Cats + Behavior & Training

  • Play is important. All kittens need the opportunity to play with toys as well as social play. While learning about their environment, kittens can damage valuable objects, including furniture and curtains. Toys and treats can be hidden inside empty boxes and kiddie tunnels to satisfy a kitten’s need to explore. Supervise kittens carefully to prevent damage and to keep them safe.

  • Crate training is most used with dogs, but it can be useful for kittens and cats too. Crate training is useful in many situations, such as providing a safe place when home alone or unsupervised. Cats that are calm in their crates experience less distress when they need to travel, visit the veterinary hospital, or stay at a boarding facility. Starting while your cat is young makes training easier, but even adult cats can be trained to relax in a crate. If your cat shows signs of distress (e.g., prolonged vocalization, trying to escape, salivation, rapid continuous movement) while using the training methods provided in this handout, consult your veterinarian.

  • Cats can have hearing loss due to increasing age or chronic ear infections, or they may be born with a defect. Deafness in cats can present some challenges but overall, they can have healthy, normal lives. It is possible to teach your cat household routines by using hand signals and body language. It is important to take their deafness into account when considering their safety and they must remain indoors or in outdoor enclosures.

  • For most cats, a visit to the veterinarian is an overwhelming experience. If your cat’s veterinary appointment is for a routine wellness examination, your veterinarian may prescribe a sedative or antianxiety medication. Natural medicines, also known as complementary therapies, cover a wide range of products including herbs, nutraceuticals, supplements, and homeopathic remedies and may be beneficial in treating your anxious cat. Products such as Feliway® and Rescue Remedy® are examples of natural therapies that may be helpful in reducing your cat’s stress. One of the most important ways to decrease your cat’s anxiety level is to remain calm and relaxed during the visit as this will help reassure your cat that she is safe.

  • If you are moving with a cat, there are some things to consider to reduce her anxiety, minimize problems, and help her settle in. Before you move, make sure she has adequate identification (a collar or microchip). Make the move to your new home with your cat in a safe, well-secured container, such as a cat carrier, to avoid danger of escape. On arrival at your new home, leave her in her carrier until a room has been unpacked and set up with familiar objects and furniture. Then make this 'her' room for the initial adjustment period. Cats are very territorial and may be reluctant to accept a new environment as their home. There are things you can do to help them settle in and see their home as 'home.' Give your cat lots of extra attention and petting during this adjustment period.

  • Picky eaters are often created by their humans offering too much variety of food. Cats can become picky eaters for medical reasons that need to be determined by your veterinarian. It is safe for an otherwise healthy cat to not eat for a few days; beyond this however, they can develop a possibly fatal condition called hepatic lipidosis. To decrease pickiness, having food available for only 30 minutes4-5 times a day can be beneficial. Human food should not be used as a diet as it will lead to nutrient deficiencies. Certain foods are okay to mix with cat food to make them more appealing but check with veterinarian before including these in your dog’s diet. Many cats work on their own schedule and prefer to eat very small amounts frequently (grazing).

  • Some cats do not seem to know their strength and do not recognize that they are causing pain to their play partners. Accidental bites and scratches can be painful and cause infection, so it is important to find ways to play safely. With training, you may be able to use a verbal cue to redirect your cat if he becomes overly aroused during play.

  • Preparing your cat to travel to the vet is one of the most important investments you can make during the lifespan of your cat. Cats should visit the veterinary hospital at least once yearly. The smoother the experience goes, the least amount of stress both you and your cat will experience.

  • During the pandemic so many pet owners have been at home with their pets more than ever before. As we return to work and life outside the home after this period of constant connection, our pets may be at risk for developing or displaying signs of separation distress. If your pet is showing the signs listed here, tell your veterinary team right away. Try to avoid pairing specific actions and activities with infrequently leaving home. The goal is to prevent creating a link in the pet’s mind between departure cues and feelings of anxiety about being alone. When you are getting ready to leave, no drama, and the same when you return. Be calm, reassuring, and relaxed. Practice separations help assess if pets are comfortable being left alone. If you are not sure if your pet is comfortable alone, a video camera is a terrific tool to check in. If you are concerned your pet may have separation distress or separation anxiety, reach out to your veterinary team.

  • Counterconditioning occurs when the pet's reaction (emotional response) to a stimulus is changed from one that is anxious or fearful to one that is positive and enjoyable. To accomplish this, favored rewards should be paired with each exposure to the stimulus.