Cat Behavior:
Funny or Downright Frustrating?

Cat Behavior is the number one talked about and written about topic related to cats. It is a subject that is at the same time fascinating and frustrating. Inappropriate elimination, the most common behavioral problem of cats, is extremely frustrating. On the other hand, maternal instincts of the female cat is a captivating subject.

The term Cat Behavior can be defined as everything a cat does in relationship to the people and other pets in the household and the way the cat relates to the surroundings, the home itself. The behavior can be "good" behavior or "bad" behavior.

I've never been a fan of the terms "good" and "bad" when they apply to the behavior of kids or cats. Too often, the behavior part of the phrase is left out and the child or the cat is simply referred to as good or bad. Labels such as these are not only inaccurate, but they are damaging.

Instead, I prefer the term "undesirable" when it comes to things we would like to change about our cats. The way they are acting may be just fine if they were living in the wild. However, we have certain expectations of them when it comes to living in our homes. These expectations are our "desired" behaviors. Our cats are not bad just because they are acting the way cats were made to act.

However, we do love them and we do want to share our homes with them and, as with any house guest or family member, there are certain "rules" we want them to follow. But please remember that cats have many instinctual behaviors and when we ask them to live with us, we are asking them to forego many of their instincts.

Fortunately, cats are far more trainable than most people realize. We often hear that dogs can be trained and cats cannot. This is far from the truth. But you will never accomplish anything positive by considering what your cat does as bad and by punishing.

Cats respond quite negatively to negative punishment, but they respond well to positive reinforcement. If you don't learn anything else from reading this page, please remember that. If a person is aggressive toward a cat, they will create an aggressive cat. You will only make progress toward achieving the cat behavior you desire if you reward the desired behavior and ignore the undesirable.

I know how tough that can be. If your cat urinates on the rug right in front of you, you may feel like wringing something and it may not be the rug! It's hard to control those emotions and just smile and ignore what your cat when that happens. But that is what you MUST do if you are to make progress in training or retraining your cat.



Common Cat Behavior Problems

So ...what are the feline behaviors that are most commonly discussed or that are the subject of most of the questions I receive? Well, certainly the most common, by far, is inappropriate urination, more commonly called "peeing outside the box". There are many others, however, some desirable and some not so desirable and they include a variety of problems.

cat behavior cat biting leg

Fighting cats, especially those who live with one another in a less-than-pleasant household relationship, can be a huge source of frustration for many cat parents. There are many, many things that can help improve the relationships between cats, including using treats, toys, and many other tools. Great places to start to resolve the issue are my article about Fighting Cats or this example of common questions and answers. Cat aggression problems can often be helped with the tips found on these pages as well.

Behavior changes can be of concern, especially new or sudden changes in your cat's energy level, aggression, or behavior toward other cats. These are often medically based changes, indicating that something is bothering your cat or making him ill. To learn more about the signs of cat illness, please visit this page. Remember, any change you see in your cat could be based on him being ill or not feeling well!

Some other behaviors, while not necessarily undesireable, can be difficult to understand like cat mating or other reproductive behaviors (like kittens in heat), why cats knead, "talking" cats or those who excessively vocalize, and even dying cat behavior. Many of these questions have been asked by readers, just like yourself, and can be found by reading through the articles below and/or by using the search bar located at the top or bottom of this page.

If you'd like, you can start by reading about one cat lover's experience with litter box problems.

A similar story about another reader's problem with her kitty defecating outside the litter box may also interest you.

fighting cats

An entirely different kind of problem is illustrated by a letter describing the change in relationship between two cats. They had lived in harmony with each other for quite some time and then suddenly developed a confrontational relationship.

If you have a problem with your kitty that is about to drive you mad, please remember that there's been so much research done about feline behavior that there's even a special branch of veterinary medicine that deals with such problems. Sometimes, the answer is simple. Sometimes, it's not. Almost always, however, there IS an answer, although it may take a little extra work on your part. However, your relationship with your cat is certainly worth it, right?

Above all else, remember the following:

Rewarding your cat for good behavior works! Punishment does not!





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ADDITIONAL RELATED PAGES:

CHOOSING THE RIGHT LITTER

CAT URINARY HEALTH

CAT ELIMINATION PROBLEMS

LITTER BOX PROBLEMS

LITTER TRAINING


Leave Cat Behavior and return to Ask The Cat Doctor home

or read below for common questions and answers about cat behavior

What Other Cat Lovers Have Said About Cat Behavior

Click below to see comments from other visitors to this page...

Female Cat Behavior Change 
My husband and I have had our cat for a year and a half. We got her when she was a kitten. Last night out of nowhere, she aggressively attacked my husband. …

Drastic change in cat behavior 
Dear Dr. Neely, I hope you can offer some advice on a change in one of my cats' behaviors. I currently have four cats: Lilo, Stitch, Abby and Fawn. …

Cat is terrified of my boyfriend, no one else. 
My cat, Turkey, is very friendly and sociable with everyone. We always have guests coming in and out, so he's definitely used to meeting new faces. However, …

Rejection from other cats within the home 
Hello I need your help please. I have 9 cats they have all been done. I have one cat, Roland, that is being rejected by the other cats. So my poor Roland …

Very scared, traumatized cat that attacks. 
Hello, My cat was outside in our yard. She is an inside cat and only goes out on a harness with supervision. My son was watching her when his friend …

Dominant Female Cat over Kitten 
What do I do with my dominant female cat over kitten? My daughter found a female kitten (we think it's a female) approximately 8 weeks old. She …

Cat Scratching 
QUESTION My cat attacked me twice and scratched me on my leg. The cat also did this to my husband. We did not provoke the cat. Why did the cat …

Birman Cat chewing Wires, eating Towels, Socks but not Food. 
Hi Dr. Neely, I am at my wits end with this kitty....she is 5 years old and has had this problem for some time. She was fine as a kitten and we thought …

Sudden Behavior Change In Cat 
Hi Doctor, We have a 1 1/2 year old cat, Alice. She loves to chase toy mice, jump up in bed with us to wake us up in the morning, and tear around …

CAT COUGHS AFTER DRINKING 
Question About Coughing Cat After drinking water,my cat (Boo) does the old hunch and heave thing like bringing up a cat hairball. She is eating..drinking..urinating. …

Is my cat just neurotic? 
QUESTION I have one very timid cat, Cleo, who hates when ANYTHING changes. I also have a big former-outdoor-cat named O'Malley who is very laid …

Cat Behavior: Overanxious Eating or Sick? 
QUESTION: We adopted a beautiful Himalayan, we named him Samson, from a HORRIBLE situation a few weeks ago. He was almost dumped at a shelter by …

Cat Behavior: Helping my cat cope with death of her brother 
Hi, I have a 1 year old female neutered Tiffany cat, Foxy. She and her brother were bred by a breeder and I picked them up when they were 3 months …

Cat Destructive Behaviors: My cat scratches the sofa and wood around the door 
QUESTION my older cat likes to claw my furniture and the wood around my door frames. Is there a product I can purchse or a home reamdy I can make …

Biting Feline Mystery 
QUESTION Our 1 1/2 year old domestic short hair female neutered cat has developed a habit of biting (most of the time playfully) us when our paths …

Scared Cat: Cat Hissing 
QUESTION My boyfriend and I went out of town and we left our approx. 1 year old cat with our neighbor. We have left him there before for a week …

Will This Timid Cat Behavior Ever End? 
Scared of me after 1 1/2 years, will this timid cat behavior ever end? I have a rescue cat who was found in a deserted house with 14 other cats. I adopted …

Cats Behavior Toward His Housemate 
I have 2 cats. One is 2 1/2 years old and the other one is about a year old. The older cat has always been an inside cat. We bought him from a pet …

Traumatized Cat 
Two weeks ago we got two young puppies, but my cat Donte was scared to death of them. During the fourth of July weekend he ran off and we couldn't find …

Worried Cat Mommy 
Hello Doctor! This past weekend, my husband and I went out of town for a couple days (Friday afternoon - Sunday evening around 6pm) and we made …

BEHAVIOR CHANGE 
QUESTION: We have a rescue cat, Fifi and a Maine Coon cat, Simon. Both have been together about 9 years. Lately Simon has been acting very strange. …

Clingy Rescue Cat Behavior: Is Training a Cat Possible?! 
My boyfriend and I brought home a 4.5 year old rescue cat 5 days ago and are now having some cat behavior problems. Our cat, Kitty, was adopted as a kitten, …

Cat sleeping in litter tray 
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"Scooting" on carpet 
We have just adopted a female cat and she has started 'scooting' on the carpet. She does not appear to have worms, is not constipated, nor loose in her …

Adopted Female Cat with Odd Behaviors 
Last week we adopted a female siamese mix who is probably about 2-6 years old. She has embraced all of us, but does have some quirky behavior. I have …

Peeing on my bed 
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Does my cat's behavior mean kitten love or trouble? 
I have a female cat, Enyo, who is almost two years old now and spayed. Since she was a stray who found my home, I know nothing of her life until she came …

Cat picking on another cat 
I have four indoor cats in my house, three are male and one is female. The younger male picks on the female and is constantly chasing her and picking on …

Biting and separation anxiety 
I adopted a 4 year old male (neutered) cat about two weeks ago. I've taken him to my vet and he is physically healthy. He is very affectionate but has …

Is my cat mad at me?? :( 
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Change in Cat Behavior 
We have a cat we rescued from a shelter about 5 months ago. She was only at the shelter for about 2 weeks and we estimate her age to be about 14-16 months …

Cat Behavior after Moving 
I just moved about 4 months ago. I have 2 cats, one Bombay and one Tabby. It is as if they have switched personalities. Where we used to live and they …

Broken leg + weird behavior 
Dear Dr Neely, I rescued an abandoned kitten 3 months ago in a park near home.He must be about 3 months and a half now and in perfect health so far …

My cat is all of a sudden acting very gloomy 
Hello Dr. I have a very important question. I have a 2 year old Female Tabby cat named Tiki who all of a sudden, out of the blue, has been acting VERY …

I need some help with my cat and my boyfriend 
I need some help with my cat. I have been dating my boyfriend for about a month, and I was leaving her at home for 2 weekends in a row, and on the 4th …

Cat is destroying the house when left alone 
Hi! We are having a new problem with our cat!! Every time we leave the house, we come back to it destroyed. This is something new that started this week. …

Cat vomitting: Sick or just missing me? 
I think I may be making my cats sick. I have two cats, a boy and a girl, that I adopted together last year. They love each other so much and are very mushy …

Cat Fearful of Boyfriend, and Aggressive to Other Cat 
QUESTION: I'm not sure if these two behaviors are related or not, but they are both problems I am experiencing with my cat, Olive. I got Olive …

Cat Behavior 
Hi, I left my cat for vacation for a week. My parents and siblings came home after that week, but I stayed 2 more weeks. They said she was meowing …

Cat attacked owner randomly and violently! 
Hi there, I was recently on the phone in the midst of a particularly upsetting conversation when my 4yr old female cat jumped onto my lap, latched …

Neutered Male Cat Butt Raising and Hissing 
Recently my 9 year old neutered male cat has been lowering his front legs and pushing his butt in the air, something I've never seen him do. In addition …

Cat acting wierd after we moved 
I have a 2 year old male cat who is not fixed. He has always been a really lovey cat who wants attention ALL THE TIME. We recently moved in February to …

Question: Otherwise sweet cat has sudden aggression 
Hi, I have had my sweet girl for 5 years now. I spoil her rotten and she has tons of toys, cat trees, window seats, etc. for constant stimulation. She …

Kitten Aggression 
We have 4 cats. 2 males at 11 years old, 1 female 11 years old and a 10 month old kitten. For the first 6 months we had the kitten (Beau), he and my female …

Newly started Cat Aggression problem - They used to be friends! 
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my dilemma. We have 3 cats, one 8-year old (Larry) and two 5-year olds (Roy and Tiger). They are all …

Cat behavior after shaving  
I had my long hair cat shaved and now she is acting very hyper. We have had her shaved before and this has not happened but the groomer really shaved …

My 3 Cats Bullying Resident Sweetheart Cat 
Hello Doctor, Thank you in advance for your time and efforts as I'm a bit lost how to address my cats' unfortunate situation, and I believe I am out …

Cat behavior around pregnant cat 
Hi Doc, I have three cats one of which is pregnant and in the last couple of weeks of her pregnancy. Recently, the other two cats have been rushing …

Neutered Cat Still Spraying, Resistant to Treatment 
I'm at a point with one of my cats where I'm not sure what else to try or if this is something I'm just going to have to live with. We rescued Dexter …

Cat is kind of dominating 
Hello. I have a boy cat, his name is Itty Bitty (he is actually very large in size, he is a Maine Coon). Ever since we first got him, he has had somewhat …

Displaced Feline Aggression 
Hello, I have an on going problem with my cat. She is about 5 years old. When I first got her she was very nice to me and the rest of the family. However, …

Cat not as Playful 
Our 8 year old cat, Lucy, has become quite inactive lately. We try to play with her, but her attention is fleeting. We have tried catnip thinking it might …

Cat Upset with Fiance 
I have a year old cat. My fiance and I have had her since she was two weeks old. She was always loving and still has a huge personality. Recently, my fiance …

Zinnia Oil for Grieving Cats 
I used Zinnia Essence Oil on a grieving cat of mine and it brought him back to life like a miracle! One or two drops can be rubbed on the inside of the …

Cat Trauma 
QUESTION: I heard 2 dogs messing with what I thought was a dog...ended up it was my cat. she didn't have any bites on her outer body, but I think …

Shell shocked? 
We have two Bengal cats, half brother and sister who are 4 years old. They have been spayed and neutered as well as declawed. Our house was destroyed …

Cat back from the hospital and remeeting his "sister" 
My cat Tiger had a stroke or some other neurological issue and was in the cat hospital for 2 nights. He lost his sight as an initial result of the neurological …

Cat hiding under the bed and scared of everything 
Finn, our elderly Norwegian Forest Cat, is 17 years old, and has always been a bit odd and skittish, even though my cat has been treated with love all …

Strange cat behavior in brief spurts 
Hi. I have a Calico cat. She is a rescue, so I'm not positive of her age, but we estimate that she is about a year old now. My cat has had no behavioral …

Scared cat on feline medication  
Dear Dr. Neely, We have a complicated situation with our cat. Our 10 year old kitty, Maxx, is on feline hyperthyroidism medication, 1/2 pill twice per …

My 3 year old brother and sister cats are suddenly fighting 
My 2 cats, one male, one female, both fixed, have begun fighting. Originally it was one a month, mainly at night, but has now progressed to almost daily. …

Finding a Cat Friend for a Cat that Lived with Dogs 
I have a cat that is an indoor only cat. She was raised with two dogs. The dogs are no longer with us. Thinking my cat might be lonesome during the day, …

Rippling Skin Disorder 
How can I tell if my cat has Rippling Skin Disorder? I reviewed the symptoms online. I noticed that at random times she will become very hyper, her back …

Multiple cat family getting along when one cat is disabled 
I have 9 furbabies and the newest addition is a 11 month old part Flame Point Siamese cat who had to have her left rear leg amputated from being hit by …

Semi Feral Cats I've Adopted 
Hi and thank you. I started feeding a female feral cat. She had 4 babies. She disappeared when they were about 8 weeks old and I've been feeding these …

Is it a good time to add another cat to our home? 
Hello, I have an almost 2 year old indoor, male cat named Krenshaw. About a month ago we moved from an apartment into our new house. The first week …

Sudden Aggression in 4 yr Old Cat  
Cat Maizy is 4 yrs old, not fixed - we rescued a kitten approximately 6 wks old last week - they did not take long to take to each other, guessing because …

Traumatic Vet Visit for My Cat 
I took my 2 year old female cat in for her first veterinary exam which would include cat vaccinations and the pre-surgery visit for her spay. During the …

Positive cat behaviour change 
We had gotten two cats within five days of each other and had them for 3 months. Sadly, my daughter moved out recently and took one of them with her, which …

Re-introducing two cats to each other after a rough start 
Hello, First I want to let you know that my English is not perfect, so I apologize if I make any mistakes. I have had a two year old female cat for …

Behavior Change from Hairball?  
3 days ago our 3 year old cat, Sis, coughed up a small hairball. Our 2 year old cat, Kitty, saw this and has been traumatized. She has always been a …

Cause of Injuries in Cat Fight 
I have a 16 year old male neutered cat. He is declawed on all 4 paws. He has always spent a lot of time outdoors, but that has decreased as he has gotten …

My cats companion died 
Hi. I have a female 11 month old cat. We got her first at 8 weeks old. My husband and I are at work a lot, so she was getting really lonely at home. …

Aggressive Kitten 
I adopted Katsumi, a 2 month old Persian mix, at my local shelter about 1 month ago. When I saw her and pet her at the shelter, she wasn’t overly affectionate, …

Snobby and Moody Cat 
I have a cat named Pepper that is a black Persian. I got her when she was 2 months old, and now she's already 1 year old. I don't know why she is so snobby …

Cat Attacks Only One Person 
My cat is only about 3 years old and he acts normal around everyone he knows or meets, except one person. When he first met this person, he acted like …

Missing Cat in rural area after Tornando gone 3 weeks  
I'm concerned. Will our lovable 6 year old male neutered cat return to normal? A tornado took out the barn he lived in as an inside only cat just over …

My cat is terrified of new kitten 
I have a 1-year-old grey and white female cat who is scared of my new 6-week-old male kitten. Sophie is petrified of him. She trembles when ever she see's …

Weird Cat Panting and Biting Game 
This is in response to 'Weird Cat' . The person says they would sniff around their cat the way the cat does to them and the cat seemed to be irritated …

My 7 year old cat is being picked on by my 3 other cats 
My 7 year old cat is being picked on by my 3 other cats. This started back in November after my 13 year old female cat passed away. They were buddies …

Cat depression 
Hi I had two cats. One was quite old (13) and one is young (4). Last Thursday the older cat passed away. Since that time, the younger cat has developed …

Cat Sleep Deprivated? 
I have a nine month old male cat that I've had for three months now. For the past two months, my cat does not get a lot of sleep. I work the night …

Soni 
Hi Doc, We have a lovely 2 year old cat, Gigi & we've had her since she was 6 weeks old. Runt of a litter of 7, she was kept in a tiny cage with her …

why Male Cats kills kitten ? 
Question: I am suffering from this type of problem. We had one domestic female cat at our home. That cat used to love our home. Before one month's …

Cat behavior - aggressive when giving treats 
Click Here To Go To Your Question and Answer Page body { background-color:navy; }a:link { color: navy; text-decoration: underline } a:visited { …

Weird Cat 
Whenever I start sniffing around my cat (the same thing he does to me) he starts going crazy. He starts meowing and biting (not to hurt) me. He even …

Newborn Baby and Birman Cat 
QUESTION: My wife is pregnant, and our cat Chester - is the most loving Birman Cat. He loves to sleep between our heads and and always wants to sit …

Cat BOO'S OK; BOO'S NOT OK????? 
QUESTION: My husband and I care for 2 neighborhood cats. BooBoo Kitty came into our lives about 2 years ago and she rules. Pekoe came into our lives …

Cat Scratching 
QUESTION My cat attacked me twice and scratched me on my leg. The cat also did this to my husband. We did not provoke the cat. Why did the cat …

Cat Behavior after Holiday 
Hiya, I have a very loving affectionate cat called Paws, I have had her for 2 months now because she is a rescue cat, I think she is anywhere between …

Cat Hissing At Smells 
> Dear Meg, The unfamiliar smell made him hiss at her bag and then since the other 2 cats were there, he displaced his aggression (fear, defensive …

Cat Does Not Chew 
QUESTION We are trying to convert our cat from dry hard food to specific nutritional canned food. He cannot seem to grasp how to eat the soft food …

Cat Fights 
Hi I have 3 cats 1 male and 2 females. We had 1 female first, then we found a stray who was in need of a home. She was all beaten up had been declawed …

MY CAT IS DESTRUCTIVE 
Hi I have 2 cats, 1 abyssinian Male called Orion and 1 Ocicat female called Athena. Both my cats have been neutered and are indoor cats. Just recently …

My Cat Can Be Very Destructive. 
Hi I have 2 cats. One Abyssinian male called Orion and one Ocicat (half siamese half abyssinian) female called Athena. Both cats have been neutered …

Cat Leg Twitches 
QUESTION My cat is a 1 1/2 year old neutered male long haired tabby and when he sleeps his legs twitch all the time more so when he is on his back …

Moved Recently: Cat Behavior 
I recently moved with two 4 year old female cats. Within 1 week, one of the cats has started meowing loudly for no apparent reason, especially once it …

My Cat Has Developed Nervous Cat Behaviour 
My cat is 5 years old. She has suddenly developed nervous cat behavior, a fear of items that are made of fabric, such as clothing, mittens, slippers, …

Territorial Cat Problem 
I have a cat that has been in multiple homes. A friend of my Girlfriend's housemate adopted her as a kitten from a shelter. When the friend could no …

Sniffing Game with My Feline 
Sometimes I play with my 5 year old black cat and I start sniffing him....the same way he sniffs me and other objects. When I start sniffing him (acting …

Unusual Cat Behavior 
My 8-year-old female cat has started something disturbing just in the last 2 weeks. For no apparent reason, she will jump up, as if someone shot her, and …

Scared Cats: Cat Back Home After 4 Months On The Street 
QUESTION: Our 2 year old cat ran out the front door 4 months ago and we found him yesterday! Absolutely unbelievable! He has been on his own in the …

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