Cat Behavioral Issues

Have you ever noticed some odd or even frustrating behavior in your cats and wondered how to fix it? If this sounds like you, you’re not alone! Common cat behavior issues include aggression between cats, litter box problems, scratching on furniture, and perpetual meowing. There may be an underlying reason for their behavior that you aren’t aware of. Read more to undercover some of the reasons your cat may be acting out – and find out how to remedy it!

Aggression Between Cats

What’s better than one cat? Two cats, or maybe even more! If you are the owner of multiple cats, there is a chance that they may become hostile towards each other. If your cats aren’t getting along or are having occasional squabbles, it may be time to intervene. Common causes of kitty chaos are competition over resources, divergent energy levels or play styles, or a lack of socialization. Luckily, there are steps you can follow to mitigate these issues. 

As you might guess, a cat that has lived by themselves for most of their 9 lives may not be too fond of a newcomer. Follow the steps of a slow introduction described here: Ask A Trainer: Introducing New Pets

Another possible issue is that one cat is more social and playful whereas the other is quieter and more reserved. This can also occur with an older, more slow-moving cat living with an active kitten. Either way, these clashing personalities can make it tough for them to get along. In this case, you can utilize the gate method. Keep the cats separated in the house by using a baby gate to teach them to exist in close proximity while also maintaining their own space. During this activity, interact with each cat by playing with them or even have them sit on your lap. This will give the quiet one more confidence in the active cat’s presence. If the active cat is playing with you while they know the quiet cat is nearby, it will reinforce the notion that they don’t always have to solicit play from the other cat every time they see them. The goal is for each cat to become desensitized to the other’s presence. The quieter cat can be near their pesky sibling without being bothered, which will increase their confidence, and the more rambunctious cat can see and hear the other cat without pestering them, which will help them build a habit of giving them more space. This can also ensure that the cats’ each have access to their own resources without competition. Simply make sure that they can each easily reach their own litter box, food, and water, as well as some fun toys, perches, and a cozy hiding spot. 

More on this method: Beyond the Gate

Even if you don’t separate the cats themselves, you can make sure they each have their own resources in case that is the cause of any conflict. If they each have their own bed and food and water bowls, there is a lesser chance of a fight breaking out from the competition. Adding extra vertical space (like perches or a cat tree) or hiding spots will help each cat to feel like they can escape when they need some “me time”. Always remember to reward friendly interactions with each other to reinforce non-aggressive behavior! 

Litter Box Usage

It is all too common for cat owners to experience difficulty with their cats using the litter box. There are several medical issues such as UTIs and kidney stones that may be causing your kitty anxiety or pain around litter box usage. If this is the case, your vet will work with you to cure their illness and return them to using the litter box. However, medical issues aren’t the only reason your cat may be avoiding their bathroom. 

Once you have ruled out a medical cause first, it is important to make sure the litter box is clean and easy to access for kitty. A dirty litter box won’t be too inviting for your cat, nor will it help to have it somewhere that’s hard to reach, like up or down stairs, anywhere noisy, or somewhere where they’d have to pass something scary to get (like a dog they’re worried about). Their box should be filled with one to two inches of unscented litter. If the box is too small or has a hood or liner, this might be making your cat uncomfortable. If you haven’t moved the box in a while, there is a chance your cat will be more comfortable in a new location. Every cat in your home should have their own box as well to avoid competition and promote privacy. A good rule of thumb is to have a minimum of 1 per cat plus 1 (so 3 boxes for 2 cats and so on). For much more on this topic, see: Ask A Trainer, Litter Box Issues!

Perpetual Meowing

While a vocal cat isn’t necessarily a problem, incessant meowing may be a sign of something more serious. They may be sick and in pain without you even knowing, and meowing could be a sign that they are trying to get your attention. Certain diseases can also make them feel abnormally hungry or thirsty causing them to be extra vocal. Take your cat to the vet to rule an illness out. 

Once you are certain that an ailment is not the source of your kitty’s increased meowing, there are a few ways to determine what might be the cause. Cats often meow because they want their owner’s attention. Instead of scolding your cat, wait for a brief period of silence and then give your kitty all the attention they deserve. This will teach them that being more vocal doesn’t equal more attention. Not surprisingly, another common reason why your cat meows is to be fed! As you may have guessed, the best way to fix this is to feed them on a schedule instead of when they are begging. 

Urine Marking

Another frequent obstacle cat owners face is urine marking outside of the litter box. The first thing to look at is your litter box maintenance and ensuring it is comfortable for your cat as this can be a big reason why they are eliminated outside of their box. If you believe that isn’t the case, it may be more of a communication issue. 

Cats do not have ways to resolve disputes among each other like us humans. Instead, they leave subtle yet precise messages through urine marking. This is a cat’s way of making their presence known and expressing to another cat that this is their territory. Interestingly, information such as when the cat will be expected to return to that area or when they’re looking for a mate can be determined from their urine marking. Prevent a territorial cat from marking by closing your blinds and curtains to keep them from noticing any cats out for a stroll. Cats that have not been neutered are also more likely to mark inside the house. There are a host of other reasons your cat may have urine marking, so speak to your vet or a qualified trainer to get to the bottom of the problem.


An age-old complaint of cat owners is that their furniture is ruined from their furry friend’s sharp claws. Whether they’re playing, stretching, or marking their territory, scratching will most likely be involved. Your cat’s claws need to be sharpened regularly, so they are constantly removing the worn outer parts. Because of their instinct to keep their claws freshly sharpened, it’s best to promote scratching in the right places rather than attempting to get them to stop scratching altogether. 

If you haven’t invested in a scratching post for a kitty, now is the time! By providing a wide variety of scratching posts with materials such as carpet, cardboard, wood, or upholstery, this gives your cat endless possibilities when they want to scratch something! Your goal should be for your cat to want to use their designated scratching area instead of your couch, so make this a fun and interesting spot for them! Place their favorite toys and treats around the posts to entice your cat to explore!

There are other ways to cat-proof your home when it comes to scratching. Cover furniture like chairs and couches that you would like to keep untouched by your cat. Also, make sure your cat’s nails are clipped regularly to help them maintain their freshly sharpened claws. Distracting your cat when they’re in the act of scratching in an unwanted place will disincline that behavior.

Remember that you are not alone if you experience frustration when it comes to your cat’s behavior! Keep these tips in mind and always schedule a visit with your vet if you feel like there is something more serious going on. This will give you peace of mind and get you on the right track to having a healthy and well-behaved kitty!

Further reading:

Common Cat Behavior Issues 

Introducing Your New Cat to Resident Cats

Understanding Cat Behavior PDF

Cat Language PDF

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