What to do if your cat is biting, scratching or not using their litter tray
Cats are generally content creatures that are happiest when they have an established routine. However, if this routine is disrupted, a cat can become stressed and start behaving in new, unwanted ways. Behaviour such as scratching furniture, refusing to use their litterbox or biting can be a sign that all is not right in their world. If you notice an increase in destructive behaviour in your cat, have a think about whether there might be something disrupting their normal routine.
Scratching is a natural way for cats to mark their territory and sharpen their claws. But just because this behaviour is ingrained in their species, doesn't mean they need to do it on your favourite couch.
The best first step in protecting your valuable furniture is to invest in suitable alternatives for them such as a scratching post to redirect their destructive behaviour. Make sure you choose a stable one to avoid it tipping over, and ideally you should pick one with a rough surface your cat can claw at properly.
Training your cat to use the post can take a little time, so it’s a good idea to start them young. Use toys and playtime to encourage them, and make sure they know where it is acceptable for them to scratch. If you find your cat likes to scratch the carpet rather than a vertical surface, offer them a scratching pad instead.
If you’re finding that toys, games and physically making them scratch the post isn’t working, you can help attract them to a designated scratching area by using catnip spray. Some cats are much more responsive to catnip than others so don’t feel disheartened if this trick doesn’t work. Because cats scratch to mark their territory, it is important to put their scratching posts or pads in areas they are commonly scratching. If your cat is inappropriately scratching a piece of furniture, often a piece of double sided tape or some aluminum foil in the area can quickly deter them.
Although scratching is a normal marking behaviour for cats, if they are scratching an object you don’t want them to, you should try clipping your cat’s nails slightly to help minimise any damage they might do. Be careful when cutting your cat’s nails, though. Make sure to clip above the pink blood vessel that runs inside their translucent claws. If you’re unsure about how to go about this, your local vet or vet nurse will be able to show you the technique and how to go about trimming nails in nervous cats.
Although cats are domesticated pets, they have a natural urge to use their teeth to play around and certain breeds have a greater tendency to bite than others - especially when they are kittens and testing their boundaries. But no matter the reason, it's important to teach them early on that biting is not allowed. Otherwise you might find yourself dealing with longer term issues once they mature. Usually the best way to redirect biting is to offer toys or alternative play stimulation.
Of course, sometimes a cat will start biting if their established routine has been disrupted. Typical causes can include new additions to the family, changing their sleeping spot or introducing another pet into the house. All of these can disrupt a cat’s regular routine and lead to stress that manifests as biting behaviour.
If you think this might be the cause of your cat's unwelcome behaviour, do your best to give them some extra attention and playtime. It should help ease their disruption and reduce the likelihood of further biting behavior.
One of the benefits of having a cat as a pet is that they are usually clean creatures and generally have sanitary toilet habits. If you’re starting to notice your cat isn’t using their litter tray, it can be a sign something is bothering them and triggering them to go to the toilet elsewhere. Finding out what is troubling them may involve some investigating, as it might not be entirely obvious to you.
Generally simple changes to the location or cleaning out their tray more regularly can help solve this bathroom problem. Cats like privacy, so putting their tray in a discreet location away from their eating area is very important. On top of this, sharing a litterbox with other cats will likely cause them stress so having one tray per cat, plus one spare is ideal. So, if you have two cats, then it would be ideal to have three trays located at different quiet spots around your home. Another stress that can cause bad bathroom habits is a change to their social situation or usual routine. Moving house, the arrival of a baby or noisy guests can put your cat off using their litter tray. If this seems to be the problem, try to recreate a calm, constant environment to put ease to their stress levels and see whether this does the trick.
Bad habits can sometimes be harder to fix
Some cats begin to show signs of aggression because they are experiencing discomfort caused by illness or injury and a cat not using their litterbox can be a sign of urinary issues. A trip to the vet can determine whether your cat is experiencing an underlying health issue rather than a lifestyle stress.