He’s the first cat I’ve ever had – and he’s taught me all I need to know about solving feline behavior problems.
As a first time cat person, I’ve had to learn a lot about feline behavior. My first kitty, Sir Lancelot, came from the SPCA and lived on the streets prior to my adopting him. He’s 14 years old now, but during his lifetime he has displayed many unwanted behaviors: getting into plants and garbage, biting, not wanting to go on the leash, smashing ornaments, trying to run out the apartment door, jumping up on the counters and tables, and more seriously, trying to suffocate my husband! Yes, Lancelot is “bad”, but I still love him. I just had to learn to “cat proof” my house and learn some tips on feline behavior modification for cats. Here’s what Lancelot taught me.
• A lot of people make mistakes with cats because they think they will behave the same way as dogs. Unlike dogs, however, who form social groups through respect of a pack leader, cats form social groups through the respect of territory.
• Never hit a cat. Your hands should be associated with affection, not corporal punishment. A bottle that squirts water is much better than a slap to remind a cat not to jump on the kitchen table or claw your sofa. However, you have to squirt the cat with water as soon as he misbehaves; if you wait too long, he may not know what he is being corrected for.
• When I first got Sir Lancelot, I had a large aloe vera plant in the living room. Every morning, I would rise to find that the earth had been pawed all over the carpet. cats are very attracted to houseplants and many plants are poisonous. if your cat is chewing plants, try spraying them with bitter apple, or put the plants out of reach. I buy kitty grass for Lancelot so he can have some legitimate greens. if your cat digs in the soil around houseplants, put aluminum foil or gravel around the plant. Putting popsicle sticks or twigs in the soil may also curb digging.
• “Love bites” may be kind of cute, but they can lead to more serious biting. Sir Lancelot has never broken my skin, but he can nip me quite hard at times when he gets affectionate. This may sound nutty, but i learned that when a cat bites you, you should howl like a cat in pain. although skeptical, I tried it, and believe it or not it does work! Lancelot looked at me with a very startled expression, and stopped biting. One note of caution: don’t allow other people to tease your cat or encourage biting. some people like to rub the cat’s belly and get the bite reflex.
• Since Sir Lancelot was a street cat before he came to me, and may have lunched out of garbage cans, I had a terrible time with him knocking our bins over. The only remedy was to get garbage cans with lids. some people even have to hide their garbage cans under sinks in cupboards, or weigh them down with bricks. I haven’t had to go that far, because the lids worked for me.
• Training your kitty to go on a leash will not be as easy as training a dog. However, the leash can be a safe way to let a cat go outdoors. Start training your cat to a leash when he’s a kitten, if you can. “It could take a few days to perhaps a week to train a cat to a leash, depending on his personality and how often you try the lessons,” says Dr. Bonnie Beaver, a veterinarian specializing in animal behavior.
• When Sir Lancelot smashed an ornament and had a shard of glass in this mouth, I nearly had a conniption. The only thing that worked was moving ornaments to higher shelves and keeping him away from the area with a squirt gun. Here’s an interesting tidbit: cats can develop a vocabulary of about 100 words, and when my friend saw the squirt gun sitting on a table at the ready, she mentioned the object’s name and guess what? Lancelot took off like a shot!
• When my future husband was sleeping in the airbed on the living room floor, he awoke to find Sir Lancelot lying across his face. I could just see the tabloid headlines: “Cat suffocates fiancé!” A friend who has 12 cats told me this was a blatant act of jealousy on the cat’s part. she explained that just as cats can get jealous of a baby, Sir Lancelot was jealous of Dave. Lance eventually got used to having Dave around and came to love him, after the first murder attempt!