoming overstimulated: you might feel his muscles tense or see his tail twitch or his rear end waggle. If you can tell he’s about to bite, stop petting, and pet him again when he’s calmed down.

If your cat is stalking your feet, he’s engaging in what is called predatory-play behavior. He has a natural instinct to attack moving objects in the wild. Indoors, your feet are the only moving prey he has to ambush. The easiest way to prevent this behavior is by making sure your cat is neutered, which is the first step toward making him less aggressive.

Second, you can give him plenty of non-human moving targets to play with by trailing a string across the floor, waving feather toys, or giving him balls to bat around. Finally, you can help change his behavior by consistently discouraging his attacks. Safe and effective ways to do this are spraying him with a water bottle or using a can of compressed air–just like the ones used on computer keyboard–to make a loud hissing sound. If you are vigilant and discourage the attacks consistently, you’ll take a big step toward changing your cat’s behavior.


Cats and Jumping

My cat is 20 months old, and he jumps on kitchen counters, the kitchen table, bedroom chests…everywhere he’s not supposed to! Help! How can I get my cat to stop jumping on everything?

Answer Cats will generally jump up on things if there is a reason for them to jump up there. They’ll jump onto counters to look for food or to look out a window. If you have a dog that bothers the cat, your kitty may be looking for a higher place to escape. At his age, he is also very curious and willing to explore lots of places.

Methods of keeping him off counters and furniture include putting double-sided tape all over the forbidden area or putting a plastic carpet runner upside-down on it. Don’t use mousetraps-they can be dangerous if he gets a foot stuck in one. If he’s jumping on things to reach a window, cover up the window for awhile so he can’t look out of it, or just accept that he is going to get up there to gaze outside. If he’s jumping onto things in search of food, be very careful not to leave any food accessible.

For any of these methods to work, however, you’ll have to keep it up for quite awhile, at least several weeks. If he gets on the counter and discovers that there is no unpleasantness there, he’ll be encouraged to continue jumping up there. Keeping him occupied with play sessions several times a day may also discourage him from looking for his own entertainment.

 

Information courtesy of The American Animal Hospital Association.