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3 common cat behavior problems you should be freaking out about

As all cat parents know, our feline fur babies can be a bit odd. Whether your cat occasionally drives you up the wall with 3 a. m. zoomies or her incessant chattering makes her a YouTube sensation, our frisky felines are full of personality. But there are some cat behaviors to worry about. We’ll walk you through the most common behavioral problems in cats, tell you when you should be concerned, and offer a few helpful hints on how to solve the problems for good. 

A calico cat chewing on a twig.

What are abnormal behaviors in cats?

According to Union Lake Veterinary Hospital & Pet Services, “While normal cat behavior varies from cat to cat, there are certain common abnormal behaviors. These may stem from fears, anxieties, and obsessive-compulsive behavior, or they may indicate a physical problem.” Abnormal behaviors include hiding, changes in sleep patterns, sudden aggression, changes in eating habits, excessive grooming, and litter box issues. If your cat cries while using the litter box, it could be a sign that she’s in physical pain, so you should take your kitty to the vet as soon as possible. 

What are the three most common behavior problems in cats? 

Best Friends Animal Society, a nonprofit animal welfare organization, states that the three most common behavioral problems in cats are aggression, house soiling, and scratching. Here’s what you can do for each issue.

A closeup shot of a hissing tabby cat.

Scratching

Proper socialization and play are essential when it comes to preventing aggressive behaviors like scratching and biting. Don’t swat at your cat with your hands or nudge her with your feet, as this teaches her that hands and feet are toys she can pounce on and bite. Make sure to keep your cat’s claws trimmed; consider using cat nail caps, or provide her with scratching posts to prevent her from clawing up the furniture—or your hands. 

Aggression

Whether your cat is playfully aggressive or showing signs of fearful aggression, learning to read her body language can help you stop this behavior in its tracks. Remove yourself from the situation if she plays rough and offer her a toy to distract her from pouncing on you. If your cat appears frightened, resist the urge to follow her. Give her plenty of room and make sure she has a cat tower or other safe space she can retreat to until she calms down. Contact your vet if your cat’s aggressive behavior gets out of control. They can recommend medications or refer you to a cat behaviorist. 

House soiling

While many cats exclusively use their litter box, some cats may urinate and defecate on the floor, in the sink, or even on your pillow. Make sure to keep the litter box clean by scooping it daily and fully replacing the litter every two weeks. If you have more than one cat, please ensure they each have their own litter box to prevent territorial soiling. Having your cat spayed or neutered can also help curb this disgusting behavior. If your formerly litter box-trained cat suddenly starts going outside her box, it’s a good idea to take her to the vet to make sure she doesn’t have a urinary tract infection

An orange tabby cat bathing her paw.

When should I be concerned about my cat’s behavior? 

Any sudden changes in your cat’s appearance or behavior should be taken seriously, especially if your cat’s behavior affects her quality of life. Fearful behaviors like aggression, urinating outside her litter box, and hiding could indicate a mental disorder like anxiety, but they could also be symptoms of a physical illness that requires veterinary intervention. Don’t wait until additional problems develop. The sooner your cat receives treatment for her behavioral or physical issues, the better chance she has of bouncing back to normal. When in doubt, always consult your vet regarding your cat’s health. 

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